North London's Cultural Guide

Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Clare Zerny, artisan patissier

'I used to pretend I only had one cat so I didn't have to pay two insurance policies'

‘A boyfriend once dumped me for not remembering people’s job titles, reading supplements before the paper and being too practical.’

Since completing a professional patisserie diploma with distinction early this year, Clare has been beavering away in her Kentish Town kitchen establishing her new business, Flour of London. She was previously a journalist and stylist for several years at Marie Claire, and now you can sample her classic treats at The Fields Beneath and – for one night only – this Thursday at our inaugural Under the Overground event, where they’ll be matched with cocktails from Shebeen.

When were you happiest?
I’m happiest right now. My thirties have brought a level of self-confidence and acceptance of myself that I never felt in my twenties. I’m excited about my new business and what else lies ahead, but most importantly I’m happy with my lot.

Where would you most like to live?
I’ve dreamt about the various coloured terraces dotted about Kentish Town but actually I love my flat on Gaisford Street. I’m very lucky to have the place. I’ve witnessed so much change since moving into the flat nearly seven years ago.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To accept ambiguity. Recognising you can’t control everything and instead embracing the uncertainty is actually where a lot of the excitement lies.


What is your earliest K-Town memory?
Viewing my first flat on Prince of Wales Rd, opposite The Grafton. I knew instantly it was the one. The place and the area just felt right. Nearly nine years and another flat later, I’m so glad I trusted my instinct when friends at the time pulled faces at the mention of Kentish Town. I remember calling my parents and banging on about the great amenities and transport links, and the area’s potential. Of the 16 years I’ve spent in London, over half have been in Kentish Town. We moved about so much when I was a child, it’s actually the longest I’ve lived anywhere.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
Proper soundproofing in my building. When the flats were converted there was apparently little regulation and the council don’t consider it noise pollution. After badgering the owner upstairs, he’s finally letting me work on the floor in his flat.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Probably the pretend puking noise I make. I think it’s pretty funny. Apparently, according to my friends, it’s not. I’m also a committed nail biter. I make excuses about how I’m in the kitchen so much and constantly washing my hands, but really I just bite them. I’m gnawing them right now.

Clare Zerny, Gavin from Fields and friends at Alma Street Fair
Clare and her cakes with Gavin from Fields Beneath and friends at Alma Street Fair 2013
Where do you hang out?
For coffee, The Fields Beneath wins hands down. Beers at The Grafton, Camden Brewery and Shebeen for a cheeky cocktail. Lunch from Arancini and Phoenicia and for dinner I’m currently still a bit obsessed with Chicken Shop. Further afield, Dalston’s various pubs and coffee shops – I love walking the canal from Camden to Broadway Market. I also regularly frequent Two Floors just off Carnaby Street. It’s one of the few places in Soho you’ll hear The Smiths.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
It was always my teeth. They stuck out and I hated them. It took till my thirties to brave the necessary train tracks and, despite numb teeth and a sore gob for 15 months, it was well worth it. Now that that’s ticked that off the list, I’d quite like a hand transplant and forehead reduction.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
A boyfriend once sat me down and calmly proceeded to inform me he was dumping me for various reasons that included “not remembering people’s job titles, reading supplements before the paper and being too practical.” It’s laughable now but at the time it was quite the confidence bashing.

What did you do today?
I went to a casting for Vodaphone. Modelling is the reason I ended up in London after winning a competition in Looks magazine (my kindly brother always refers to it as my Crufts) at 16 and moving down pre-university, to give it a shot. I was lucky it was an income that meant I never had to work in a bar for crap money while studying. These days at the age of 34, much to the amusement of my friends, I’m in the agency’s “classic”, aka close to retirement, section.

Tell us a secret.
I used to pretend I only had one cat so I didn’t have to pay two insurance policies. They’re both black and unless you know them it’s hard to tell the difference, so when I took them to the vet I just pretended it was the same cat.

Under The Overground – a collaboration between The Fields Beneath, Shebeen, Flour of London and Kentishtowner – takes place this Thursday. The event is sold out, but we are releasing 10 more spaces. Head here to book but be quick.

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About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.