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!