Thursday, 5 March 2020


Back in 1996, No.38 Westow Street was derelict, and had a tree growing out of it. Apparently not that unusual at the time. Across the road, at what is now Mediterranea, another tree was growing out of the empty building, and much of Westow Street was boarded up. So it was a somewhat brave decision by Alison Mcnaught and Dominic Holmes, two friends who'd met while working in a ski resort, to buy the empty building and more or less rebuild it from scratch. Putting their names together, the restaurant would become Domali.
Since their ski resort days, they had both worked for a while at the trend-setting Fire Station restaurant, which had just opened in Waterloo. As Alison recalls, pesto and bruschetta were the latest things. They wanted to bring a bit of that taste and style, along with the buzz of music festivals to Crystal Palace. Added to that, vegetarian restaurants were just beginning to appear, although ironically, the one that started it all, Cranks, was on the verge of collapse. The veggie breakfast became their signature, and endured as long as Domali itself, to become a local institution. The decade following the crash of 2008, saw trading conditions slowly get tougher, so the restaurant had a revamp, and even put meat on the menu. Then 'buggy-gate' happened. Despite the adverse publicity over Alison's new policy regarding prams, takings shot up, although it was a horrible experience she would rather not relive. By 2018, with austerity, rising costs, the Beast from the East, all taking their toll, the decision was taken to close Domali, but the eponymous partnership was not ready to give up doing what they loved, so Reunion was born. Things were run on a new model, bringing in regular pop-ups, cooking a variety of cuisines, from Trinidadian to Nigerian, bringing new flavours to the Triangle, plus hiring out the space for events and private parties.
However, after 24 years, Alison has decided to hang up the apron, and let out the space to new operators. She still has lots of faith in Crystal Palace, and is certain there's still lots of potential for someone younger to make a success of a business on the site. Meanwhile, she fully intends to continue supporting the Triangle in various capacities, with her involvement with the local traders association, with SE19 Lates, and as a trustee of the festival. In her view, alongside the green spaces, and the Triangle's perfect distance from central London (not too close, but not too far), it's the local people that make the area what it is, and she is proud to have had over 400 of them working at no.38 over the years, helping make it the cosy and welcoming bar and restaurant that it is. It will be missed, but at nearly a quarter of a century, it's tenure has clearly been a resounding success.

Alison McNaught
PS. Don't forget Reunion will be open all weekend, and the bar open on Sunday, as it's hosting an exhibition of superb photography as part of the Crystal Palace Artists Open House. And thereby hangs a rather amusing little anecdote. Many years ago, the now successful photographer in question, got a job in Domali. His name.... Dom Marley. You couldn't make it up!

PPS. It's been too darned wet to get a decent shot of the exterior!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Crystal Palace Artists Open House 2020 - Various Artists

Art and artists take centre stage over the next two weekends throughout the SE19 area. There's a wealth of talent locally, so it's great to have an annual platform to showcase it. I've been out to meet a few of those taking part, covering a wide range of artistic disciplines.

Zoe Pencils

Zoe is a graphic artist who finds inspiration in the "peculiar and the mundane", from abandoned shopping trolleys to food packing, along with a cast of characters, including her sadly departed Bedlington Terrier, Crispin. She is currently working on a graphic novel mystery, featuring Crispin and other characters.
Exhibiting at location 2.

Furniture maker, Ben, crafts individual pieces from unseasoned native hardwoods, using traditional tools and techniques.
Location 23.

Nadine Bell

A ceramicist, inspired by nature, Nadine's incredibly delicate work explores the relationship between fragility and permanence, using porcelain. Inspired by the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection.
Location 4.

Curtis Holder

"It all starts with a line". Fine artist, Curtis specialises in life drawing, but look closely and you'll see that in addition to traditional techniques, Curtis also draws by stitching.
Location 29

Liz Clamp

You'll know Liz from Smash Bang Wallop, but you may not have known about her artistic skills. Liz recreates the textures of nature in collagraphic printing, and textile design. On display will be a series of framed prints, and a range of cushions.
Location 29.

David Dipré

Portrait and figure studies. David works from his home studio, "an insulated bubble, where observations from the outside world can be brought and refined."
Location 8.

Laura Cronin / Bumble & Earwig

Laura creates a magical menagerie of needle felted miniature faux taxidermy. From little pieces which can be worn as brooches, to larger tableaux displayed under glass domes.
Location 30.

Abstract art inspired by travel, photos, and film, using mainly collagraph and Lino-cut techniques.
Location 4.

Emma is originally a textile artist with a long career in film and theatre costume. She then discovered a penchant for illustration, creating intricate portraits of interiors.
Location 2.

Dominic Marley

Commercial photographer Dominic usually shoots sports and fashion subjects, and his aim was to photograph animals in a similar way, hopefully raising questions about our relationship with animals. His prints are already on display at Reunion on Westow Street. The bar is open through both weekends.
Location 14.

James Balston

And finally, I'm delighted to be taking part too. As an interior and architectural photographer, I have produced a range of cushions, digitally printed with images of an architectural and sculptural theme.
Location 4.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Rafael Gabriel

It may sound obvious, but so often the secret of success for a business, is finding a gap in the market, which is exactly what Rafael did back in 2014. He had been working as a builder and decorator, based not far from the Triangle, and was frustrated by his inability to buy a pot of paint locally. He also realised that the big DIY retailers, despite their size, or maybe because of it, didn't really provide a very good service. On top of that, he thought it would make sense to run a business where someone could pop in for that pot of paint, but then also get a quote for someone to actually do the decorating, or install the windows, or do the plumbing!
And the plan seems to have worked. In addition to 3 members of staff in the shop, he has 10 sub contractors working on jobs for him. He actually has to turn work down, as he doesn't want to compromise quality. Word of mouth counts for so much in the building trade, so you are only as good as your last job. Recently, we were looking for someone to install secondary glazing in our flat, and windows being Rafael's speciality, his name popped up more than once in local recommendations. I'm pleased to say we are very happy with the results!
Rafael followed in his father's painting and decorating footsteps back home in Poland, before heading to London in 2003. A few years later he moved to West Norwood, where he got lots of work via local estate agents. At weekends he and his family would come up to Crystal Palace for the shopping or a walk in the park, and was instantly captured by the sense of community here, plus it had a Polish deli, so very soon they made their home here. Despite his enthusiasm for the area, the one negative note is that sadly his van has been broken into 4 times in the last couple of years, though not always locally. This problem is of course widespread, but his understandable frustration is not just that this happens, but that there appears to be no attempt by the police to do anything about it, and their lack of visibility making it all the more likely it will happen again.
This is a thriving modern business, but walking into the shop on Church Road, always makes me think of an old fashioned hardware store, with its goods stacked way up to the ceiling. With the bell on the desk, you almost imagine you could summon Ronnie Barker from behind the paint pots. We've lost so many 'old fashioned' shops, so it's good to see this little local revival on Church Road.

Rafael Gabriel

36 Church Road