Stick & Bowl, Kensington W8

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was where I started my life in UK a long time ago. I didn’t have much prior knowledge about the area but it looked calm and safe so I decided to live there for a while. My memories from that place during that period were a mixed bag – the excitement of living in a new culture laced with the acute loneliness of being a rootless stranger in a foreign land for the first time in my life. They were bitter sweet and I still don’t enjoy reflecting on them.

Since I left the area, it had changed a lot. Especially, Kensington High Street, 99% of the thoroughfare is now occupied by mainstream chain stores, with the result that the street has lost its character and forte. For example, 49 Kensington High Street, a present location of PC world used to be Kensington Market, a three story indoor market which was jam packed with small stalls, catering for hippie to punk, bohemian to New Romantics, metal head to acid house. The interior of the market was painted in black with neon lights punctuating here and there. The passage resembled an exotic bazaar because it was made narrow and winding with merchandise which was spilling out of the tiny shop fronts. Visiting the market was like exploring Alladins Cave. 

On the other side of the street, there used to be a two story shopping complex called Hyper Hyper which sold more upmarket but also more avant-garde fashion and accessories. I still vividly remember their all chrome interior decor and the ultra avant-garde fashion donned by the staffs. 

Sadly, they were all gone. All the true bohemian spirit and eccentricity were wiped out by banality because some boardroom idiots had realised that the banality would sell more to the mass. Alas, I truly moaned the death of the high street.

Still, there is a survivor on the street. Stick & Bowl, a diner-style Chinese eatery  at 31 Kensington High Street, has been a familiar fixture for many many years…

Their dishes, such as seafoods and vegetables on rice, nursed my homesick  when it got too much to bear…

I hadn’t visited here for a decade or more and I was overjoyed when I saw the same old sign & logo on the wall. Good for you, Stick & Bowl!

I am well integrated to the life in UK now and the homesick I suffered then became a thing of the past. However, I mustn’t forget about this little restaurant which helped me when I felt lonely and alone. It was a no-frill eat & go eatery but they definitely filled my stomach and heart and gave me the strength to go on. Thank you, Stick & Bowl. Long live, Stick & Bowl!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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