Well how could I resist an invitation to join The Trouble Club? One look at their exciting schedule of events and I was hooked – before I’d even stepped through their doors. The Trouble Club arranges talks and dinners ‘where you can hear some of the finest voices talking on everything from politics to fiction’. It’s a club for women but men are also welcome at the talks.
Last night I ventured across London to my first evening with The Trouble Club, held at The Hearth, a meeting place for women in Queen’s Park, NW6 (though events are held at other places too). Initially, being a South West London person I thought getting to North West London on a still quite wintry evening a bit of a mission … but with historian Dr Janina Ramirez scheduled to talk about her new book, Femina, the temptation to make the journey was too strong. I just love Janina’s TV programmes and was delighted by the prospect of hearing her talk live. And, as it turned out, getting from SW London to NW London is no big deal at all – just 32 minutes from Richmond to Queen’s Park on the London Overground and a short 6-minute walk to The Hearth.
But this is a Food & Travel blog (I know!) and if I may say the travel was a mere hop across London, the food was found very near my destination. The talk started at 7.00pm and so I decided to get to Queen’s Park early and find some supper first. A look at what restaurants and cafes were on offer near Queen’s Park station in Salusbury Road revealed a number of options. Supper would be a fairly early and quick affair and so something light and not too expensive would be perfect, and Bob’s Cafe seemed to fit the bill.
I arrived just before 6pm and there were already people in there, which immediately made me worry that I should have booked. But no, there were plenty of empty tables at this early hour and I was given a friendly welcome and asked where I’d like to sit.
The decor may have been simple but the menu when it came offered exciting choices. This may be an all-day cafe in north London but not of the traditional kind where all the food comes with mugs of hot tea. No, the breakfast menu, if you’re here early, offers porridge served with pomegranate, seeds and orange blossom honey; a Middle Eastern Breakfast Plate but also of course Full English. For lunch and supper there’s Peri Peri Chicken Kebabs, California Fish Tacos and Bob’s Prime Beef Burger. But for the non-eaters of you, there are plenty of vegetarian/plant-based offerings too: Veggie Chilli Bowl, Farmers Market Burrito, and more.
After a look at the menu I decided to order Grilled Teriyaki Salmon served with edamame & coriander brown rice, coconut flakes and pak choi (£16.50). I ordered just some sparkling water to go with it, assuming (correctly) that wine would be on offer at the talk.
My salmon dish was gorgeous: moist, flavoursome salmon, brown rice with little edamame beans and perfectly cooked pak choi. The pak choi was simply cooked which made it a great, fresh accompaniment to the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce.
There were some tempting desserts on the menu but I didn’t really have time and the fish dish had been plenty for an early supper. So I ordered just an espresso and asked for the bill, which came to £23.40 including service. A lovely touch was a Bob’s Cafe card which you can plant and flowers will grow!
I was about halfway to my destination, so only a three-minute walk. I missed the turning at first, expecting Lonsdale Road to be bigger than it was. It’s a small almost industrial road with many businesses behind large doors but eventually I found myself at The Hearth. Inside was a bright open seating area and a small bar where you could buy a drink. I got a glass of red wine and was soon talking to Sarah, who’d just published her first book, and was also, like me, making her first visit to The Trouble Club.
When it was time for the talk to begin we made our way upstairs.
Dr Janina Ramirez is a BBC broadcaster, researcher, author and Oxford University lecturer. I’ve always enjoyed watching her many series on TV, like Raiders of the Lost Past and An Art Lover’s Guide which she made with Alastair Sooke, where they travel to places like Amsterdam, Florence and Lisbon to look at the cities’ art. Her new book Femina (first published 2022; paperback March 2023) is currently No.1 on The Sunday Times‘ bestseller list. It’s a book about the women of the Middle Ages who played an important and inspirational role but have been written out of history. Now it’s time for them to shine as they deserve: ‘Revelatory’ (Guardian); ‘inspirational stories aplenty’ (The Sunday Times); ‘Passionate, provocative and brilliant’ (Lucy Worsley).
What I’ve always loved about watching Janina on TV is her passion for her subject and this shone last night too. As she talked about the women who feature in her book, I felt a growing enthusiasm to learn more and thus bought her book at the end. It was a great evening. I’m sure I’ll be back to The Trouble Club soon and I can’t wait for a new TV series from Janina.