Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Did you hear the one…

In Day to Day on July 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm


About the boy who went to the zoo, put a penguin in his rucksack only for his dad to find him washing said penguin in the bath later that night? This urban myth was spouted by almost everyone I told I was going to the zoo on Friday night, it’s not true but this did not stop my friend loudly pondering the logistics of such  a scheme whilst watching the penguins being fed ‘Right guys, we need a diversion…take your top off’ did not impress fellow zoo goers.

Thanks to the wonders of Groupon and it’s gradual takeover of the whole world, myself and hundreds of other coupon crazies went to The London Zoo as part of their Zoo Lates sessions on Friday evening. For £9 instead of over £20, childish excitement got to me as we walked the ten minutes from Camden Town station to the park where we headed straight to the bar. It feels weird to walk round a zoo with a beer but is in fact ingenious – making our way round, looking at tigers, gorillas, giraffes and hyenas on a Friday night makes for a nice break from paying the same amount to go to the pub/cinema/club.

Starting at the tiger bar, we went straight on to the new penguin pool where it was feeding time – unfortunately ZSL tried to turn throwing fish into water into some sort of show with a compere, shouting to the audience ‘Who likes penguins?! …I caaaaan’t hear you, I said WHO LIKES PENGUINS??!!!’ It was entertaining but not for the right reasons; I think everyone watching started to feel for the poor girl with the microphone, a bucket of sardines and 70 penguins charging at her.

We also saw the otter feeding and the spider monkey section but missed out the bearded pigs, comodo dragons, tortoises and quite a few other animals. I think the trick of Zoo Lates is to enjoy ambling round rather than try and tick off every animal because there is so much to see. The animal houses all close at 9, so going straight from work means that you only have a few hours to look at animals. However, don’t worry, there is something you can do after 9.

The pairing of the hugely successful Silent Disco and the zoo seems, like beer and the zoo, very strange. Yet it works so well. After we saw all the animals we wanted to, we headed back towards the main food area where there is also a carousel and a huge lawn area dedicated to Silent Disco. Pay a £5 deposit and dance the rest of the night away in your own world; underneath the trees and fairy lights, there is something very unsettling about stumbling into a mass crowd of silent (but energetic) dancers. With ten minutes to go it started raining, and instead of looking like a sexy J-Lo video, hundreds of drenched, muddy, covered-in-facepaint dancers hurried to get their headphones back and my new shoes got ruined.

Other than rain, it was the perfect night.

Dwarves on tour

In Day to Day on July 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm


It’s 10 on a Saturday morning , I’m on a packed train full of oompa loompas, smurfs and men in drag – all drinking. My friend, Snow White, and us (her dwarves) drew a fair few stares from the early morning tourists on the way to Waterloo, but now, amongst our own people we feel very much at home. In a slightly surreal start to my day we’re on our way to the annual Twickenham Rugby 7s for charity.

The first I knew of Rugby 7s was from an old uni friend, born in Hong Kong, who insisted that the HK7s were the highlight of the year. Everyone dresses up, everyone drinks, someone usually streaks and the entire rugby playing community gets involved; although I’m not known for being an avid sports fan, this was enough to get me on board. The British version is much the same as Hong Kong, although due to a number of the high profile teams dropping out this year, attendance was slightly lower than normal.

The strange choice of entertainment was a beat box champion and a disappointing cheerleading squad, who didn’t really help to get the crowd excited (by the afternoon, everyone was merry enough for this not to be a problem). In the morning, loads of people set up in the carpark outside with picnics and booze on tables; as the tickets allow re-entry (a huge bonus to a long event like this) it was really nice to dip in and out of the rugby throughout the day. I won’t try to relay you all with too much play-by-play rugby chat as undoubtedly I’ll manage to get it wrong: but all you really need to know the Samurai’s won in the final against Esher.

With more funny names, the Golden Wasps were absolutely thrashed by the Wooden Spoon’s women’s team, who were led to victory by just one player who stood out by miles in terms of talent on the pitch (see, I almost sound knowledgeable). A group of around 20 of us who were sufficiently full of cider, sausage rolls and birthday cake then made our way over to Richmond. At The White Cross, we sat on the balcony admiring their enviable view of the river and amazing outdoor garden.

All in all, a wonderful, but-not-to-be-repeated-regularly Saturday of drinking, eating and dressing up – I hasten to add that Sunday was a painful day of self-reflection and regret.

Fish! Beer! Wine! Now!

In Day to Day on July 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm


Despite reviewing Borough Market and The George Inn already, I’m not quite done with the Borough area just yet as I feel that it offers far more than Monmouth coffee, tourists, after-work and pre-hometime drinks that it is usually associated with. There are a number of really good restaurants in the area, namely Fish! which is the place to go for some of the best affordable fresh seafood in London, Tas, which offers fantastic Greek cuisine and Cafe Borro for paella and grilled meat.

Back to Fish! (this exclamation mark is really messing with the tone of the piece), everytime I write it I feel that I need to follow with a quip and a dance. So, the restaurant-in-question serves classic fish and chips, alongside more quirky swordfish club sandwiches and luxurious whole lobster with garlic butter. The side menu includes mushy peas and mash so I was more than happy. Word of advice: do not order the club sandwich which comes with chips, and then order extra sides ‘just in case’ it’s not enough. It is.

Sitting in the outside seating area on Saturday night was really pleasant, and oh-so civilised but a just a little cold (read my Pig Post for warm outdoor eating tips). The Pleasantville moment was however shattered by an enthusiastic (and steaming drunk) man screaming at us that the end was nigh. We decided that maybe it was, so paid and rolled our way to the Southwark Tavern.

I love the Tavern because it has little cells downstairs which they have converted into booths (a bit like the Templar in Holborn), and it is never too crowded even though it’s smack bang in the middle of the central-to-Shoreditch migration path on the weekend. It also has nice house white wine, lots of cider, decent ale and homemade lemonade Pimms.

Now for one last thing, for snacks, try the Cafe Brood just around the corner for good (if a little pricey) paella, grilled lamb and salady bits and pieces – unfortunately the menu section on their website merely provides a short summation of the sorts of food to expect plus  a note that there are far too many too list. If you are a food voyeur/obsessive like me, this is annoying as I like to plan what I might order and then change my mind 7 or 8 times before even sitting down.

For good measure though, here is a link to their page.

Piggin’ Good

In Day to Day on July 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm


The Fentiman Arms was an inspired choice last night for an after work drink up/leaving drinks/summer party/any-excuse. Located just down the road from the Oval, I feel that it is one of those lesser known boozers that does well by word of mouth in the area rather than being an obvious choice for visitors to the grounds. With a huge decking area, awning shades, night heaters and tartan throws to ward off chills, we stayed outside all evening looking out over the tables on the lower level of the garden (where they also have a second bar for busy nights).

The food, prepared for a group of 15 of us was very porky – scotch eggs (which were delicious), mini sausages covered in wholegrain mustard, pork pies and sausage rolls – I suspect there was a pig farm behind the beer garden or, more likely, someone had royally messed up the food order last week. My joke request for a side of bacon rashers went down like a lead balloon.

However, the food was really good and we did get some olives and chips thrown in to provide some variety on the pig theme for the evening. Drinks were jugs of elderflower martinis, Pimm’s (complete with all the right fruits) and bottles of Prosecco; the service was professional, friendly and quick. The main reason I am recommending it is that good pubs with outdoor areas to match the inside bar are a rarity in London (it’s usually one or the other…or neither) so The Fentiman is definitely onto a winner this summer with its offering of both to such high standards.

There was a nice crowd in, mainly after workers on their way home, but also a fair few couples and small famililes, which created a nice mix. It’s one of those places where you walk past outside and hear the ‘pub-laughter’ from the garden and instantly wish you were on the other side, glass in hand. Before I put anyone off, I noticed, actually, that we were the only table to have been dished up the cast of Babe.

Alphabet City

In Day to Day on July 5, 2011 at 11:14 pm


Pizza Express, Nandos, Slug and Lettuce, an American themed sports bar…there are more chains than you can shake a commercial stick at in the O2. Despite there being a few decent places to have a pre/post concert drink (Gauchos and Union Square), new kid on the block, Alphabet City is a welcome addition.

Situated just to the left of the main entrace, it occupies the old Attic venue but is unrecognisable owing to a huge refurbishment. Myself and a few friends were lucky enough to be invited to sample the new offering ahead of its official opening night later this month.

They have gone for a classic Member’s Bar feel with black and white photography of musicians adorning the walls of the staircase, and parts of the bar as well as guitars ‘strewn’ around the DJ area. The bar is cosy, with dim lighting and ridiculously comfy sofas, chairs and stools…and tables…and foot rests…and lamps…the place looks a little like a furniture store with the amount they have packed in.

At the bar we sampled some of the cocktails, the bar staff are knowledgeable and are happy to advise based on the drinks that you enjoy – they also have a menu of 8 ‘house’ cocktails including Bloody Mary’s and Martini’s if you want to go for a classic. The food was great. We started with their hot nut bowl – a glass dish of heated nuts coated in delicious sweet sticky sauce – and all agreed on how good it was. Then we moved onto their Scotch eggs – quail egg, wrapped in black pudding and breadcrumbs, salt cod mash on crostini, risotto balls, and smoked salmon canape’s with avocado mousse. Delicious!

The prices are reasonable, the cocktails are between £7 and £9 and the food is all under £15 (however, they are intended to be sharing bar snacks). One thing that was not available was the £100 Marshall cocktail which is served up in a Marshall amp box to larger groups – we were assured that this was under construction!

All in all, an impressive venue which feels totally separate from the bright lights of the arena below – if you go and see a concert at the O2 try and have a few drinks here first.