Green Lanes boasts a mix of ethnic cultures, and all the gastronomic delights that go with it. It's left to the odd misguided native to disturb this North London quartier's agreeable Mediterranean ambience

The last time I was in Green Lanes was as a student, about six years ago. I sat in the launderette, mid-afternoon, in pyjamas, greatcoat and flip-flops, listening in terror as a washerwoman commentated on an episode of road rage outside. A huge, lobotomised brute had picked on a skinny unfortunate who resembled the man from the Mr Muscle advert. I remember thinking fondly of the place I'd turned down at Hull University ("He's got him by the lapels!") and wondering why people lived in London ("Oh God, he's going to kill him, someone stop it!"), especially bits of London like this ("He's going to throw him under that bus!") where the concentration of aggravation and pollution ("Oh God, no!") conspired to quash the spirit.

So it's not always pleasant in this once green and pleasant lane, but it remains a tremendously diverse area, stuffed with Turkish restaurants, Greek supermarkets and patisseries. Among the exotic nationalities inhabiting the lattice of streets known locally as "the ladder" are Turks, Greeks, Turkish and Greek Cypriots, Kurds, Poles and, of course, students. University College, Kings College, Middlesex University and the LSE are all within easy reach on the Piccadilly Line from Turnpike Lane or Manor House.

Green Lanes runs from Newington Green, past Finsbury Park, through Haringey and all the way up to Winchmore Hill, but the most interesting section is between Turnpike Lane tube station and Finsbury Park.

Leaving the Grade II-listed tube station, take a left past the Coronet Cinema (pounds 4.20 per show, pounds 2.50 all day Mon, Wed) and head down the hill opposite Ducketts Common. This is the only surviving piece of open land from Duckett's Manor, a 400-acre moated estate dating from the 13th-century - as recently as 1840 it produced beef cattle which were driven down the then green Green Lanes to Smithfield market.

A stroll down the hill takes you into the heart of the area, between the former Electric Coliseum cinema on the corner of St Ann's Road and the railway bridge. Fairline is an airy Greek grocery selling olives, giant white cabbages, pomegranates and prickly pears (10 for a pound). The excellent tomatoes look and taste like tomatoes (a change from the watery Christmas baubles which are sold a few hundred yards up the road at Sainsbury's) and the shop is open until 10pm.

Across the road, the Yasar Halim patisserie comes highly recommended by locals. It bakes an impressive range of implausibly sweet Turkish fancies such as Lokma (syrupy spongy balls at 6p each), baklava and a delicious yellowy almond bread, which is great toasted.

Many of the Turkish restaurants here have been written about kindly and Gaziantep at 52 Grand Parade - the name for this section of Green Lanes - and Nazar Ocakbasi at 395 Green Lanes are worth visiting, for the good- value mezes alone. The area has a laid-back energy with many of the cafes having back rooms in which mustachioed Turks gather to play cards. Many of these cafes are private clubs, sporting names like Aon FC and International FC. The "FC", according to my source in the local newsagent, was a ruse used to secure the licensed status which Haringey council gives to sports clubs.

The only bum note struck in a delightful afternoon's wander was by the xenophobic greengrocer opposite Sainsbury's. "Johnny English" the sign screams defiantly. Such small-minded ethnic paranoia made me glad that my shopping bags were bursting with olives, feta cheese and Turkish pastries.