December 12, 2022

A Cheapskate guide to Stockwell – with journalist and author Marie Le Conte

Stockwell-based Marie Le Conte is a French-Moroccan journalist and author. She has been living in London for 13 years.

What’s something amazing about Stockwell that only the locals know about?

It’s the best of all possible worlds! Stockwell itself is really quiet but within walking distance of Brixton, Clapham and Vauxhall, so you can lead a lovely peaceful life at home but still roll down in nearly any direction and end up in a place with great pubs, shops and whatever else you may want. Oh, and we’re on both the Victoria and Northern lines, which is so convenient it should be illegal.

Where’s your favourite spot for a cheap bite to eat?

Sugar Pot close to Oval station does honestly some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, and they’re all between £5 and £6.50. They specifically do an insanely good and decadent ham and cheese toastie on proper bread for a fiver, and it’s right opposite Kennington Park so if it’s warm and sunny you can go enjoy your lunch there.

And your top free or cheap activity to do locally?

Whenever I feel a bit blue, hungover or both (often both) I soothe my soul by walking up to the Vauxhall City Farm to pet some goats and alpacas. After that it’s another quick walk up over the bridge to the Tate Britain, which I’ve been to so many times I effectively know it by heart but it’s never not a good way to spend an hour if you’re at a loose end. After that I usually feel better.

Any small businesses you’d like to give a shout-out to?

The Priory Arms is a really lovely pub with great staff and excellent vibes. During the lockdown they sold draught beer in massive plastic bottles, which I used to collect both for me and for friends. I once ordered so many in one go that they gave me a branded half pint glass, which remains a treasured possession. 

What would your perfect no-spend London day involve?

If I’m being honest, my interests are basically very similar to that of a child or a pensioner’s. If I can go for a walk in a park, sit by a body of water for a while then look at some form of art or museum exhibit then I’m happy. Luckily London is pretty good at providing all three of these things. 

As a French-Moroccan Londoner, where do you go to be reminded of home?

As it happens, I regularly get annoyed at the lack of unfussy but cheap French food in London, especially given how many of us there are here. I once thought I’d found a decent galette spot but I ordered a ham and cheese galette and it was served in a sweet crepe and with cheese from a tube. I nearly cried. Still, the one place I have a soft spot for is the Montparnasse Cafe in Kensington, which is just behind the Evening Standard offices, where I used to work. My current neighbourhood doesn’t have any French places but it does have Argan down in Clapham, which does a very homely chicken tagine.

If you could import a piece of French culture over here, what would it be?

The Lieu Unique in Nantes is a former biscuit factory and now home to - deep breath - a bar, cafe, restaurant, bookshop, hammam, sauna, gig venue, art space and club. It’s the best. You can essentially turn up at any point of the day or night and there’ll be something going on. I’ve never actually done it but you could probably arrive for breakfast and leave at 3am. It’s brilliant.

Are there any particular London spots that you like to write in?

This is only really doable in the summer, but there is no better place to work than the top deck of the Tamesis Dock, a boat on the Thames in Vauxhall. I remember going to work from there soon after leaving my last job and thinking “oh yes, freelance life is good, I’m really winning here”.

If you could change one thing about London, what would it be?

My Mediterranean lifestyle is going to show here, but god I would love it if restaurants could close a bit later in London. One of my favourite things in life is to go for a few drinks with friends then pour myself into a restaurant at around 9pm for a quick main before going home, and more often than not I’ve just not been able to find anywhere still taking customers at that time. 

In three words, what makes somebody a Londoner?

Saying they are!

Marie can be found on Twitter. Escape, her new book which explores the rise and demise of the internet, is available here

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