Expand your knowledge of wine at Humble Grape’s Wine Dinners

Humble Grape

Brush up on your wine knowledge while enjoying a foodie feast at Humble Grape’s Wine Dinners

Love wine? Fancy knowing more about it? Well one of London’s best independent wine merchants are creating exclusive evenings so you can get more intimate with the mighty grape. Every month, Humble Grape will be hosting a bespoke wine dinner in the private dining rooms of their Battersea and Fleet Street bars. Guests will have the chance to sample their many artisan wines and find out the stories behind them.

Humble Grape will kick off the series of dinners at the end of August by exploring the Chilean Millaman wines from the Andes Mountains. In September, they will travel east to South Africa as specialist winemaker Francois Haasbroek, of Blackwater Wines from Cape Town pays a visit. Then things get more adventurous in October with the Blind Challenge event which will give guests an opportunity to sample unknown and otherwise unavailable wines.

On 30th and 31st August, the Golden Ticket wine winner will feature seven newly imported Chilean wines from Millaman family vineyards. The chef will serve a four course meal to complement the wines, including a Sauvignon Blanc aperitif, full-bodied Chardonnays, a Pinor Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and their Limited Reserve 2014 Malbec, among others.

A week later on 6th and 8th September, artisanal wine producer, Francois Haasbroek will be taking guests on a journey from grape to glass. His top five artisanal wines from the Cape Region will be sampled alongside a bespoke four-course meal with a South African twist.

Finally, on 25th and 26th October, the Blind Wine Tasting will test your senses to new heights. Explore a range of flavours and scents as hidden bottles are served. Guests will be guided thorough eight unique wines, including from the Blanc blend to Pinot Noir, in a multi-sensory trail. Accompanying the wine exploration will be a delicious four-course meal.

  • Humble Grape is located at 2 Battersea Rise, Battersea, SW11 1ED (Nearest station: Clapham Junction) and 1 St. Bride’s Passage, City of London, EC4Y 8EJ (Nearest station: City Thameslink or Blackfriars). Tickets from the Wine Dinners range from £50-£100pp. For more information, visit the Humble Grape website

For a guide to what else is on this month, click here.

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Tribute to the man who saved St Pancras station: The Sir John Betjeman statue

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The bronze statue of Sir John Betjeman on the upper level of St Pancras International station

Whatever your taste in architecture, few would deny the St Pancras station and hotel is one of London’s finest buildings. After decades of neglect, the station was given a huge facelift in the Noughties, with the former Midland Grand Hotel reborn as the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Every year, over 28 million passengers pass through the Victorian Gothic architectural masterpiece.

However, while today we appreciate architecture from yesteryear, it wasn’t always the case. In fact, St Pancras nearly followed the fate of nearby Euston, whose famous Doric arch was demolished in 1961. One of the heritage campaigners who fought to save the Euston Arch was English poet, writer and broadcaster, Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984). Betjeman was a founding member of the Victorian Society, which was established in 1957 to fight to preserve 19th and early 20th century architecture, which had fallen out of favour at the time.

St Pancras station and the Midland Grand Hotel were built in 1868 to a design by acclaimed architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878). Originally a luxurious hotel, as technologies advanced, it lost its popularity and was closed in the 1930s. British Rail then moved into the former hotel – then known as St Pancras Chambers – and its bedrooms became offices. By the 1960s, British Rail made several attempts to close and demolish the hotel. However, Betjeman and his colleague Jane Hughes Fawcett (1921-2016) at the Victorian Society led a ferocious campaign to save the Victorian wonder.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The statue stands on the upper level as it appears Betjeman is gazing up at the famous Barlow train shed

At the time, Betjeman wrote: ‘What (the Londoner) sees in his mind’s eye is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset, and the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.’ Fortunately, Betjeman, Fawcett and the Victorian Society’s campaign was a success and St Pancras was saved. It was protected forever in 1967 when it was given Grade I listing.

When St Pancras International re-opened in 2007, the late Betjeman was commemorated with a bronze sculpture of his likeness. The 6ft 7in statue by artist Martin Jennings shows the former Poet Laureate holding on to his hat as he gazes up at the Barlow roof. Explaining the piece at the time, Jennings said: ‘The piece is an image of him as if he has walked into the station for the first time and gazes up at the roof. He’s got a bag with his books and his coat is billowing up behind him as if in the wind of a passing express train.’ Under his feet is a disc of Cumbrian slate with lines from his poem Cornish Cliffs: ‘And in the shadowless unclouded glare. Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where. A misty sea-line meets the wash of air.’

  • The Sir John Betjeman statue stands on the upper level, above the shopping arcade concourse at St Pancras International station, Euston Road, N1C 4QP. Nearest tube station: King’s Cross St Pancras.

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

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Balthazar review: Brunching French-American style at this upmarket brasserie

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Scrambled eggs and Cornish crab at Balthazar London

Balthazar is a long-standing New York institution, that finally came over the Pond in February 2013. I heard rave reviews from friends and colleagues that had visited, particularly about the brunch, so it had been on my wish list for some time. Finally, I had some relatives visiting so thought it would be a nice treat for go for brunch.

While weekend brunch is served until 4pm, you have to arrive a bit earlier on a weekday for their Le Petit Dejeuner menu, which is served until 11am. Our party of four arrived at 10am – slightly earlier than I would like for a rare weekday off, but not exactly up with the lark. I admit I’m not a morning person, so wasn’t particularly perky when we arrived. We initially entered the Balthazar Boulangerie – which smelt amazing by the way – before being pointed to the actual restaurant next door. Balthazar, like its New York original, is described as an all-day brasserie offering French bistro food. The venue has plenty of character, with high ceilings, luxurious red leather booths and vintage-style mirrors.

When it came to the breakfast menu, there are plenty of options both sweet and savoury. It took ages to commit to a dish because a) there were so many alluring choices and b) I was half-asleep pre-caffeine, but fortunately the staff were very patient. Despite the predominantly French menu, the Big Apple influence is also clear with the New York Pancakes and Hazelnut Waffles among the featured dishes. After much deliberation, I eventually settled for the Scrambled Eggs and Cornish Crab with toasted Balthazar sourdough toast (from their bakery next door) and crème fraiche. It was a great choice. The eggs were so light, fluffy and creamy, I would actually go as far to say the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. The crab brought a new element to a familiar dish. Meanwhile, two of my party opted for the uber healthy Balthazar Breakfast Salad with quinoa, spinach, avocado, crispy bacon, roast Tabasco tomato and a poached egg (£11), which they said was really tasty.

To accompany our breakfast we opted for English Breakfast Tea and Fresh Orange Juice, which was good quality. The service was brilliant. We had numerous waiters attend to us during the meal and they were incredibly friendly and attentive. Overall, we all loved our breakfast – food, setting and service. I can’t wait to go back to try out the weekend brunch menu.

  • Balthazar, 4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7BN. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Holborn. For more information, visit the Balthazar website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Fancy some super food? Balthazar Breakfast Salad with quinoa, spinach, avocado, crispy bacon, roast Tabasco tomato and a poached egg

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

Balthazar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Serpentine summer houses: Explore four very different structures in Kensington Gardens

Spotlight Festival: Music, performances, shopping and more at the West End’s one day festival

© Matt Alexander/PA Wire

The Spotlight festival returns to Seven Dials, a one-day festival of comedy, music and arts.
© Matt Alexander/PA Wire

Many festivals can be rather tough on the wallet. However, this weekend, you can get your festival fever fix for free as Spotlight returns to Seven Dials. The iconic West End shopping and dining destination will be closed to traffic for one day for a festival of music, comedy and arts.

An open-air stage will feature a host of performances, including the cast of Motown The Musical and Treasure Island, comedy from Nathan Caton and magic from Britain’s youngest illusionist Ben Hart. The stage, hosted by George Lamb, will also feature music from Sample Answer, Old Dirty Brasstards and King Charles.

Among the activities on offer include pop-up tea garden, crazy golf, giant chess, giant Connect 4, Airstream photo booth, design your own flower crown and watch Margaux Carpentier’s live art mural unfold. The surrounding shops and restaurants will be taking part with discounts and special events, such as complimentary drinks, goodie bags, competitions and more.

  • The Spotlight Festival is on 13 August 2016. 12-7pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HD. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. Register for free on the website for your free glass of Prosecco from the Prosecco truck on Earlham Street. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.

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

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Four Winters review: A magical new way to taste ice cream

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Choose your own flavour and topping as you watch your ice cream made to order with liquid nitrogen at Four Winters

It’s at this time of year that we tend to consume more ice cream than usual. With an increasing amount of ice cream and frozen yoghurt parlours opening up in the capital, it’s become easier to get your frozen dessert fix than usual.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Peanut Butter Cup – peanut butter ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and chocolate crisps

However, turning the sweet treat on its head is a new type of ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. Four Winters, which originated in Jordan two years ago, opened their first UK parlour in London this spring. When I heard about it, I was intrigued. I’ve tried savoury food made with liquid nitrogen before and it certainly brings an element of theatre and excitement to eating.

Located on Gloucester Road, Four Winters is in a good location to cater for both locals and the tourists who flock to the area’s many hotels. There is plenty of seating inside and out should you wish to eat in. The chirpy staff are really friendly and explain the whole process before setting to work creating your magical dessert. Rather than peruse ice creams in their tubs at the counter, you are given the choice of a simple flavour or fusion flavour which will be flash frozen using liquid nitrogen to order in the open kitchen counter. The mist rising off the ice cream certainly brings a touch of magic to proceedings.

In addition to the science behind the creation, Four Winters is also unique because it offers seasonal flavours. They change their menu four times a year with flavours influenced by the four seasons. I opted for the Peanut Butter Cup – peanut butter ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and chocolate crisps served in a cup (cones are available). Upon the first spoonful, I could taste the difference from regular ice cream. It was smooth, creamy and the flavour was so much richer than usual.

Overall, I highly recommend Four Winters for ice cream fans. Children especially will love watching the liquid nitrogen freezing process. I’m looking forward to returning next season to check out the new flavours.

  • Four Winters, 103 Gloucester Road, SW7 4SZ. Nearest station: Gloucester Road. For more information, visit the Four Winters website.

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

Four winters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Where to watch the Rio Olympics 2016 on the big screen in London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Watching the Olympics on the big screens

The Rio De Janeiro Olympics kick off on 5 August 2016, with the Paralympics following on 7 September. Although many of us had the opportunity to watch the games in person in our beloved capital four years ago, this year it’s unlikely many of us will be jetting over to South America. So why not watch our Team GB athletes on the big screen so you can soak up some of the ‘lympic atmosphere. Check out the venues hosting pop-up screens around town, with plenty of food and drink on offer too to keep you fuelled as your watch our sportsmen and women go for gold.

  • 5 – 21 August : Boxpark

Watch the Olympics on the big screen while sitting on deckchairs. Plenty of food and drink establishments will be selling refreshments and snacks. Free. Boxpark, Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6GY. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit the Boxpark website.

  • 5 – 21 August : The Big Screen @ Bluebird

Bluebird on the King’s Road will be hosting screenings of the Rio Olympic Games on a giant outdoor screen in their sunny courtyard. You can watch the action while sipping champagne or Pimms from the bar or eating from the café menu. Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UU. Nearest stations: Fulham Broadway, South Kensington or Sloane Square. For more information, visit the Bluebird website.

  • 5 – 21 August : Big Screen @ Merchant Square

Watch the Olympics on the big screen in Paddington. Food and drink will be available, including Pimm’s. Open until 10pm nightly. Free. The Lawn, Paddington Basin, Paddington, W2 1JS. Nearest station: Paddington. For more information, visit the Merchant Square website.

  • 5 – 21 August : Summer Screen @ Canary Wharf

Watch the Rio Olympics outdoors at Canary Wharf. Bars and restaurants nearby will be serving food and drink. Times vary. Free. Canada Square Park, Docklands, E14. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For more information, visit the Canary Wharf website. Read the rest of this entry

Get your funk on this Bank Holiday at Madness’s House of Common Festival

© Lock N Load Events and Anglo Hannah Management

House Of Common, curated by Madness, takes over Clapham Common for one day only on Bank Holiday Monday
© Lock N Load Events and Anglo Hannah Management

Now we’re in August, it feels like the summer is rushing by the rate of knots. However, there’s still time for some festival fever. This August Bank Holiday Monday, chart legends Madness are hosting their very own music festival on Clapham Common.

The Baggy Trousers stars will be inviting a host of their musical pals to share the stage during the day long alfresco extravaganza. Acts include The Hot 8 Brass Band, Craig Charles, Terry Farley, Spring King, Toddla T, Rob Da Bank, and Reggae Roast. Also performing include Toots & The Maytals, David Rodigan, Norman Jay MBE, Congo Natty & The All Stars, Mike Skinner & Murkage present Tonga, Ms. Dynamite, Kiko Bun and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

A statement from Madness reads: ‘We are honoured and privileged that London has found us a place where for one day every year we can have our very own festival, we here by name that day House of Common. See you in Clapham Madheads… For the love of the common people.’

  • House of Common takes place on Monday 29 August 2016 (Bank Holiday) from 12pm until 10.30pm. Tickets: £47.81. Clapham Common, SW4. Nearest stations: Clapham Common or Clapham South. For more information and tickets, visit the Madness website.

For a guide to London’s music festivals this summer, click here.

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

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Guide to what’s on in London in August 2016

99 ice cream © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Summer is here!

Summer is well and truly in full swing. Schools are closed, there’s weddings and festivals up and down the country and plenty of alfresco fun to be had around town. Of course, the Rio Olympics will be kicking off on 5 August to expect plenty of sporting and Brazilian activities on around town as well.

To find out where to watch the Rio Olympics on the big screen, click here.

For a guide to the capital’s pop-up cinemas this summer, click here.

  • 1 – 28 August : Camden Fringe

The Camden Fringe returns for its 11th year, bringing over 250 productions of theatre, comedy and fringe fun to 25 venues across the borough of Camden, including Camden People’s Theatre, Camden Comedy Club, Canal Café Theatre and the Hen And Chickens. For more information and tickets, visit the Camden Fringe website.

  • 6 – 7 August : London Triathlon

Watch over 13,000 entrants who will be taking part in cycling, running and swimming across the Thames to raise money for charity. Free to spectate. ExCel, One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Canning Town. For more information, visit the London Triathlon website.

  • 7 August : Brixton Splash

Free community street festival taking over various streets in Brixton, featuring live music, poetry, art exhibitions, street theatre, crafts, children’s activities, food and sound systems. 12-7pm. Free. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Brixton Splash website.

  • 7 August : Splash Fest

A pop-up water park comes to Battersea Park for one day only. Featuring five zones of water-themed challenges and games over a 2.5km trail, with water slides, bubbly brook and water spouts. 9am-7pm. Tickets: Adults £22, Children £10, Under 3s free. Battersea Park, Albert Bridge Road, Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road. For booking, visit the Splash Fest website. For more information, visit Metro Girl’s blog post on Splash Fest.

  • Now until 7 August : East London Fringe Festival

Five week festival celebrating East London’s vibrant and bohemian culture, featuring music, art, lifestyle, film screenings, parties and cultural events. Venues include Shoreditch Park, Hoxton Square, Hackney Road Rec Ground, Cargo, Juno Bar, Bedroom Bar and more. For more information, visit the ELFF website.

  • 9 – 13 August : Great British Beer Festival

Up to hundreds of real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers with be available to try, while there will also be plenty of entertainment and food. Tickets start from £9 (CAMRA members), £11 (non-CAMRA members). Kensington Olympia, Hammersmith Road, W14 8UX. Nearest station: Olympia. For more information and tickets, visit the Great British Beer Festival website.

  • 11 – 13 August : Some Voices presents Festival Headliners

London’s coolest choir Some Voices are bringing their own takes on the hits of Coldplay, Beyonce, Blur, Adele, Basement Jaxx, Pulp, Arcade Fire, Dolly Parton, Jay Z, The Verve and many more. Also featuring The Secret Forest, Field Of Dreams and Pop Up Disco. Door open 7pm. Tickets: £17. Mercato Metropolitano, 48-50 Newington Causeway, Elephant & Castle, SE1 6DR. Nearest station: Elephant & Castle. For tickets, visit the Some Voices website.

  • 12 – 14 August : London Craft Beer Festival

Twenty four breweries from London, the UK , Europe and USA will be showing off over 100 beers. Also including food stalls, live music and DJs. Tickets: £28-£38.50. Oval Space, 29-32 The Oval, Hackney, E2 9DY. Nearest station: Bethnal Green. For more information, visit the London Craft Beer Festival.

  • 13 August : Holi One Colour Festival

Thousands of people wearing white come together in Wembley Park for a festival of music, dance and performance art. Inspired by the Indian Holi festival, participants will end up covered in multi-coloured powder. Tickets start from £29.99. Wembley Park, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0TU. Nearest station: Wembley Park. For more information and booking, visit the Holi One website.

  • 13 August : Spotlight Festival

One day festival returns to Seven Dials in the West End, featuring live music and performances, live portraits, flower crown making, airstream photobooth, deck chairs, crazy golf, pop-up tea garden and free Prosecco. 12-7pm. Free entry. Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HD. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website. To find out more, read Metro Girl’s blog post on the festival. Read the rest of this entry

Get wet and wild as water extravaganza Splash Fest comes to London for one day only


Splash Fest is one day water extravaganza in Battersea Park

This summer, Battersea Park is being transformed into a water extravaganza for one day only. The riverside park will play host to Splash Fest, a family-friendly aqua obstacle course, on Sunday 7 August.

Splash Fest will feature five zones of water-themed challenges and games spread over a 2.5km trail. Organised by lifesaving charity Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the event will be a great family day out for family with children aged 7-12.

Among the zones includes ‘Crazy Canyon’, with a series of pools to cross using floating devices and a giant inflatable water slide. ‘Splash ‘n’ Shoot’ will see guests navigating a giant boat before aiming at floating targets on the lake. Meanwhile, you’ll get the chance to dodge geyser-spouting waters at ‘Wild Wild Waters’. Next, the ‘Slip-Slide Stream’ features a toboggan-style water slides from sedate and slippy to fast and foamy. Finally, the ‘Bubbly Brook’, features giant bubbles, a maze, music and bandstand hidden amongst a sea of foam.

In addition to the splash-tastic fun, there will be entertainment, food, drink and a drying-off area in the Splash Out Zone, where you can find out all about the lifesaving work done by the RNLI.

  • Splash Fest takes place on Sunday 7 August 2016. 9am-7pm, but start times are staggered. Advance tickets: Adults £22, Children £10, Under 3s free. On the day tickets: Adults £25, Children £12.50. Battersea Park, Albert Bridge Road, Battersea Park, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road. For more information and tickets, visit the Splash Fest website.

Splash Fest will feature five zones of water fun

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

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