Rumour: New ironmonger for Wanstead?

Wansteadium rarely deals in rumour. But a reliable source happened to fall into conversation with a stalwart Wanstead acquaintance who said they had written to upmarket ironmongers Robert Dyas to suggest they should consider opening a branch in Wanstead. The company, the report says, replied that they were in fact considering doing such a thing.

And the signs seems promising at least. Earlier this week the company announced that its dire £10m loss in 2008-9 – which had many fearing for its future – had turned into a £2.7m profit in the year to the end of March. The company’s boss even said that confidence had returned and that it was planning to open six new stores in the year ahead.

With the loss of Woolworths and Andrew’s Builders’ Merchant there is certainly a Robert Dyas-shaped hole on Wanstead High Street which most people would undoubtedly be delighted to see filled.

Exclusive: Wanstead to get bookshop at last

Wansteadium can reveal that after years of waiting, Wanstead is to get its own bookshop. OK, it’s a charity shop, and will sell second hand books, but nevertheless the news could give Wanstead High Street the boost it has been needing.

Oxfam is advertising for a shop manager for its new Wanstead Bookshop – clearly one of the charity’s specialist bookshops rather than a general charity shop – at a salary of £16,170 plus £2,030 London weighting. Job applications are open until 16 August.

It is not yet clear where the new shop is to be sited, but there are various empty premises which would be ideal, including the former Horsfall and Wright, the vacant Jenningsbet shop, or even the new shops in the former Cuckfield Garage. It’s probably too far-fetched to imagine them wanting to occupy the now closed Andrews’ Builder’s Merchant building, romantic as that might seem.

According to the Bookseller magazine, which has described Oxfam as “the Tesco of the second-hand book business”, it is now the third biggest bookseller in the UK, selling 12 million books a year and making around £20m in profit. It has 130 specialist second-hand shops; sales grew 7% in 2009.

The shops are not without controversy, though, especially when they have opened near existing bookshops. As charity shops they only have to pay 20% of the business rate that other bookshops would have to find, and of course generally rely on volunteers to run it and are selling donated stock. But with the nearest bookshops being the Living Oasis Christian bookshop in South Woodford and the Woodford Green Village Bookshop a 10-minute drive away, there are not likely to be many opponents of this news.

Reactions to Wanstead’s Tiffin Tin

The reviews of the new shopfront are glowing – and expectations of the restaurant itself are high, eg this tweet below:

Tiffin tin on wanstead high st is very busy will have to check it out if its just as good as mumsless than a minute ago via HTC Peep

Wansteadium regular Mark Bentley is equally positive.

Tiffin Tin comes to Wanstead. OK, this is getting serious now. PROGRESS.less than a minute ago via web

As the photos above demonstrate, the environment of the Snaresbrook end of the High Street is pretty desperate, so it’s no wonder people are so welcoming of the new entrant.

So one question remains: what’s the food like? Wansteadium welcomes reviews from anyone who’s tried it – either via comments on this post, via Twitter (@Wansteadium) or if you prefer to be anonymous, via e-mail: wansteadium[at]

UPDATE Sunday 25 July
Wansteadium reader Richard Arnopp writes:

“I went to check out Tiffin Tin yesterday (Saturday) evening after looking through online comments on the company’s three existing branches (in Hornsey, Tufnell Park and West Hampstead), which were pretty uniformly enthusiastic. It should be noted here that Tiffin Tin is NOT a sit-down restaurant, but take-away only.

The new shop front is attractive and tasteful. The interior consists of a counter stretching the full width of the shop, with the open kitchen area behind. It’s rather similar in that respect to Oriental Chef, the long-established take-away further down the High Street.

I placed an order and was told that the waiting time would be approximately 15 minutes for collection, or 45 minutes for delivery to my home. I opted to wait and watch.

Despite the fact that it was rather early in the evening (I arrived around 6:30), the restaurant was quite busy, with a steady stream of personal callers and telephone enquiries. My order took a little longer than I had been told (20-25 minutes), but I was given a couple of updates on progress, so I was not unhappy. The kitchen was an unending hive of activity, and it was actually quite interesting to watch how the orders were processed, assembled and dispatched.

My verdict –

1. Portion size

The starter was larger than average, the main course dishes about average. Two complementary poddadums were included, with small pots of mint raita and mango chutney. This was easily enough for two people (or, in my case, two meals for one person).

2. The food

For a starter I had vegetable deurali, which consisted of potato fritters and spicy onion rings. This was tasty, but might perhaps have been slightly crisper…? It was also just a little oily. Not bad, though.

My main course was murga mirchi, a chicken dish in a spicy tomato-based sauce. I liked this – it’s not dissimilar to something I have occasionally cooked myself.

Accompaniments were pilau rice and a plain naan, which were good but unexceptionable.

As a side dish I had hariyali daal, a simple dish of lentils and spinach. I thought this subtly flavoured, with a pleasant consistency. Very nice, in fact.

3. Price

£19.95. Reasonable, I’d say.

4. Overall quality

I’m not easy to please – I take a serious interest in Indian food, and sometimes cook it myself. My overall verdict was: OK to good for the starter, good to excellent for the rest.

Final comments

Everything at Tiffin Tin is bright, clean and new, and the staff cheerful, obliging and polite. Food is good and reasonably priced. All in all, an impressive start.”

Wanstead news roundup, 22-07-10; a Good News/Bad News special

GOOD NEWS: The derelict shop, all boarded up and crumbling, next to the pet shop on Wanstead High Street is now be redeveloped, five years after planning permission was given for new flats above it. Local traders, who had earlier complained of rats in the former antiques shop, have welcomed the news.

BAD NEWS: The long hot dry weather appears to have done for a tree (right) planted on Christchurch Green, Wanstead, donated by the Wanstead Society. Wansteadium regular and society member Yenwod Samoth tweets as below:

@WeLoveWanstead @wansteadium This tree looks very dead, should we have provided more water/care? than a minute ago via TweetDeck

GOOD NEWS: Wanstead has now got something in common with West Hampstead (as well as the -stead bit). High-end Indian Takeaway The Tiffin Tin has opened in one of the empty shops opposite Snaresbrook Tube. The relaunched website Smarter High Street campaign praises the renovation as “professional and confident – and everyone’s attracted to confidence”.

BAD NEWS: The three shops next door – also empty – are probably still going to be demolished.

GOOD NEWS: This weekend is Open Weekend at the Olympic Park – and there’s a tour of all three of London’s historic Olympic sites.

BAD NEWS: It’s sponsored by BP.