Why board a plane when you can sample Indian temples, Portuguese pâtisseries, a Brazilian carnival and Jewish clubbing without leaving the M25? Leave your passport at home and check out the world outside your window
Shop South AfricanThis store, found near Richmond Park’s Roehampton Gate, sells exclusively South African foodstuffs and has been operating for the past 20 years, supplying ex-pats with its unrivalled selection of biltong (a delicious form of spicy sun-dried meat) and boerewors (sausages). Other recommendations include Steers’ Monkey Gland Sauce (it’s made from fruit and spices, not monkeys), Ouma’s eminently dunkable rusks, and Nestle’s Bar One. Mmm, lekker. They’ve got an online shop if Roehampton’s too far for you to travel to.St Marcus Fine Foods, 1 Rockingham Close, Priory Lane, SW15 (020 8878 1898/www.stmarcus.equology.com) Barnes rail or 33, 337 bus. Open daily 9am-6pm.
Neasden's Shri Swaminarayan temple
See Neasden’s wonder of the worldA drive along the North Circular doesn’t offer many sights, but the sight of the Hindu Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple rising out of the concrete is impressive enough to make you choke on your travel sweets. Sitting incongruously in a suburban steet near Neasden’s other main attraction, IKEA, the multi-billion rupee temple required 5,000 tons of marble and limestone for a building project unlike any seen in this country since the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Artisans and skilled sculptors from Gujarat and Rajasthan chipped away around the clock to complete the largest Hindu temple outside of India. Definitely worth the trip, this fairytale, architectural feat really has to be seen to be believed. Modest clothing is strongly recommended. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 105-119 Brentfield Rd, NW10 (020 896 5265/www.mandir.org) 92, 112, 206, 232, PR2 bus.
Eat Vietnamese grubThe south end of Hackney’s Mare Street is home to a thriving Vietnamese community that was established in the 1970s when Vietnamese fleeing communist rule set up home here. Excellent groceries abound but this shop is a particular gem. Fruit is piled high and fresh fish is available on Thursdays. The chiller cabinets hold fresh goods like egg noodles, fish balls and pigs’ trotters, while a freezer at the back stores meat and dim sum. Look out for the kitsch painted tins containing biscuits.Huong-Nam Supermarket, 185-187 Mare St, E8 (020 8985 8050) Hackney Central or London Fields rail or 48, 55, 106, 253 bus. Open Mon-Fri 9.30am-8.30pm, Sat 10am-9pm.
Stuff your fridge with Spanish groceriesThis compact, welcoming family-run Spanish grocery has neat displays of reasonably priced cakes, biscuits, confectionery, oils, cheeses, wines, olives and much more. There’s also a good selection of salt cod, chorizo, tinned calamares, piquillo peppers in jars, canned vegetables like white asparagus – and even paella pans in different sizes. Particularly notable is a top-notch selection of speciality, region-specific El Quexigal honeys from Avila, in aromatic varieties such as eucalyptus and lavender. Staff are happy, helpful and very smiley. P De La Fuente, 288 Portobello Rd, W10 (020 8960 5687) Ladbroke Grove tube. Open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm.
Eat, drink and dance in pseudo SyriaThemed restaurants often fall flat when it comes to credibility, but the Bedouin style decor, authentic music and food at Darbucka are verified by Syrian owner and musician Ahmad Mohammad. The world music policy is eclectic and ranges from Middle Eastern dance fusion to salsa and belly dancing. Brazilian, Turkish and Arabic nights are held regularly. The upstairs restaurant has an extensive menu of mezze, international mains such as chicken with pickles, tamarind and chilli (£9), and shisha pipes, although service can be a bit hit and miss. Drinks include mint teas, exotic cocktails and smoothies. Tango lessons take place on Monday nights (£10).Darbucka World Music Bar, 182 St John St, EC1 (020 7490 8772/ww.darbucka.com) Angel tube. Bar open Mon-Sat 5.30pm-1am; from June 1 (when new gallery opens) restaurant and bar open Mon-Sat 11am-1am.
Blackalicious hair and beautyYou want braids or corn-rolls? Head to AfroEuro Hair & Beauty where you’ll also be able to pick from a huge choice of Afro hair and beauty products, including Matrix, Tubley, Keraere and Joico haircare. Upstairs, the beauty and hair salon provides excellent Afro-hair styling, facials, manicures and pedicures.AfroEuro Hair & Beauty, 209 Uxbridge Rd, W13 (020 8579 9595) West Ealing rail. Open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm.
Portugeezer! Grab a partner in SW8
Do ‘Little Portugal’There are 27,000 Portuguese people living in Lambeth. Walk along the South Lambeth Road between Vauxhall and Stockwell in the early evening and you’ll find the atmosphere is almost as much Lisbon as London. It’s no wonder the area, a thriving barrio with many bars, cafés and restaurants, has been dubbed ‘Little Portugal’. Close by, the Madeira Pâtisserie, under the railway arches near Vauxhall station, supplies Portuguese baked goods to many of London’s cafés and its custard tarts, pastel de nata, are heaven.‘Little Portugal’, South Lambeth Rd (in between Vauxhall and Stockwell tube stations), SW8. Stockwell tube or Vauxhall tube/rail.
Madeira Pâtisserie, 46a-b Albert Embankment, SE1 (020 7820 1117) Vauxhall tube/rail. Open daily 7am-7pm.
Get arty at a Balkan partyA series of lectures, discussions and exhibitions organised by City University and continuing throughout June explores Balkan art and identity. Events include ‘The Sweetest Dream’, which is an exhibition running June 8-24 at the Space gallery in Hackney, featuring work by Macedonian conceptualist Nada Prlja, plus Dragan Djordjevic, Raffaella Crispino and others (details at www.spacestudios.org.uk), and ‘Balkan Fever’, an accompanying music festival which runs until June 15 (details at www.kazum.co.uk).Art Under Construction: The Balkans in Context (www.city.ac.uk/cpm).
Chuckle at Kiwi comicsA well-established flock of Kiwis dominate the stage at the monthly show ‘Four Kiwis Walk into a Bar’. It’s held on the last Thursday of every month at Headliners comedy club, with the occasional guest honorary New Zealanders in the mix. ‘Four Kiwis Walk into a Bar’, Headliners, George IV, 185 Chiswick High Rd, W4 (020 8566 4067/www.sanza.co.uk) Turnham Green tube. Last Thur of the month, doors open 8pm; adm £10.
Get kitted out in chic French fashionIllustrious Notting Hill boutique Aimé offers a smattering of ultra-chic French designer labels under one roof bringing a little bit of jolie Paris to London. Run by two French-Cambodian sisters Val and Vanda Heng, the shop stocks coveted French brands such as APC, Isabel Marant and Claudie Pierlot. The elegant toiletries are also worth a look.Aimé, 32 Ledbury Rd, W11 (020 7221 7070/www.aimelondon.com) Notting Hill Gate tube. Open Mon-Sat 10.30am-7pm.
- Add your comment to this feature