7 October 2015

Top events in London for the next 3 months

It's Your London sends out a seasonal newsletter to our Friends who subscribe and I wanted to share all this good info with my blog readers too. 


Here’s your autumn to winter 2015 newsletter giving you a taster of the exciting events coming up in the next 3 months in our capital. If you want to hear more about anything listed, or any other things you may have heard about, do send me an email (sue@itsyourlondon.co.uk) and I’ll get right back to you.

A warm welcome to new subscribers!

Have a look a Sue’s blog on the website (www.itsyourlondon.co.uk) to read about what I’ve been up to lately – a peek into life in London. I’m also on Twitter at @itsyourlondon so do join my 3750 followers for all the latest news!

Hope you enjoy your newsletter, let me know what you think.
Best wishes,
Sue Hillman


OCTOBER  This is a big month for film and art with major evens for both creative industries. The 59th London Film Festival is a showcase for Hollywood stars and block buster films and yet still finds space for first time directors and documentaries.  Frieze Art Fair brings the art world to London and takes up residence in Regents Park and there is a whole range of other shows offering some pieces at more affordable prices.
NOVEMBER The week of the 5th sees firework displays all over town as we mark Guy Fawkes Night when a group tried, but failed luckily, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  It’s a great month for jazz fans when the London Jazz Festival brings top names to London’s famous night spots like Ronnie Scott. As winter is chilling the temperatures, you’ll see ice rinks opening all over town at great venues such as the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum.
DECEMBER The build up to Christmas is in full flow with all the famous lights decorating the streets of London with their best festive look. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers a fun fair and Christmas market offering something for all the family. Look out for the famous, tall Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, an annual present from the people of Norway in memory of Britain’s help during the 2nd World War where carols are sung each evening – a magical sound to put you in a festive mood.

October   DH Lawrence’s Husbands and Sons comes to the National starting Anne Marie Duff. The Young Vic bring us their take on ‘Measure for Measure’ starring Romola Garai and there’s more Shakespeare with a Comedy of Errors at the National. We have a show at the Lyric Theatre celebrating One Direction’s success with music from ‘all 4’ of their albums! More music but this time it’s Close to you: Bacharach Reimagined at the Criterion where his songs are brought to us in a blend of nostalgia and innovation.  Michael Flatley is back, as choreographer now, with those speedy Irish dance moves in Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games at the Playhouse.
November Dawn French’s 30 Million Minutes can be seen at the Vaudeville, which is the length of her life, so far. The Trafalgar Studios hosts Pinter’s The Homecoming with John Simm, Gary Kemp and Keith Allen.  The big show in town is the Kenneth Branagh season at the Garrick where we will be treated to the chance to see him starring with the wonderful Judi Dench in The Winter’s Tale.
December Tickets have been going quickly for A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward theatre starring Jim Broadbent as Scrooge.  The Donmar Warehouse brings us Les Liaisons Dangereuses starring Dominic West so that’ll be worth a ticket! Goodnight Mister Tom is on at the Duke of York starring David Troughton . A musical based on Alice in Wonderland, called just Wonderland comes to us at the National from Damon Albarn so we know Christmas is coming but to slow that festive cheer down a play called Hangman transfers to the Wyndham about Britain’s last hangman when the death sentence is abolished, starring David Morrissey.  But standby - the pantomimes are coming soon!

October This is a busy month for art lovers with Frieze being the main show on in a number of huge tents in Regents Park alongside Frieze Masters for a more traditional approach.  Several other galleries join in and Berkeley Square hosts the Pavilion of Art and Design Fair in another large tent (or marquee I should say as it sounds posher!).The Other Art Fair at the Old Truman Brewery offers a more affordable level of work. Frank Auerbach has a show at the Tate Britain and Goya: The Portraits opens at the National Gallery.  The Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern unveils their new piece by Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas.
November The Queen’s Gallery has Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer and also John Rowlandson’s comic art entitled High Spirits. Alexander Calder’s Performing Sculpture opens at the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain brings us Artist and Empire looking at art associated with the British Empire from the 16th century onwards.
December Time to catch your breath and see some of the great shows continuing while the pace of openings slows down. Ai Wei Wei at the Royal Academy has been creating a lot of discussion, as has The World goes Pop at the Tate Modern.

October London Chocolate Week has events all over town from a chocoholic show at Olympia to themed cocktails at the best bars. Real Food Markets continue even tho the summer has gone, each weekend at the South Bank and the Slow food market at the Rosewood Hotel every Sunday. Don’t forget London’s regular markets: Portobello on Saturdays, Spitalfields biggest on Sundays and Camden all the time!
November Christmas markets are popping up all over town from the South Bank to Kew Gardens and the huge Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is full of chalet style stalls. The Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia is packed full of present ideas, and some for yourself of course! 
December The Christmas lights will all be on now and London’s shopping street look at their festive twinkly best. Don’t miss Regent Street, Oxford Street, South Molton Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and the beautifully decorated shop windows including John Lewis, Liberty’s, Selfridges, Harrods and Bond Street’s top end shops.

October The Victoria and Albert Museum has the Fabric of India exhibition which will be a beautiful riot of colour with handmade fabrics dating from the 3rd century to the present day. The Museum of London looks at the grittier side of life with their Museum of Crime Uncovered a strange collection of criminal evidence and tales that dates back to 1875 but has not before been open to the public. Museums at Night is an annual treat which several London museums joining in with and throwing open their doors for after hours fun and games. Check out the Days of the Dead listed in November as they span these 2 months
November The British Museum is celebrating the Day of the Dead, a major event in Mexico when deceased relatives are remembered and honoured through festivities. Expect artworks and late evenings with music and food. The National Maritime Museum is marking Samuel Pepys with an exhibition looking at the period from 1649 to 1688, a period of momentous change in British history, so we can get to know the man, his interest and his gossiping! The show is called Plague, Fire and Revolution which gives you some idea of the topics explored.  The V&A opens Bejewelled Treasures, part of their India season.  The Geffryre Museum gets festive with 400 Years of Christmas Past.
December There are rarely any new openings in December as there is so much else to do so perhaps use the time to catch the great shows that are still on. Perhaps The Celts at the British Museum and the Geffrye’s seasonal special.   A candlelit lit evening tour of Sir John Soane’s museum is magical at this time of year and you can catch this on the first Tuesday of each month.

October The group behind the Ivy bring us Sexy Fish in Berkeley Square with upmarket seafood although we are not yet sure what is ‘sexy’ about it.  Carrying on the theme of strange naming is Les Couilles du Chien (yes it is!) a new bar with food from the Arbutus gang so let’s hope it lives up to its name in the non literal sense….   More odd names with a new pan Asian bar and small plates called Beyond London yet it’s in Kensington. The opening I’m most excited about is Les 110 de Taillevent in Cavendish Square when its very famous Parisian parent opens this spin off.  Coming a close second is 45 Jermyn Street in Fortnum and Masons which aims to bring back glamour!  Last but by no means least in this bumper month is the Chocolate Show in the vast halls of Olympia.
November/December The Ivy continue their roll out of smaller venues with the Café Marylebone Lane. It’s been a long wait for the German Gymnasium in Kings Cross which is slated for late autumn so any time now…   M Restaurants will open in Victoria as the major renovations and upheaval there begin to settle down, they will be offering high end grills and raw dishes.  Corbin and King continue to grow, adding Bellanger in Islington to their group, with a neighbourhood feel and Alsace cooking.  If you need to escape from the eating fest that is the build up to Christmas, try Grain and Green in Fitzrovia offering healthy salads from the Detox Kitchen.

October The Royal Horticultural Society has a good looking event -  The Shades of Autumn Show giving inspirational planting ideas and advice on choosing autumn plants.  Regent’s Park host the enormous marquees of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters so expect lots of very fashionable arty looking folk in the park. The Tower of London is marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt with a special exhibition in the White Tower where the Duke of Orleans was imprisoned after his capture in the battle.
November  A new event from the Royal Horticultural Society this month is The London Frost Fair looking at over winter planting and workshops, and of course as we are in the build up to Christmas there will be a reindeer family to enjoy.  Kew Gardens go big at Christmas with their Illuminations Trail, a one mile sparkling path around the gardens including dancing illuminated fountains.
December Hyde Park hosts the huge Winter Wonderland event which has stalls selling food and gifts, a seasonal fun fair and even its own ice rink and ferris wheel.  The ice rinks will be open at Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.  The annual Peter Pan swimming will take place on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, an annual event for the very hardy since 1864! The Royal Palaces all have festive events and fairs and don’t miss the BBC Good Food Festival Christmas Fayre at Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace will be showing us how Queen Victoria celebrated Christmas.

October The Rugby World Cup games will be played across England and in Cardiff to battle for this honour, sadly without the hosts. The final will be on 31st October at Twickenham. Hopefully there will be more joy for England fans in the last of home qualifier for Euro 2016 against Estonia. Equally competitive are the International Ballroom Dancing Championships at the Royal Albert Hall. There will be 3 NFL games played at Wembley this year with associated fan zones in the centre of London.  
November The end of season ATP tennis tournament sees the top 8 players in the world fight for the top place to finish off their season so hopefully our Andy Murray will be starring at the 02 Arena. Rugby League has a big game at the Olympic Stadium where England take on New Zealand.
December The London International Horse Show makes its annual appearance at Olympia, in fact its 108th appearance! Big names in the show jumping world gather to compete alongside the Household Cavalry and the Shetland Pony Grand National.  Billed as the world’s greatest darts tournament, you can see the stars of the game at Alexandra Palace. Christmas Day sees the traditional early morning swimming race in the Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, a race that has been getting people out of bed since 1864.

October Squeeze come to the 02 with Dr John Cooper Clarke, The Editors play at the Apollo Hammersmith and as does Gabriel Iglesias. Bob Dylan is playing his new album, and hopefully some old tracks too, for 5 nights at the Royal Albert Hall.  As part of the build up to the new Bond film’s release, Mica Paris is on at the Royal Festival Hall bringing us James Bond soundtracks. U2 roll into the 02 and Dappy from NDubz plays at the 02 Islington.  
November The London Jazz Festival sparkles across town taking on several of London’s top venues including of course Ronnie Scott’s. Don’t miss big names like Andy Sheppard, Courtney Pine, Jamie Cullum and Joshua Redman.  Suede take on the Roundhouse and New Order are at the 02 Brixton.  Disco classics from Chic ft Nile Rodgers are at the Olympic Park and Brandon Flowers at the 02 Shepherds Bush. Ya Lo Tengo play the 02 Shepherds Bush.
December The Prodigy take the Wembley Arena by storm while the Charlatans with Echo & the Bunnymen are at the 02 Brixton.  Lots of retro at this time of year so check out Kim Wilde at the 02 Shepherds Bush and Grandmaster Flash at the Brooklyn Bowl 02. Madonna hits the 02 as do Deep Purple. Dave Davies of the Kinks (the other brother!) plays at the Assembly Rooms Islington. The Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band is at the 02 in a smaller hall and Simply Red reform to play at the larger 02 hall. More contemporary, The Disclosure take on Alexandra Palace. The Kooks are at the Forum and Trevor Nelson’s Soul Nation is at the Jazz Café.

Enjoy London!


21 September 2015

The 2015 Serpentine Pavillion is a fun place to visit

In the heart of Hyde Park you will find the two Serpentine Galleries which host a wide range of free exhibitions of modern art, often pretty challenging but there are also gems to enjoy. Originally there was just the main gallery but a couple of years ago, 5 minutes away across the bridge over the lake, a new gallery, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery opened 

For the past 15 years we have been treated to a different summer pavilion each year, designed by key architects of our time who bring a unique vision to what a pavilion can be. I've been able to many of the widely varying designs, as I live nearby and always enjoy a stroll through the park to see what this year's surprise will be. The pavilion has become a part of the London summer, a landmark to look forward to and be discussed and debated, compared with previous favourites and visited by locals and tourists alike. 

We've been treated to work by Ai Wei Wei, by Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid. This year's pavilion comes from a Spanish design studio Selgascano and it's the first time Spain has won the annual competition run to find the most imaginative and appropriate design. They have given us a multi-coloured structure which is part maze, part cafe, part art installation and part playground.  

The material that makes the exterior of the structure is partly see through and is wrapped around a frame with openings as doors and as windows and has a tremendous sense of flow around the centre where you find the cafe.  There is a passage way through 2 layers of the 'walls' which feels like a maze and adds another way to enter and leave . When I was there kids (and some much larger kids!) were having great fun running around, in and out, round the maze elements and taking pictures through the semi transparent walls. The cafe in the middle was being well used and there is coffee, snacks and ice-creams to encourage visitors to linger. 

This year's pavilion will be taken down on 19th October 2015 so do try to visit if you can. 

Enjoy this photo gallery:


A 'window'

Enjoying the cafe

A lovely ice cream trolley 

Another entry/exit

Looking like elastic bands!

Find out more about the galleries and the pavilion here. 

Bye for now,

11 August 2015

Enjoying the buffalo mozzarella season in London!

On a fine summer's evening in London I headed off to taste the new season's buffalo mozzarella.  Tempted by the promise of a huge 1 kilo specimen on offer and a chance to learn more about this much loved cheese we assembled in Rossopomodoro's Chelsea branch on Fulham Road. They have a lovely light upstairs room where you can catch screenings of the best Italian films on Monday evenings while enjoying a meal.

One man who is an expert on all things mozzarella is Mario who had so much to tell us about the history and reasons behind the fine tasting treat in store for us. It turns out that August is the perfect month for buffalo mozzarella as the warm weather ensures the grass is at its sweetest and the buffalo are at their happiest, so the cheese is at its tastiest. The cheese itself comes from the Campania region of Italy which claims the cheese as its own through a European classification (P.D.O). 

Its history may date back to the 4th century but there are definitive mentions as far back as the 9th century which is a pretty good pedigree.  The name comes from the Italian to 'cut' and the wonderful coming together of the cheese and the pizza, the staple Neapolitan street food, gives us the great food we can enjoy today.  Tomatoes, however, didn't join the party until the 17th century when they first arrived in Europe from Mexico after the Spanish invasions.

After a great introduction, the beautiful1 kilo beast arrived - it was huge and thankfully for our waistlines, was shared among the table.  You learn something new each day - did you know you mustn't cut a mozzarella in a slice but in a wedge in order to get a good mix of the inner soft but less flavoursome part of the cheese and the outer skin which absorbs salt during the production process so adds tang to each mouthful? Freshness is the key here as they fly the cheese over from Naples twice a week to reach our tables 24 hours after it is made. Another tip from Mario, is to always serve it at room temperature, never from the fridge as this improves the flavour.
Buffalo mozzarella
How good does that look?
To our wedge of mozzarella we added fresh chopped tomatoes zinging with flavour and great dressing, roasted Mediterranean veg and a flat bread to make a tasty and good looking plate of food.

Gorgeous fresh chopped toms
Roasted Mediterranean veg

One appetising plate

We moved onto the light and wonderful pizza topped with mozzarella and salami which was so good that I got some of it on my camera lens so the photo is a bit fuzzy!!

Dessert was a step too far, sadly, but I'm sure their 'dolci e gelato' would be delish.....

The season continues through August so catch the massive buffalo mozzarellas at eight of their London restaurants - check it out here.

(Disclaimer: As is customary, I was invited to this tasting, but would happily have paid for the food myself)

Bye for now,

15 July 2015

The fascinating Mr Heston Blumenthal in conversation

How many of you have your own coat of arms? Heston Blumenthal is clearly very proud of his and was rather taken aback to have several members of the audience raised their hands in response to his question! Well, he acknowledged, this was Kensington. We were gathered, with or without our own coats of arms, in the Victoria and Albert Museum to hear Heston in conversation with Dr Polly Russell, reflecting on his life and work. 

Let's start with that coat of arms. After 7 years of planning, his design tells his story through the following elements you can see on the photo (apologies for fuzzy photos - it was a dark room!)
  • The duck at the top is for the Fat Duck, his world famous 3 Michelin starred restaurant
  •  The senses, so important to his ideas about cooking are there: smell is represented by lavender; taste by the apple; sound by the lyres. 
  • The 3 roses are his 3 Michelin stars 
  • His motto is key to his approach to life: 'Question Everything'.
 He couldn't quite squeeze his trademark glasses into the design and it sounded like the College of Arms gently vetoed this idea!

Heston's very own coat of arms

Heston is an entertaining, informal speaker and even though his must have told his stories many times, they are still fresh and his passion for cooking, history and science shine through along with his joy in telling an audience about British cooking and how it has reclaimed its rich gastronomic history.

Heston was born in London in 1966 at a time when British cuisine was seen to have 'a bit of an issue' and most exciting new thing for those eating out was a meal in a basket!  One meal he experienced in his teens changed his life and it is not perhaps that surprising as it was in a Michelin 3 star restaurant in Provence, a far cry from his everyday meals.  He remembers vividly how this glorious place touched all his senses, the sound of the waiters' leather shoes on the gravel, the sound of the crickets, the sight of the cheese trolley and the huge fishbowl sized wine glasses and the incredible taste of the food. He describes this as falling down a multi-sensory rabbit hole, an Alice in Wonderland reference that returned later in the evening. 

For many years he worked in unlikely jobs such  as a photocopier salesman, debt collector  and credit controller while he developed his cooking in the evenings, trying out dishes, wanting to learn more. He wanted to find out why chips went soggy and I was amazed to hear that he invented the triple cooked chip to solve this problem!  He studied classical French cuisine through books and it was another book by Harold McGee that was to set him on the path to becoming the chef we now know. Harold turned many of the accepted tenets of cooking on their head, such as you should always sear meat to seal the flavour in, showing them as false and encouraged a more scientific approach to what actually happens to meat when you cook it.  From this Heston developed the idea of Question Everything. So, yes ,he has no formal, conventional training which is staggering given his success. 

Heston started the Fat Duck in Bray serving French classics bistro style with just himself and a porter/pot washer and the dedication to work 120 hours a week. He experimented and was not bound by the constraints of other restaurants where conformity often rules. Gradually the food became more adventurous and the accolades followed. 

Now, the dishes he works on are extraordinarily complex in their ingredients, construction and layers of meaning. He took us through 2 examples, a seafood dish called Sounds of the Sea and a Mock Turtle Soup. A beautifully shot video of the creation of the Sounds of the Sea showed us a wide range of fish and shellfish being assembled with numerous green vegetables and seaweeds, dressed with sauces and foam with a tapioca based 'sand'. Being a Heston dish this is intricate dish not complete as he had not satisfied the sense of hearing so on the table is a large shell with an ipod inside playing the sound of waves lapping on the seashore to remind us of good times spent at the seaside!

Sound of the Sea

 Mock Turtle Soup is a dish that reflects Heston's fascination and depth of knowledge of historical cuisine as back in Victorian times this was a dish of high status. However they were busy emptying the Caribbean of all its turtles to be able to impress by serving this luxurious dish so the inevitable shortage of turtles led to calves heads being substituted, hence the name 'mock turtle'.  Heston has created the most elaborate modern version, with reference to the Alice and the Mad Hatter's tea party and the fob watch which is dipped into the teapot. His version is too complicated to remember let alone explain but does involve shaping dried consomme into a fob watch, covering it in gold leaf, a beautiful thing in itself, only to dissolve it to form the soup element of  the dish. There are so many gadgets reducing, centrifuging and sieve that you sit and watch in amazement as so much work and invention goes into one dish. The boldness , the pushing of boundaries, combining elements no one else would think of, the enormous work that goes into everything he does from researching a dish to its preparation, it's all wonderful to watch and hear him describe as if it's perfectly normal.  However, when asked what he would cook for his family given just half an hour he replied bbq cheese burgers or pasta - so just like us really! 

Heston, and Polly, with Mock Turtle Soup and gold fob watches on the screen behind

There were no sales pitches to push books or TV series or a new restaurant opening which was refreshing although I would have loved a signed copy of Historic Heston. The book which looks amazing, although I would never think of attempting any of his recipes as you'd need an army of sous chefs, a massive kitchen and acres of time. Instead, I can recommend trying out Dinner, his London restaurant where the menu tempts you with great dishes, each with their historic provenance.  Do try the 'meat fruit' and the 'tipsy pudding' if you get the chance......

To experience his multi-sensory thinking for yourself, click on this link from the Fat Duck website. The restaurant is closed currently and will reopen late 2015 so start saving up now!

Bye for now,