Tag Archives: highbury


My Penance and a Giveaway – Islington Bootcamp Classes

So with all the eating I do, it’s time to get serious about burning off some of those calories (boo!).

I started doing Free Form Fitness‘ bootcamps about three years ago, when I lived in Highbury. Over the past year I haven’t been living there, so have fallen off the bandwagon somewhat. But that’s all about to change as we’ve just bought a flat back in Highbs, so there’s no more getting out of it… It’s time to hit the deck and pump some, err, iron?

Free Form Fitness owner, Sybille, talking a class through their next exercise
Free Form Fitness owner, Sybille, talking a class through their next exercise

When I started at bootcamps I was kind of nervous. I admit I feel a little intimidated by fitness classes (I won’t know anyone, everyone else will be better than me, I’ll be wearing the wrong thing…), but as soon as I got in touch with Free Form’s owner, Sybille, she immediately put me at my ease. She was knowledgable and encouraging, telling me more about an injury I had than even I knew, and started me off gently. As everyone in the classes are at different fitness levels – some are marathon runners, some are new mums trying to lose some baby weight, some are flabby food bloggers (OK, just me in that group) – Sybille has different levels of exercises to suit everyone.

Andrew ended up doing extreme press ups. I... did not graduate to this level.
Andrew ended up doing extreme press ups. I… did not graduate to this level.

The first session I went to was just the right level of hard. Then I woke up the next morning and couldn’t actually move. I have never experienced anything like that – my muscles were in shock. BUT in a good way – I was just using muscles I’d not used since I was a kid.

Classes weren’t something I looked forward to, but once I got there they were enjoyable and everyone in the class was really friendly. I’ve made friends at bootcamp that I still see now and count as very good friends indeed (hi Simon and George!). It’s a really nice community event, as everyone lives around Highbury Fields who comes to my class. A happy result was I toned up, lost weight and improved my posture without really – I wouldn’t say trying, because a lot of sweat went into it, but perhaps without really much thought. Sybille does the thinking, I just do what she very gently instructs!

This is my worst exercise - rotational press ups. Unfortunately they're amazing for core strength.
This is my worst exercise – rotational press ups. Unfortunately they’re amazing for core strength.

As I say, I’ve now moved away but am coming back! And just in time for a new class Sybille has devised called “Cardio and Core Blitz”. This is a 30 minutes high intensity workout, focusing on fat burning and core work.

Sybille says of the class, “By using a class format comprised of HIIT (high intensity interval training) and functional core work we have created a workout that will help increase the body’s ability to burn body fat without putting it through the strains and risk of overuse injuries associated with traditional boot camps or high impact cardio workouts. You will be working hard for 30 minutes but you will leave feeling super energised and de-stressed!”


Sessions are £5/class or you can buy 11 for £50. The classes run in Highbury Fields at the moment, but will soon be running in Liverpool street, Green Park, London Fields and Tower Bridge in the mornings, at lunch times and in the evenings.

Free Form Fitness have teamed up with me and are offering Z Factor readers a free first session. All you need to do is email booking@freeformfitness.co.uk with the subject line “The Z Factor”.

Hope to see you all down there!

London Pubs – The Lamb Beer & Liquor (Holloway Road)

The Lamb Pub, Holloway Road
The Lamb Pub, Holloway Road

Situated conveniently close to where I live, The Lamb has become a firm local for me and my friends. An independent pub on an unattractive stretch of Holloway Road (is there an attractive stretch of Holloway Road?!), this place is best described as a typical ‘boozer’.

Stripped floors, mismatched furniture, informal service and an eclectic playlist combine to provide clientele with an easy-going, no frills evening.

The Lamb serves craft ales and has some decent wine too. The Lamb serves only crisps and meaty snacks, but they actively encourage you to order from a delicious pizza takeaway service, Sorrento, who deliver to your table. As I said, it’s very non-frills. However, Sorrento’s pizzas are actually incredibly good and authentic – there’s nothing Domino’s about this place.

Having said they’re no frills, The Lamb have excellent live music events from incredible talent such as Rupert Cross, and host film nights showing indie films on a projector screen. There’s also occasionally live sport when there’s a big event on, but it’s in no way a football pub (having said that I haven’t been there when an Arsenal game is on – it’s probably packed, as are most pubs on Holloway Road).

The Lamb offers you a warm welcome and an unpretentious night out. I’d recommend a visit before everyone finds out about it. Everyone I’ve taken there has been back, some even organising their birthday parties there – surely that’s a stamp of approval if there ever was one.

Brunch Review – Le Peche Mignon, Ronalds Road

A delicious croque monsieur from Le Peche Mignon
A delicious croque monsieur from Le Peche Mignon

I love living in Islington. I love the boutiques of Upper Street. I love the tucked away pubs in Barnsbury. I love the picture-perfect Highbury Fields in every season. And I love all the places there are to eat. One of my most-loved places is Sunday morning at Le Peche Mignon.

Le Peche is a tiny independent French cafe and food store, tucked just off Holloway Road. It’s so small there’s only one, long canteen-style table to sit at. If the weather is good, there’s also a bijou courtyard out the back with a few more tables and a splash of sunshine.

What keeps me coming back to Le Peche is their unbeatable croque monsieurs. They are the perfect antidote to an epic hangover. Smothered in a piquant cheese and mustard sauce with crispy burnt edges, encased inside is some meaty, salty ham and warm, fresh white bread. And side salads? Not normally a fan. But this side salad, with a perfect acidic French vinaigrette, cuts through the rich flavours of the croque.

Although the croques at Le Peche seem to be a firm favourite among the regulars, there are also a decent choice of other dishes. There’s Le Oeufs – Eggs Benny (in my opinion, no way as good as the croque – too mean with the Hollandaise, which also isn’t acidic enough), Florentine and Royale. There’s toasted sandwiches and baguettes. There’s also a deli-style counter with a changing range of dishes, from yummy veggie bakes to large, man-sized French-style sausage rolls. I’ve eaten my way through a good portion of Le Peche’s menu and am yet to find a total dud. However, those croques still reign supreme in my heart.

Hot chocolate at Le Peche

The range of hot drinks is also good. Tea, I am pleased to report, comes in a teapot with all the accountrements. The coffees are a decent standard, and the hot chocolates are creamy and indulgent.

The service at Le Peche can come over as a little harassed sometimes – it’s rarely not packed to the rafters. But while it may be a little slow, it normally also comes with a smile and a bit of TLC.

I would certainly recommend Le Peche for brunch if you’re in the area – it’s one of Highbury’s hidden gems.

Service – 3/5

Venue – 2/5 (you do sometimes end up with a stranger’s elbow in your ribs, it’s so tightly packed)

Value – 5/5


Le Peche Mignon, 6 Ronalds Road, Highbury N5 1XH

Nearest Tube: Holloway Road (5min walk), Highbury & Islington (8min walk).

Le Peche Mignon is open 8am-6pm Monday-Saturday; 8am-5pm Sunday

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