Is this London’s smallest alley? Squeeze down Brydges Place in Covent Garden

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Blink and you’ll miss it! Brydges Place – the narrowest alley in London

One thing I love about London is how many little lanes and alleys survive from Victorian or Georgian times (or even older). Despite the constant redevelopment and reconstruction of the ever-evolving capital, some of these tiny thoroughfares remain today as handy shortcuts for those in the know.

Located off St Martin’s Lane in the heart of the West End is a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it alley named Brydges Place. With its western entrance sandwiched between the Coliseum theatre and Notes coffee shop at No.31, it’s said to be the narrowest alley in London. It runs for about 200 yards east, linking St Martin’s to Bedfordbury and is just 15 inches wide at its thinnest point – no passing room there! Along the alley, you’re likely to find punters from the Marquis pub or the Two Brydges members’ club smoking or enjoying an alfresco drink.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

At its narrowest point, Brydges Place is just 15 inches wide

St Martin’s Lane is named after St Martin-in-the-Fields church on the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square. The church has been on the site since Medieval times, when much of the current West End area was countryside. The road itself was in existence for many years, a simple country lane linking St Martin to St. Giles-in-the-Fields church half a mile north. In the early 17th century, building started on both sides of the lane, with Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford (1593-1641) on the east, transforming Covent Garden into what we know today with the construction of the Piazza and St Paul’s church. During this time, Bedfordbury was established running parallel to St Martin’s Lane, with several alleys linking the two roads. Some of the alleys – Hops Garden, Goodwin’s Court and May Court – still exist today.

By the late 19th century, the area around Bedfordbury had fallen into squalor, garnering attention from the Metropolitan Board of Works. The board’s report described some of the courts as less than 4ft wide and featuring many dilapidated houses featuring residents living in severe poverty. In 1880, the houses to the east of Bedfordbury were demolished and Chandos Street was widened. Read the rest of this entry

Feeling Gung-Ho? A giant inflatable obstacle course is coming to London

Gung-Ho

Gung-Ho – a huge inflatable obstacle course – is coming to London’s Brockwell Park in March

Is your average fun run or sponsored walk just not challenging enough? Well thrill-seekers will get the chance to do a very different 5K when Gung-Ho! comes to London in March.

The world’s biggest inflatable obstacle course will be making a one-day pit stop in South London’s Brockwell Park on 25 March. Up to 5,000 people will be able to travel 40mph on Europe’s tallest inflatable slide – the five-storey-high, 200ft-long Thriller. There will be 10 obstacles spread across the 5k course featuring enough air to inflate 100 million footballs. Among the mini adventures will be a huge inflatable ball-pit, climbing wall and foam-filled labyrinth, as well as huge vertical drops and an inflatable ‘gauntlet’.

The event was conceived in 2014 by Cbeebies presenter Alex Winter, who brought Gung-Ho! on a huge countrywide tour last year following its successful launch in 2015. He said: ‘I am so excited to be bringing Gung-Ho! to London for the first time – as our capital city I have always wanted to take the event there, and finally we have managed it. We have visited some amazing cities across the UK and seen how Gung-Ho! they can go – now we’ll find out just how Gung-Ho! London is! I have no doubt Londoners will be well up for what is a unique, fun-filled event for people of all ages. It is a chance for adults to feel like kids again, and kids to show the adults what they are made of.’

For those who want to raise money at the same time, Gung-Ho! has teamed up with BBC Children In Need, who are offering discounted tickets and a free T-shirt to those who run for Team Pudsey.

  • Gung-Ho! takes place in London on Saturday 25 March 2017. At Brockwell Park, Herne Hill, SE24 9BJ. Nearest station: Herne Hill or 20 minute walk from Brixton. Time slots from £41. Runners must be at least 3ft tall. Spectators can watch for free. For tickets and more information, visit Gung-Ho’s website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in February, click here.

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There’s a giant snow globe coming to London (and the chance to win a car!)

© Actimel

Jump into a giant snow globe for the chance to win a Mini
© Actimel

Rather predictably, the recent snow flurries to hit the capital didn’t stay long. However, this week, Londoners will be given the chance to experience ‘real’ winter weather while in a bid to win a car.

On 15 and 16 February, a giant snow globe will be popping up at King’s Cross as part of a experiential event. Londoners will be invited to get inside and battle the elements in the hope of winning a Mini Convertible.

If you need some new wheels and think you’ve got what it takes, head down to the station and take part for free.

The Actimel Snow Globe will be at inside King’s Cross railway station, Euston Road, King’s Cross, N1 9AL. Nearest station: King’s Cross St Pancras. From 7am-7pm on 15 – 16 February 2017. Visit www.actimel.co.uk for more information.

For a guide to what else is on in London in February, click here.

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Bolton House: A rare piece of Art Nouveau in the City of London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Bolton House is a rare art nouveau gem in the City of London

Looking at London architecture, it seems to be dominated by Victorian, Georgian and post-war buildings more than any other style. While very sought-after by many of us today, Art Deco isn’t very widespread in London, and Art Nouveau even less so. The architectural trend for Gothic revival lasted a long time in Britain, kicking off in the 18th century and lasting through the Victorian period. However, in the late 19th century, Art Nouveau brought a much needed injection of light and colour into the gloomy Victorian architecture. Art Nouveau was a short-lived movement and admittedly wasn’t as popular in Britain as it was in continental Europe.

When I was checking out the Sculpture In The City exhibition recently, I happened upon Bolton House in the City. Located on Cullum Street, just off Lime Street. Bolton House is a striking Art Nouveau building housing several shops and businesses, including Bolton’s Italian restaurant. The Art Nouveau design, which is blended with Moorish influences, stood out because it is so rare to see this style, especially in the City. The building features a stunning façade of blue and white faience, arched windows and elegant columns. The frieze above the first floor windows sports the typical Art Nouveau preference for nature with its foliage designs. The building was completed in 1907 – the year emblazoned above the door – just three years before Art Nouveau fell out of fashion. The architect was a Mr A. I. Selby, who I haven’t been able to find out much about. The shield is believed to be the heraldic device of Prior Bolton. The building was renovated in 1984, when two further storeys were added above.

Cullum Street itself is a just moments from Leadenhall Market. The street dates back to the City’s famous rebuild following the Great Fire Of London in 1666. Prior to the blaze, a large house and garden occupied the site. However, in the rebuilding in the late 17th century, 30 houses were erected on the street, which was named after the owner Sir Thomas Cullum.

Meanwhile, if you’re into Art Nouveau, why not check out the Bishopsgate Institute, the Hippodrome, the Horniman Museum or, one of my favourite London buildings, Michelin House in Chelsea.

  • Bolton House, 14 – 16 Cullum Street, City of London, EC3M 7JJ. Nearest station: Fenchurch Street or Monument.
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Axis Mundi – a piece for Sculpture In The City – outside Bolton House

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Winter Lights festival 2017: Angels, giant eggs and a lot of neon

Palm Court @ The Langham review: Fine dining, live jazz and art deco surroundings

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Guinea Fowl Supreme with petit pois francaise at the Palm Court at The Langham

The Langham Hotel is one of the capital’s most established luxury accommodations, having been housing visitors to London since the 1860s. The hotel’s Palm Court has been serving Afternoon Tea since 1865 and remains a popular destination for foodies seeking their scone fix today. However, cakes aside, the Palm Court also offers regular dining featuring British and international cuisine, which I recently experienced.

With a relative visiting from the United States, we booked a table at the Palm Court for an evening of fine dining. When we first arrived, I was struck by how intimate the venue felt – it was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but in a good way. The selection of armchairs and sofas looked comfortable and inviting, while the Art Deco interiors was certainly to my taste. Adding to the atmosphere and a total surprise to my group was the live jazz performances, which happens every weekend.

We were shown to a cosy table for three with our own individual armchair, which was lovely to sit on. For those looking for good value fine dining, I can highly recommend going for the set menu, as we did. Three courses and a glass of bubbles for £35 per person. We kicked off proceedings with a flute each of Barbameto Prosecco Millesimato, which was light and not too sweet.

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Isle of Wight tomato salad with burrata and garlic croutons

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Palm Court has been playing host to visitors since the 19th century

The set menu had a choice of three starters, so I opted for the Isle of Wight tomato salad with burrata and garlic croutons. The portion of burrata was particularly generous and incredibly creamy. Meanwhile, my companions opted for the classic chilled vichyssoise with crème fraîche and chives – another smooth creation which they said was delectable.

Being a pescatarian, I only had one option for mains on the set menu, another cheese-based offering – Buffalo ricotta and spinach ravioli with sauce ‘antiboise’. The ricotta wasn’t too over-powering and the dish had elements of sweet and savoury flavours which actually worked really well. Meanwhile, one of my family chose the Guinea-fowl supreme, served with summer savory and ‘petits pois francaise’, which they heralded as a delicious dish.

Finally, my favourite course – dessert – that I always hope to have room for, but sometimes have to forgo. Fortunately, my visit to the Palm Court was not one of those times so I ordered the Langham chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis and caramelia pearl, which was served with strawberries. Unlike so many other chocolate mousses, this wasn’t too rich and was surprisingly light, partially helped by the fruity accompaniment.

Overall, we had a superb evening. The food was enjoyable and well presented, with the set menu offering a great option for good value fine dining. The service was fabulous and the live music really added to the atmosphere. I was in awe of the stunning interiors which gave me plenty to hold my gaze during the meal. I’m planning a return visit for their famous afternoon tea.

  • Palm Court at The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Regent street, Marylebone, W1B 1JA. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Regent’s Park. For booking, visit The Palm Court’s website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Langham chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis and caramelia pearl


For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

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Guide to what’s on in London in February 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Magical Lantern Festival

Gloomy January is over so by now you’ve hopefully got used to the cold weather and your finances have recovered after the festive season. With winter in full swing, February gets a little injection of colour (well, pink and red) in the middle of the month with the saccharine fest that is Valentine’s Day (more on that in another blog post!). There’s also half-term holidays so no doubt parents will be looking for things to occupy their little ones. Here’s a guide to what’s on in London this February.

For a guide to Valentine’s Day events, click here.

  • Now until 2 February : Broadgate Ice

Temporary ice rink at Broadgate Circle in the City of London is open for over three months. There is also a rinkside bar and street food stalls. Open 10am-10pm. Session times last 1 hour. Adults £13.50, Children £9.50. Broadgate Ice Rink, Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2A 2BQ. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit Broadgate’s website.

  • 2 – 5 February : Destinations – The Holiday & Travel Show

Presented by The Times, the Holiday and Travel show is full of inspiration for your next adventure or holiday. As well as lots of travel companies, there is photography masterclasses, health advice and meet the experts. Open 10am-5.30pm. Tickets: £11 in advance, Under 12s free when accompanied by paying adult. Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Kensington Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Destinations – Holiday & Travel Show website.

  • 3 – 4 February : London Remixed Festival

A two day celebration of emerging talents from the worlds of ghetto funk, drum and bass, reggae, anarchic hoedown, Latin breaks, brass band hip hop, electro-Afro music, Balkan beats, blues remix, electro swing, tropical bass, Ethiopian dub, DMC scratch masters +and more. Open: Fri 8pm-1am, Sat 8pm-4am. Tickets: £8-£15. Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street or Old Street. For more information, visit the London Remixed Festival website.

  • Now until 4 FebruaryLondon International Mime Festival

Festival at various events across London including performances of physical theatre, dance, circus, puppetry and live art. Workshops also available. Tickets range from £9.50-£29. Venues include the Barbican, Jacksons Lane, Platform Theatre, Soho Theatre, Southbank Centre, Shoreditch Town Hall and The Peacock. For more information, visit the London International Mime Festival website.

  • Now until 4 February : Amaluna by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular re-telling of The Tempest. Tickets range from £20-£115. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. Nearest stations: South Kensington, Knightsbridge or High Street Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Cirque Du Soleil website.

  • 4 – 5 February : Fare Healthy

Feel good festival of food, exercise and wellbeing. Featuring Deliciously Ella, Skye Gyngell, Anna Jones, Natasha Corrett, Martin Morales, Dale Pinnock, Madeleine Shaw, Melanie Sykes, James Duigan, Gaby Roslin and many more. 9.30am-6pm. Tickets: £25. Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For tickets, visit the Fare Healthy website. Read the rest of this entry

Bringing contemporary art to the Big Smoke: Sculpture In The City 2016/2017

Valentine’s Day 2017: Guide to what’s on in London for lovers and singles

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014Is it that time already? Christmas feels like yesterday, and now it’s time to splash the cash again on that special person in your life. Or perhaps you’re single and dread this time of year? With Valentine’s Day taking place midweek this year, there’s a host of themed events taking place on both weekends either side of the date. If you’re happily single or looking for love, then there’s also plenty of anti-Valentine’s events on around town too.

For a guide what else is on in London in February, click here.

  • Valentine’s Masked Ball of the Full Moon (10 February)

A masked ball featuring four stages, three immersive realms and a huge cast of performers. Including walzer-meister Troylus Searll, London Gay Symphony Orchestra, Electric Swing Circus, DJ Rockit Riyad, Chivaree Circus, Morpheus’ Masseuses, the Blue Moon Cabaret featuring Benjamin Louche, Ungewinster, Syban V, Lolo Brow, Cynth Icon and Sacha Dieu, hot tub movies, and food. Dress code: Surrealist, fairy tale, futurist, lace, Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival, tribal and animals. Masks optional. 9pm-4am. Tickets: From £15. Coronet Theatre, 28 New Kent Road, SE1 6TJ. Nearest station: Elephant & Castle. For more information and tickets, visit A Curious Invitation website.

  • Valentine’s Candlelit Late @ Sir John Soane’s Museum (10 February)

Late-night opening of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, the former home of the 19th century architect, which is full of his sculptures, painting and antiquities. Also including two complimentary cocktails and some more surprises. 6.30-9.30pm. £30. Sir John’s Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn, WC2A 3BP. Nearest station: Holborn. For more information, visit the Sir John’s Soane Museum website.

  • Galactic Love (10 and 11 February)

Feral (aka The Artful Badger) are hosting another amorous adventure in The Vaults below Waterloo station for both singles and couples. As part of The Vault Festival, there will be live bands, DJs, FERAL performers, dating games, face painting, stalls, games, treats and more across the tunnels. Fancy dress code: ‘Tron Toads, Rocket Man Racoon, Binary Star Bear, Moon Monkey, Planetary Pet, Spaceflight Fox, Intergalactic Insect, Frisky Fighter Pilot, El-Wire Weasel, Pluto Pop Star, Astronaut Aardvark, Amorous Alien, Starfleet Stork, Interspecies couple, Barbarella Bear, or any galactic creature.’ From 10.30pm-3am. Tickets start from £16 (early bird) or £22 (advance). The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit The Vault Festival website. For Metro Girl’s blog post on The Vault Festival’s highlights, click here.

  • Valentine’s Day @ Aquum (10 – 14 February)

Enjoy a romantic foodie feast for two at Clapham bar and restaurant Aquum. Featuring eight meze sharing plates, a starry-eyed sharing dessert, and a complimentary bottle of Prosecco. Dishes include Pork Rib Eye Steak, Lemon-Oregano Chicken, and Greek-style Fries (veggie option also available). £27.50pp. Aquum, 68-70 Clapham High Street, Clapham, SW4 7UL. Nearest stations: Clapham North, Clapham High Street or Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Aquum website. For Metro Girl’s review of Aquum, click here.

  • Shaggers: Valentine’s Special (11 February)

For those with a naughty sense of humour, head for some stand-up comedy on the subject of sex. 7-9pm. Tickets: £15. Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, Chinatown, WC2H 7BX. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For booking, visit the Leicester Square Theatre website.

  • Valentine’s Events @ Keats’ House (11 – 12 February)

A series of Valentine’s events at the stunning house where poet John Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne, who inspired his most romantic verses. Late night opening on Sat 11 Feb from 6.30pm-9pm, Afternoon Poems: Love Is… on Sun 12 Feb from 2-3pm and Valentine’s Guided Tour: ‘Love is my religion’ on Sun 12 Feb at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Ticket prices vary. Keats’ House, 10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, NW3 2RR. Nearest station: Hampstead Heath or Hampstead. For more information, visit the City of London website.

  • Film & Fizz at One Aldwych (12 and 14 February)

Enjoy a three-course dinner at Indigo, a glass of Champagne Lallier and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the hotel’s private screening room. Sun 12 screening @ 4.30pm, Tues 14 @ 6.30pm. Tickets: Dinner, drinks & film: £55pp. One Aldwych Hotel, 1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ. Nearest station: Charing Cross or Temple. For more information, visit the One Aldwych website.

  • Making Love in the Queen’s House (14 February)

Enjoy a Prosecco afternoon tea while listening to the love stories of the royals who lived in the stunning 17th century Queen’s House in Greenwich. 2-4.30pm. Tickets: £25 (£22 members). Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, SE10 9NF. Nearest station: Maze Hill, Cutty Sark (DLR) or Greenwich. For booking, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

  • Black Cat Cabaret / Joey Arias at Live @ Zedel (14 February)

Live At Zedel at the Crazy Coqs are presenting two shows for lovers. The Black Cat Cabaret will be performing their Salon des Artistes show at 7pm, featuring comic song, live music, showmanship and burlesque. Tickets: £35 (show only), £52.75 (show and three-course meal at Brasserie Zedel). The second show of the night will be New York based cabaret singer and drag artist Joey Arias with his Valentine’s special Love Bites at 9pm. Tickets: £18. Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, W1F 7ED. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Brasserie Zedel website. For a review of a show at Zedel, click here.

  • Sing-a-long Moulin Rouge! (14 February)

Watch and sing-a-long at a screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! 8.30pm. Tickets: £16. Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, Chinatown, WC2H 7BY. Nearest station: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Prince Charles Cinema website. Read the rest of this entry

Vault Festival 2017: Music, theatre, film, comedy, parties and more at London’s fringe festival

© Will Hazel

The Vault Festival kicks off in Waterloo from 25 January – 5 March 2017.
© Will Hazel

Returning to Waterloo this winter is the biggest Vault Festival to date. Now in its fifth year, the six-week long fringe event will be expanding to two further local venues in addition to its home beneath Waterloo station. There’s something for everyone with music, theatre, film, comedy, parties, food, drinking and more.

Among the highlights of the festival, will be the chance to step into Jay Gatsby’s world in an immersive theatrical experience of The Great Gatsby.  Meanwhile, Superbolt Theatre return to the Vault Festival with two productions; their 2016 hit The Jurassic Parks, a hilarious spin on Spielberg’s blockbuster, and Mars Actually, a physical and funny vision of life on the red planet.

Turning circus on its head is Becoming Shades, a reimagining of the myth of Persephone using live music, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime. The thought-provoking Thought To Flesh is a theatrical investigation into motor neuron disease (MND) using spoken word, multi-media and movement interpretation.

Vault Festival © Will Hazel

Head to The Vaults every weekend for the late-night parties
© Will Hazel

Meanwhile, movie fans will be able to enjoy the Vault’s Film Festival, featuring 20 different screenings. Among the premiers include dark_net staring Johnny Vegas and Love Comes Later, starring Sarita Choudhury (Homeland). There will also be a special screening of Red from award-winning director Branko Tomovic, a crime thriller about illegal backstreet surgery.

For party animals, the Vaults will be hosting late-night revelry every weekend, including the Galactic Love Valentine’s Ball, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), The Nudge’s Great Gatsby Party, as well as the festival’s opening and closing parties presented by Time Out London.

Aside from the entertainment, there are plenty of opportunities for drinking and eating. The Balkano Kitchen will be serving dishes inspired by chef Martin H Shaw’s travels in Eastern Europe. There will be five bars across the three venues, with two themed bars presented in collaboration with Meantime beer and Campari. One of the more intriguing drinking spots will be The Neath, an immersive, subterranean members bar for the supernatural produced and curated by the team behind The Crystal Maze.

  • The Vaults Festival takes place from 25 January – 5 March 2017 at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN and Network Theatre, 246a Lower Road, Waterloo, SE1 8SJ. Nearest station: Waterloo. Shows will also be on at Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HT. Nearest station: Lambeth North (open from mid-Feb). For more information and tickets, visit The Vault Festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in February, click here.

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