Describe your area in three words: Villagey, foodie, family.
Coolest coffee spot: The Haberdashery is a Crouch End establishment for coffee, hot chocolate and cake. My older little boys toasted their first birthdays here with their first taste of babyccino. It’s all vintagey and fairy lights but manages to not be too twee. It’s popular with everyone, and the owner is a local and well loved. Though the people who work there are friendly towards children, it has a narrow entrance and is pretty tight inside, although they’ll do their best to accommodate your buggy at your table. Visit in the late afternoon to avoid the mad rush if you’ve got little ones and take back up – they provide crayons and a colouring-in sheet but the crayons have seen better days. In the summer, Riley ice-cream cafe is just what you need. I spent most of my pregnancies hanging out there with strawberry ice-cream shakes. Should you venture up to Muswell Hill, La Dinette tops the lot and is absolutely worth hiking up the hill for – everything is amazing and baked fresh on the premises. They serve the most delicious banana bread I’ve ever tasted – toasted, with jam – and they have a little kids’ play section with a sweet kitchen, books and wooden toys to keep them occupied so you can drink your tea and coffee in peace.
Best family-friendly restaurant: Crouch End is full of places to have coffee and eat but not all of them are that easy to manoeuvre when you’ve got three little ones to cater for. The Crouch End Picturehouse, however, gets my vote. First, not many people go there for the food but it’s actually really good and if you’re vegetarian (like us) it’s got more variety than a lot of other places in Crouch End (the menu changes a lot). There’s also a nice kids’ menu. Second, it’s just really easy to deal with. There’s a buggy park downstairs and big doors you can get through. There’s an open cafe on the ground floor and more restaurant-style seating upstairs (you can take the lift up with little ones) where there are also lots of toys to play with and plenty of room between tables so I don’t feel like I’m crowding anyone when I’ve got my whole team with me. Plus, if you get a big table upstairs by the windows, the kids can enjoy no end of fascination gazing out at double-decker buses going past down the Broadway. If you have time for an early lunch after a toddler showing in the cinema it’s normally really quiet, and is actually a nice and easy, chilled trip out for those days when you can’t muster the energy to do much else. Even though it has toys it’s not overly kiddy, so feels like a cool place to for grown-ups to hang out too. Nobody rushes you along to clear your table when you’re breastfeeding a baby and nobody minds you staying for as long as you need to.
Favourite park or green space: Queen’s Wood is a really magical little wood between Crouch End and Muswell Hill – it’s the little sister of the larger and more imposing Highgate Wood. It’s really nice to escape here on a Sunday and let the boys run wild and, because it’s a bit smaller than Highgate Wood, it feels more contained. There’s a tiny cafe and they throw children’s birthday parties out in the woods too, which is quite special. It’s one of those places that makes you feel like you’re not in London – and really lucky to be able to live close by to it. Priory Park in Crouch End is on our doorstep, which we’re very grateful for. It’s got lots of little pockets to it rather than just being one big playing field, which makes it appealing (gated-off gardens for picnics, paddling pool, cafe, play area, big space for ball games and bike riding). There’s also Alexandra Palace and Park, which is a tough uphill walk for littles but a good workout and the boys love the chance to deer-spot.
Best local museum or gallery: Okay, so you’ve got me there. Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre often has lots going on but, as far as I know, nothing for preschoolers. We tend to hang out outside by the fountain with ice creams in the summer instead. Museum trips are our days away from Crouch End. The easiest and closest one to get to is the RAF Museum in Colindale. It’s an easy 20-minute drive away, free, full of aeroplanes, and a huge hit with my boys.
Coolest kids’ shops: Niddle Noddle on Middle Lane is a treasure trove for vintage-inspired children’s toys and clothes. It’s beautiful and the perfect place to buy original presents. Pickled Pepper Books is one of my absolute favourite shops – an independent children’s bookshop that runs author events and hosts all manner of drop-in story times, music groups, and so on and so forth. The owners are just the friendliest.
Favourite under-5s class/activity: There are so many activities here to choose from. Jenny’s Jam is a really lovely music class for under-5s that my little boys loved. Her classes are a little different from some of the other music classes we’ve been to as she writes her own songs (she has her own YouTube channel). Jenny is such a warm soul. Sally’s Adventure Club is also really nice because it’s so different – a Saturday morning trek through Highgate Wood with stories and a chance to explore nature. My boys loved this.
What makes your area great? The village vibe. I love that people stop and chat; it feels like a real neighbourhood where people know each other, where people aren’t just passing through, and a place to lay down roots. Crouch End is small and full of stuff to do. As a mum it’s so brilliant to be within walking distance of a choice of parks, loads of child-friendly cafes, and lots of classes and groups. I hate driving and only do it because I have to, but it makes everything so much easier knowing that you can do so much within such a small radius.
What’s the best thing about living in London?: London is awesome. It just is. You can never be bored here. I love that, if we feel like it, we can just head into central and hang out on the South Bank or at the Science Museum or wherever. I love that it’s so alive – and since having children it feels even more alive. You get to experience so much more with them in London.
And the worst?: The tiny houses at millionaire prices that always make you wonder whether you’re doing the sensible thing to live here and whether you’ll ever have enough space, or whether it’s time to up sticks. That and the pollution.
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Photo credit: Huma Qureshi