Continuing our series highlighting the very best of each borough.
This week, Conrad Roth explores the borough of Haringey. The following is a personal selection, and we welcome suggestions for alternatives in each category.
Author’s note: Conrad has lived in Hornsey for three years and spent most of that time, when not working, walking the streets of Haringey with a camera in hand. He has written a number of London-related pieces here, and since then has been playing Guess Where London, including his own pictures here.
1. Best Pub: The Queens, Broadway Parade, Crouch End
I would love to recommend some out-of-the-way drinking hole that only Haringey locals know about. But great pubs never stay obscure for long; genuinely unknown spots are, in my experience, almost universally mediocre. (The Faltering Fullback, on Perth Road, Stroud Green, may count as a worthy exception.) And so the crown jewels of Haringey tippling are its two most famous taverns, built by the same architect in the 1890s. Of these, the Salisbury, on the corner of Green Lanes and St Ann’s Rd, is the more fashionable to cite — Ian Nairn recommends it, films are shot in its saloons, and so on. But for me the Queens, a sprint off Crouch End Broadway, has the superior beer, provender and fittings. In 1895 this was the finest Art Nouveau glass, plaster and mahogany money could buy, a suburban palace to rival the Prince Alfred in Maida Vale or the Half Moon in Herne Hill. The excellent Gunhill is often on tap, although I wouldn’t recommend the overpriced and untoothsome Cotswold beers sometimes on offer. Lunches are traditional dishes with the usual bourgeois gastro-frou-frou, but cooked with some flair and not too expensive.
2. Best Restaurant: Arocaria, The Broadway, Crouch End
For dinner we stay in Crouch End, at Arocaria, tucked away on Weston Park Road, in view of the Clock Tower. The food is Cypriot Greek, named after a mother restaurant back home, and that after my favourite tree, the monkey-puzzle. Arocaria is a local secret, at once hidden and advertised by the blaze of plants and flowers sheathing the façade. Inside, London is miles away. The food is hearty, delicious, cheap and authentic, the service unpolished but gratifyingly personal — waiters greet you by name on your second visit, and readily bring out chocolates, persimmons and Levantine dessert wine for a special occasion. Toff’s, the Muswell Hill fish mecca, probably deserves an honourable mention, although its celebrity makes getting a table difficult; it is also worth nothing that one ‘portion’, which seems ludicrously dear on the menu, will comfortably serve two. La Vina, a tapas restaurant next to Harringay station on the corner of Wightman Rd, is also recommended. Best name, meanwhile, must surely go to The First Resto: Pa Jonas Vie-Gou’ Congolese Food (300 West Green Rd), though I’ve never ventured inside.
3. Best Shop: Andreas Michli & Sons, Salisbury Road, Harringay
Haringey has the full spectrum of shopping, from the dilapidated gehenna of the Wood Green mall to the designer onesies of Crouch End, and the bustling Turkish and Kurdish emporia of Green Lanes. Local gems include the saintly Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green and W. Martyn’s family grocers in Muswell Hill, as well as Pran, a Bangladeshi confectionery on Turnpike Lane. But the most extraordinary shop in the borough must be another Cypriot-Greek institution: Andreas Michli, on the corner of St Ann’s Rd and Salisbury Rd, Harringay. This is a family-run delicatessen, with an especially good range of olives and other home-grown produce; but it also sells all manner of random and bizarre artefacts, from statuettes to earthenware pots, including a display of rather mammarial vases in the window. As a bonus, it is just across the street from one of the best bits of conspiracy-theory graffiti in London, on wooden hoardings outside the derelict 34 Salisbury Rd.
4. Best Church: St John The Baptist, Wightman Road
There are a number of minor beauties dotted around the borough, but the only important landmark is St Ignatius, Tottenham High Rd, a stone’s throw from the Hackney border at Stamford Hill, a 1911 masterpiece in the Romanesque style, with carved capitals and a chancel glowing with gilted mosaics. Perhaps even better than this, though, and less known, is St John the Baptist, Wightman Rd, originally built in 1905 by James Brooks, as St Peter’s, and now Greek Orthodox. The exterior is not much to look at, but inside the space comes to life, with a very extensive set of Neo-Byzantine murals in the aisle spandrels and elsewhere, painted by Eleftherios Foulidis over the last fifteen years. This is impeccable pastiche, from the hairy, winged John the Baptist and the Zoodoche Pege (Life-Giving Spring), to a recent and intricate Christ in Gethsemane. Honourable mentions: architects’ favourite St Paul’s Wightman Rd, which does have the distinction of being one of the few churches built in the last 20 years to be worth looking at; the Free Gothic pagoda of St Augustine’s Archway; and the eccentric neoclassical of St John’s, Great Cambridge Rd, designed in 1939 by Seely and Paget, better known for redoing Eltham Palace for Stephen Courtauld.
5. Best House: Mushroom House, High Road, Woodside Park
This really is a toss-up. Two houses in Haringey, as different as could be, command the attention. The first is the ‘Mushroom House’, a peculiar little cottage built in 1822 as a lodge for Chitts Hill House, just to the east of Green Lanes, now in Woodside Park. The house, only just visible from the street through thick foliage, is half-cylindrical, half-octagonal, roofed with curving wings of slate—not quite like any other building in London. The second house, now known as Bishopswood, stands on the corner of Bishopswood Rd and Hampstead Lane, just within the Camden border, and, although I have been unable to find any information about it, seems to be a huge, eclectic interwar confection, with irregular bulges and bow windows, and, as a pièce de résistance, a double-level gazebo bridged to the house at the first floor. Glamorous, in an over-the-top period Hollywood sort of way. Honourable mentions, also, for the Neo-Gothic jewel at 16 Broadlands Rd, and the high modernist studio house in Duke’s Head Yard, hidden just off Highgate High St, built for the artist Roger Pettiward in 1939.
6. Best Industry: Markfield Beam Engine, Markfield Park
The best bit of old industry in Haringey is the Markfield Beam Engine, now sitting in the unloved Markfield Park, by the Lea in South Tottenham. The largest of its kind in the city, after Crossness, this engine, with its ornate white and turquoise classical frame, was built by the Wood brothers in 1886, part of a former sewage and treatment works that served the area. It is now exhibited on occasional open days by dedicated enthusiasts, bless their hearts. All necessary information can be found at the Markfield website. Honourable mention: Hornsey Gasholder 1, Clarendon Rd, a pioneering design from 1892, more information on which can be found here.
7. Best Confined Space: Parkland Walk, Haslemere Road entrance
The shopping and architecture of Haringey have their merits, but even better are the borough’s range of uncanny urban and natural spaces. The fame of the Parkland Walk need not detract from its majesty, and its finest bits run through Haringey, including the glorious passage just to the west of Crouch End Hill, to be walked on a bright dusk. One space in particular deserves special mention, and this is the secretive entrance to the Walk accessed from Haslemere Rd. This begins as a snickleway behind the Monkridge apartment block, and suddenly becomes a miniature forest; pick your way to the right, and down a slope, and you’ll find yourself on the overgrown railway platforms that were once Crouch End station. Just to the east, under the arches, on the Islington border, is the spooky ‘Spriggan’ sculpture that prompted Stephen King to pen his inept Lovecraft story, ‘Crouch End’. Honourable mentions: the inimitable Haringey Passage, the crutched tunnels underneath the Broadwater Farm blocks, and, least known of all, the network of brass-gated alleys running through the 1930s Coldfall Estate, just north of the Wood.
8. Best View: ‘Suicide’ Bridge
The views from North London are quite different to those of the South. The latter, of course, face north, with the sun, and so present a city lit up and inviting. From the North, by contrast, London is dark and hazy, more ominous than welcoming. For a full panorama, the vista from Alexandra Palace is the best in the borough, deservedly famous. But a more interesting view is seen from a point passed by thousands of cars every day, without much thought — Suicide Bridge, or Hornsey Lane as it passes over the A1. Here, by the dolphin lamp-stands taken from the Albert Embankment, three worlds intersect, in a unique sort of magic: lofty, leafy, moneyed Highgate suburbia, the gritty, commercial lower world of Archway Road, and the gleaming towers of the City in the far distance. The paths down — secluded steps to the east, late modernist back street by the reservoir to the west — only add to the multiplicity of urban texture.
9. Best Mystery: The Tower at Bruce Castle, Lordship Lane, Tottenham
Tottenham, more than anywhere else in the borough, preserves its history: the Pump and High Cross on the high street, Bruce Castle, the almshouses on Bruce Grove, and of course the mediaeval All Saints, with its patchwork of stone and brick of different eras. But if you seek the monumental and perplexing, have a gander at the Tower in the Castle’s grounds, facing Lordship Lane. It rather resembles the water tower in Park Hill, Croydon: but this is three centuries older, and of unknown purpose. Pevsner calls it ‘A great puzzle. . . a fine military-looking object, probably of early C16 date’ — as old as the Castle, and older than the Castle’s current exterior.
10. Best Nook: Shepherd’s Hill Gardens
There are plenty of great hidden spaces in Haringey, such as Stationer’s Park, lost in the back streets of Hornsey, with its water features and children’s playground, or the Railway Gardens nature reserve by Harringay Green Lanes station. But to get away from all traces of the city environment, the best secret spot in the borough is Shepherd’s Hill Gardens, concealed behind a wall of trees on the north side of Shepherd’s Hill, just to the east of Broughton Gardens. The view has been carefully angled to do away with the city — it looks over a playing green in Crouch End, and Queen’s Wood behind, with only St James Muswell Hill and the Palace as visual landmarks. Small, simple and perfect.
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