WHEN it comes to our favourite haunts in EC1, we normally prefer the walk from Liverpool Street to the overheard "mind the gap" at Old Street Station. So imagine our surprise, when we alighted on Saturday to discover not only cruffins at Foxcroft & Ginger but a distinctively revamped tube station. Since March last year, TfL has been working with Appear Here to revamp Old Street, giving it a much needed makeover with an array of pop-up shops and curated retail spaces with the aim of bringing new life and energy to this gateway to Shoreditch. Appear Here is an online market place for short-term retail space working with start-ups through to established high-street and global brands.
Foxcroft & Ginger, Unit 2a Old Street Tube Station, EC1Y 1BE
It is very easy when living in a city like London to forget that access to good food is not a given. Plan Zheroes has developed an innovative approach to address such inequity by using social media to link food businesses and charities. Its goal is to ensure that food surplus is directed to those most in need and in doing so reduce social poverty and unnecessary food waste.
So how does it work? A business uploads information using the Zheroes app flagging that it has surplus food to donate. Nearby matched charities then receive an alert that food is available. Volunteers and transporters are then involved in what can only be described as a highly innovative use of design and technology. Over 200 of London's markets, retailers, restaurants and charities are involved. (The app was developed pro bono by Keytree. The charity has also received funding from Garfield Weston Foundation and RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). It is also a selected project of The School for Social Entrepreneurs and Lloyds Bank.)
Plan Zheroes shows how effectively social media can be utilised to drive social change, moving forward on what should be one of our most important social agendas - guaranteed access to food, promotion of community networks, and reduction of food waste. You can learn more about their work here.
POLK Street is known for one thing and one thing only and that’s the Swan Oyster Depot. A San Francisco institution, this fish shop and oyster bar has been serving up the city’s best seafood since 1912.
Very little has changed at the Swan since it was first opened. Its century-old bar shows its years as it stretches across the almost length of the restaurant. It’s just wide enough to make room for the six of so guys that work behind it. There’s a picture of Sal Sancimino whom brought the business back in 1946 with his cousins. It’s Sal’s children that run the restaurant today. There are signed sports jerseys, memorabilia, hand-drawn menus and posters of fish. You can still buy the fish direct or have it delivered.
There is no pretence to the Swan. There are no reservations, no booking system. True to the definition of a neighbourhood joint, it is cash only. Named one of America’s Classics by the James Beard Foundation in 2000, the restaurant sits eighteen, nineteen at most. The queue to get in can be an hour-long if you’re lucky, but there’s no rush. Waiting is a part of the experience and wait we did on three separate occasions.
The first and second we gave up with hunger, seeking solace elsewhere. Telling ourselves that it wasn’t as good as we remembered but yeah, we would try again that afternoon. And so we did, discovering an even greater line than we did at lunch. Had we missed something? Had there been a recent Saveur feature? Surely, we hadn’t waited this long last time. And so we left, vowing not to return, reconciled to the fact that this was surely an oyster that got away.
But is there anything in life as good as an oyster?