Harringay: a traditional look for a multicultural street

Harringay Green Lanes, once a thoroughfare for cattle being driven from Hertfordshire to Smithfield market, now a sumptuous mix of Victorian architecture, traditional Turkish Ocakbasi (open grill) restaurants and an array of other cosmopolitan flavours.

From the late-18th century till the mid-20th, Harringay, with its large open green spaces, was also a favourite spot for “Londoners” to escape from the city at the weekend. Now it is increasingly becoming part of the city. At only 5.5 miles to the city centre, young professionals have already started to migrate to the area. There are various reasons for the change but train connections across London are more than likely one of the most prominent. Residents in “The Harringay Ladder”, as the streets to the west of Green Lanes are known because of the way they look on a map, have excellent Overground and National Rail connections to the north, south, east and west of London.

2011 Harringay Food Festival

2011 Harringay Food Festival

The increasing standards of restaurant and food outlets are also gaining new fans. The allure of Harringay Green Lanes, as a place where you can pick up an array of food stuff, was demonstrated by the successful 2011 Harringay Food Festival which was attended by around 20,000 people.

There really is all you can imagine and more when it comes to food. Sitting alongside the Turkish Ocakbasi restaurants – which are full to the rafters on the weekend – are patisseries, which sell fresh bread and desserts from all over the continent; a cluster of jewellers, which bring in predominantly Turkish and Asian residents from surrounding regions; and cafes, which offer the relaxed space that any good town centre should have. Relatively recently opened coffee shops like Aubergine provide the relaxed space that any good high street should offer.

This is not to forget the grocers, which seem to operate 24/7 and 365 days of the year. The general consensus of customers is that they provide groceries at prices that compete with superstores but bring more freshness.

There are also slightly unconventional things to be found on the high street, like confectioneries which offer a dazzling array of nuts, seeds and fruits. You enter one shop to the chug of the roasting machine spewing out newly roasted nuts. The humdrum of convenient stores and already packaged goods stands in contrast to the craft and endearing nature of much to be found in Harringay. It also breaks the illusion of choice that supermarkets create – can you find over 100 nuts at your local store? Is the food ever as exotic?

This history is also in abundance. Green Lanes is also home to north London’s oldest furniture store, called Disney, and to the Salisbury pub erected in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. The rows of Victorian mansions, as grand as when they were first built, aren’t instantly evident at eye level. But a look above the rows of shops toward the skyline brings buildings from Britain’s heady days of world dominance into focus. The Salisbury still stands majestically at the beginning of a row of beautifully constructed Victorian shops.

Other outlets sit side-by-side with restaurants and groceries, including the cluster of jewellery stores, eastern European food outlets and banks. You’ll find remnants of the Greek community too, who were so prominent in the 60s and 70s.

There is also joint scheme coming to Harringay, of which residents are in the process of being consulted with, funded by the Mayor’s Outer London Fund and the Green Lanes Corridor scheme which will see, amongst other changes, widening of pavements and street corners and aesthetic improvements of the railway bridge. One part of the plan is “decluttering of signage” – code for bringing a Victorian feel to shop fronts, free of laud flashing lights. With that in mind, and with the already excellent atmosphere exhibited by this small stretch of Green Lanes, there’s much to laud look forward to in Harringay.

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