Despite the soaring price of almost everything, Queen’s Crescent remains, thankfully, a cheap shopping option. Cheaper than anywhere else in the NW5 postcode, at least – and, in fact, most places beyond.
Some proof? A bowl of ripe hass avocados is just £1. Five lemons? £1. A big bar of Green & Black’s? £1.30, at the cavernous cash-only Frank’s supermarket (don’t get us started on their sarnies – from 65p – or nuts, a quid a bag). Oh, and a bunch of seasonal blooms? Three for a fiver from Donna. Even Matt Townsend’s antiques shop, about to move to bigger premises, has some cracking finds.
And yes, it’s true too that in the last year the twice-weekly market, long home to clothing and household goods, has in fact gone up in the world: there’s now a Moroccan olive stall, a really good fish van (try the seasonal dressed crab for a fiver), artisan coffee, posh bread, jerk chicken and a waffle vendor.
But one of our favourite new lunch options has to be Outside Indian, a van run by two blokes from Borehamwood, Mike O’Driscoll and Keith Allen (no, not that one). They teamed up together late last year after both being made redundant from jobs in the “facilities management industry”.
We don’t know what that means either, but it doesn’t really matter as their obsession now is “authentic home-cooked Indian food”, as opposed to the fat-laden fare that accompanies many a weekend hangover.
The menu is minuscule: from three or four daily choices, with nothing costing more than five quid, we recommend chana masala (£4), chickpeas in a tangy sauce made with green cardamom, roast cumin and tamarind. Served with rice, it makes for a smugly healthy midday meal. And the enticing chicken and lamb curries sell out even more quickly – so much so that we’ve still not managed to bag one in time.
Oh, and we like the fact that the boys have a perfunctory name, and describe themselves as simply a “mobile Indian food catering business” on their website. No witty or ironic name, no pretensions. Best of all, no £7 price-tags, either, nowadays the default price of a wrap or hipster burger at many food festivals and pop-ups. “We simply aim to use UK sourced ingredients whenever possible from local suppliers,” says Keith. The food comes in bio-degradable and recyclable packaging too.
But now, the real discovery: a hot chicken garam masala wrap. Priced at a rock bottom £2.30, it’s a tender breast in a spicy tomato and onion sauce, peppered with ginger, garlic and chilli, a creamy shot of yoghurt and the clean citrus-tinged hit of coriander; so moreish, in fact, that you’ll probably need another (if there are any left). The downside – if at all – is it’s a tad petite.
The experience led us to think: is there a better value hot wrap in the capital than this little beauty? In fact, can there possibly be one cheaper than £2.30 which is any cop?
We’re genuinely curious, so do let us know any tips below.