On Sunday I had tea at the Palace. No, not Buckingham Palace, but Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace situated in the unlikely Ravenswood Industrial Estate in Walthamstow E17.
It seemed an ideal way to round off rather a good first course at the Queen’s Arms in Walthamstow Village, a rather snooty part of E17 where house prices rise astronomically because of the value attached to saying ‘I live in the village’.
The first unit we came across is the Wild Card Brewery a micro-brewery with a Brewery Tap Bar which is open at weekends and offers a range of bottled and cask beer from their brewery and other London microbreweries. If you’re keen on beer, you can join a Brew a Beer Experience Day where, after an early morning tea and pastry, you spend the day mashing, sparging and boiling up the perfect brew. Over a lunch time bacon sandwich you taste a 1/3 pint of each of their beers with the brewing team. It would make an ideal Father’s Day gift.
In the better weather the car park outside has a couple of street food vendors: often a Korean outlet and ‘dips and chips’.
However, our first mission was to look around God’s Own Junkyard which is full of amazing neon lighting, signs, huge glitter balls and other memorabilia. It’s hard to describe, but when most people enter, their first comment is ‘Wow’. Recently they’ve opened a small café named ‘The Rolling Scones’.
A couple of units away, we arrived at the Gin Palace. I first met the owner, Becky Griffiths, when I wrote an online food column for our local paper. At the time, Becky was making a range of fruit liqueurs from home whilst working full time. She’s now given up her day job and has the luxury of a huge unit to make, store and serve her liqueurs.
Becky is passionate about using locally sourced fruit or fruit she has a connection with. She brings frozen damsons back on the train from the family orchard in Cumbria’s Lyth Valley; grows rhubarb on her Tottenham allotment; scours local hedgerows for sloes and elderflowers and uses mulberries from a neighbour’s 200 year old tree. And whilst she doesn’t travel to Spain for oranges to make her Seville Orange Rum, she visits New Spitalfields Market in the early hours of the morning, bringing back huge quantities on the W15 bus.
The process is relatively simple but long: fruit is mixed in 5 litre containers with alcohol and sugar and left to infuse for up to a year. The exception being the oranges, where the whole fruits are cooked for a couple of hours before the messy, labour-intensive process of getting peel with no pith and pulp with no pips.
Although there are a range of cocktails on offer using the fruit liqueurs, there’s also a G&T menu with a huge range of delightfully named gins: Dictador Ortodoxy from Colombia; Gabriel Saffron from France; Sacred Pink Grapefruit made in a dining room in nearby Highgate. Whilst the surroundings may not be the swankiest in the world, and it might be a bit chilly and basic, it’s certainly unique.
In the same unit is the bakery and patisserie Aura Rosa, where at the weekend, tea in the palace is served. Whilst we couldn’t manage the full afternoon tea of ‘fruit scones, with clotted cream and strawberry jam, a delicate selection of decadent pastries and patisserie accompanied by a selection of toasted finger sandwiches’ served with a pot of tea or a teapot cocktail for two, we did indulge in Ginger Snaps (Stones Ginger Wine, bourbon and Becky’s Rhubarb and Ginger Vodka and Rhubarb Bitters) and a Damson Gin Martini (gin, Becky’s Damson Gin, vermouth and bitters). The cakes were huge and a brick-size portion of sticky date pudding and a large wedge of a raspberry cream sponge were more than enough for four of us to share.
Becky’s liqueurs are also for sale in bottles and my friend decided on starting her Christmas shopping early with a couple of bottles of Seville Orange Rum which she declared was smooth and like alcoholic marmalade – just the thing for a cold, especially with all that vitamin C!
The Queen’s Arms – www.queensarms-e17.co.uk
Wild Card Brewery – www.wildcardbrewery.co.uk
God’s Own Junkyard – www.godsownjunkyard.co.uk
Mother’s Ruin – www.mothersruin.net
Aura Rosa – www.aurarosa.co.uk