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Nicole Garcia Merida

Nicole Garcia Merida

News (17)

The Ukrainian restaurateur hosting fundraising dinners for the people back home

The Ukrainian restaurateur hosting fundraising dinners for the people back home

 ‘We’re usually fully booked on weekends,’ says Lana Zoubata, the woman behind Ukrainian restaurant Dnister in Forest Gate. ‘It’s mostly Ukrainian people who come to celebrate things. It’s really beautiful, there’s music and dancing. But right now it doesn’t feel like the atmosphere for celebration.’ Zoubata herself has been busier than ever. On February 24, after the shock of the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine had passed, she set up a fundraising appeal to support her home country. Aside from Dnister, which serves traditional Ukrainian dishes, Zoubata owns Sawmill Cafe and Unit Six Cafe (both in Stratford). All have become donation points. Goods dropped off there are transported to a warehouse in Barking before being taken directly to Ukraine. ‘There are many companies and people who want to support us,’ Zoubata says. ‘We had a full lorry ready to go to the border and now have another one that’s being packed full of boxes.’ Photograph: Jess Hand ‘A British doctor who wanted to go to Ukraine to help called and said he can take a van with donations,’ she says. ‘We’re thankful to the British people who are helping.’ Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, also got in touch to make a donation. Zoubata came to the UK in 1996 and set up her first business in 2005 in Victoria before relocating to east London, where she now manages her three well-loved venues. Dnister, named after Ukraine’s Dniester river, will host a fundraiser on March 25 to share Ukrainian cuisine with locals. Zo

An insider's guide to Forest Gate

An insider's guide to Forest Gate

Joe Woodhouse is a chef, photographer, author and Forest Gate local. He tells us his favourite spots in the area – from zero-packaging stores to cafes, delis and a great farmers market. 1. Giovanna’s Deli & Wine ‘We go here to stock up on great cheeses and also really good Italian wine. My mum goes to buy pesto and pasta and things like that too. They also do pizzas.’ 58 Woodgrange Rd, E7 0QH. 2. Cups & Jars ‘We shop at this zero-packaging shop a lot. You just take along your containers and fill them up. We get everything for the household and bulk stuff there. They also have wines, beers, and jarred and tinned food. It’s also a coffee shop so you can have lunch in there too.’ 108 Woodgrange Rd, E7 0EW. 3. Ramble Cafe E7 ‘We go to this café a lot throughout the week and at the weekends to get cakes. They do really good-quality food and they have really good coffee. It’s great for lunches.’ Arch 432, Avenue Rd, E7 0LB. 4. The Holly Tree They did this pub up really nicely a couple of years ago, restored it in a really thoughtful way. They do good food and have a good selection of beers: three or four cask options, which is really nice, and cider on tap. They’ve got a miniature railway that goes round the garden so it’s great to go with kids too.’ 141 Dames Rd, E7 0DZ. 5. The Ciderhouse E7 ‘I’ve been buying their cider for years and getting it delivered, so when they opened their London shop it was great. They have great cider and brandies, and they also do a cocktail club and f

Seven things to do near the Barbican, picked by a local author

Seven things to do near the Barbican, picked by a local author

The Barbican is more than just grey – the area is also home to great coffee, delicious restaurants and fascinating museums. If you fancy exploring the City’s concrete playground, look no further. We asked Anton Rodriguez, photographer and author of ‘Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate’, to share his favourite insider spots. 1. Dose ‘This is a really tiny coffee shop right around the corner from Barbican station. It only seats around six people, but it does excellent takeaway coffee, as well as pastries, brownies and sandwiches.’70 Long Lane, EC1A 9EJ. 2. Museum of London View this post on Instagram A post shared by Museum of London (@museumoflondon) ‘Whenever I have family coming over, I always take them to this museum. It has a lot of exhibitions on London history, and does pop-ups too. It’s quite varied, and it’s free.’150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN. 3. Geranium ‘Geranium is a little general goods store located inside the Barbican, below one of the towers. It’s run by one of the residents. It sells fresh meat, produce, vegetables, natural wine… a bit of everything. Even if you don’t live in the Barbican it’s quite cool to visit.’Lauderdale Tower, Barbican, EC2Y 8BY. 4. St John View this post on Instagram A post shared by St. JOHN Restaurant (@st.john.restaurant) ‘St John serves British food and does a really good bone marrow with toast. The crispy pig-skin salad is another dish I’d recommend. The place is super

Why one woman launched an all-female tattoo parlour in Barbican

Why one woman launched an all-female tattoo parlour in Barbican

Walking into a tattoo studio can sometimes feel like a daunting experience, a bit like being sent to the head teacher’s office. ‘Studios definitely are intimidating,’ says Roxy Velvet, the artist behind Velvet Underground Tattoo, London’s first tattoo parlour staffed solely by women (although anyone can get inked there). Velvet Underground Tattoo was established in 2016 out of Velvet’s dissatisfaction with sexism in the industry. The aim was to create a space free of arrogance and macho culture – a place where female artists could flourish and non-male customers might feel more comfortable. ‘When I started, I was unsure whether it was going to be a disaster,’ she says. ‘But I was pleasantly surprised.’ The seven artists and three apprentices at Velvet Underground all have unique styles and create bespoke pieces for every customer. There’s an artist for everything, whether it’s a portrait of Kermit the Frog, a complex snake design or a colourful cover-up. But what is consistent is the shop’s welcoming and nurturing environment. ‘Tattoos are intimate, painful and emotional,’ says Velvet, explaining that around 75 per cent of her customers say they specifically choose the studio because they feel it that provides a more accepting space than some others in the city. ‘It has amazing energy, which is my favourite thing about it. Without that, it’s just a room full of chairs.’ While Velvet’s customers are massively important to her – ‘you become really good friends’ – the project is

The best things to do in Wood Green, picked by a cool local

The best things to do in Wood Green, picked by a cool local

Picked by Shazia Saleem, owner of independent sustainable fashion boutique Pop London. 1. The Starting Gate ‘This pub is opposite Alexandra Palace station. It’s got a really chill atmosphere, perfect for having a nice quiet drink. Wood Green has a really varied demographic so there’s always a nice mix of people in there: younger, older, professionals, everyone.’ Station Rd, N22 7SS. 2. Alexandra Palace ‘This park is phenomenal. It’s where everyone goes to walk their dog but also where we all go to walk ourselves. It’s uphill, so it’s a real power-walk workout, but there’s a great view over the city when you get to the top, so you are rewarded for the sweat. There’s a café up there as well – it’s lovely to sit and eat and drink on the terrace.’ Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY. 3. Cafe Corso ‘Cafe Corso does lovely home-baked quiche and other excellent quality, tasty food. It’s cosy and has a really cute outdoor seating area. It’s a bit of a sun trap too. Wood Green is quite traffic-heavy but this is set back a bit, so that’s nice as well.’ 1 Ringslade Rd, N22 7TE. 4. Kervan Sofrasi ‘Morning, afternoon, evening... Kervan is busy all the time. It does Turkish food that’s always fresh, and it’s a nice place for families. Its falafel is absolutely fantastic: fresh, crunchy on the outside and squidgy on the inside – just perfect.’ 183 High Rd, N22 6BA. 5. The All Good Bookshop ‘This is a regular bookshop, but it’s a co-operative run by the community: a fantastic independent business

The best of Camden, picked by a clued-up local

The best of Camden, picked by a clued-up local

Camden resident and punk Anderson Garcia Rodrigues gives us a guide to London’s most indie neighbourhood.  1. Inverness Street Market ‘I like this street next to the station because you can eat different things – Mexican, Portuguese, Brazilian, Spanish – not just the classic fish and chips. I really like the restaurant Made in Brasil.’ Inverness St, NW1 7HB.  View this post on Instagram A post shared by BOYS DON’T CRY TATTOO (@boysdontcry_tattoo) 2. Boys Don’t Cry Tattoo and Piercing ‘This was the first place I got work when I came to Camden Town. I was designing tattoos for the shop. Everybody is really friendly. I like it because you can be yourself there – talk freely, and get a tattoo.’ 269 Camden High St, NW1 7BX.   //

3. Rokit Camden

‘This is a vintage store where you can find any type of clothes. For dressing up, for work, for partying... You have no idea how much stuff you can find here.’ 
225 Camden High St, NW1 7BU.

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Meet the lifeboat team that looks after the Thames

Meet the lifeboat team that looks after the Thames

Thames river bus worker Holly McGlinchey was on her lunchbreak when she received a call from another boat asking for help. Someone had fallen into the river and couldn’t be reached. McGlinchey and her sister, with whom she was working that day, managed to find the man but couldn’t lift him from the water. ‘We held on to him until the Tower lifeboat arrived,’ she says. ‘I remember how hard it was, and how helpful they were. We wouldn’t have been able to save him without them. I signed up as a volunteer after that.’ Tower Lifeboat Station, the busiest Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station in the UK, sits on the north side of the Thames under Waterloo Bridge. Ten full-time crew members and 55 volunteers work shifts to staff it 24/7, 365 days a year. It takes just 90 seconds after a call for help for the team to be ready to launch. It might surprise you that, while the RNLI has lifeboat stations in many coastal towns, a whopping 
5 percent of its launches take place here in central London. In fact, the Tower lifeboat team has rescued nearly 2,000 people and its service extends beyond just human lives. One weekend, a man and his dog went for a walk along the Thames. The tide was quite low, but rising fast, and suddenly Romeo, a staffordshire bull terrier, found himself stranded on the beach with his owner unable to get to him. ‘I have two dogs myself, so it was nice to reunite them,’ says McGlinchey. The team’s work could be in trouble, though. The constant ebb and fl

Everything you need to know about the new London LGBTQ+ Community Centre

Everything you need to know about the new London LGBTQ+ Community Centre

Sometimes all we really need is a space to be our authentic selves. That can be harder to find for some more than others. Nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ+ spaces in London have closed in the last decade. The London LGBTQ+ Community Centre, which opened a six-month pop up on the South Bank in December, is looking to change that. ‘It’s about creating additional spaces that complement the ones that currently exist and have existed,’ says Jay Crosbie, co-director of the project. From the London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon that existed from 1985 to the early ’90s, to The Outside Project, a community centre and homeless shelter based in Borough, to Elop, an LGBTQ+ centre offering social and emotional support services, London has been home to a rich network of spaces serving queer people. ‘So many others have been lost. As a project, we want to bring one back,’ says Crosbie. The first meeting for what became a years-long mission was held in an east London pub in 2017. The goal was to create an intergenerational, sober, safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, ‘The party scene has its place, and will always have its place,’ says Sarah Moore, another co-director. ‘But we’re trying to build somewhere that people can just be, with no pressure on them to do anything, to spend money, to perform or to drink.’ As well as a café and lounge, the centre provides event space for hire and resources on mental and sexual health. ‘We’re trying to create somewhere that can be the first po

The community kitchen that feeds Calais’s refugees and Camden’s homeless

The community kitchen that feeds Calais’s refugees and Camden’s homeless

‘It wasn’t really a case of why, but of why not,’ says Janie Mac about starting Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK), a charity providing hot meals to people in need in France and the UK. ‘We feel that everyone deserves a meal that you or I would expect on our dining room table, and don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have that.’ RCK was founded in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis in northern France, after Mac and a group of volunteers travelled over to the Calais Jungle, a refugee and migrant camp that housed thousands and was dismantled five years ago. The group fundraised and sourced the equipment to set up a kitchen near the camp, and made meals from donations of surplus food. But it wasn’t long before they realised a lot of this food didn’t have a long enough lifespan to make it to Calais and, motivated by the rising number of homeless people in London, set up outreach services across the city to feed disadvantaged people in need of a home-cooked meal. RCK’s Camden outreach is its longest-standing project in the UK. It was founded in 2016 after a successful supper club fundraiser. It purchases essentials like rice and onions, but gets most of its food from The Felix Project, a charity that saves surplus food from going to waste, to serve dozens of hot meals four days a week throughout the borough of Camden. ‘We have tapped into this amazing world of chefs and cooks that come in and want to provide a nourishing, delicious meal for those in need without any judgement

A local’s guide to the South Bank

A local’s guide to the South Bank

Wendy, South Bank local and owner of family-owned specialty coffee shop Sista Barista gives us a guide to her neighbourhood. 1. Beany Green ‘There's a little kiosk called Beany Green up by the Royal Festival Hall. It’s a really cool little spot and the coffee’s really good there. Originally, it just did coffee but now it does cocktails as well. It’s got a nice little seating area too.’ Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX.   View this post on Instagram A post shared by WeAreWaterloo (@wearewaterloouk) 2. Cafe del Marsh ‘This is run by someone who has been around here for years. It’s got a really nice, relaxed vibe. They’ve got a nice covered outdoor area at the back. It’s lovely in the summer but it’s nice in the winter as well because they have heaters, and it’s secluded. A lot of locals go here.’ 44 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG. 3. Southbank Centre Food Market ‘It's on at the back of the Royal Festival Hall every weekend. There’s a stall called The Curry Shack, run by two local guys who sell different kinds of curries made in huge pots. It’s really good stuff: I like going for a curry and a chat.’ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX.   View this post on Instagram A post shared by Xander Ezekiel 愷恩 Lee (@wandering_bao) 4. Archbishop’s Park ‘It's a really nice park if you want to sit and relax. It’s got a great children’s area too. It’s somewhere I used to go as a child and still go to now. It’s very popular and really well kept.’ Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LE. 5. Hap

The best things to do in Sutton, picked by a clued-up local

The best things to do in Sutton, picked by a clued-up local

Faye Butler, head of women’s football and longest-serving player at Sutton United FC gives you a guide to her neighbourhood.  1. The Grumpy Mole ‘This is a gastropub kind of thing with a really good range of food, à la carte, as well as afternoon tea. It’s very good value for money and the atmosphere is really fun. It’s got a modern interior and a nice pub garden where you can sit in the evenings.’ Ewell Rd, SM3 8BU. View this post on Instagram A post shared by ✨ 𝗦𝗔𝗦𝗞𝗜𝗔 𝗝𝗜𝗚𝗚𝗘𝗡𝗦 ✨ (@saskiajiggens) 2. Honeywood Museum ‘This is a restored family home from the seventeenth century that sits next to Carshalton Ponds, a big watery area where there are ducks. They’ve decorated it how it would have looked back in that time. They run activities throughout the year, which are family- orientated. There’s a nice tea room too.’ Honeywood Walk, CSM5 3NX. 3. Shinner & Sudtone ‘A nice, quirky little bar on Sutton High Street. It’s got craft beer, with a really good atmosphere and cool decor. There’s lots of good, tasty food available and it’s dog-friendly. It’s not just your normal bar, it’s got a bit of an edge to it.’ 67 High St, SM1 1DT. View this post on Instagram A post shared by 🧁 Dottys Teahouse 🧁 (@dottyscarshalton) 4. Dotty’s Teahouse ‘Dotty’s is a quirky little shop but they also do a lovely afternoon tea. They sell loose-leaf tea from local suppliers and a range of cakes and biscuits, with gluten-free and vegan options available. We do

Did you know that there’s a carbon-neutral community in Sutton?

Did you know that there’s a carbon-neutral community in Sutton?

It could come as a surprise that the UK’s first carbon-neutral community was built way back in 2002. And it’s in Sutton. BedZED was created by Bioregional, a charity that works to develop more environmentally friendly ways of living. Co-founders Sue Riddlestone and Pooran Desai were looking for a place to build a sustainable office, but when Sutton Council put up a plot of land for sale ‘it was so large we thought, why not build homes too?’ says Riddlestone. The award-winning development became the blueprint for environmentally friendly communities across the world, including North West Bicester in Oxfordshire, the UK’s first eco-town. As well as 100 homes, BedZED is made up of office space and community facilities. The founders used local materials and upcycled products to create the space, constructed a biomass boiler that uses sustainably sourced wood pellets to warm up homes, and installed solar panels to provide some electricity. But the thing Riddlestone likes best about BedZED is its sense of community. ‘BedZED residents know 20 of their neighbours by name,’ she says. ‘In nearby streets that falls to eight people.’ There are plenty of other perks to living at BedZED apart from going to sleep knowing you’re doing your bit for the planet. ‘We have had a community bar on the estate for the last decade or so,’ says David Tchilingirian, a community leader who has lived there for 16 years. Nick, its founder, has moved out, but he remains committed to supplying locals with we

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