The Primrose Hill Interview: an Aussie Speaks

First in our series of interviews with some of our favourite characters living and working in Primrose Hill.

Almost half-way through the year already, it feels as though we have only just shaken off the coldest, darkest, longest Winter anyone can remember. How was it for you? I doubt that any of us wants to repeat the experience in a hurry.

However, I am sure that no one locally found it quite as agonisingly dreary as Kylie Smith did.

A proud Australian – how did you guess? – Kylie has lived in and around Primrose Hill for two years now, and she agreed to share her experiences of life in London with Like anyone living abroad, she has been on a fascinating, glorious and occasionally frustrating journey.

This week she sat down for a bite of lunch with me at Black Truffle on England’s Lane and told me all about it.

Kylie’s first home on London turf was in the City; however, that didn’t last long. Ok, so we could all have told her, the City isn’t the place to settle down and find a family-friendly community to call home, but as we weren’t around to tell her that, she had to find out for herself. Ditching her temporary home in the Square Mile, chance brought her to Primrose Hill and – narurally – she was entranced. Home from home at last.

So what was it that attracted our indomitable Aussi to this neck of the woods? Having fairly randomly found herself in Chalcot Square with her young family, someone, a complete stranger, spoke to her. That simple human communication left her feeling like weeping with relief. No longer staving off the urge to hop on the next plane home, she was hooked, and Primrose Hill became her new home. However, it wasn’t just this welcome newfound friendliness that kept her in Primrose Hill. Open green spaces helped, and the pretty shops and terraces, along with the proximity to all the action of central London.

For our girl from Sydney, however, there’s no substitute for the sea. A new friend suggested that she should go and sit by the canal when she is missing the sound of the waves. All I can share of Kylie’s response is that she didn’t want to sit around ‘watching beer bottles floating past.’ The rest isn’t printable.

It didn’t take long for Kylie to get to know Primrose Hill – and for Primrose Hill to get to know her. L’Absinthe quickly became an extension to her own kitchen, and La Collina went so far as to order a particular type of pasta that her children adored. Without the kids, she has found Michael Nadra’s tasting menu impressive, and the heartily approves of Nadra’s Martini bar, having become rather familiar with the work of the resident mixologist! Another local favourite has been Sew Much Fun, the sewing-lessons workshop on Chalcot Road. Having signed up for lessons, Kylie was soon creating pretty things form beautiful fabric; an added benefit was that Kylie found it to be a great source of friendship, advice and common sense, particularly when conversation during lessons strayed to the subject of the school system, a quagmire for any family.

According to Kylie the English are reputed abroad to be cold and difficult to get to know. Saying her goodbyes at home in Sydney before setting off for the Northern Hemisphere, Kylie was taken aside ‘helpfully’ by an English friend: “You know you are going to have to change your whole personality, don’t you? Otherwise the English won’t like you and you won’t make any friends.” Fortunately, Kylie has found that her out-going and straightforward Aussie nature has remained intact, and she has made plenty of friends- in spite or, more likely, because of it. ‘The English don’t tell you everything at once, and that can seem cold. But actually it’s clever. You don’t need to tell everyone everything, and it makes sense to wait until it’s appropriate’ she confided.

Subtle differences can cause misunderstandings, however. Invited to a large dinner party, Kylie arrived with wine for everyone and five – FIVE – boxes of chocolates. Neither wine nor chocs were opened, and poor Kylie was miffed. Her contribution to the feast had been rejected, she thought. Meanwhile, the hosts were baffled at her excesses, and presumable spent the next few months working their way through her gifts. Note to self: if invited to dinner in Sydney, bring LOTS of chocs. And copious wine.

Over our chat, we both had freshly-made smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, pronounced ‘awesome’ by our antipodean subject; we washed them down with coffee, declared ‘close’ to Aussie standards, which- as you might know if you know any Aussies in London – is a huge compliment. Service was cheery and efficient, and we appreciated the freshness of the space. I bought some olives and was intrigued enough by the Eat 17 Chili Bacon Jam to splash out £4 on a jar.

As for Kylie, I suspect that her time in the UK will become increasingly rewarding and even more enjoyable, although until a wave-machine is installed on the canal she will always be a Sydneysider in her heart.

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