Wake up, London! Spring is coming and your hibernation is over. Andy Hill suggests great reasons to leave the house, while four other Time Out writers pick their favourite spring things. Portraits Rob Greig
‘I go daffy for daffs’, Kate Lloyd
I love Columbia Road Flower Market in Bethnal Green, but my first trip there was accidental. I was broke, hungover and, I think, looking for the Hackney Road Tesco Metro. I bought a bunch of daffodils (a home comfort, my mum’s garden is full of them) to cheer myself up. Now, it feels as if spring has arrived when the daffodils appear at the flower market. While roses and orchids linger for most of the year, asking ‘Will you marry me?’ and ‘Please forgive me for dropping your iPhone’, daffs pop by for just March and April. They’re silly-looking things you can buy for yourself without feeling like you’re following ‘ten steps to self-love’. I go on sunny spring Sundays when I’ve woken up too early and it seems like a waste to stay in bed. I’m not a fan of the market once it reaches 11am and is packed with glossy couples towing pugs through the foliage. I like going at 9am, when it’s just me and a few keen tourists who’ve dragged their kids away from the all-you-can-eat breakfast at Shoreditch Holiday Inn to ‘miss the crowds’. It’s quiet enough to hear birdsong and the rustling of the paper as traders wrap flowers – the perfect peaceful start to London’s spring. God, I sound like my mum. Columbia Road, E2 7RG. Sundays 8am-3pm.
Hike across the Heath
Spring begins with a walk on Hampstead Heath.Nothing revitalises the spirits quite like skipping off the noisy London Overground, walking five minutes (ten if you grab coffee – try Ginger & White on England’s Lane) and arriving, mouth agape, in an enchanted forest. Hampstead Heath in the springtime is beyond glorious. It’s hard to believe you’re in London at all, let alone in Zone 2. The only problem is deciding which winding path to take through the bracken. With a companion and a nice bottle of rosé it is – hands down – the best cheap date in town.
Jerk your meat
White Men Can’t Jerk is a trio of British lads obsessed with Caribbean grub. Until the end of May they’re hosting a Tropical Takeover at the Star of Bethnal Green, and will be dishing up their own fresh and spicy takes on curried mutton shepherd’s pie, Red Stripe-poached chicken wings and jerk pork burgers. There’s more than just food, though – the guys pride themselves on sunny vibes, big smiles and friendly service. Guaranteed warm feelings inside and out (even if it’s pissing it down outside). 359 Bethnal Green Rd, E2 6LG. Mon-Sat.
Ravage a cabbage
Though it’s still a quiet time of year for seasonal homegrown produce, look hard at Broadway Market and there are gems to be discovered. Charlie Hicks, a fifth-generation costermonger with over 40 years’ experience, recommends hispi, aka spring cabbage. ‘It’s a sweet, pointed cabbage, very delicious,’ says Hicks. ‘It works really well raw in a salad. Or just steam it very briefly, then put in the pan with some butter and a splash of oyster sauce just to coat it.’ May we add, simply: ‘Nom!’ Broadway Market. London Fields rail. Sat.
Walk the Line
The Line is a free open-air contemporary sculpture park which will run roughly along the Greenwich Meridian from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Bloom town down to the 02. It’s set to be a permanent fixture with works rotating every two years. Later this spring, culture vultures who fancy a nice stroll can contemplate chin strokers such as Damien Hirst’s ‘Sensation’ (a bronze cast depicting an anatomical cross section of human skin, previous page) and Abigail Fallis’s ‘DNA DL90’ (a frankly bizarre ten-metre-high double helix of reclaimed shopping trolleys). And you thought it was just a film about Johnny Cash popping pills. See the-line.org for details.
‘I get blasted for Holi’, Alexi Duggins
Colour. That’s what London springtime is all about. Flipping the bird to days that are dimmer than a Ukip supporter, shaking off the grey fug of the last few months and jump-starting your senses with everything that’s vibrant and vivid and radiant. Like the Hindu festival of Holi – a celebration of colour, and a chance to throw heaps of powder at your mates. The first time I grabbed a fistful of paint and saw the sky explode with greens and pinks and blues was at Dishoom‘s annual Holi event. It was so exciting, my heart leapt up and bumped into the back of my teeth. Zing! Fwoosh! Giggling human rainbows! Neon-pink kiddiwinks! It just makes sense. After all, this is spring: a time for simple, childlike wonder at brightness and prettiness. The bit of the year when grinning Londoners should daub each other with joyous abandon. When it should be a prerequisite for smiling pals to tousle each others’ hair purple. When everyone basically has an obligation to look like a walking, talking gay pride flag. So why don’t we give the grey sky a helping hand? Let the fireworks commence! 5 Stable St, N1C 4AB. www.dishoom.com. Mar 29.
What better way to complement a crisp spring morning than with a cool cup of juice? Modish juice ‘n’ smoothie maestro Ali Baba is unveiling a slew of fresh menu items in March, including black lime, Jamaican cacao, cherimoya and pomegranate. If a hot shot of energy is what you’re after, it’s also opening an espresso bar next door. Ali Baba, 115a Rye Lane, SE15 4RY.
‘I pick up chicks’, Phoebe Trimingham
I’ve never been that into animals. When I was growing up, we accidentally killed our family hamster by overfeeding it. I’m neither a cat person nor a dog person. I’m a ‘keep your new whippet away from me, please’ person. Except things took a turn a couple of springs ago, when I was taken on a date (crucial date number four, no less) to Vauxhall City Farm. In the spirit of fresh starts, I forced myself to become a farmyard fan. It worked, and I was soon as happy as a pig in shit. Sexy. There were goats galore, alpacas (not llamas), one seriously weird turkey and a lovely bunch of chicks that had literally just hatched – actual new life, emerging into the world while trains full of commuters clattered by. It was all very Disney, but I was wooed. Now I love springtime in London because it reminds me of trying new things, blossoming beginnings and baby chicken poo. I’ve not eaten a chicken nugget since. Vauxhall City Farm, 165 Tyers St, SE11 5HS.
Stylish cycle manufacturer 8Ball Bicycles will be peddling/pedalling its wares on Camden High Street from March 9 to April 3, alongside high-end pannier-maker Hill & Ellis as part of the Bespoke Bicycle Club concept store pop-up. As well as the opportunity to claim the ultimate two-wheeled bragging rights ñ your very own custom frame ñ there’s also a range of ‘off the peg’ bikes to take away, plus fancy bags, clothes, accessories and everything you need to get back on the road now the weather is a bit less shit. 69 Camden High St, NW1 9HE.
‘I neck a new season brew’, Eddy Frankel
For months I have endured through the bitter, biting cold – wearing long johns and vests instead of my preferred uniform of shorts and, well, nothing else. (My warm-weather toplessness is my gift to the world. You’re welcome.) But it’s not just the clothes that define the seemingly endless English winters. It’s the stodgy food, the ceaseless sniffling and sneezing, and most of all, the countless hours stuck inside pubs, paying £5 a pint because it’s too cold to drink a can of lager in the park. That’s what spring in London is: freedom. Suddenly, I’m not straitjacketed into my thermals, shackled to my stews or handcuffed to a pub radiator. The pure, unmitigated joy of texting a friend with the words ‘street beer?’ is hard to describe. There are no closing times or last orders when you’re stood outside your mate Barry’s house, shooting the shit until all the shit has been shot. Even better than Barry’s (sorry Barry) is heading up to the Beavertown Brewery Tap Room in Tottenham on a Saturday to drink its spring special Bloody ‘Ell IPA pretty much straight from the source – or, at least, in a car park outside the brewery. I love the lukewarm English stouts and porters that make winter worthwhile, but by spring I’m ready for something else – a pungent, hoppy brew, made with blood oranges, best served ice-cold. Something you wouldn’t drink when it’s minus three and drizzling. I won’t forget you, heavy dark beers of London. But spring is here, and I’ve found a new mistress. Unit 17-18, Lockwood Industrial Park, Mill Mead Rd, N17 9QP. Sat 2pm-8pm.
Play Disco Dodgeball
This barking-mad collaboration between masters of childish mirth Regression Sessions and the Disco Dodgeball crew invites you to gather six mates to chuck balls at strangers; like the Ben Stiller film, but with fancy-dress, booze and a pumping soundtrack. The theme is ‘creatures of the forest vs beasts of the jungle’ so expect to see hedgehogs sledging tigers until 7pm, when the Regression Sessions party kicks off in a whirl of ice cream, space hoppers and classic house ‘n’ garage. In a word: ballin’. 117 Wallis Rd, E9 5LN. www.shapeshackney.com. £60-£70 per team of six.
Visit an artist’s garden
Apart from the keen-bean daffodils and maybe the odd shy crocus poking her head bravely out of the frigid earth, March remains cursed by a dearth of colourful blooms. Well, not at the National Gallery. From now until the end of May ‘Inventing Impressionism’ presents, among other classics of the genre, the floral glories of Claude Monet’s characteristically matter-of-factly entitled ‘The Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil (A Corner of the Garden with Dahlias)’. Just take a moment to savour it, London: the sweet romancing couple, monsieur perchance mouthing filthy Gallic nothings to mademoiselle; the rustic French cottage; the dahlias positively fizzing with colour and fragrance and sex and life. The Monet shot, if you will. Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN. May 31. £18, £9 concs, free for members.