Brunch at The Great North Wood, West Norwood

We’ve already had dinner here on a number of occasions and it’s just recently that the Great North Wood have extended their opening hours to offer a brunch option at the weekend.


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If you’re looking for super healthy, you might struggle. If you’re looking for hearty, you’ve hit the right spot. It’s basically gastro brekkie. For die-hard caffeine fans you’ll be pleased to hear hot drinks are served in huge cups, while healthier smoothies are on offer, too.

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Probably the healthiest thing to be served in a dimple glass

The menu is quite traditional brunch fare, but more imaginative than your typical greasy spoon. We tried the avocado on toast (complete with egg and chorizo – which can be substituted for salmon), French toast and a dish comprising of baked eggs, bacon and ‘Boston’ beans – smokey, rich, saucy.

Avocado, egg and chorizo on toast

Avocado, egg and chorizo on toast

Prices range between about £6-9 – add drinks and you’re probably paying up to £15 per person.

French toast featuring bread the size of a doorstopper

French toast featuring bread the size of a doorstopper

While the pub fills up during the day, only two other tables were occupied while we were there, so it’s worth chancing your arm and making a spontaneous visit, especially when it gets warm enough to eat outside.

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Baked eggs with bacon and beans. Bigger than it looks

One of the nicest things about brunch here is the pace – there’s no hustle and bustle like in cafes, no rush to clear your table, and there’s newspapers to hand too. It’s all too dangerous to watch brunch turn into afternoon drinks…

The Great North Wood, 3 Knights Hill, West Norwood SE27 0HS

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Forza Win, Peckham: Spring Chicken

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We didn’t know what to expect when signing up to Forza Win.

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What used to be a pop-up establishment is now a full-blown event in an old cash and carry in Copeland Park, Peckham.

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Check out their website for examples of past ‘projects’, turning basic locations like rooftops and pickle factories into feasting halls.

The set menu for the evening

The set menu for the evening

It’s a basic set up that really works – arrive between 7:30-8pm to take your seat (anywhere goes, it’s just a case of parking your bottom where there’s space) at one of the long tables. You’re encouraged to get to know your neighbours as ultimately you’ll be sharing dishes with them.

Limoncello mojitos were served on arrival

Limoncello mojitos were served on arrival

As soon as you enter, you’re enveloped in a warm atmosphere. Quite literally, too – the barbecue helps to heat the whole place and the woody smells reminded us of summer festivals (without the grim portaloo aspect, obvs).

Chickens for all! Food is cooked over the fire pit

Chickens for all! Food is cooked over the fire pit

Forza Win’s forte is Italian food using locally sourced ingredients. It’s a set menu and the price of the food (and aperitif – here it’s a limoncello mojito) are included in the £35 ticket price. Water is readily available on the table but if you want more drinks, you can order at their makeshift bar.

Homemade sausage served with cabbage and carrot to start

Homemade sausage served with cabbage and carrot to start

It’s a smooth operation run by a small group of individuals splitting duties into front of house, drinks server and a group of chefs. Dishes are served one by one; first up we had their homemade sausage with carrots and cabbage, then followed a series of greens before the main event – their 100 day old spring chicken.

Celeriac with apple

Celeriac with apple

Blackened leeks with Parmesan

Blackened leeks with Parmesan

Let’s just say you don’t go hungry. The ingredients might seem simple but everything has a delicious twist – think lemon and chilli infused broccoli with almonds and cheesy leeks. Platters of food are laid down with the intention of splitting between six people, and even if you think you’ll struggle to share fairly, you don’t – you won’t go hungry.

Serve yourself the chicken, with blackened potatoes and more greens

Serve yourself the chicken, with blackened potatoes and more greens

For those who aren’t ardent meat eaters, the chefs offer a vegetarian option too, so there’s no missing out. For those who are, enjoy some pictures of chicken.

Mismatched plates and cutlery add to the homely feel

Mismatched plates and cutlery add to the homely feel

All gone: this chicken had no chance with us

All gone: this chicken had no chance with us

The atmosphere is so friendly, it feels like a party. The staff seem to have just as good a time as you even when they’re flat out, and while you can’t always guarantee you’re sitting next to sociable people, usually your love of food translates and that’s it, you’re off chatting away.

They’ve just added some new dates for this particular event in May, so sign up before it’s too late.

As well as this seasonal event, they’ve just started ‘Awesome Sauce’ on Wednesdays, serving a plate of pasta with a glass of wine for £10.

As for us, we’ll be stalking their website to find out what their summer project is set to be…

Forza Win, Unit 4.1, 133 Copeland Road, SE15 3SN. 

Snapshot of Northcote Road

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This not-so-humble road, a stone’s throw from Clapham Junction station and Battersea territory, has an exhaustive list of shops, restaurants and cafes so for now we’ve built a small snapshot.

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Sure, there’s the high street chains – Oliver Bonas, Phase Eight, Whistles, Bill’s, Byron, Franco Manca, Nando’s, and so on –  but we can’t forget the local independent gems too.

Pictures for sale on their Saturday street market

Pictures for sale on their Saturday street market

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Inside Hutton's on Northcote Road

Inside Hutton’s on Northcote Road

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Many of the gift shops are admittedly hard to tell apart, as a lot of them sell pretty much the same stuff, but as ever the key is in the little quirks. In Hutton’s they post a daily horoscope on the counter (when they can remember to – the cashier admitted it’s easy to forget on a busy day) and their gift bags have recipes printed on them.

Flip the bag over for the recipe - cute!

Flip the bag over for the recipe – cute!

Outside Hamish Johnston

Outside Hamish Johnston

We’re building a little hit list of places to eat, drink and shop (oh hello Hamish Johnston, you look like a cheese haven), but let us know if there’s anywhere in particular that deserves a shout out.

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A little whinge about Brixton tube station

Ah, Brixton. Whether you love it or hate it (we love it) it’s such a transport hub that you’ll inevitably pass through at some point.

If you take the tube from Brixton you’ll obviously know about the ongoing escalator works which basically means only two are in action at all times. When it’s rush hour, you’re faced with scenes like this:

Scenes outside Brixton tube during rush hour

Scenes outside Brixton tube during rush hour

They’ve since introduced barriers to control the crowds (note to self, get off the bus at St. Matthews’ Estate to avoid a futile walk), but at the wrong time of day, the queue can stretch up to H&M on the main street.

Brixton tube queuing during escalator works

Shot taken by @GMHutchins on Twitter

We’re told to expect this until July, and while we’ve been recommended to try other routes to avoid the bottleneck, friends who’ve attempted to travel to Stockwell or beyond say it doesn’t speed up the journey.

While the long-term result is meant to mean a smoother experience (though who knew escalators took that long to work on?), Brixton also faces further change with the closure of the ticket hall. Sure, we have machines, but queues to top up our Oyster cards are already extensive.

Campaigners have grouped together to call for the ticket office to be reopened, citing Boris Johnson’s 2008 pledge to prevent such things from happening. If you want to get in on the action, check out their website here.

In the meantime, roll on July…

South London fitness: The Shala, West Norwood

The Mysore studio at The Shala

The Mysore studio at The Shala

In the past year or so West Norwood’s had a little mini fitness boom, with the Better Leisure Centre opening last year, and The Shala arriving in 2013 from its original home in Clapham.

To be honest it’s probably a bit flippant to put The Shala just under a fitness category, as yoga and Pilates is a lot more than that. The centre offers these two classes covering a broad area of levels, from kids to ‘Mysore’ self practise (more on that in a bit) and pregnancy.

I’ve been practising yoga and took myself down there months ago to try their beginner 4 week course, comprising of one 1-hour session a week. If you’re new to yoga, I’d go for this option. The practise is completely broken down – we spent the first session simply going through the Sun Salutation pose – so it’s a lot less daunting then going straight into a regular class.

I’ll happily admit I thought yoga wouldn’t challenge me. I’m relatively fit but soon enough understood that this is a completely different challenge to the body to the likes of spinning and running. It was a little embarrassing at how inflexible I was. However, as you’d expect, while you’re encouraged to push yourself, it’s an incredibly laid-back atmosphere with none of that competitive element you’d normally get from ‘keeping fit’.

Unlike ‘hot’ yoga, The Shala practises Ashtanga in rooms heated to around 25C, so for some (aka me) it’s a far more comfortable experience.

There are a number of teachers here, and they all have their own style. I attended Ian’s introduction course who was very patient and constructive, making sure I got the poses right, and now go to Gingi’s (the founder) weekend classes on a semi-regular basis who quite frankly, is the most chilled out, amiable person I’ve ever come across (well, you wouldn’t want a ragey yoga teacher, would you).

As well as ‘taught’ classes The Shala run ‘Mysore self-practise’, where you’re encouraged to lead yourself through the poses. It might seem like the more advanced option but it’s welcome to all levels if you “have adequate knowledge of the standing sequence”.

Apologies for the lack of photos – I’m sure it’s bad etiquette to take pics in this sort of environment so there’s just one of the main studio before the rest of the class turned up. To see it in all it’s glory check out their brand new website here.