Spa Medica at Luca: 30 per cent off all treatments!

Contact Sonia now for 30 per cent off all treatments at Spa Medica London – this new results-driven beauty spa is tucked away in Luca hairdressing salon, Kensal Rise.

Our tip is for  a full on medical pedicure from the Spa Medica. Now! Sit back on that insanely comfortable massaging chair, while one of the super-qualified aestheticians work miracles. (Tell them Park Life sent you and  get 30 per cent off.)

‘I love feet!’ says Sonia Amoo. ‘Because you can transform them. Cuticles can make or break a pedicure, the trick is to not cut away too much and you need a good cream so it elongate the nail.’ With 17 years experience her professionalism and abilities really shine through. And the interesting, smart mum of three is also a delight to spend time with. Sonia Amoo can use a blade to shave away the dead skin, where pressure of pounding pavement has built up and given you callouses.

This new quiet private corner of Kensal Rise is genuinely perfect for a wonderful bit of ‘me time’. Good for your body and your soul.

Other treatments include laser hair removal, Lycon intimate, Shellac manicures and massages. Ring or text 07741 565484 to book. Spa Medica London is in Luca at 107 Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, NW10 3NS. Follow them @SpaMedicaLondon Find them on Facebook


Kensal art trail?

 Molly Fletcher and Tom Wilkinson from Arts Republic specialise in kinetic sculptures that come to life from sun, water or wind power, and they want to create one of their Dandelion sculptures in Kensal Rise…

artsweek-sculptureReckon a dynamic wind sculpture would add some zing to Kensal Rise’s landscape? Arts Republic already has £2,500 from Brent Council and now they are asking locals to help make it happen too…

Find out how to make a donation click here.

‘We sometimes use recycled materials for making our sculpture, such as plastic fizzy drinks bottles, which being light, tough and waterproof are perfect for wind sculpture. What amazing things plastic bottles are – they last for years – and yet we use them once, have a quick swig and then throw them away.’

Help turn those bottles into the start of an art trail…

See the Heber School Dandelion in action:

Ylva Kunze on the Rise

Inspired by her homeland of Smaland, Sweden Ylva Kunze is hosting an Artist in Residence exhibition 15–29 March at the C99 Art Project Gallery.

In addition to her fab paintings Love KR across the road is launching some limited-editions dresses and leggings in her prints produced by British label Me & Thee for £100 and under from this weekend.

C99 Art Project Gallery, 99 Chamberlayne Road, NW10 3ND (020 8969 6154)



Not so Crazy Baker?

SPECIAL OFFER! Park Life readers can get 10% discount on any bakery purchase from Crazy Baker – just mention PARKLIFE when you’re ordering.

There’s nothing crazy about the breakfast I had at the Crazy Baker recently. Delicious definitely. Satisfying for sure. I met founder Sophie Grey in the Harrow Road shop for a croissant, a cappuccino and a catch up.

Long-term Kensal Risers will know the Crazy Baker better as the Model Café from where Sophie has run the local favourite café and catering business for over 20 years. She opened the artisan bakery in 2009, inspired by the breads available across Europe and the distinct lack of quality coming from the bakeries in the UK. Pappy white stuff mostly – not good to eat and not good for one either.

The Crazy Baker produces bread for commercial purposes – the Prince Bonaparte, The Stag, Bumpkin and the Parlour are among their clients – but us lucky locals can also buy it direct from the café. The breads and pastries they produce in the bakery at the back of the cafe are all made using traditional techniques, fresh ingredients and without additives and preservatives. The flour is sourced from a specialist flour dealer in the Cotswolds (I saw it arriving by the pallet load 17 different types!) and is very much the best of the best available.  From organic white spelt flour to French farine de meule, years of testing has defined which is best for which particular loaf. My croissant, divinely flaky and light, tasted as it would do from a fine patisserie in Paris and I particularly love their sourdough – I even got to see the otherworldly looking, and much treasured, ‘mother’ from which all their non-yeast breads are made.

As customers we can either pick what we want from their counter at the front of the shop or order specifically from an incredible list of options shown on their website. They do need 24 hours notice for bread and 48 hours notice for other products but can arrange free delivery to NW10, NW6, NW11 and W10.

Another speciality of the bakery is whoopie pies – if there’s anything to know about whoopie pies, Sophie knows it! Her gorgeous book Let’s Make Whoopies! includes over 70 whoopie and 30 cupcakes recipes and is available to buy online or in the café and can bring a touch of her magic to what you get up to in the kitchen.

You will have probably noticed the newest shop which has just opened on Chamberlayne Road next to the Bellway ‘Bling’ building – a tiny gem perched on the railway bridge. There you can buy all their breads and pastries and they make a fantastic takeaway coffee. And as the cute seating area below is railside it is fantastic with kids who want to watch the trains woosh past. Exactly what was needed on that stretch. Unlike Nandos. Ahem, which opens tonight…

Natasha Cubitt is Managing Director of one of our favourite online shops, the Handpicked Collection.

A word in your shell-like from this blogger…

Hi dear locals. It’s not your usual post… Just a little note to say that it’s almost three years since I set up Park Life to celebrate the local businesses I have had positive experiences with in our local area. I wanted to help encourage our community to support each other and shop and stay local where we can. Help boost a sense of Ubuntu.* But sadly… sometimes people don’t appreciate how much work goes into Park Life, and that I am not actually obligated to write about everyone and everything…

*Ubuntu (Zulu/Xhosa pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼú]) is a southern African ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other; humanity or fellow feeling; kindness and a sense of community.

Problem is the upkeep of the blog takes time, and it’s entirely not-for-profit, so we – and really it’s just me who actually does the coding and uploading – can’t always cover all that we’d like. And hopefully what I do take the trouble to post about is better than nothing at all. It’s especially lovely when local businesses are thoughtful enough to invite us to try their services so that we can share with the group… And let’s be honest, a great way to a blogger’s heart is always going to be a great spa treatment, say, or dinner or drinks gratis – particularly since spending time on the blog promoting other people’s businesses takes us away from work which we need to do to make a living. Park Life is not Time Out – it’s not our job to report everything, we – the couple of us who post for Park Life – just try and recommend people and places we can.

Sadly earlier this year the blog was hacked into by ‘phishers which means when I rebuilt the blog (which took a lot of time and also money for a new hosting package) all the links on the side couldn’t be copied over. So we can’t simply add to the ones you see on the right…. It would take hours and hours to start from scratch, and with bills to pay and deadlines to meet I just haven’t been able to do this. Also, I like to recommend businesses I’ve had fantastic personal experiences with, not indiscriminately stick links to everyone and everything, otherwise it wouldn’t be a ‘recommendation’. Plus I just don’t have the time – or the budget to be a comprehensive listings and guide to the area. It’s just a personal blog.

So, it makes me feel sad when I get emails from local businesses who feel entitled to be on Park Life, and attack me for not writing about them and demand to be mentioned. They don’t think essentially they’re asking me to press pause on my life and my responsibilities to give them free PR… It’s the sense of entitlement that is so naive. I wish someone could pay me to spend my time blogging about our area – sadly I have to earn a crust as well. Anyway, hope this isn’t too much of a rant, I just wanted to express my thoughts after a little exchange with a local business who asked to be on the blog – who didn’t invite me to experience their restaurant, just demanded I should put them on the blog… Because that’s my job. Well, it isn’t my job. I get hundreds of emails a day because of my main job as well, and I try to reply to everyone… But please don’t get angry if I don’t blog about you just because you have asked me to.

I am happy to tweet about and Facebook about local services and businesses – and I do so all the time… Please feel free to embrace the Facebook page and share your news. Sadly this blogger is also a mum who has a full-time job as well, and I cannot write about everything that’s great about this area.

Oh, and a final tip – if you do want me to write a blog post – this is how not to go about it…

Email from owner of a local restaurant:

“I know you are busy, however to call yourself a local blog and not including an established local restaurant but to include some other restaurants which are quite far away leads me to think that there may well be other reasons that you have excluded us.

Then I feel that you term of “local” is not quite appropriate!

Your blog which claims to be local and not including [NAME OF RESTAURANT] has given us a negative effect, I feel that you should take responsibilities for it rather then doing it when you are feel like it or when you are free!

I am not asking for much, but to be include like you include the others.

I am aware that I am responsible for my own PR strategies, however, this is not about [NAME OF RESTAURANT]’s marketing strategies but about you been selective of who is “LOCAL”.


Well, if you want me to convey a positive image on your behalf, I’d definitely say this was not the email to write. I try to be meritocratic and if people are really lovely or offer a remarkable service I’ll celebrate them where I can… It’s going to be subjective though. Otherwise the recommendations wouldn’t have any credibility?


London Style Guide: Kensal Rise

Queen’s Park’s Saska Graville’s new guidebook takes you on a tour of our towns most special hoods and the best places to eat, sleep, shop and drink. And yes, that includes Kensal Rise. Ladies and gents, please be upstanding for London Style Guide (Eat Sleep Shop) (Murdoch Books; £16.99). A Londoner born and bred, Saska is  deputy editor of Red magazine.


‘To call Scarlet & Violet a small local florist is to wildly underestimate it. This crammed-to-bursting space is one of the most influential and stylish flower shops in London. Owned by Kensal Rise resident Victoria Brotherson, its just-picked-from-the-garden seasonal bouquets are regularly sent by the likes of Nigella Lawson and every magazine editor in town, and it’s the first choice for fashionable clients like Hermès and Louis Vuitton who use Victoria to decorate their events. For locals, it’s a lovely spot to linger while choosing a couple of bunches of blooms. The Christmas wreaths are legendary.’

76 Chamberlayne Road NW 10 3JJ
020 8969 9446;

Vics Brotherson
, owner of Scarlet & Violet
(pictured, above)

What are your favourite local places? ‘Portobello and Golborne Roads (see page 194) on Fridays and Sundays. they’re a hoarder’s paradise. have a little cash in your pocket or you’ll miss the most perfect item you’ve ever seen and it could be a macramé basket, a stash of buttons or an amazing pair of giant urns.’ Best place for a drink? ‘The Chamberlayne*, about 400 yards from my front door, for a delicious steak or half chicken and chips with a Bloody Mary.’ Describe your perfect out-and-about weekend? ‘A dog walk on Hampstead Heath or Hyde Park and then a sausage roll at Queens Park Farmers’ Market*.
*Both  feature in London Style Guide.

RETROUVIUS (pictured, left)

‘This architectural salvage and design business is one of the best known in London, with a warehouse crammed full of treasures rescued from building demolitions, house clearances and sales. Metal factory light fittings, timber chairs from a synagogue, a pair of rabbit skeletons—the mix is unlike anything anywhere else. Looking for a row of four fold-up cinema seats? You’ll find them here.’

2A Ravensworth Road NW10 5NR
020 8960 6060;

(pictured, right)

‘Vintage furniture lovers shouldn’t miss this small stretch of Chamberlayne Road. At Howie & Belle you’ll find a gorgeously decorative selection of antique furniture and curiosities, from French 1930s mirrored side tables and elegantly upholstered sofas to old wooden letters and quirky pieces of taxidermy. It’s a smartly edited treasure trove that’s well worth a visit.’

52 Chamberlayne Road NW10 3JH
020 8964 4553;


Thank you to Saska Graville for these floristry and furnishings tip-offs. Now, if you’re smart, you’ll get your paws on an actual copy of London Style Guide (Eat Sleep Shop) – perfect as an inspiring gift, and a helpful addition to your own coffeetable or glove compartment.

London: a digital photography exhibition on our doorstep

A personal interpretation of London by artist Martin Thompson has just gone on display at C99 Art Project in the Newman Zieglmeier office: the architecture and design company on Kensal Rise’s high street…

Martin Thompson

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Martin escaped to college in London and has never been caught. He studied photography at the Royal College of Art and went on to work for style magazines The Face and Blitz.

In the 1990s Martin was at the forefront of the digital photography revolution. Liberated from the darkroom he was able to push the boundaries beyond the limits of conventional photography.

C99 Art Project
Gallery space

The contemporary designed art space created by product designer Mark Newman and architect Thomas Zieglmeier.


C99 Art Project, 99 Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, London NW10 3ND (020 8969 6154;



Kensal Flea supports Trekstock, helping young people with cancer

Kensal Flea returns to the Paradise Saturday 24 March – and its £1 entry fee will be supporting two brilliant local charities: the Mayhew Animal Home and Trekstock.

We’re thrilled to support Trekstock at Kensal Flea next Saturday. Your £1 entry at the door will go towards supporting this uber-cool charity which raises funds for cancer research through hip music, fashion and art events, as well as exciting trekking adventures.

“We’re really looking forward to the March Kensal Flea,” says Belinda Goodman of Trekstock. “We’re excited to have a look around, chat with everyone about Trekstock and of course pick up a bargain and a cake or two!”

Launched in 2010, Trekstock is committed to funding research for cancer that affects young people, and ensuring young people have access to the right information to make better lifestyle choices.

From urban art pop-up spaces to mountaintop gigs, Trekstock is always looking for fun and different ways to raise money.

Last year, 25 trekkers teamed up with Trekstock for a fundraising trip climbing Mount Kenya. Not only did they successfully reach the summit but put on a show at the top – the highest gig in the world.

Following the success of the Gig in the Sky, this year Trekstock is running the Great Gig in the Desert. Avid trekkers can join Trekstock on a nine-day trek across the Sahara following an ancient Berber route. The challenge is to find the highest sand dune in the region for a secret gig in the sand.

The charity draws support from many influential artists. Supporters include Mark Ronson and Vivienne Westwood (and Park Life of course!) and even has its own fashion label Trekstock Loves.

Make sure you stop by and say hello to the Trekstock team at the Kensal Flea on 24 March to find out more about their upcoming fundraising events.

The Kensal Flea returns to Paradise by Way of Kensal Rise Saturday 24 March. Entry: £1 donation to charities Trekstock and Animal Mayhew Home; 11.30am–5.30pm. RSVP on Facebook.

Sweetest baker: Local Sugar

Boutique bake shop Local Sugar is known for its artisanal cakes and cupcakes, handcrafted in small batches. They bake the old-fashioned way, without preservatives or stabilisers. Each made-to-order cake is created using organic British butter, milk and eggs, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, fairtrade cocoa and locally sourced jams. Melissa Riddington and her sweet treats are at Kensal Flea on 24 November…

‘We are best known for our one-bite mini cupcakes, great for parties and little ones,’ says Melissa ‘And our bespoke filled cupcakes. Two of our most popular are Chocolate Hazelnut: chocolate cake filled with Nutella. And our Jam Donut: vanilla sponge filled with raspberry jam and topped with a cinnamon sugared vanilla buttercream.’

How long have you been doing this? ‘I’ve always had a passion for baking and a love of sharing. One of my favourite childhood toys was an Easy Bake Oven which baked cakes using a lightbulb! I used to bring cupcakes into work at the BBC 10 years ago, before the cupcake craze hit. I got a few commissions from some top London florists, media and fashion agencies, but I was wrapped up in the corporate world at the time, and moved to Seattle to work for a large software company. Love brought me back to London nine months ago (we just got married), and I decided it was time for a change. I traded my corporate heels and handbags in for an apron and oven glove. I’ve been delivering cakes and cupcakes around London for six months, and have been fortunate enough to provide cupcakes at press events, store openings, London Fashion Week, corporate parties and VIP dinners.

What will you sell at Kensal Flea? Local Sugar’s mini cupcakes have gone down well in the past at the Contact the Elderly pop-up tea shop (pictured), so I’ll have those treats. We’ll do a selection of classic and filled mini cupcakes and also we’ll have some homemade salted caramel sauce on sale. It’s divine on vanilla ice-cream, brownies or eaten straight from the jar – shh, we won’t tell anyone.’

What do you love about your Kensal Rise neighbourhood? ‘I love that it feels like a real community. Waving to our local greengrocer each day, chatting with the lovely ladies at Verandah and of course, supporting the Save Kensal Rise Library them. I’ve delivered a few Local Sugar mini cupcakes to those inspiring folks who brave the cold and rain to keep our library going. And of course, having the opportunity to be involved in Kensal Flea is such a wonderful opportunity for me to meet even more of my neighbours. I can’t wait!

What sets Local Sugar apart from its competitors? ‘My mission for Local Sugar is to create cupcakes that both taste and look amazing. There are some great cupcake companies out there, but if a cupcake looks gorgeous, but lacks in taste, it’s a bit of a downer.’

Tell us about your Local Sugar Drive-Bys. ‘I started this service when I was in Seattle, dropping little sweet treats at the front door of friends and family. They proved really popular, so I introduced it here in London… One of my favourite orders was a Local Sugar Drive By, delivered just after the London riots last summer. I wanted to sprinkle a little Local Sugar love around our neighbourhood, to make people feel a little bit better. So I conducted a few Local Sugar Drive-Bys – delivering a box of cupcakes to a number of unsuspecting local shops. It made people smile and feel good – and made me feel like a cupcake fairy! It’s a wonderful feeling to give something you’ve made with love and passion to an unsuspecting person, and see them devour it with a smile.’

Local Sugar is celebrated for its filled cupcakes – try salted caramel oozing from a chocolate cupcake, a raspberry-jam-centered vanilla sponge… They also do one-bite cupcakes which are popular for events and children’s parties: easy to handle, and barely any calories – well, not as many.

Find Local Sugar on Facebook and Twitter or email; prices vary but it is about £30 a dozen plus £10 packaging and delivery

Mary Dohnal, Kensal Rise Acupuncture

Local acupuncturist Mary Dohnal performs acupuncture in her Kensal Rise home clinic, working to heal a variety of conditions from aches and pains to treating infertility.  

Blogging for Park Life has had me trying out a range of alternative therapiesreflexology, yoga, cupcakes (they count) – and now, after listing to friends sing the praises of acupuncture, I pay local acupuncturist Mary Dohnal of Kensal Rise Acupuncture a visit to find out what all the fuss is about.

“Acupuncture is like tuning a piano,” Mary explains when I turn up at her clinic, located next to her house in Kensal Rise. “Sometimes the body needs a bit of tuning to get it back to its intended state of health.”

After a background in Western medicine, Mary trained as an acupuncturist and set up her clinic in 2009. “I’m interested in the marriage between art and science,” she says, something that traditional Chinese medicine builds its philosophies around.

“I used to be scared of needles,” Mary says, “So it’s funny that I’m now using them as part of my daily practice.”

As anyone who has had acupuncture will know, a fear of needles shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the benefits of a session. Mary shows me the hair-fine needles she uses for a normal treatment – they are so tiny I wonder if you can feel them at all.

“When done properly, you’re meant to feel the sensation of the needles,” Mary explains. This sensation, known as de qi, is a gentle pulsating that indicates that the needle has activated the healing energy in the body.

Mary begins her sessions with a one-hour diagnosis consultation. She asks a series of questions to look at all aspects of a patient’s health and medical history. She studies the patient’s pulse and tongue to assess his or her condition, and tailors the treatment to individual needs.

“Most people come to acupuncture knowing what they want,” Mary tells me. “Whether it’s to ease back pain or help with fertility treatment. The general rule of oriental medicine is to treat what you see.”

Acupuncture is highly sought after by women undergoing IVF because of its links to fertility. Approximately 50% of Mary’s patients are seeking fertility treatment. But she sees a variety of people of all ages, seeking relief from aches and pains, stress, IBS and help with quitting smoking.

“The area of teenage health is something I want to develop,” Mary says. “Acupuncture is great for teens dealing with stress and hormones.”

I lie on the table and Mary places five needles in key areas: on the inner side of both legs above the ankle (the spleen meridian), my hands between my thumb and index finger, and between my eyebrows.

I can immediately feel the gentle throb of the needles in my right hand and foot, while my left side goes unnoticed. This is normal, Mary explains, “At first, many patients will feel the needles in one side and not the other.”

The first consultation will usually involve 20 minutes of letting the needles do their work, and, depending on your condition, Mary will tailor a treatment plan to suit you.

In addition to traditional acupuncture, Mary also works with electro-acupuncture, moxa heated pads, cupping and a sensitive probe for children.

You can book sessions at Mary’s clinic on Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays, including evenings. Initial consultations are £50 and sessions are £40 thereafter.

Call Mary on 07801 569 425 or visit