whathappensinlondon

Posts Tagged ‘London’

Get your skates off

In Day to Day on December 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm

COVENT GARDEN, SOMERSET HOUSE, THE STRAND

So, last weekend I managed get nail varnish remover spilt on my beloved MacBook Pro. Obviously in no way my own fault, it still meant a Sunday trip up to the Mac Store in Covent Garden and a very long wait seeing as their online booking system is totally shit.

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With 4 hours to kill between getting there and my vital 15 minute appointment with them geniuses at the Genius Bar, I guilt-tripped a couple of friends into spending the day in Covent Garden. Turns out ‘I’m so sad, I’ve potentially lost all of my photos of me larking around on a beach in Thailand’ tugs at the heartstrings in more ways than you would expect and they eagerly jumped on the train to meet me.

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First off, while waiting for my friends to spend a day waiting with me, I stopped off at Somerset House. It’s so pretty once they’ve put up the skating rink, I challenge anyone to go there and not start to feel a bit Christmassy. I watched everyone whizzing around (no falls) for a bit, but it’s not as fun as actually going on the ice so made my way towards the exhibitions. There’s loads on at the moment, and most of it’s free, so I’d massively recommend heading up there if you’re looking for something to do of a weekend while still saving up the pennies for important festive things like booze and Christmas presents and a sequinned dress for the office party.

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The first exhibition I went to is just to your left as you walk into the main reception. In the late 1940s black-and-white photographer Cartier-Bresson said that ‘colour photography is not up to the mark; prove me wrong’. Curator William Ewing has set about doing just that in ‘Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour‘, by showcasing a number of photographers working in colour who also adopt Cartier-Bressons hallmark ‘decisive moment’ style of photo.

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For the exhibition Ewing has chosen contemporary photographers including my favourites Karl Baden, Ernst Haas, Fred Herzog, Joel Meyerowitz, Alex Webb and Trent Parke. Each interprets the ethos in their own way but all display incredible talent for powerful capturing split-second moments.

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Next up, Night Paintings from Paul Benney. The curation and location of this exhibition make it a worthwhile visit as it’s situated underneath the ice rink in a series of hidden passageways and atmospheric chambers. The space, known as Deadhouse, has never been used for an exhibition before and actually contains the gravestones of 17th century courtiers within the vaults and set into the walls. To find out more, there are free organised tours every Thursday and Saturday. Also, if you were left dying to find out more after reading my blog post on how London is romanticised in films, Deadhouse plays Newgate prison in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film.

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I squeezed in the Henri-Besson photo exhibition and Paul Benney’s Night Paintings exhibition but am heading back this weekend so that I can see the Valentino and Timothy Walker exhibitions – to be honest I want to give them more time as I’ve heard that both are brilliant.

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Seeing as I’ve tagged and led this with spilling nail varnish remover on a MacBook, here’s a link to what you should do straight away (which I didn’t). You’re welcome.

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All aboard the Big Red Bus

In Day to Day on October 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm

DEPTFORD

And I’m not talking about one of those sightseeing tour buses. The Big Red pizza bus is the antithesis of a London bus: it’s fun, it’s relaxed, you have s-p-a-c-e and you don’t have to pay to get on it. Oh, and it doesn’t go anywhere.

Selling pizzas, beer and delicious mojitos this place is definitely one you should add to your list should you find yourself in the area. Too often, I get so bored with the chain restaurants in Blackheath and Greenwich and this is a good alternative, tucked away at the end of Creek Road next to The Bird’s Nest.

I’ve already written a post about the best pizzas in London, and I’m annoyed I hadn’t discovered these ones when I wrote it. They are delicious. Not too thick and they don’t skimp on toppings (although I’ve read reviews that say each time you go the toppings on the pizzas change – I think this is a good thing but I suppose if you order something once, you’d expect it to be the same the next time you order it).

It’s cheap, too – an average meal with a drink and side/starter comes in just over a tenner. Try the Flamenco, which has Italian chorizo and lumps of morcilla, which is like black pudding – they’ve also got Meantime beer, side salads and a selection of desserts. The one thing on the menu I wouldn’t recommend is the bread and dipping oil, simply because you don’t get enough.

I was pleased to see that there’s room for loads of people in the number 30, which is good now the weather’s turned colder, but their outdoor area is covered in awning with lots of comfy sofas and blankets for the braver among us.

The location is what does it for me. Although Deptford is enjoying a bit of a regeneration at the moment, there are still parts of it that belong on Derelict London and by being situated underneath the DLR, on a main road, the area occupied by Big Red feels random and totally out-of-the-way. Actually I tell a lie, the mojitos are what do it for me…

I’m even more likely to go back now I know there are plans to park a truck next to it and to create a cinema.

How to enjoy the Thames

In Day to Day on May 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

SOUTHBANK AND FURTHER ALONG

Ah, the Thames… I’ve got a massive problem with it.

Featured in so many films as a romantic river, meandering innocently through London, it’s not what it seems. Cutting our city in half, it creates the North/South divide whilst at the same time makes getting from one side to the other at the end of any ‘I’ve-had-a-night-that-lasted-past-the-last-train’ nigh on impossible.

Films particularly guilty of making the one of the country’s dirtiest rivers look more exciting/dramatic/interesting/romantic than it is include Love Actually, James Bond and 28 Days Later. So… how to make the most it?

Here are some photos of what it is not like…


Go to the Southbank and visit the Festival Hall. While you’re there, stop off at Skylon and drink loads of their delicious cocktails. They’re expensive, but so worth it – when we go, we always forget the menu and ask the bar staff to recommend their own, but all the classics are all there if you don’t feel like going rogue (just be prepared for a disapproving look when you dare ask for a mojito).

I haven’t had the chance to eat there, but as the bar is located right in the middle of the restaurant, I would still recommend getting dinner. The atmosphere is great, there’s always a nice mix of work groups, families, couples, friends and all the food looks amazing. Also, despite the introduction to this post, the view is pretty spectacular, albeit grey.

The next stop isn’t far away. All through summer (even though it doesn’t feel like it will ever BE summer), there will be a Pimm’s stall outside the Festival Hall with plenty of tables for after-work drinks, dates and post-show chats. One of the best things for me about sitting out on the Southbank (weather permitting, of course) is watching all the runners slogging past as you sip on your fruit infused, ice-cold jug of cocktail. HA.

Pizza in London

In Day to Day on May 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

GREENWICH/GOODGE STREET/LEICESTER SQUARE

Everyone is a bit burger mad at the moment. Every since The Meatwagon  (now MEATliquor) set up shop in New Cross with its (admittedly delicious) Meateasy pop-up, the craze to find the ‘best burger in London’ has grown into a city-wide obsession. Food critic Marina O’Loughlin nailed it when she said of the joint-de-jour: “If the word means nothing to you, you’re clearly not a burgerphile internet obsessive: it’s been everywhere, like a meaty rash.”

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Burgerphile internet obsessive I am not; however I do like the lure of seeking out ‘the best… something’. I can’t really remember what I was looking for when I discovered the Slice Harveseter, but whatever it was became moot once I started reading. Also known as Colin Hagendorf, the 28-year-old New Yorker  has tried a slice of pizza from each and every one of the 362 pizza joints in Manhattan. He told the Wall Street Journal online about the perfect slice:

For Mr. Hagendorf, the best slices display balance above all, cheese and sauce used in moderation upon a solid yet supple crust. He disdains many of the new wave of recession-friendly dollar-per-slice outlets. He also scorns purveyors of Texas-size slices.

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Two of my extra favourite things about him (apart from devoting two and a half years to eating pizza) are that he used to be a puppeteer and that he describes the start of his expedition as seeking out a project that meant he could “work as little as possible”… whattaguy!

Slice Harvester

I digress. I’m not trying to try every pizza place in London. I don’t need to because I’ve already found two of the best, with a possible third on the way.

First up it’s Bianco43 in Greenwich, South East London. Fairly new, and taking over what used to be a pretty rubbish all-you-can-eat Indian restaurant, the pizzas are excellent and the service is faultless. There are a few good restaurants in Greenwich/Blackheath but as far as Italian food goes, this is the only place I would recommend.

Second, it’s Icco Pizza Restaurant on Goodge Street. Admittedly not the best pizza you will have in your life, it should always be praised on it’s merit of being amazing value for money, especially in a location when they could get away with charging far more. Serving most of their generously sized pizzas for £4, you’d be hard pushed to find anything as cheap that matched up to their standards. I went with a friend who had, for weeks, gone on and on about how mind blowingly good the pizzas were, so my expectations were very high. Much like a canteen, with the noise and chatter to match, they are quick, tasty and best of all, use a buzzer paging system to let you know when your pizza comes out of the oven.

The third is Sartori. I’ve recently discovered the Pizzandevelopment blog and this Italian restaurant just off Leicester Square is their top recommendation. Billed as the ‘best all-rounder… offering stunning antipasti (try the fried Smoked Scamorza), pasta and of course pizza’, I can’t wait to try it out.

Don’t get that in Pizza Express, now do you?

The Old Vic Tunnels

In Day to Day on April 21, 2012 at 10:39 pm

WATERLOO

The first night I went the Old Vic Tunnels was just incredible. I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to one of their Boom Boom club events at short notice and for once I was glad people know I’m likely not to have plans on a Saturday night.

From the minute you queue up opposite the violinist in full makeup and twiddly moustache, to when you stumble out at the end of the night, these events literally feel like entering a different world.

Any excuse to visit The Old Vic Tunnels should not be missed – even watching paint dry inside the labyrinth caves below Waterloo station would be a worthwhile endeavour. Since acquiring the vast and cavernous space in 2010, the venue has held everything from prohibition parties, to summer camp festivals and of course, the legendary Boom Boom.

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Mixing fantasy with reality to awe-inspiring effect, their next biggie is the 2nd Annual Goblin Masquerade Ball. The fantasy themed night of mischief and revelry is sure to be a good-un (just check out the photos from last year if you need convincing). Goblins, Ogres, Bad Faeries and so much more, it’s dress up time in London’s leading undergrounds arts venue. For this post, I’m going to let the photos do the talking.

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Masquerade Ball

One last message we received after buying our tickets: Dearest Revellers, cast aside your thoughts of the next day and abandon yourselves to the mystical excesses and delirious cacophonies of The Goblin King’s Theatre of Trolls…

Masquerade Ball

The Boy with Salt Beef on His Face

In Day to Day on March 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm

SHOREDITCH

“You want to go for a night out in Shoreditch? To a Moroccan bar? And see a silent comedian?!”

Er…yes is the answer. It was actually a great night out, and despite being in scene-kid central, it was far from posey or up it’s own arse. Myself and 4 friends stopped off at a bar before the comedy night – even though I’ve worked and been out in Shoreditch before, I have limited knowledge of the good bars to go to so this was a suggestion from a friend.

Casa Blue, at the top of Brick Lane, was a good pick. Small, so small it looks a bit like a cafe, the decor looks like Car Booty exploded all over the walls and tables – rifles, lanterns, candles, fish bowls, posters, film memorabilia, records – it’s camped up Eastern chintz mixed with some good old fashioned market ‘antiques’. The look was so over the top that I liked it, especially the completely mismatched sofas, chairs and tables (all very worn). Bottles of beer and spirit/mixes were reasonably priced for the area but the fishbowls were £28, which is ridiculous.

And beware of the toilets, they are awful.

Next, we headed to Rich Mix to see my current favourite-comedian-of-all-time, The Boy with Tape on His Face. Ever since seeing him at the Old Vic Tunnels last year, I’ve been desperate to see him again, so when I saw he was headlining at Rich Mix for £10 a ticket, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do with a Friday night.

Using audience participation and hilarious facial (eye) expressions, he is excellent. Other comedians on the bill that impressed me included Tony Law and Cardinal Burns. Despite getting there late, I feel that we got the best seats in the house, rather than being cramped downstairs we were ushered up to the upstairs viewing gallery, which was almost completely empty and a much better vantage point. The event was well organised and the drinks were cheap – pretty much the perfect night, no?

No. Because, being in Brick Lane it was missing one thing and it wasn’t a curry…

The salt beef bagels from the Beigel Bake are NOT TO BE MISSED. Open 24 hours, I’ve never been here without having to queue, they must churn out hundreds of the damn things on Friday and Saturday nights. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen anyone order anything but a salt beef bagel, but that may be because I get slight tunnel vision when I walk in there and focus on the h-u-g-e pile of beef they cut from.

The portions are beyond generous, with the option of mustard sauce and a gherkin for 20p. Just thinking about it makes me want one and I cannot stress enough how much you should try one if you are visiting or living in London…

I would say that that was the end of the night, and that we all went home, bellies full, content. But that would be a lie.

We went to the Cactus Pit.

The less said about that the better.

Pelton Pub Crawl

In Day to Day on January 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

GREENWICH

January is pretty dull. Everyone has resolutions to drink less, spend nothing and generally moan their way through the month. My resolution is different, allowing me to drink AND not feel guilty spending a little bit of money. It’s not really a resolution as such, more a task I’ve set myself and it is this: STOP GOING OUT TO THE SAME PLACES ALL THE TIME AND NOT LET EVERY WEEEKEND OF THE YEAR ROLL INTO ONE.

I realise that this has always been the general premise of this blog, but although I have discovered many fantastic places in London since starting it, I’ve also revisited plenty of mediocre ones through sheer laziness.

One new place, which is local BUT I have never been to is The Pelton Arms. Tucked away in the less popular East side of Greenwich, it is the perfect starting point for a mini pub crawl, or somewhere to spend the whole night. Inside it’s cosy, friendly and reminds me a little of The Morden Arms but on a larger scale. The drink selection is good, for me, the wine list extends past red/white/dry/sweet and for beer drinkers there’s a nice selection of ales plus Greenwich Meantime brews on tap.

I didn’t eat when I went (on a Friday night) but I’ve heard repeatedly that the food is excellent with the expected pub gastropub dishes and a full roast on Sundays. They have an extensive events calendar which ranges from knitting to live band nights, which provide much needed (and inexpensive) ways to fill up your evenings during the week. Unfortunately when I visited the Pelton, it was within a much wider Greenwich pub crawl, but I wish I had spend more time there and will definitely be returning. Next up, the Cutty Sark Tavern…

…which was closed for refurbishment, so despite protests from me, the next stop was The Trafalgar Tavern. The Traf does boast some of the best views of the Thames and is one of the oldest pubs in London, but other than that, the food is awful, the service is worse and the whole place is poorly cared for and looked after. Next up…The Gypsy Moth…

A good one for the summer, it has a good garden but is a tourist trap owing to it’s convenient location just outside the Cutty Sark DLR and next to Greenwich Market. They’ve got a quiz night I think, an OK selection of lagers and lots of seating available – the only thing that pisses me off about the place is the service – go in any time, any day, any month, any weather and no matter how busy it is, it will still generally take 20 minutes to get served. It doesn’t help that they insist on permanently closing half of their bar so there’s a big blob of people waiting to get served in the most awkward part of the pub, right next to the toilets and around a massive pole.

Never order food here, I have been told this numerous times but thought I’d try it last month after traipsing round Greenwich and deciding against noodles, Pizza Express and McDonalds. I just wanted something quick and tasty – so myself and a friend both ordered burgers. We were the only people eating, and the kitchen hatch was in plain view. 40 minutes later, no food had arrived. When we went to the bar, there was an awkward conversation between the bar staff where it transpired that our order hadn’t even made it as far as the kitchen. They did apologise and give us a refund but still, NEVER order food in The Gypsy. We ended up in McDonalds and waited 2 minutes.

I really don’t want to go…

In Day to Day on October 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm

COVENT GARDEN

It’s always the fall back – the mid meeting place that seems like the easy option, failsafe plan b, c or d. For me however, going to Covent Garden always smacks of returning to my 12 year old self (jaunts up to London with my girlie friends, the day would consist of ‘shopping’ around Covent Garden and meeting up with other people (boys!) that we could have just met up with locally). When I say shopping, what I really mean is browsing through Paperchase, Quiksilver and Octopus and coming back with a funny jelly watch, a pair of tie dye jeans or some hilarious writing paper.

Anyway…less reminiscing and nostalgia and more reviewing. Covent Garden is very touristy: lots of mimes painted in silver, gold and white as well as plenty of other performers commanding large crowds by riding round on unicycles with a mic and large ego. One such performer, who I haven’t seen in CG but really wish I had, is Sam Wills

I discovered him at The Old Vic Tunnels (review here) as his alter ego, The Boy With Tape on His Face and am now slightly obsessed with seeing him again (should you wish to, his next London date is at the Underbelly Festival).

I’ve been to the Punch and Judy, which overlooks the performers, numerous times after making plans to meet friends and said plans being finalised so late that last resorting has called for 4pm desperate emails of ‘OK, we’ll meet in the Punch and go from there’.

From there usually means the Roadhouse (I know), the now defunct Garden Club or, if common sense and the motivation for a longer walk prevails, Gordon’s Wine Bar. My favourite by far, I have reviewed Gordon’s and praised it’s offer many times that maybe I should stop; also, I suppose it’s not really in Covent Garden, is it?

Other options include Walkabout, or The Chandos. I have ended up in the  Chandos with people visiting me in London, colleagues, friends and just about everyone else on my radar that has passed through the Charing Cross – South East London migration path on Thursday and Friday evenings. A favourite because it is cheap, friendly and very central, go to the upstairs bar for a seat because most people don’t even know it exists so shhhh! I have to this date, only even been in Walkabout once and intend to keep it that way.

London Fashion Week

In Day to Day on September 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

SOMERSET HOUSE

This is a rather delayed post, considering we are now on the last day of London’s most fashionable week – with shows including Mulberry, Clements Ribiero, PPQ, Burberry, Christopher Kane, Jaeger and Marios Scwab having shown their catwalk collections. Rather than a run down of the catwalk shows and reports, this piece acts to encourage anyone who Happens to be In London (see what I did there?) during fashion week, to go. It is an experience not quite like any other, and a chance to see some amazingly dressed people while you’re there.

For me, the enjoyment lies in watching new season collections stomping past and looking for new trends as well as admiring what everyone else has turned out in. Even if it is just to stop outside Somerset House and look at what everyone is wearing, or to try your hand at some celeb papping, there is nothing that quite matches up. Once you have your exhibition pass, make the most of it and take a look around Somerset House, as well as the shows you have tickets for.

Something that often gets left out are the exhibition rooms around Somerset House – I urge you to look around these as they are a fascinating opportunity to see examples of design and creativity up close, plus talk to the designers in person about the collections. My favourite is usually the Headonism room curated by milliner extraordinaire Stephen Jones – this year on the ground floor (rather than the lower ground) and right next to the BFC Press Lounge. The milliners showing in the East Wing for SS12 include Charlie Le Mindu, Piers Atkinson, Noel Stewart and J. Smith Esquire and the stands (although crammed into quite a small room) are beautiful.

On the Lower Level, you will find the BFC Screening room and the BFC Elle Talent Launch Pad – this year with Sophie Hulme and Claudia Catzefils. Hulme is one of my favourite emerging designers, with fond memories for me as I wrote this piece about her many months ago when I started this blog. I love her classic pieces with gold accents and amazing jewellery – so go and see her stand!

Fashion week poses the rare opportunity to glimpse into the future and see the trends we will be wearing come next summer, plus really appreciate some truly amazing British design and homegrown talent.

Very Stylish, Very Starck

In Day to Day on September 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

BERNERS STREET

The last seven days have been a blur of clothes and shows (more on this later) as London Fashion Week descended on the capital, clocking up column inches all over the place. However, amidst all the celebrities, bloggers, photographers and bona fide fashionistas, a less noticeable wave of people swept through London over the weekend…the nosy ones.

London Open House took place over the weekend, giving the voyeur in all of us the chance to look round some of the cities most guarded and inaccessible buildings. Whether you’re into old cinemas, hotels, modern architecture or simply aesthetically pleasing design, there is bound to be something on offer to catch your eye, as the list is extensive to say the least. With over 700 places specially open to the public, I plumped for the Sanderson Hotel on Berners Street – minutes into the tour, I knew I made the right decision. Starting with a view from across the road, our guides pointed out Ian Schrager’s hallmark oversized vase with pink flowers placed outside the main entrance, clearly identifying the building as one of his from the off.

Once in, Phillip Starck’s unique vision becomes clear – his influence is everywhere. ‘The space between the doors and the reception desk is the catwalk’….which explains why all the chairs are pointing towards the main desk. OK, and the lips? ‘A big kiss from us for when you arrive!’ Of course…dare I ask, the pictures of dogs behind and in front of the white drapes? ‘Well, it’s the English man’s best friend’. This logic pretty much explains everything in the hotel, from the fittings to the furniture, it’s all very surreal and the whole experience of walking around (and I presume staying there), is much the same.

After looking around the Purple Bar, Billiard Room and stunning stained glass windows, we got to the lift. I know, a lift doesn’t sound very exciting does it? Well, instead of being forced to stare uncomfortably into a smeary mirror for the 30 second journey upstairs, instead we did some star gazing. The walls are made from 3D images of planets and stars from the galaxy in deep blue and twinkly white on both the walls and ceiling – it’s absolutely stunning and very Christopher Kane.

Upstairs, the room numbers are shining lights on the floor rather than on the doors, and that’s it. The corridors are completely bare with no defining characteristics at all – to be honest, it’s a little unsettling and I expect a girl on a tricycle to come wheeling around the corner at any minute. The bedrooms replicate this but in far more luxurious settings and all in white.

Echoing the dream-like, surreal nature of the rest of the decor, the rooms are designed to feel like you are stepping onto a cloud. White walls, white floor, white cupboards, white furniture and a bed (white) placed at an angle in the middle work together to create a calm, cool environment. As a listed building, converting the old Sanderson HQ and showroom into a hotel was difficult, with no extra walls allowed to be built within the rooms. The bathroom is therefore separated from the main bedroom area with a large sheet of glass and two layers of privacy curtains, so make sure you’re very comfortble with whoever you share your room with!

After querying how they keep the rooms so white with no evidence of scuffs or wear and tear, I was told that after a week long stay every room is repainted white – they even have a full time painter on site who must really hate white by now.

Although I prefer more classic and comforatble interiors, the Sanderson delivers on both style and Starck – their second hotel on St Martin’s Lane is now firmly on my ‘must visit’  list.

Click here to visit the Sanderson Hotel website.