diamond geezer

 Friday, July 13, 2012

200 years ago today, the Act of Parliament which created the Regent's Canal was passed.
An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal from the Grand Junction Canal in the Parish of Paddington, to the River Thames in the Parish of Limehouse, with a Collateral Cut in the Parish of St Leonard Shoreditch, in the County of Middlesex. [13th July 1812]
[The Company of Proprietors of the Regent's Canal incorporated]
I could tell you all about the history.
I could show you lots of photos.
But no, let's do a proper London blogpost for a change...

The Regent's Canal - ten of the best

There's much to love about Little Venice, the quaint corner of Maida Vale where the Regent's Canal begins. And there's much to love at Café Labelle, the long-established coffee paradise on Warwick Avenue. Here, within a few hundred yards of ancient waters, Sally and her staff delight customers with hand-crafted mochas and deep-swirled lattes. "We use only the finest aromatic beans," says barista Justin, "and our regular patrons certainly keep coming back for more."

It's a different world beside the bridge on the Edgware Road. Cassandra's Boutique has been serving local fashionistas since 1997 with its quirky collection of accessories and womenswear. If it's appeared on the Paris catwalk, it'll be here within weeks, and at an affordable price. "Passion and style are at the heart of everything we do," according to owner-buyer Marie Johnson. "When you step out onto the street after our bespoke fitting, you'll look a million dollars for only a few hundred pounds."

After almost half a mile, near Lord's cricket ground, you'll no doubt be ready to stop for a snack and a drink. Where better than The Gingerbread House, the cottage-nook on the corner where taste and quality combine? For just £8.95 you can enjoy an afternoon tea which includes organic strawberry jam and the finest Cotswold-baked cupcakes. "Our customer loyalty card scheme is second to none," says proprietor Heather, "with one free pineapple muffin for every dozen purchased."

Few can resist the canalside delights of Camden Town and its vibrant streetlife. Indeed, crowds of trend-setting youths come from all over the world to enjoy fresh-fried noodles at Laplaya Bianco, the Pan-Asian stall at the heart of the Dock complex. Follow your nose to the waterside and the aromatic flavours will guide your way. "After a hard day's shopping for Doc Martens," jokes chef Kim, "our steaming trays really recharge the soul."

It's all change at the rear of King's Cross Station with the arrival of a brand new business and retail district. But what's really got students and office workers excited is the sizzling barbecue on the trailer at New York Pork. Pulled ribs and chilli fries are the trademark dish, and this flies off the griddle every lunchtime at the top of King's Boulevard. "Street food is the new cordon bleu," affirms founder Mike De Marco, "and we're proud to be London's latest ambassadors of cool."

In Islington, the Regent's Canal plunges beneath the main shopping centre via a lengthy tunnel. For any canal walkers above, this detour provides the perfect opportunity to dip into Strawberry Moon, the finest giftstore in the N1 postcode. If it's sustainable knitwear and ethnic trinkets you want, you're in the right place. "We've had the very best reaction since opening here," says owner Elaine, "and our regular clientèle clearly love the unique bijou selection."

Hoxton's nightlife is legendary, none more so than in the area backing down to the canal towpath. In this entertainment quarter, it falls to The Royal Wellington to provide cocktails to die for. Here it's happy hour all evening, courtesy of Yeoman's Vanilla Vodka, and that's the way the crowds like it. "I'll mix you a White Russian you'll never forget," grins champion cocktail shaker Dario, "and it's all thanks to the great guys at Yeoman."

Broadway Market is the Regent's Canal's newest hipster hotspot. The street market's always rammed at weekends, and part of the appeal is the spicy home-cooked food on offer at Geppettos. Will it be crispy fried duck wings or scoops of quinoa - it's so hard to choose. "We may be best known for our chocolate tapas," says top honcho Ella, "but this weekend we're debuting chorizo pesto, and I know that's going to be a new favourite."

Bugger all happens in Mile End, but there is a Budgens under the Green Bridge if you fancy a sandwich.

At Limehouse, the 200 year old Regent's Canal finally enters the Thames. A short walk up Narrow Street is Sticklebacks, the celebrity fish restaurant, which is the ideal location to enjoy a bicentenary meal. "All praise to the Company of Proprietors of the Regent's Canal," says TV chef Alain Debarge. "Through their efforts a beautiful and practical waterway was driven through the heart of the capital, fortuitously linking some of our finest cafés, bars and restaurants. London owes them a great deal, and we hope you'll come down this weekend to celebrate."

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