3 January 2015

What's on in London January - March 2015?

My London Living blog will be taking its annual winter break as I go to Africa so here's my London newsletter which features a choice of listings for the next 3 months of happenings in London, to keep you all busy. It normally just goes out to subscribers but I thought I'd share it on my blog this year. 


·         January 2015  A big tradition of the festive season is the January sales with massive bargains at all stores from the small to the very grand, from a local shop to Harrods. Watch out for Burns Night on 25th when you’ll find Scottish traditions breaking out all over London so why not try some haggis this year!

·         February Love is in the air with arrival of Valentine’s Day so watch out for special lovvie events.  Ready yourselves for Pancake Day races around London, one of the best being at the Guildhall in the City where the livery companies race and toss pancakes while wearing their very special traditional costumes! February also brings us the Chinese New Year, a big event in London, as we welcome the year of the Goat. 
·         March St Patrick’s Day is big all round the world and London is no exception as the Guinness flows and we have a huge parade and dancing and bands so get out that green outfit and join in the fun in Trafalgar Square.

  • January 2015 James McEvoy takes the lead role in The Ruling Class at the Trafalgar Studios. A new Tom Stoppard play, the first for 9 years, called The Hard Problem opens at the National Theatre. My Night with Reg opens at the Apollo theatre with Julian Ovenden from Downton Abbey.
  • February Beautiful – the Carole King Musical opens at the Aldwych theatre so it’s bound to have great songs.   There is an unusual semi opera but anything starring Mark Rylance is worth booking – Farinelli and the King at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse.  The highly praised Arthur Miller View from the Bridge transfers to the West End starring Mark Strong.  Ralph Fiennes stars in Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman at the National Theatre.
  • March Juliette Binoche stars in Antigone at the Barbican.  For a very short run the Coliseum has Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson in the English National Opera’s staging of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber. Family drama comes to the National with Rules for Living starring comedians Stephen Mangan and Miles Jupp.

  • January 2015 There’s a block buster at the Royal Academy – Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cezanne so expect work from a whole range of big names as well as his own. The London Art Fair, the largest in the UK is a great chance to see a whole range of work across many media from the early 20th century to the present day at the Business Design Centre.
  • February The National Portrait Gallery is staging Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends. At the Photographers’ Gallery an exhibition of over 200 press photos on the theme of Human Rights and Human Wrongs document key world events from 1945 to the 1990s. The Hayward Gallery has a topical show ahead of the election called History is Now: Seven Artists take on Britain.
  • March A good looking show opens at the National Gallery this month, Inventing Impressionism, a touring show looking at the period 1865-1905. Richard Diebenkorn’s paintings have a rare showing at the Royal Academy. Christina Mackie is taking over the Duveen Galleries at the Tate Britain with her complex tableaux which seem to defy categorisation! 

  • January 2015 January is the big time for sales and massive bargains to be picked up all around town. Keep an eye open for Alexander Wang’s first London shop sometime ‘early 2015’
  • February It’s London Fashion Week so Somerset House will be    swarming with amazingly well dressed and strangely dressed people and there are many other venues across London too.  Feels odd that they will be showing autumn/winter 2015 already!
  • March It’s a great time of year to be visiting London’s many outdoor markets, from Portobello for antiques and knick knacks, food and fashion, to Borough for food, to Columbia Road for flowers and Spitalfields/Brick Lane for anything you might want.

  • January 2015 The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a feast for the eyes at the Natural History Museum and you’ll wonder how they got those shots. The Science Museum has a new exhibition called Churchill’s Scientists which sounds fascinating.
  • February Don’t miss some of the great shows in town such as Grayson Perry: Who are You? at the National Portrait Gallery, looking at British identity. The endless fascination with Sherlock Holmes is explored at the London Museum and the British Museum’s  Ancient Lives, New Discoveries explores another great fascination – mummies and the hidden secrets of 8 of the museum’s collection.
  • March The Natural History Museum’s new exhibition is Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea includes coral collected by Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle expedition.  The Victoria and Albert Museum hosts Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, an overview of his career which is transferring from New York. The British Museum delves into Greek sculpture with Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art showing their own work but with many pieces loaned from museums around the world.  The British Library has a Magna Carta exhibition to mark its 800 years.
  • January 2015   Burns Night sees London’s restaurants break out the traditional Scottish dishes so look out for haggis, neeps, tatties with some whiskey to wash it all down. The end of the month seems to be the new date for AlanYau’s Soho opening of Duck & Rice, a Chinese gastropub!  January also sees the return of the pop up Redemption serving up mocktails and vegan food so coming to the aide of those giving up booze for the month. The Sky Garden is due to open at the top of the Walkie Talkie where the views will be excellent. 
  •  February/March  There are a number of restaurants listed as opening in early 2015 but without exact dates – often the way.  So here are some of them: W36 a sister restaurant to Beach Blanket Babylon heads just north to Golbourne Road; The Chiswick Smokehouse speaks for itself; the Pulia in Borough Market will be an eat-in deli specialising in Italian food from Puglia; Smith and Wollensky opens their first New York steakhouse in the UK just off The Strand; Milos, Greek fine dining comes to Regent Street; and, finally the huge 200 seater Percy and Founders opens in Fitzrovia with 3 bars. Or you can catch a Real Food Market along the Southbank any weekend for a healthier start to this year's spring.

·         January 2015 The 30th January is the anniversary of the shocking royal event in 1649 when King Charles 1 was beheaded, so this seems like the right time visit the Banqueting House, the site where it happened,  as they hold a service on that day.
·         February The Fashion Rules exhibition continues at Kensington Palace with outfits from the Queen, Princesses Margaret and Diana from the 50s to the 90s. Blow the cobwebs away with a guided walk around royal Richmond Park.
·         March.  March is a fabulous time to wander round London’s large and varied parks – Regents Park, Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Holland Park to name just a few. The flowers will be in bloom and the leaves coming out on the trees and, as London is one of the greenest cities in the world, there is a lot to enjoy. Or visit Hampton Court Palace to watch one of their live Tudor cookery demonstrations.

  • January 2015  Basketball fans can enjoy the NBA Global Games as the New York Knicks take on the Milwaukee Bucks at the 02 Arena. Not for me but the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships take place at Tooting Bec Lido. Masters Snookers is at Alexandra Palace with the best 16 players around and TNA Impact Wrestling at Wembley Arena.
  • February The biggest sporting event in February is Rugby Union’s 6 Nations tournament played across all these nations’ capital cities with key matches at London’s Twickenham Stadium. It’ll be a warm up for the Rugby World Cup here in the autumn.  Elite Cycling takes places at the former Olympic Velodrome as part of the Revolution event if you want to experience the famous roar and see cycling’s top names.
  • March As the football season races on the Capital One (used to e called League) Cup final will be held at Wembley and England will play Lithuania in a Euro 2106 qualifier. The Head of the River Race takes place on the Thames and is world’s largest continuous rowing event with 420 boats covering 4.25 miles. 

  • January 2015 Queen featuring Brian May appear at the 02 with Adam Lambert as part of their European tour.  Top jazz-funk man Roy Ayers will be playing at the Jazz Cafe. London based Jessie Ware is at the 02 Academy Brixton. Paolo Nutini wows the 02 and Nils Lofgren is at the Union Chapel. Jessie J takes on the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith
  • February  Catch Elbow at the Eventim  Hammersmith and in the same venue, D’Angelo and Sam Bailey. The Kaiser Chefs come to 02 and Ruby Turner is playing at Ronnie Scotts. The Christians play at the Jazz Cafe for a trip back to the 80s. Katherine Jenkins sings at the Royal Festival Hall and Bonnie Tyler belts it out at the 02.
  • March Catch Sam Smith’s lovely tones at the 02 Academy Brixton. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds come to the 02 Arena featuring their new second album  Chasing Yesterday. The 02 also hosts the Country to Country Festival with Lady Antebellum headlining. Tobacco Dock stages the London Electronic Arts Festival with performances, screenings, interviews and installations.  In complete contrast Mariza, the queen of Fado comes to the Barbican and I’m looking forward to this one.  Jazz star Dr John is playing his tribute to Louis Armstrong at Ronnie Scotts and Lionel Ritchie appears at the 02.

Sue Hillman

2 January 2015

Benihana - 50 years old and still looking good!

I must admit I'd kind of forgotten about Benihana and then I was invited to a lunch at their Piccadilly branch so I was keen to try it out.  They have a tried and tested approach which has been successful for 50 years now - their strap line is that 'every table has a private chef'.

Hiroaki 'Rocky' Aoki opened the first Benihana restaurant in 1964 in New York City and branches have spread across the world ever since with 3 in London. The company is now being run by.Keiko Ono Aoki, his widow, who is very much part of your experience as her picture is on the wall of the restaurant! 
 Whether you are a group or a couple you join a large table around a hot plate with your own chef where you can experience 'Teppan-yaki' dining, pioneered by the founder which promises a 'dazzling performance'. 

We began with hot saki, just the one flask between us as it was lunchtime but we were tempted by more as being hot it easily slips down!
A refreshing crunchy salad got the taste buds going and we were introduced to our cheerful chef who was both friendly and great with knives!

We didn't have to wait long for the 'dazzling performance' as our chef chopped up the onions, built them up into a tower, drizzled some oil into it and then set it alight! 

Our rice was a source of fun too as he cooked it into a heart shape for us:

The main dishes were tasted and obviously as fresh as could be. I  had the speciality, the steak grilled in front of me which was delicious and also felt pretty healthy as it had minimal cooking oil and needed no sauces to bring out the flavour of the steak.

There is always room for pudding - right? So I went for the chocolate pyramid which was delicious and extremely pretty!

So, although I was invited to this lunch, I would have happily paid my own money for this experience. 

We are very lucky in London as there are so many great restaurants that you can eat your way around the world and try out all types of cuisine from Michelin star to local cafes.  I'm doing my best to try out as many as possible so keep an eye on this blog for more reviews in 2015. 

Bye for now

24 December 2014

My top 3 favourite London events of 2014

How to chose a top 3 when it's been such a busy year in London?  Looking back through my photos it became clear very quickly that the Tower Poppies, Spectra London and the Tall Ships in Greenwich were easy winners. Have a look and see why......

The Tower Poppies was a powerful and moving art work created to remember the 888,246 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the First World War and there was one poppy for each of the fallen. I went to visit on 4th August 2014 which was one hundred years to the day that Britain entered the war. The installation was called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red and millions of visitors have come to marvel at the sight and reflect on the loss of so many soldiers. 

The red poppies begin to spread

The 'Wave' takes shape

I returned on 28th August as a volunteer to plant 120 poppies and the fields were growing rapidly. It was a privilege to be a part of this amazing project.

We planted this section

A moment of quiet reflection for a Beefeater

I returned several times before the 11th November when the last poppy was planted to see the red spread and the moat of the Tower of London completely fill with poppies. 

The poppies have all gone now, sold to raise money for charities supporting servicemen and women. Every one of the 888,246 was sold and I was lucky enough to be able to buy one as a lasting memory. 

My poppy in a box which I will be giving to my mother for Christmas
The tall ships setting sail from Greenwich was a great sight in the summer sun.  They had been gathered along the Thames for the Tall Ships Festival and then one bright sunny September day they all put their sails up and nearly 50 ships of all shapes and sizes set off to sea. It was a brilliant sight and I especially loved moment when the galleons hoved into view and I was transported back to Tudor times! Enjoy the parade:

My 3rd top London event was Spectra London, an incredible light display which took place from 4th to 11th August and was another First World War commemoration. 49 massive searchlights pierced through the London night sky and could be seen all across the city. I went to seem them close up and enjoyed a wonderful friendly atmosphere as people sat on the grass and marvelled at this stunning installation and the accompanying soundtrack which perfected suited the warm summer's evening. It was hard to photograph but I hope these give you some idea of its impact:

Arriving at Spectra next to the Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament in the background

So many other events are worthy of a mention but here's just a few: the stunning performances of Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo in Romeo and Juliet at the Albert Hall; the emergence of Kings Cross as a glorious station and resurgent area; the Tour de France whizzing through the streets; a great summer; and, the arrival of a huge wooden hippo on the Thames - ok, here's a  last photo to make you smile:

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2015.
Bye for now,

17 December 2014

More of London's fabulous festive lights!

I'm feeling very Christmassy now as there is just over a week to go! Each time I got out and about in London I see even more festive lights so I wanted to share these with you. If you missed my first lights tour click here.

I'd like to take you down Regent Street, along Carnaby Street and into Covent Garden...

Regent Street is sporting its usual wonderful antler lights but unfortunately they have gone commercial and are promoting the latest Night at the Museum film - at least it's set in the British Museum this time!

A quick detour via a spectacular golden window from Liberty's;

My favourite is always Carnaby Street and they did not disappoint this year with a series of headphones and white moustaches - what's not to love!  Each side street had a lovely little Christmas tree next to the old fashioned street sign. 

Seven Dials looks like series of small space ships have landed!

Our last stop is Covent Garden where we have the return of the huge reindeer, great by day or by night.

Covent Garden's lovely enormously tall tree and the massive baubles in the main hall!

 A new addition in Covent Garden is the Santa, sleigh and reindeer all made of Lego which is an amazing sight and must have taken ages...

....and from above:

Few things say Christmas more than a group of school kids dressed up singing Christmas carols so I'll leave you with this one:

Best wishes for a merry Christmas time and all the best for 2015 - hopefully including a visit to London!

Bye for now,