In The Stow: The Walthamstow Knowledge

A 32-page guide to shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, schools and activities in Walthamstow.
Summer/Autumn issue 2013.

Hollow Ponds
Whipps Cross Road, E11 1NP

From space Hollow Ponds look like Star Wars’ Princess Leia with strategically placed mounds of moss and a very pronounced belly button. From the ground though, the ponds and the roly-poly wooded terrain around them are a magnet for dog walkers, joggers, Sunday cyclists and families. You can hire a little boat and paddle about behind a couple of coots in surprising tranquility. The open uncut expanse of meadow will tire out the kids and the dog, and the humps and bumps make gentle sledging slopes on a snowy day (so it might be reassuring to know there’s an A&E department beyond the Lakeside Diner) but it’s the lapping of the water, the quacking of the ducks and the rustling leaves of all those trees at this most southern truncated tip of Epping Forest that will keep you coming back. Just remember when the Hollow Ponds gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season.

Arts and Crusts
19 Victoria Road, E17 4JT

Ancient loaf sounds almost as appealing as a thousand year old egg although not so easy on the gums. Arts & Crusts is a wonderful artisan bakery and tiny coffee shop painted in a suitably biscuity colour with charming gingham tablecloths and stripy awning. But as their name, logo and proximity to a small award-winning museum suggests, this place folds William Morris’ handmade approach into its dough. Andrew and Carol’s breads are made from the best natural ingredients and are lovingly prepared using traditional slow-rise methods and baked in stone-hearth ovens. The wonderfully crusty Ancient Loaf I mentioned is arguably the most time-consuming to make with its 8 hour fermentation; the Deli Rye is onion-tastic and the Walnut & Date bloomer can be made to special order. They have a cake of the week and a supply of danishes to accompany your coffee. If that wasn’t enough they also serve an ever-changing menu of local artists’ work. Get the Sunday papers, a couple of flat whites, jostle for a pavement seat and watch the world go by.

Windmill Tapas
18 High Street, E17 7LD.

Madeira isn’t just a cake. It’s a beautiful archipelago off Portugal and the homeland of José and Regina who run this cosy tapas restaurant near the bottom of the High Street. Named after the iconic old windmills on the little Madeiran island of Porto Santo, the Windmill’s menu boasts authentic seafood dishes of octopus, squid and lobster and a wine list that includes plenty of Portuguese wines and beers. So book a table, turn your back on Lidl and crack open a Super Bock and tuck into tapas of saucy meatballs and patatas bravas. If you’re not into sharing go for a main dish such as scabbard fillet or ensopado stew. You’ll soon feel like you’ve been transported 850 miles south of Walthamstow to some balmy candlelit taverna.
The Windmill opens at 11am so you could even come for lunch, but leave room for that quintessential Portuguese custard tart!

The Nag’s Head
9 Orford Road, E17 9LP.

Madame La Zonga is confined upstairs. Her mystique pervades the Nag’s Head like a heady perfume. Several young men lay claim to having seen her, but I fear her sultry cardboard silhouette was drawn in her hourglass heyday. No harm in buying a long drink at the bar (mind your head) and finding a spot in the garden for a little covert surveillance just in case! The back garden is a walled one, sheltered by overhead trees and exoticised by a central palm tree and rustling bamboo. At night it’s draped in fairy lights and there’s a permanent marquee for alfresco dining activities, which keeps the rain and floaty bits of nature off your dinner. And it’s safe from Madame’s velour leopard print tablecloths. The menu serves mostly Italian food cheffed by a couple of Italians. Pizza, risotto, pasta, home-made burgers and summer BBQs. Robert Helpmann’s not on the payroll but still, be sure to frequent the back garden (not the front) if you have kiddies with you, and take them home by 7.30 please, they’ll miss Corrie otherwise.

Ruby Stables
Hoe Street end of
Ruby Road, E17 4RE

We all love a good rummage. This excuse for some retail therapy at the top of Ruby Road is full of surprises. It’s part garden centre, part reclamation yard, part antique shop. Behind its tall entrance gates hung with a tempting display of highlights (did anyone buy that boar’s head yet?) there’s always a plethora of collectibles, gargoyles and bedding plants begging to be planted out. Meander through the garden of ornamental delights, potted trees and shrubs, bask in the sun amongst chimney pots, outdoor seating and concrete goblins. Try not to nosey into the back gardens on Jewel Road, the quirky juxtapositions of objects on offer here should provide plentiful amusement. Inside is an Aladdin’s cave of bric-a-brac, furniture, vintage lighting and paintings. Go in with an open mind rather than a wish list. Prepare to ooh and aah nostalgically and feign interest in your partner’s bizarre purchase. One man’s tat is another man’s kitsch after all, some people collect random doll’s limbs. Top tip, buy it when you see it, chances are it won’t be there later.


Photographs © Simon Warren

From space Hollow Ponds look like Star Wars’ Princess Leia
We all love a good rummage.