The relationship between privation and poshness has reached a royal climaxby Dave Hill / April 12, 2018 / Leave a comment
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s choice of an east London small business to make their wedding cake brings a long-term relationship between poshness and privation to a kind of royal climax. When the betrothed picked Violet, a café and bakery on a fairly quiet street at the edge of Dalston in Hackney to produce the star patisserie for their big day, it was a symbolic consummation of what some see as wholesome progress and others as wholesale colonisation.
Could there be a more complete manifestation of the wave of gentrification rippling across the inner city than Violet, and the values it represents? Not on the face of it. A part of the city that not so long ago was (unfairly) synonymous only with poverty and crime, has for some time had the word “fashionable” attached as a prefix, confirming Dalston in particular as a hotspot of hipsterism and all that follows in its wake, where a distinctively London working-class and an archetypally insurgent middle-class meet with an array of juxtapositions and effects.
You don’t need to sample Violet founder Claire Ptak’s winning ways with a Madagascan vanilla pod or melted Valrhona dark chocolate—look them up, I know I had to—in order to appreciate the skill with which she and her creations speak to certain metropolitan appetites that are as much about aesthetics as food.
Violet HQ is a rather cramped, isolated premises amid residential terraces and opposite a council-owned housing block. But it scrubs up well for the beguiling Violet website: the bare whiteness of the frontage wall (a bicycle leans against it, naturally); the emphasis on organic ingredients; the blend of the traditional and the exotic, where Victoria sponge and almond “stone ground” polenta cheesecake co-exist on the shared doily of home kitchen-style authenticity. All these things are catnip to the sorts who’ve been moving in to more and more of east London for decades now, as next-door Islington became too expensive for artists, young and older professionals, who have now reshaped the demographics.
The transformation of Hackney in general, where I have lived since the early 1980s, has been astounding and enthralling. Much of it has been a blessing. The borough, its schools and its reputation were once a mess. Today, its council is…