Ostuni (and a kiss for the waiter)

We moved house a month ago, out of North Ken and up to the Queen’s Park/Kilburn border where we are slowly getting the measure of our new landscape.

For fake nails, fake tan, cheap lip enlargement (no joke), great curry, Poundland, second-hand books, and a healthy dose of north London grit, we turn left to Kilburn. For sourdough, flat whites, pilates, posh nosh, playgrounds and picnics, it’s right to Queen’s Park. Where one feels most comfortable is another matter.

A few weeks ago, The Heid brought my father in through the Kilburn side. Bearing in mind that this is a man who has rarely stepped out of Chelsea (except to go to Mayfair) and who once “defended” himself from a “mugger” (my brother wearing a hoody) with a Peter Jones bag, it’s little wonder that he looked a bit sweaty on arrival. We poured him a stiff drink and made a sharp right out the door for dinner, to the wonderful Ostuni, where he soon felt right at home.

Not the best defensive weapon

Ostuni is a Puglian restaurant on the characterful Lonsdale Road that combines authentic food with delicious wine and enough charisma, style and substance to warrant a special visit, even if you live nowhere near Queen’s Park. Beautifully designed with clever little rustic touches such as light fittings made out of grain sieves, walls in Pugliese limestone, and shabby chic –style cabinetry, the atmosphere is convivial, cosy and welcoming.

In summer, its French doors are thrown open onto a shrub-lined patio with heaters, mismatched chairs, and tables around which people laugh and drink and chat until late into the night. The place is always packed, and with piping hot antipasti, platefuls of salami, generous helpings of roasted meat or grilled fresh fish, drizzled lemon and olive oil, studs of garlic, bottles of nectar wine, and espresso martinis, one can’t fail to feel carried away on dizzying Italian hospitality.

Dizzying Italian hospitality

The service is slow. But you certainly don’t come here to hurry, and anyway, the waiting staff (who are mostly Italian) are more than just waiting staff here. They are the key to your present and future happiness. Customers here greet them like long-lost friends: shaking their hands, chatting, and flirting with them, as if by not playing the game, they might be dumped on a rubbish corner table, ignored for hours, or exiled forever from this doorstep paradise.

Doorstep paradise

Not to be outdone, The Heid has taken to flirting with the best of them. At a birthday dinner there on Saturday night, he raised some eyebrows amongst our group by coming out with things like, “Oh, the usual, Eric” to our waiter, and then planting two enthusiastic kisses on the poor man (I don’t think The Heid is his type) as we left. You wouldn’t get that sort of behaviour in Kilburn.

43-45 Lonsdale Rd,
London NW6 6RA
T: 020 7624 8035
W: ostunirestaurant.co.uk

TOP TIP: book well in advance and don’t kiss the waiter.

Lowry & Baker (and a thank you brunch)

If you’re in the Portobello area of London this weekend and casting around for a good breakfast, lunch time salad or afternoon cake and a cup of tea, you could do a lot worse than Lowry & Baker at the very north end of Portobello Road.


Let me eat cake

I took Frances here for brunch last Saturday in return for all the Scrabble-sitting she has been doing lately while I’ve been doing cover-work in an office (very strange after five years as a home worker!) and I can see this becoming a regular haunt of mine.

Lowry and Baker tea cups

Just like home (but better)

Lowry & Baker is tiny little place with a very ‘New York’ vibe about it – all low key and quirky with cool, hipster staff that run a tight ship from behind the kitchen counter, serving up perfectly frothed cappuccinos alongside a mix of eggs benedict, chocolate brownies and big salads filled with exciting things like butternut squash, pine nuts and goats cheese.

Lowry and Baker cafe Portobello Road

Flowers from next door...

This artsy one-room cafe is like walking into a cosy private kitchen, and with decorative touches such as hanging coffee cups, shelves of cookery books, mis-matched crockery and colourful posies of flowers (purchased from Floral Studio next door) on each table – as well as a domestic oven in which the home-baked quiches, lemon tarts and savoury muffins piled up on the counter are cooked up on the spot – you quickly feel at home.

Frances and I squeezed into a tiny table at the back and, after a brief gander at the menu – written up in chalk on the blackboard by the window – both plumped for the toasted sourdough with mashed avocado, poached eggs and smoked salmon.


Hipster staff member mashing avocado

This dish is evidently a house favourite (one hard-working staff member seemed to do little else but de-stone avocado and mash them) and, perfectly executed as it was with such obviously fresh and high quality ingredients (no doubt sourced from the market outside) – I can now call it a personal favourite of mine too. In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”


New brunch-time favourite

Lowry & Baker
339 Portobello Road
W10 5SA