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Mum in the Hood: Ali McAleavy of Muswell Hill

Mum in the Hood: Ali McAleavy of Muswell Hill

We love our local London mums! In our Mum in the Hood series we speak with mums around the greater London area to find out what they love about where they live. This week we spoke with Ali, a mum in Muswell Hill who has launched a kids’ footwear line. Let’s meet her now and find out what her favourite spots are in this family-friendly North West London neighbourhood…

Please tell us a little about yourself…

I’m Ali McAleavy, a mum of Scarlett aged 9, Rae aged 7 and Ziggy aged 3. While on maternity leave with my son, and after many years of frustrated kids shoes shopping, I decided to leave my 20 year career in fashion, and embark on my new venture Zig+Star, a unisex kids’ footwear brand that doesn’t play to outdated gender stereotypes and instead celebrates freedom and difference in every child. It took two years of product development alongside a Paediatric Podiatrist to perfect the three fully adjustable, child-friendly styles, that grow as they grow. The leather sandals are designed to last longer, look good and be good for their feet!


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Which area do you live in and what do you love about it?

We moved to Muswell Hill from North West London over four years ago and we absolutely love it here. You get the feeling of space and freedom but with a bustling high street, plus it’s not too far from central London. Coming from London myself, it has the best of both worlds – a village feel with a great local community but lots of things happening to keep you busy.

Where do you like to hang out with your kids?

Pre-lockdown, we would have very busy weekends, visiting friends and family, trips to central london, and we loved going for a mooch around the amazing London markets (Portobello, Columbia Road, Borough Market). But since then we have learned to enjoy a slower pace of life, and we couldn’t be in a more perfect place for that. Long lazy walks, picking up some fresh bread, followed by some nice food at home. We’ve loved being able to spend family time together but can’t wait to get out and see our friends again. We have loads of nice walks around Muswell Hill but we also enjoy visiting Hampstead Heath, taking in Kenwood House and getting lost in the maze of footpaths around there.

What are your favourite local family-friendly eateries?

We have a lovely array of independent shops just at the end of our road: the gorgeous cafe Korto which serves the best breakfasts; Owens is a well-loved family run deli selling the fresh sourdough and organic meat; the Green Guru is a lovely organic produce and health food shop stocking lots of small, independent brands. We have a pretty little pub called The Maid of Muswell which we can’t wait to re-open. If we fancy a bit more of a stretch of the legs on the weekend, we’ll walk through Ally Pally down to Crouch End for a wander, and end up at The Victoria Stakes for a lovely roast dinner. And our favourite take-out is Pizzeria Pappagone in Stroud Green, it’s a bit further but so worth it, honestly the best pizza ever!

What are your favourite local independent shops?

Our absolute favourite shop in Muswell Hill is the Children’s Bookshop. The staff are so lovely and knowledgeable, they take time to listen to every different child and suggest books they think will be perfect for them. Our children’s love of reading has massively increased since lockdown so we can’t wait for the store to re-open so we can re-stock our bookshelves. A few doors up, there is the famous Muswell Hill Cheese Shop – you will always find a huge queue outside at the weekend, their selection is mind boggling.

Another favourite place to head to at the weekend is Jealous Gallery in Crouch End, their curation is spot on and it’s great for a browse. We’ve just bought an amazing Charming Baker print from there.

A special mention has to go to Windmill Shoes in Crouch End. It’s run by two lovely women, Kirsty and Arancha, and not only do they stock a great selection of kids shoes, but they’ve also been so helpful to me in starting my kids footwear brand.


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What local activities do you and your family take part in?

Activities have pretty much been on hold but an activity the kids have missed the most is tennis, especially Ziggy. There are loads of great courts around Muswell Hill but we go to Durnsford Park which acts as a sort of community get-together. Every Saturday it’s filled with kids and parents milling around after various activities, and it provides a great opportunity to stop for a cup of tea and a chat. Swimming is another activity that keeps everyone happy, and the outdoor pool in Crouch End is great in the summer. Plus Ally Pally is the gift that keeps on giving. This July, they’re bringing back the Kaleidoscope Festival with Groove Armada headlining which we cannot wait for.

Where’s your favourite place to escape in your area for a little solo time?

When I’m busy with work and need to clear my head, my favourite thing to do is to go for a walk, it is the one thing I couldn’t live without. At least three times a week, I’ll go along the Parkland Walk, a dis-used railway line which is now a nature trail that takes in views over the city. It takes you straight to Highgate Woods which is just so beautiful, especially on a fresh Spring morning. No matter how stressful work is, this never fails to make me feel better.

Where’s the best place for a night out with friends / date night?

For daytime, I would have to say a walk on the Heath followed by a long boozy lunch with all my friends at one of the Highgate pubs (there are so many!). For evenings, we have lots of lovely local cinemas to choose from. We haven’t had a date night in a while but we would probably go for sushi at Midori first, followed by a film at the Everyman, or a gig at Ally Pally. Pre-lockdown there were some great bookings, we saw Robyn and New Order who were both amazing and we can’t wait to see Michael Kiwanuka there. Plus the re-developed theatre is absolutely gorgeous and they always have cool things on for both kids and adults.

What’s the best hidden gem in your area?

Our favourite restaurant is a great little Japanese in Hampstead called Jin Kichi. It’s a tiny, unassuming place with a robata bar where they cook yakitori over hot-coal grills and serve up the freshest, most delicious sushi. It’s very small but has a great, lively atmosphere.


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