Monthly Archives: January 2013

Refuel at the Soho Hotel: A relaxing place to eat amidst the bustle of Soho

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Don’t worry, they’re just for decoration: Vintage oil cans in Refuel at the Soho Hotel

For special occasions, I always like to amp up the budget and treat myself to a posh meal. As a close friend had her birthday this week, we decided to celebrate with dinner at Refuel at the Soho Hotel. Situated in a mews off Dean Street, the Soho Hotel is a quiet and relaxing sanctum away from the crazy bustle of Soho. Although quite large, the hotel has a boutique feel to it with its contemporary and welcoming interiors.

Refuel itself is situated on the ground floor, with the windows looking out over the mews. A large, modern and airy restaurant, it plays on its title with vintage, American-style oil cans on the shelves. Our party of six were presented with a large round table with comfortable seating and low-level lighting, giving a relaxed vibe. Although the A La Carte menu ranged from around £17-£35 for main courses, we had booked through TopTable with a very good value deal of 2 courses with a glass of wine £14.95 from a set menu, or three courses for £17.95.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Sumptuous: Mussels to start (left) and pan-seared salmon with leeks for main (right)

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And for dessert… Fruit pudding and custard (left) or cupcake and ice cream

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View: Many of the tables overlook the mews so you can people watch

The set menu for the offer was obviously limited, but vegetarians, fish eaters and carnivores were all catered for. I opted for a starter of mussels with a slightly spicy sauce, followed by pan-fried salmon and leeks for main (and creamy mashed potato on the side), and fruit pudding and custard to finish. All three courses were delicious and I particularly loved the fruit pudding, which tasted incredibly similar to Christmas pudding, which I feel I didn’t eat enough of last Christmas!

We had a choice of glasses of house white or red for the offer, but also ordered two bottles of wine off the extensive wine list.  I particularly enjoyed the Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT Rosé from Trento, Italy.

Refuel prides itself on offering a modern and international menu with an emphasis on organic, fresh and seasonal produce and it did not disappoint. The service was friendly and attentive, with the waiters offering to take our photos to commemorate the occasion. Compared to other hotel restaurants which can be stuffy or lacking in atmosphere, Refuel didn’t feel like it was in a hotel at all as its personality was so separate from the hotel. I would definitely recommend for a special occasion, or even just pop in for a cocktail if you happen to be in Soho.

  • Refuel is at the Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews (off Dean Street), Soho, London W1D 3DH. Nearest tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road. For more information and reservations, visit the Firmdale Hotels website.

Refuel on Urbanspoon


For contents of all MOAMG’s bar and restaurant reviews, visit our reviews page.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Comfortable: The low-level seating and cushioned chairs give the eaterie a cosy, relaxed vibe

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That’s my name, don’t wear it out: Soho sign in the hotel lobby

Square Meal

Galvin at Windows cocktail bar: Take a ‘French Lover’ on the 28th floor

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The view looking west from Galvin @ Windows on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton

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The intimate bar features comfortable seating and low lighting

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I’m a sucker for a good view. As London becomes more built-up with more skyscrapers popping up, the skyline is constantly evolving with some buildings losing their good views altogether.

I finally had the opportunity to visit the Galvin at Windows cocktail bar at the Hilton Park Lane for a friend’s birthday this week. Situated on the 28th floor – with the Windows at Galvin restaurant next door – the views are awe-inspiring. To the south-west, you can see Hyde Park Corner, Albert Bridge and Battersea Power Station and to the north-east, the shining beacon of the BT Tower. The bar has floor to ceiling windows (hence the name Galvin at Windows) on two sides, with low-lighting and comfortable seating giving the space an intimate feel.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Cheers! Sip a French Lover or a Mojito

Although described as a cocktail bar, there is a wide range of other alcoholic drinks, including an extensive whisky collection. However, we had specially timed our visit for the bar’s ‘Blissful Hour’, a January offer for two-for-one cocktails between 5 until 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. Included in the offer were the popular Mojito, Cosmopolitan and Martini (very strong indeed!). Although I initially went for my personal favourite – the Mojito, I also tried the French Lover – Galvin’s own version of the Cosmopolitan, made with Grey Goose Vodka, grapefruit juice, Grand Marnier and Sweet & Sour. It was refreshing, sweet and delicious and it turned out to be the most popular order amongst us five women at my table. Outside the offer, the extensive cocktail list starts from £13.50, or if you’re detoxing, there is a selection of ‘mocktails’.

Overall, the service was attentive and friendly, and our seating was incredibly comfortable – it would have been quite easy to sit quaffing for hours. Although my group were saving ourselves for a dinner afterwards, there is a bar menu for those who feel a bit peckish. I would highly recommend the bar for a location to celebrate a special occasion. I’m looking forward to trying out the restaurant next door…

  • Galvin at Windows cocktail bar, 22 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1BE. Opening times: Mon-Wed 11am-1am, Thu-Fri 11am-3am, Sat 3pm-3am, Sun 11am-12am. Reservations highly recommended. Dress code: Smart casual, no sportswear. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit Galvin at Windows website.

For other bar/restaurants with very different views, read MOAMG’s blog review on the Oxo Tower or Vertigo 42 Champagne Bar review: Hope you’ve got a head for heights… and bubbles.

Or if cocktails in a decadent setting appeal to you, check out our post on the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

For MOAMG’s tips on restaurants with a view on London, check out our guide to eating with a vista on Urbanspoon.

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Drink or eat? The cocktail bar is situated next door to the restaurant

Square Meal

Ice, ice baby! A frozen wonderland at the London Ice Sculpting Festival

Taking a walk down memory lane at 8 Bit Lane, Shoreditch

Rain Room @ The Curve, Barbican

This train ain’t going nowhere: A visit to London’s lost tube station Aldwych

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The eastern platform at Aldwych station, which was taken out of use in August 1917

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Gone, but not forgotten: Aldwych sign

I have always been fascinated with derelict and abandoned places since I was a child. It was probably the result of reading too many Enid Blyton books and dreaming of being an explorer. Growing up in London, I have seen a few stations renamed or cease to exist over the years – such as the King’s Cross Thameslink station where I used to pass through on my way to work in the early Noughties or the Jubilee line platforms at Charing Cross. I had read about the disused underground station Aldwych online – and passed the familiar red tilework of its former entrance on The Strand many times and found there were rare opportunities to actually visit it.

After years of keeping my eyes peeled for a potential chance to visit, the London Transport Museum finally opened the doors for tours of Aldwych in December 2012 for a limited time only so a friend and I jumped at the chance to go. The one hour tour was arranged by the London Transport Museum with volunteers generously providing their time to share their knowledge of the history of the Grade II-listed building.

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The original Edwardian booking office, which was closed in 1922

Finding out the history of Aldwych – a station just a stone’s throw away from Temple – could easily make you question why it was even opened in the first place. Owners knew it wouldn’t be a busy station and despite building three lift shafts – which could hold six lifts – only one was ever used. It was the lifts which prompted the final closure of the station in 1994 because the expense of fixing them could not be justified for such a lightly used station.

Aldwych station was originally conceived as the southern terminus for a new underground railway line owned by Great Northern and Strand Railway in the late 1800s. However when the tube project merged with another – becoming the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway – the Piccadilly line was born, with Strand station – as it was known in the early parts of its life – becoming a branch off the main line.

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Remnants of Aldwych’s former name: The station was called Strand – with some of the tiling still visible on the eastern platform – until 1915

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Short section of original track and the bricked up tunnel on the long-abandoned eastern platform

After the demolition of the Royal Strand Theatre on the site, construction of The Strand station started in October 1905 and was opened in November 1907. The design followed that of architect Leslie Green’s standard station design – distinct dark red glazed brick on street level, with platform walls tiled in cream and green. Above the entrance, featured arched windows with office space. Green also designed Oxford Circus, Elephant & Castle and Leicester Square stations, among others. Strand station was a L shaped building with entrances and exits on The Strand and Surrey Street – which can still be seen today.

The first part of the tour saw us enter through The Strand entrance, passing a row of wooden telephone boxes (with the telephones removed) with a ticket window on the left. The ticket office was only used from 1907 until 1922. As the station was so quiet, a ticket booth was then set-up in the lifts so the liftmen had the double responsibility of operating the lift and selling tickets. Also in the ground-level building was the ladies’ toilet, which still includes the original Edwardian toilets and sinks. In between the lift shafts, stood a period-era style ticket office – however the guide informed us this was only opened in the 1980s so didn’t get much use before closure in 1994.

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Seventies tube stock on the Western platform, which was closed in 1994

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Unused: The stairs down to the platform still has the familiar green and white tiling

We then took the spiral staircase down to the western platform, which was closed in 1994. The platform is in fairly good nick with the cream and green tiling still intact, with a ’70s Northern Line tube stock parked on the line for use by possible film crews.

However, it was the eastern platform which was the most interesting. The station had been renamed as Aldwych in 1915, and in August 1917 – less than 10 years after opening, the platform was closed altogether. While off-limits to trains, the German bombing campaign of World War I led to the eastern platform finding a different use – for storing paintings from the National Gallery. During the station’s closure during World War II – when it was also used as an air raid shelter – the Elgin Marbles and other treasures from the British Museum were stored in the tunnels between Aldwych and Holborn. With the eastern platform out of action for trains for so many decades, London Transport began to use it to test out new tiling and signage designs, lighting and poster glue for advertising. Today, you can see ads for DH Evans department store (now House of Fraser) in Oxford Street, Madame Tussaud’s and the London Planetarium dating back from the early ‘7os. You can also see some of the original 1907 tiling reading ‘Strand’ visible underneath some modern tiling.

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Early seventies advertising for DH Evans department store in Oxford Street

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The original lift, which remains permanently at street level since the station was closed in 1994

© Transport for London

Aldwych as it was marked on a 1980s tube map (© Transport for London)

Up until 1994 when London Transport finally decided to close Aldwych, the station was only open during peak hours, with about 450 people using it each day. I have a vague memory of using the station a few times myself, going through the ticket barriers at The Strand entrance as a child or young teenager in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The decision to close it came when the original 1907 lifts needed replacements, which could not be justified cost-wise for such a quiet station. However, since its closure, Aldwych has been used as training facility and film/TV set – featuring in The Edge Of Love (2008), Atonement (2007), Mr Selfridge (ITV, 2013), V For Vendetta (2006), Superman IV (1986) and The Prodigy’s video for Firestarter.

Overall, the tour was briefer than I would have liked, but a fascinating visit to a hidden part of London and a living time capsule. Although London Transport only open the doors of Aldwych very rarely, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Museum of Transport’s events section on their website to see if they offer tours in the future.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Old street-level signage

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Closed: The Strand entrance (left) and Surrey Street exit (right) with the familiar dark red tiling of Leslie Green’s station design


For Metro Girl’s blog post on a visit to Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, linking Rotherhithe and Wapping tube stations, click here.

Or to check Metro Girl’s other blog posts on London history, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in January and February 2013

So it’s January, the month where we’re supposed to detox, go on diets, join the gym and barely go out because we overspent at Christmas. With all that, it’s no wonder so many of us suffer from the January blues after such a social and family overdose at Christmas. However, there are plenty of things on in the capital – some even free – on this January and February to keep you entertained during those winter months.

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Kooza, the new production by Cirque du Soleil, is on at the Royal Albert Hall

  • 5 January – 3 February : Kooza by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, billed as ‘an adrenaline rush of acrobatics in a zany kingdom’. Runs for one month at the Royal Albert Hall. Tickets range from £22.50 to £99.00. For more information, visit Cirque du Soleil’s official website.

  • 11 – 13 January : London Ice Sculpting Festival @ Canary Wharf

Three day festival featuring temporary creations by some of the world’s top ice sculpting teams, with masterclasses and the opportunity to sculpt yourself, a snow pit and winter market. Free. Nearest tube: Canary Wharf. Takes place across Wood Wharf, Montgomery Sq, Jubilee Place and Canada Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AX. For more information, visit the London Ice Sculpting Festival website.

  • 12 – 20 January : London Boat Show

Boats of all shapes and sizes on show at ExCel in Docklands. Tickets: £10, also include entrance to the London Bike, Outdoors, Active Travel and Luxury Brand Shows in the same venue. Nearest tube: Custom House (DLR). ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Boat Show website.

© V&A Museum

Hollywood exhibition at the V&A runs until 27 January (Poster © V&A Museum)

  • Now until 27 January : Hollywood Costume @ V&A

Special exhibition of over 100 costumes from some of Hollywood’s classic movies, including Wizard Of Oz, Singin’ In The Rain, Some Like It Hot, Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Star Wars. Although entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum is free, this particular exhibition costs and is highly recommended that timed tickets are bought online. Adult tickets online £15.80. Nearest tube: South Kensington. Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. For more information and booking, visit the V&A’s website.

  • Now until 3 February : Mario Testino: British Royal Portraits exhibition

It’s been a bumper two years for the Royal Family with 2011′s wedding of Prince William and Catherine and the Diamond Jubilee last year. Acclaimed photographer Mario Testino is displaying his collection of Royal portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in four-month free exhibition. National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London WC2H 0HE. Nearest tube: Charing Cross or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the National Portrait Gallery website.

  • Sunday 10 February : KNOW MORE All-Day Festival

Brighten up a gloomy February with the team from TwentySomethingLondon at their KNOW MORE festival at Drink, Shop & Do in Caledonian Road. The festivites include live acts, DJ’s, street food, free tequila and rum tastings, workshops, and a silent art auction. Advance tickets: £10. 12pm – 11pm. Drink, Shop & Do, 9 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX. Nearest tube: King’s Cross. For more information and tickets, visit TwentySomethingLondon’s website.

  • 10 February : Chinese New Year

Festivities to mark the Year of the Snake take place across Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue and Trafalgar Square. Free. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Chinatown website.

  • Now until 10 Febuary : Take A View: Landscape Photographer Of The Year

Over 100 entries from the annual competition are on display in the Lyttelton Exhibition Space at the National Theatre. Entrance is free with the space open Monday – Saturday 9.30am-11pm, Sundays  12-6pm. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information, visit the National Theatre website.

  • 9 February – 3 March : Orchids @ Kew Gardens

A orchid display is coming to the Princess of Wales Conservatory for four weeks. The sea of colour from one of the world’s most stunning flowers will certainly brighten up a dull winter’s day. General entrance tickets to Kew Gardens includes orchid exhibition: £14.50 adults or £12.50 concessions. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit Kew Gardens website.

  • 11 – 24 February : Imagine Children’s Festival

Two weeks children’s festival at the Southbank Centre, including art, dance, theatre and literature. Highlights include readings by popular children’s author Michael Rosen on Saturday 16th. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information and booking visit the Southbank Centre website.

  • 12 February : Parliamentary Pancake Race

Want to watch members of parliament potentially making a fool of themselves for charity? Well MPs will go up against members of the press in a pancake race at Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster to raise money for brain injury charity Rehab UK. It’s free to watch and will give you the chance to cheer or boo. Race starts at 10.15am. Nearest tube: Pimlico or Westminster.

  • Now until 24 February : Broadgate Ice

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    The viewing platform at The Shard will open in February

Temporary ice rink at Broadgate Circle in the City of London where you can actually turn up and skate without a need to book. Weekday sessions 12.15-9pm, weekends 9.30am-9pm. Adults £9, Children £7, Skate Hire £2. Nearest tube: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

  • 1 February onwards : The View from The Shard

The viewing platform on The Shard, which was completed last summer, finally opens to the public on 1 February, giving 360 degree views of the capital. Adult tickets £24.96, children £18.95. Open 9am-8pm daily. Located beside London Bridge station. For more information and booking, visit The View from The Shard website.

  • Now until 3 March : Random International: Rain Room @ Barbican

Experience what it’s like to control the rain… indoors! Visitors can either watch or if they’re brave enough walk through the rain and trust they won’t get wet! Due to the unique experience of this exhibition, be prepared to queue. Free admission. Open daily from 11am – 8pm, or 10pm on Thursday. Rain Room at The Curve, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS. Nearest tube: Barbican. For more information visit the Barbican website or read my blog post on my recent visit Rain Room @ The Curve, Barbican.

  • Now until 3 March : Valentino: Master Of Couture

An exhibition celebrating the iconic designer Valentino and his creations. Over 130 designs from across the years, including ones worn by Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Jackie O will be on display at the Embankment Galleries at Somerset House. Tickets available online £12.50 or £9 for concessions. Nearest tube: Temple. For more information, visit Somerset House’s website.

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