Spring has arrived in London and gosh knows it’s welcome. Despite it being a mild winter, the sprouting daffodils in local parks herald the beginning of something new and engender an inexplicable excitement about what is to come.
I often struggle to decide which is my favourite season in London; each of them has their own draw. But for the moment I don’t need to choose a favourite child, spring is here and that means I will likely be spending the coming weekends reacquainting myself with London’s parks. Living in South West London I am lucky to be within pretty close proximity to Battersea, Holland and Hyde Parks as well as a myriad of smaller pockets of city green.
Last weekend I took a 3-hour walk through Battersea Park, which sits on the Thames opposite Chelsea. It certainly clears the cobwebs of the work week (as well as a self induced headache due to one too many glasses of Prosecco the night before). The people watching is great. Families, runners, cyclists and the occasional rollerblader (I would suggest that the rollerbalder has been spinning his way around the park since the 80’s. Totally appreciate that).
My recommendation, though, would be gathering a group of friends for a lazy, indulgent afternoon in the park with a picnic basket (Fortnum and Mason do some great ones) and some good food. Make it an afternoon with some cocktails in mason jars. Choose your poison, but I think I’ll keep it simple with some Campari and Blood Orange kept cool with limejuice ice cubes. Delish.
Now the food. The most important part, no? For a quick stop I will always pop over to Elizabeth King, a fab deli at the corner of Parsons Green and New Kings Road. Although a little pricey for day to day it stocks everything you might need for a picnic in the park and anything you don’t need as well. Vintage cheeses, cold cut meats (either pre-packed or off the bone over the counter) and wide selection of breads, I recommend their potato bread- indulgent! So the basics are covered, then you can peruse their selection of fruits, wine, sushi bento boxes and cakes. I never quite manage to leave without buying enough for a small army. Dangerous given the proximity to home, but tres convenient on summer days.
The alternative would have to be one of the Ottolenghi delis, of Yotam Ottolenghi fame. He is certainly my ‘chef de jour’, as my poor family discovered when I bought most of them his Plenty cookbook for Christmas this year. Scattered over London and often hidden away on secret little streets, I haven’t managed to make it to them all but can personally vouch for the Kensington and Notting Hill branches. Now these delis must come with a health warning. For your wallet, that is. One’s hips will survive because the food is healthy, fresh and delicious, but you are unlikely to escape with a light summer lunch for less than £15 (c. $23 USD). I would call it Persian food, but their website cites ‘Mediterranean Basin’ as the origin. Whatever you call it, it is certainly worth a peek, prod and purchase.
So each spring as I enjoy my first foray into the green loveliness, with hamper full of food and booze, Wordsworth’s poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (more commonly know as Daffodils) pops into my head. It was inspired in April 1804, 208 years ago but I think the excitement that Spring, and daffodils as the heralds of this season, is something that every generation can and will continue to love. I think the ending of ‘Daffodils’ is beautiful…. So will finish with that, who would I be to try and sum up these pretty flowers better than he…
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
And you can always pretend you sound terribly cultured reciting this to your friends after one too many Camparis and more cheese and biscuits than your skinny jeans can actually handle.