Nic recalls nostalgic Hendrix experience

JIMI HENDRIX emerged from the gloom of a side entrance at the Roundhouse Theatre, shielded his eyes from the sun, ambled across the road, checked his pockets for change and bought... an ice cream. Nic Careem can't remember which flavour Jimi had minor d

JIMI HENDRIX emerged from the gloom of a side entrance at the Roundhouse Theatre, shielded his eyes from the sun, ambled across the road, checked his pockets for change and bought... an ice cream.Nic Careem can't remember which flavour Jimi had - minor details didn't seem important when suddenly confronted by his boyhood hero - but he's pretty sure it would have been a '99. It's hard enough to imagine Hendrix emerging from his purple haze to eat anything as ordinary as ice cream in those spaced-out days, but how would the guitar legend cope with a menu that now offers infinite possibilities? Would you like kiwi or peach slices on your vanilla, hazelnut and coffee ice cream soaked in Baileys liqueur with chocolate pieces and cherries, Mr Hendrix? Very well, Mr Hendrix. Marine Ices is one of Nic's favourite haunts. To his delight it has been nominated as one of the borough's iconic places in the Camden's Top 100 search he is running in conjunction with the Ham&High. "I look around and it feels as if I spent my formative years here," he reflects. "It was the place to come to, especially for Haverstock School kids. We'd sit in the back with ice cream and coffee, listening to music and watching out for pop stars going in and out of the Roundhouse."When I saw Hendrix, I almost fell off my seat. He was my hero, and I couldn't believe it was really him in the flesh. But he was kind of unmistakable, you know." For the next two hours, I'm at one end of what can only be described as a knickerbocker glory of a conversation, during which Nic refers, in no particular order, to: George Best, Oh! Calcutta, The Dubliners, Carnaby Street, the Lord John boutique thereof, Hair (the musical), Pele, The Met Police, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Nelson Mandela, the 1966 World Cup Final, Mo Mowlam, Saatchi and Saatchi, Galway, Sri Lanka, Thierry Henry, Piers Morgan, Deborah Moggach, the Anti-apartheid movement, Warren Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Raj Chada, Torquil Norman, Pink Floyd with David Gilmour, Pink Floyd without David Gilmour, the Summer of Love, Hey Mr Tambourine Man and Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today? This list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a flavour of a lunchtime in the company of this irrepressible community worker whose enthusiasm is infectious and from whom ideas flow with the urgency of a man whose campaigning immigrant mother taught him that there's no point in being on this earth unless you're going to make it a better place. From her, and from the Sixties notion that ordinary people really could change the world, Nic took his cue for life, setting up the Blue Sky Club which encourages new ways of thinking to address serious world issues.His mother also taught him timeless values and in an ever-changing world, it's always comforting to find a measure of continuity. The Mansi family, specialists in Italian ice cream making, have been at 8 Haverstock Hill since 1930. Marine Ices was the name adopted in 1948 "because the windows were shaped like portholes," according to the improbably tall and lean Tim McNamara, the 'token English gentleman' with the Irish name who now helps run the place and who, judging by his waistline, has somehow subdued the temptation to sample the entire range of home-made sundaes.The ice creams are as famous as ever, accounting for new generations of youngsters brought here by eager parents, thus happily preserving the lively, family-friendly atmosphere. All the staff are friendly and courteous, even when the place is heaving, and the speed of service is reasonable; in any case the sometimes chaotic parlour atmosphere is best enjoyed at leisure if you have the time.The blackboard promised that my camembert (£4.95) would be deep-fried for exactly 60 seconds. This was probably true, as the heat hadn't quite penetrated to the centre, a real pity because the raspberry sauce was spot on. Nic enjoyed his calamari fritti (£6.35) and then ordered a speciality, the linguine al scoglio (£9.75), a plate brimming with tasty pasta and overflowing with mussels, clams, squid and prawns, seeped in a white wine, garlic and chilli sauce. The only time I've seen anything like this was not in Italy, but in Little Italy, NYC, which speaks volumes for its authenticity. The fact that Nic failed to finish his ample portion had nothing to do with any lack of quality, and everything to do with his love of conversation.My thin-crusted Mediterranea pizza (£5.95) was a shade heavy on the crushed garlic for this time of day, the more delicate herb and tomato flavourings struggling to make their presence felt. There are no complaints on the value for money score, though. It was big enough to share. Had I chosen the Roundhouse pizza, with cheese, tomato, ham, mushroom and fresh chilli, a 50p donation from the £7.85 cost would have gone to the Roundhouse Rebuilding Fund.Another nice touch was the assurance via the menu that all gratuities go directly to the waiting staff (they're worth it) and for the record, the entire restaurant is non-smoking. The only essence hanging in the air these days is the faint but unmistakable whiff of nostalgia.o Nic Careem dined with Geoff Martin


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