One of my favourite Saturday morning things to do is to take a leisurely jaunt to the West Dulwich shops and cafés on the Park Hall Road and Croxted Road cross.
A walk along leafy Gallery Road, cutting through glamorous Bel Air Park and a stroll along the side of Dulwich College, pausing outside number 103 Alleyn Park where the owners sell wild garlic from a wheel barrow in their front garden, one could easily be forgiven for momentarily thinking one was in the middle of the country.
If you are travelling by Train West Dulwich station is just 5 miles from Victoria.
I always start at Alleyn Park Garden Centre which is tucked behind number 77 Park Hall Road, opposite Café Rouge, be careful not to miss the entrance because inside you will find a delightful haven, a horticultural heaven. Trees, shrubs, topiary, herbs, plants and fruit and vegetable plants are all displayed in an easy to shop environment in a manner that is most pleasing to the eye.
Alleyn Park Garden Centre carries a good selection of gardening sundries as well as a range for the care and preservation of wildlife. My favourite bit, however, is the lovely and charming vintage outhouse which is crammed with an ever-changing selection of quirky and charismatic pre-loved items that are just waiting for you to come along and rediscover them. I have bought antique Cornish Ware and lovely antique soda bottles used to hold single stems on tables at a summer garden party. The well-stocked shop has lots of good gift ideas for gardeners and if you really want to stock up on plants and shrubs; there is ample free parking for customers.
I first discovered Cook a few years ago in Dorset, where my sister delighted in initiating me into the wonders of this family run business which has taken Britain by storm. Delicious hand cooked meals (the name of the person who prepared each item appears on the label) are served frozen. Cook is a brilliant life saver for busy families to keep a few delicious and nutritious back up meals in the freezer. Quite often if a group of my friends are getting together and none of us feel like cooking I will pick up a few trays of coq au vin. At £14.99 for four portions I think the ingredients alone would come in at around that and without the preparation time it is excellent value for money.
Next door The Dulwich Bakery has all you would expect from a traditional British bakers; bread, cakes, sandwiches, pies and pastries. Apparently, their secret recipe sausage rolls are the best this side of Fortnum and Mason! You can order a locally produced (in Sydenham) celebration cake from the Cake Store too. Wonderfully old fashioned doorstop sandwiches are around £2 each and there is a selection of handmade Scotch eggs (£2.85) perfect to pocket and snack on in the park later.
Phase Eight, the luxury women’s wear store is the ideal destination if you are attending a summer society event, glamorous gala or wedding. Phase Eight’s flattering silhouettes, which work across the ages, are teamed with pretty prints on beautiful fabrics. You will be amazed at the prices too, whether you are looking for the elegantly understated or a red carpet showstopper, many are around the £100 mark.
Lawler Steel specialises in colours, cuts and tints. The services are everything one would expect from a top west end salon without the hefty price tag. A full head of highlights starts at £100, and gentlemen’s cuts at just £30. The environment is relaxed and uncluttered, calming and comforting. Children’s haircuts start at just £12.
La Gastronomia has all the deli delights one would expect from a specialist food store, and some. I love the olive wood chopping boards which one buys by the kilo (£19 per kg) and extra virgin olive oil which is £9.95 per litre when you bring your own bottle. I love the Seggiano baked figs in white chocolate, £8.95.
Make sure you visit the newly relocated and lovely Jaadu store. Janine du Plessis, former fashion PR, works with family businesses in India creating timeless fair traded fashion for the woman of 30 and over. Besides the elegant clothing line, amongst which one is bound to find that elusive statement piece necessary to turn a few heads this summer’s soirees, Janine also offers a bijou and thoughtfully selected collection of lifestyle items.
The Dulwich Trader is a Dulwich institution and a wonderful one-stop-shop for gifts for friends or treats for yourself. The eclectic collection of ever changing items means you can never afford not to pop in as you never know what you might miss. The store carries a range of women’s fashion and accessories. I was thrilled to see this wonderful store is also organising furniture painting classes, what a great way to up-cycle tired old pieces into attractive and functional furniture.
Dulwich Books, consistently voted one of London’s best independent bookstores and named again Indie Book Shop of the Year 2103, has been running for over 30 years. To me the shop is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with shopping on the internet, friendly informed staff who are passionate about what they are selling, who are eager to help and ready to advise. The beauty of browsing in a bookshop is that you are bound to come across books you did not know you wanted to buy or discover subjects of which you had been unaware. I always leave with my bag bulging and a list to titles to go back for. We are lucky to have some of the best bookshops in London, literally on our doorsteps, please keep using them. The Penguin Great Gatsby tote bag, £12.95, is a summer must-have.
I love the gorgeous Jo Partridge, and her salons are fabulous as the lady herself. At her branch in West Dulwich Jo’s team offers a full range of beauty treatments; hair styling and dressing, Kerastraight blow-dries, Dermalogica facials, Kerastase treatments, L’Oreal Fiberceutic (described as Botox for hair) and bride and wedding party hair. There is also a full range of all the beauty products used to purchase and take away.
Further along Lesley Leale-Green offer a full range of treatments (see Roullier White’s Dulwich Village shopping blog) and a range of absolutely gorgeous Neom organic scented candles, perfectly priced at either £15 or £39.50 and £49.50 with a stainless steel lid, they make an ideal gift. I was completely taken by the Moroccan Blush Rose, a robust floral spiced with a sprinkle of black pepper and a twist of lime. Sublime.