Southsayer: Rachel de Thample, food writer, temporary restauranteur and grower of good things to eat

My earliest south London memory? Not wanting to come here Rachel de Thample is the food editor for Abel & …

My earliest south London memory? Not wanting to come here

Rachel deThambleRachel de Thample is the food editor for Abel & Cole, writing their weekly veg box recipes. She has also worked in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal, edited at Waitrose Food Illustrated, contributed to two Borough Market Cookbooks and written Less Meat, More Veg (Kyle Books). Rachel lives in Crystal Palace where she’s helped set up various food and growing projects including an award-winning edible garden in her local park and Tipsy Garden in her local pub – growing hops, apples and grapes for local brews. On July 16 2013 she hosts a locally-grown supper in Brixton Market. (Details at end.)

When were you happiest?
Pottering about in Westow Park’s Edible Garden.

Where would you like to live?
I live off Gipsy Hill, leading up Crystal Palace’s buzzing triangular high street. Can’t think of a better place to live. Only hitch: I don’t have my own garden.

Who is your favourite south Londoner?
It’s always good to praise those that feed you, so I’ll say Andy Forbes of Brockwell Bake is one. I buy his bread every week from the Crystal Palace Food Market.

antenna studios
Outside Antenna Studios, home to
Cafe Thing

Where do you hang out?
In SE19: Café Thing at Antenna Studios on Haynes Lane, pictured left, Bambino, on Church Road, and the Grape & Grain on Anerley Hill. Further afield, Borough Market during the week, when it’s not heaving – Monmouth Coffee is always a must – and Brixton Village is brilliant for lunch at the weekend.

What is your earliest south London memory?
Not wanting to come here. I used to review restaurants and was sent to Joanna’s on Westow Hill. My colleague, who was supposed to review it, had food poisoning and couldn’t do it, so I went and completely fell in love with Crystal Palace when I saw the views of London from the top of the hill. They still take my breath away, especially when the summer sun’s setting.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
More time!

What is your guilty south London pleasure?
Real Ale and vintage dresses. My dream came true when the Vintage Hart opened in one of my local pubs!

What’s your best south London experience?
Discovering so many interesting places to grow food in south London.

What has your career taught you?
The time and experience are the best teachers.

The house I live in is…
…a lovely Victorian flat with craned-neck views of Big Ben – in the winter when the trees are out of leaf.

bambinos crystal palace
Bambino Coffee Saloon, SE19

What is your favourite south London sound or smell?
Eye-opening brews at Bambino Coffee Saloon (left) in Crystal Palace, and the smell of “toast” as you approach London Bridge – my son was convinced there was a toast factory along the railway line but in fact, it’s a coffee roastery. You catch the smell as the train departs Bermondsey and heads toward the Shard.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Writing a book always tops the lists. I’m very proud of Less Meat, More Veg and am currently working on two new book projects.

Tell us a secret.
There are hops growing all over south London. Follow your nose when the flowers come out this autumn. We’ve teamed up with Brixton Beer here in Crystal Palace so this year will see the first Palace Pint; 100 hops were planted in Crystal Palace this spring and each plant offers about 25 pints, so we’re talking 2,500 glasses brimming with local brews.

Rachel de Thample’s Eat Your City is a series of meals hosted in different venues and celebrating urban food growing. The first takes place at Brixton Cornercopia. Brixton Cornercopia, 65 Brixton Village Market, London, SW9; 16 July 2013, 7:30pm; £30 for four courses. Find out more and book at Rachel’s Food Safari website. 

This is box title
Rachel de Thample’s favourite south London…
vintage hart c…landmark I do love Battersea Power Station and look forward to it getting a new lease of life.

…shop Vintage Hart, pictured left, on Church Road. I also love Vien, again on Church Road, and Haynes Lane Market – all SE19.

…bar or pub The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill and Café Thing at Antenna Studios in Bowyers Yard, Haynes Lane.

…nights out?
The intimate concerts in Café Thing, and Sunday jazz at the Grape & Grain (5-8pm), especially when Natty Bo’s in the house.

…place to eat Brixton Cornercopia and, in Crystal Palace, The Alma for great pub food and Urban Orient for dim sum.

…secret Westow Park’s Edible Garden – watch your dinner grow. Open gardening hours every Saturday 11am-2pm. Contact for more details.

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