Tuesday, 31 July 2007

HOT: The Car Man at Sadlers Wells

Steamy and sexy (and that was just the first 5 minutes in the nude shower scene) this was the Ravel's Carmen reimagined in a small American town in the 50s. The action was set around a garage (Car Man - geddit?), a haughty woman, a stranger strolling into town, betrayal and murder. I loved the music, set and costumes but I didn't always love Matthew Bourne's choreography - call me parochial but give me Graeme Murphy any day.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

NOT: Global Cities at Tate Modern Southbank

A free exhibition of facts about the speed, size, density, diversity and form of seven global cities (including London), and it was cool to be able to spot my block of flats in the aerial photos. But it wasn’t really artistically stimulating and I think it failed to answer the most interesting questions posed at the introduction: How can cities accommodate billions of new urban dwellers? Can cities promote social justice and greater equality?

HOT: Le Pain Quotidien, Royal Festival Hall Southbank

I know it’s a chain but fantastically French nonetheless. For afternoon tea skip the scone (singular) with jam for a ridiculous £3.50, and have the baker’s bread basket which comes with a large selection of bread and unlimited pots of jam, marmalade and chocolate spread (£4.50 for 2 people). My favourite – Belgian chocolate praline spread with a smear of orange marmalade on top. Divine.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

HOT: Raw Food School, 3-4 Archer Street, Soho

A 4 hour talk and food demonstration about the raw and living food philosophy – basically, that to get the full nutrients of food it should not be heated above 44 degrees, and there’s no meat, fish or dairy. Whilst interesting, I really don't think I could do it full time - I like cake and cooking and everything seemed to involve whizzing things in a blender. But I think I will try to integrate more raw food into my diet as the teachers were glowing with supernatural health and energy.

It can’t have had that much of an impact though, as immediately afterwards I went to the Nordic Bakery and ate a chewy Swedish cinnamon bun while sitting in the sun in Golden Square, then bought a potato and olive loaf at my local Baker and Spice - home of even better flaky cinnamon buns and lovely scones.

Friday, 27 July 2007

HOT: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows/Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows/Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine/With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine. Open Air Theatre is an intimate ampitheatre in Regent's Park, and the perfect setting for my favourite Shakespeare play of fairies, sprites, love and misunderstandings. Even the slight drizzle added to the enchantment of seeing characters emerge from twilight trees. A truly delightful and magical experience.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

HOT: Yakitoria Japanese Restaurant, 25 Sheldon Square Paddington

I'd been planning on visiting for a while, as I walk past the sleek modern canal-side dining room every day on my way to Paddington station. It was only with the Toptable 50% off offer that I could finally afford to eat the most beautifully presented food in London. Top marks for the delicious Japanese inspired food and friendly service. Must have the Yakitoria Discovery dessert plate - it comes with black sesame icecream, my all time favourite.

Monday, 23 July 2007

HOT: The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello Theatre

A bit of light fluff for a weeknight - attractive people singing, tap dancing, telling corny jokes and a simple happily-ever-after storyline. A delightful night out in the West End for only £10.

HOT: Palm Court Brasserie, 39 King Street Covent Garden

The key to a great pre-theatre restaurant is fast efficient service - nothing more stressful than having to scoff down your meal and then sprint to the theatre, arriving harried, sweaty and with a bad stitch. Palm Court Brasserie knows its target market and does it well - a limited menu of old favourites (steak, creme caramel etc) and great value at £15 for 3 courses and a peach bellini. Importantly, they get you in and out in 1 hour.

Friday, 20 July 2007

HOT: Cherry Jam, 58 Porchester Road Bayswater

Thanks to Amanda, managed to talk our way into Cherry Jam for 'Sandra's party'. Underground: Alcoved couches, pumping music, a toilet chick handing you paper towels and flocked red wallpaper a la Timorous Beasties (they must be club wallpaperers du jour). The Crowd: good looking West Londoners in mini skirts and micro shorts (it was freezing outside, naturally).

Thursday, 19 July 2007

HOT: The Roots at Somerset House

Hmm. Uh huh. Oh yeah. Sometimes the London (non) summer brings something special: dancing under the stars in the cobblestone courtyard of grand Somerset House. The Roots were brash, freewheeling and played Hot Hot Music - with a sousaphone (by Tuba Gooding Jnr).

HOT: Angels in America Parts 1 and 2 at Lyric Hammersmith

A 7 hour epic of a searingly honest, intense and bold tale of homosexuality, repression and AIDS, set in NYC in the 80s. The performances were poignant and heartwrenching, especially the portrayal of Prior Walter, a gay man with AIDS and a lover who runs away from supporting him through his illness. Came out reeling from all the incomprehensible surreal imagery, blood everywhere and a bit of full frontal nudity. The Lyric Hammersmith is my new favourite theatre - intimate, velveted, elegant and with a large terrace and cafe (icecream!).

HOT: Green Chilli Indian Restaurant, King Street Hammersmith

I find that Indian food can be a bit hit and miss in London - they are lots of dodgy curry houses selling Vindaloo Slop. Green Chilli is not one of them. Lovely white linen surroundings and fantastic food - I recommend the pashwiri naan and the tandoori chicken. And they didn't blink an eye when we had to scoff down our chicken and paneer in 2 minutes and box all the other food so we could make our theatre date.

Monday, 9 July 2007

HOT: Bountiful Cow, Eagle Street, Holborn

This is what a nice suburban pub should be - cheap, good burgers, quiet cosy leather booths, attentive service. It had a touch of French about it and they were playing jazz downstairs. A nice find.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

HOT: Justin Timberlake at The O2

Who said white men can't dance? JT sure knows how to move - in fact I wondered whether he ever walked normally or always moon-walked and popped, dressed in black and white with a jaunty fedora. I loved The O2, a stadium venue with steeped tiered padded seating in the round, which meant that everyone had a view and the stage set up was unusual and intimate. His dance numbers rocked (I've never been amongst so many shrieking teenage girls) but his ballads were zzzzz.

HOT: Royal China, Queensway

The best yum cha in LDN and only 15 mins walk from my house. Great service, great selection, great quality. Highly recommended: the egg custard tarts. And the final bill for an enormous lunch - £13 including tip. Schedule in a sleep afterwards. There's also Royal China Club on Baker St of the same stable of restaurant for your more refined (thus pricey) yum cha.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

HOT: Lucky Voice Karaoke, 62 Poland Street Soho

Literally hot. Put 10 young professionals into a small leather-couched room with 2 mikes, fake wigs and a tambourine and what do you get - a sweatbox of hysterical fun. Hitherto undiscovered karaoke talents: Brendan knowing all the words to Fresh Prince; Swino soulfully singing Desperado with a cowboy hat (oh the emotion); my ability to rap clearly and articulately; Yalin hitting the high notes; Huy sleazing it up for Genie in a Bottle; Caro and Em aint no hollaback girls; Claudine and Swino habla espanol a la Wyclef and Shakira; Carl being Poison; Tranzie putting their hearts on their sleeves with Total Eclipse of the Heart.

NOT: Damien Hurst at White Cube Mason's Yard

This exhibition was basically for a 30 minute lineup for a 2 minute viewing of a diamond-studded skull in a black room. I didn't really know what he was trying to say with the work and it seemed like more celebrity hype than art. However, the diamonds were very pretty and I also liked the cut-up shark.

NOT: Arbutus Restaurant, 61-64 Frith Street Soho

Admittedly the Michelin starred food was great for the price (about 18 for a main). But the experience was marred by the crappy service. We had to ask for bread three times. The potatoes dauphinois came out after everyone had finished their steaks, and only after a reminder from us. When my duck came out with a swirl of mashed turnip and some red cabbage, I asked whether I could order a side of greens. The response: "The dish is already well balanced." WTF??? I don't need to be patronised for 12.5% tip. Never ever ever again.

HOT: Laduree, Picadilly

Despite the hideous (according to Swino) gold chocolate box decor, I'd died and gone to macaroon heaven. I have never had such delightful morsels of sugar. From the 6 flavours I tried before lunch, I highly recommend raspberry and the classic pistachio.

Friday, 6 July 2007

HOT: Ash at Koko

Mr Wheeler is sex on legs (in a skinny white guy kind of way). After over 10 years in the business they're tight and they have an extensive back catalogue of great pop rock which made the crowd go crazy. All packaged up in the jewel box of Koko.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

NOT: The Marquess Tavern, 62 Canonbury Street Islington

Gastropub which is nowhere near a tube station. Snooty waitress telling us that she could SEE that we had a pram (and didn't need to be told, duh). Beetroot salad which came with no beetroot and no apology for the omission (and charged full price). Otherwise food was nice and a 3 course meal came to 35 pounds. The main highlight was seeing Amanda, Rich and baby Beth - a gorgeously cute bouncing girl, vomitous or not. I won't be going back to The Marquess though - there are lots of good gastropubs in LDN which don't require me to schlep to Highbury & Islington.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

HOT: BFI Mediatheque, Southbank

An undiscovered gem, perfect for a rainy day. You get your own booth, headphones, an enormous monitor and 2 hours to sift through the BFI's British film archives. I watched a tacky short musical based on Le Parapluie de Cherbourg "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize Park" involving a camp yellow-shirted man with too much eyeliner, an episode of The Office and two unintentionally funny 40s government educational films about how to make tea and the best way to boil cabbage.

HOT: Antony Gormley's Blind Light exhibition and 'Imagining the City' panel discussion - Hayward Gallery, Southbank

For the first time in my life I stayed awake for a 2.5 hour lecture and powerpoint presentation after lunch. An absolutely fascinating talk by the Hayward Gallery about the themes behind Antony Gormley's work and the philosophy of architecture and urbanisation. Yalin and I were so shell-shocked afterwards that we decided to reconvene the next day to visit the exhibition. The impressive centrepiece was Blind Light - I won't bore you with a deep intellectual discussion but basically it makes the body the structure, turns the concept of a safe shelter inside out and was an incredibly disorientating yet calming experience. We liked it so much we went in twice. Look out for Gormely's looming sculptures dotted around the LDN skyline as well - the body as the shadow, the background as the foreground. Go and see this - the best exhibition I've seen all year.