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Visit the temporary pavilion designed by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami in Kensington Gardens.
Blackfriars is an area by the southern fringes of the City of London, familiar to many City workers. Now dominated by office blocks, the district used to be a hub for religion and entertainment. Until the early 13th century, the area was home to Norman fortresses Mountfiquet Castle and the original Baynard’s Castle. Mountfiquet was likely named after the Baron of Mountfichet (of the Stansted Mountfichets in Essex), while Baynard’s was built by Ralph Baynard (a sheriff of Essex). Both castles were demolished by King John (1166-1216) in 1213 after their then-residents Robert Montfichet and Robert Fitzwalter took part in the barons’ revolt against the monarchy the previous year.
The name Blackfriars dates back to the 13th century when Dominican Friars established a priory on the site. The Friars first came to the capital in 1221 and established their first London monastery on the outskirts of the City near Lincoln’s Inn at Holborn. However, in 1276 they obtained permission from King Edward I (1239-1307) to move to the area we now know as Blackfriars. The King approved the levelling of the remains of Mountfiquet and Baynard Castle and the demolishing and rebuilding of the Roman City walls to incorporate their priory in 1282. The plot covered around 8 acres and incorporated the main church, a tower and five chapels (the Virgin chapel, a Lady chapel, St John the Baptist chapel, a pardon chapel and the Chapel of St Ann). The name Blackfriars started being used around 1317 to describe the Friars, who were recognised by their black cappas. The City also included Grey Friars (Franciscan), Austin Friars, Crutched Friars, Austin Friars, White Friars (Carmelites), and the Holy Trinity and St Helens Priory priories. In 1322, the Blackfriars was the scene of tragedy when a large number of impoverished Londoners were crushed to death in a rush to beg for food and money at the gates. Read the rest of this entry
I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea and don’t have it as often as I should. I recently spent a few months working in Hoxton and regularly passed by the M by Montcalm Hotel so was glad of the opportunity to check it out when a friend invited me for afternoon tea recently. The day in question wasn’t just any typical tea session, but a special event called the Afternoon Tea Academy.
The event saw Plate restaurant at the M by Montcalm collaborating with tea company P.M. David Silva & Sons for an afternoon of tea, food and a little bit of education. Silva & Son’s Dan Silva had teamed up with Executive Chef Matt Hill to pair a different type of tea to every tier of the meal. Dan started off the afternoon by giving us a brief history of Britain’s relationship with tea and why the Sri Lankan plantations and hand-picking technique are so important to the company. P.M. David Silva & Sons is a family-run business over three generations, which started in the mid 1930s, so have a good heritage behind them.
We kicked off the Afternoon Tea with the sandwiches first (of course!), which were a lovely, flaky hybrid of bun and croissant, called the ‘crobun’. Among the fillings were one of my favourites, Chapel & Swann smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, tarragon, preserved lemon & cream cheese. There was a delicious twist on a traditional cucumber sandwich with salted cucumber with tarragon pesto, preserved lemon and cream cheese. Our tier was completed with beetroot hummus with smoked feta, pickled beetroot and lambs lettuce. I’m not usually a fan of beetroot, but the combination was really lovely. The sandwiches were paired with New Vithanakande Tea, which had a sweet caramel and fruity flavour (which turned out to be my favourite of the day).
Next we moved on to scones, with a selection of plain and raisin buttermilk available. They were warm and fresh out of the oven and a perfect size. As much as I love scones, I prefer them on the smaller side to optimise the chances of being able to complete a whole afternoon tea as I usually I end up too full. The scones were served with clotted cream and handmade strawberry preserve, along with a cup of High Grown Ceylon Tea from the Inverness estate. The tea had lovely rosy and citrus flavour, which really complemented the jam.
Finally, we just about had enough room for the top tier of pastries, which were pretty exquisite. Each treat had contrasting sweet and savoury notes, which were interesting, but delicious. I particularly enjoyed the strawberry with Szechuan pepper and basil custard tart. The remaining creations – lemon and elderflower cake; Valrhona Caledonia Jivara milk chocolate, light mango and lime crisp choux; and white chocolate and olive oil macaron, all tasted lovely. These were accompanied by the final tea – Lovers Leap, a crisp tea which we were recommended to drink black without milk.
Overall, it was great afternoon tea. Each tier was brilliant, with the various teas really complementing the different flavours of each food. It was an added treat to receive the story behind the tea blends and the ingredients in the food by Dan and Matt, who stopped to talk to us during each tier.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
Japanese cultural festival Japan Matsuri is returning to the capital this September. The annual one-day spectacular offers Londoners the chance to experience the best of Japanese food, music, dance and more. Designed for the whole family, the 10-hour festival is free to attend and takes place in the city’s iconic Trafalgar Square.
Kicking off at 10am, Japan Matsuri will host two stages featuring an exciting programme of traditional and modern theatre, dance, martial arts and music. Acts include Iwami Kagura; ICHI; Joji Hirota & the London Taiko Drummers; Hasiken; Okinawa Sanshinkai / Kenjinkai and Sonda Seinenkai Eisa Group; Hibiki Ichikawa & Akari Mochizuki; Yosakoi London – Temuzu; Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyo Group; O-HA-YA-SHI Couple“Reiwa” Group; and Naomi Suzuki. There will also be a family activity tent when visitors can enjoy free workshops in manga, calligraphy and origami, as well as the chance to dress up in Kimonos.
Foodies will be in for a treat with a wide variety of food stalls offering classic Japanese street snacks, including takoyaki octopus balls, yakisoba noodles and okonomiyaki pancakes. Or if you fancy something larger, you can choose from wagyu burgers, ramen, bento boxes, donburi rice bowls and sushi. For those with a sweet tooth, there will be plenty of dessert such as red-bean jam dorayaki pancakes to mochi rice cakes.
If you’re feeling inspired to visit the country, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will also be on-site offering travel inspiration and information. The JNTO are also one of the event sponsors.
For a guide to what else is on in London this September, click here.
As the host venue of the Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Hospital Chelsea sees over 157,000 visitors pass through its gates every May. However, these horticulture lovers only get to see the outside of this historic venue. Known as the home of the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’, parts of the Royal Hospital are open to visitors, including during Open House London.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea is a retirement and nursing home for around 300 veterans of the British Army. Until the 17th century, there was no state provision to look after retired or injured soldiers. However, King Charles II (1630-1685) recognised these veterans needed care and founded the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1682. He chose to establish it on a 66-acre site in Chelsea, which housed a theological college named ‘Chelsey College’, founded 73 years older by his grandfather James I of England (1566-1625). Charles II and his royal administrator Sir Stephen Fox (1627-1716) commissioned architect Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) to design and oversee the building’s construction.
Wren designed the Great Hall and Chapel. The 42ft high chapel was completed in 1687 and was consecrated in August 1691. The chapel’s interior features a painting of the Resurrection of Christ by Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) and his nephew Marco Ricci (1676–1730), which was added in 1710-15 during Queen Anne’s (1665-1714) reign. Just to the south-west of the Chapel was the Great Hall, which was originally intended as a dining hall. It featured 16 long tables with a large mural of King Charles II on horseback being crowned by Victory. Meanwhile, outside in the central court, the King was honoured again with a 7ft 6in statue in copper alloy by Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721). Read the rest of this entry
Summer is starting to wind down and autumn is creeping ever closer. September seems to be a hybrid month between the two, where we could have warm summer nights, but there’s always the risk of windy, wet weather. September is a more manageable city to spend time in as the main tourist throngs have died down and the children are back in school.
Family festival inspired by the rich culture and flavours of South Asia, featuring live Bollywood, traditional and urban music, performers, food, drink, fashion, sports, kids area, funfair, fireworks finale and more. Open Sat 31 1pm-8pm and Sun 1 1pm-9pm. Tickets: £2. Under 16s Free. Southall Park, Uxbridge Road, Southall, UB1 3BT. Nearest station: Southall. For more information, visit the London Mela website.
One day festival in the City Road Lock, Basin and Regents Canal towpath. Featuring over 80 stalls, children’s fun fair, Punch & Judy, story-teller, boat trips and canoeing, art projects and galleries, live music and street theatre. 11am-5pm. Free. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the Angel Canal Festival website.
Totally Thames is a month-long celebration of our city’s main waterway. Among the many activities taking place are the St Katharine Docks Classic Boat Festival (6-8 Sept), The Great River Race (14 Sept), Regatta London (29 Sep), walks, mudlarking, art installations (such as the Ship of Tolerance), live music, theatre, dinners, river relay, film screenings and many more activities. Many events are free. For more information, visit the Totally Thames website.
The restaurants, cafes and bars of Carnaby are taking part in a month-long foodie festival. Featuring special menus, masterclasses, cookbook launches and more. At the streets in and around the Carnaby district of Soho. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby London website. For more information, read Metro Girl’s blog post.
Exhibition of Christian Dior designs, from 1947 to the present day. Featuring over 200 garments and hundreds of accessories, photographs, videos, sketches and more. Exhibition hours opening vary (timed entry). Tickets: £20-£24. Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL. Nearest station: South Kensington. For more information, visit the V&A website. Read Metro Girl’s review of the exhibition.
Weekend of meat, drink, music and fire. Featuring chefs from Smokestak, B’s Cracklin Atlanta, Gunpowder, Cabrito, Blacklock, Sausage Commitment, Brigade, Hangfire, Belzan, Hawksmoor and many more. Music from Olugbenga (Metronomy), Das Brass, Huey Morgan, Izo Fitzroy, King Brasstards and more. Open Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 12pm-7pm. Tickets: £23-94 (depending on admission day and package). Tobacco Dock, 50 Porters Walk, Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest station: Wapping or Shadwell. For information and booking, visit the Meatopia website.
Watch a live outdoor performance of The Sea Queen or Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by the Thames. Performances from Wed-Sat at 6pm, Sun at 4pm. Free entry. The Scoop, Queen’s Walk, London Bridge, SE1 2DB. Nearest station: London Bridge. For more information, visit the London Bridge City website.
An immersive theatrical performance of the Shakespeare classic in the newly-opened basements of Alexandra Palace. Age 12 and over only. 7.30pm-10pm. Tickets: £28.50. Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY. Nearest stations: Alexandra Palace or Wood Green. For more information, visit the Alexandra Palace website.
Notting Hill’s foodie favourite Santo will be hosting a pop-up with the flatmates, featuring Mexican food, drink and music. From 6pm. The Little Yellow Door, 6-8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, W11 1HH. Nearest station: Westbourne Park or Ladbroke Grove. For more information, visit The Little Yellow Door website or the event’s Facebook page. For more information about TLYD, read Metro Girl’s blog post.
Ten day festival featuring free screenings in the Peckham and Nunhead area at various locations, including Nunhead Cemetery, Peckham Palms, The Ivy House, The Old Waiting Room and more. Films include The Lady Vanishes, Harold & Maude, Widows, Albatross, The River and The Wall and more. Free. Nearest stations: Peckham Rye, Queen’s Road Peckham and Nunhead. For more information and listings, visit the PNFFF website.
Enjoy a taste of ’90s high-flying Wall Street hedonism with an immersive theatre production, adapted from the hit film. Expect a restaurant, bars, supercars and more. Over 18s only. Dress code: 90s American Office attire. Times vary. Tickets: £58-£100. 5-15 Sun Street, City of London, EC2M 2PT. Nearest station: Moorgate or Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Immersive Wolf website.
As part of the Totally Thames celebration (see above), St Katharine Docks are hosting a weekend festival, featuring a display of 40 vintage sail and power vessels, alongside live music, street food, workshops, talks and children’s activities. 12pm-6pm. Free. St Katharine Docks, 50 St. Katharine’s Way, Tower Bridge, E1W 1LA. Nearest station: Tower Hill, Fenchurch Street or Tower Gateway (DLR). For more information, visit the St Katharine Docks website.
Eight day film festival offers free screenings in Charlton and Woolwich. In various locations including Severndroog Castle, Charlton House, The White Swan, St George’s Garrison Church, The Reach, The Thames-Side Studios and more. Nearest stations: Charlton or Woolwich. For more information and listings, visit the CWFFF website. Read the rest of this entry
Tower Bridge is one of London’s most iconic sights. Instantly recognisable the world over, the bascule and suspension bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks in the capital. To mark the bridge’s 125th anniversary, there will be a series after-hour talks for Londonphiles.
Kicking off in September and running until December 2019, each session will invite experts to share their knowledge and skills in a specially-curated event which explores the history of Tower Bridge. Each experience will last an hour and take place in the new Learning Space, high up in the South Tower. Film, food and art are among the themes explored over the talks.
The Illuminated River Project is a London wide public art commission that will transform the capital at night, lighting up 15 bridges across the River Thames. Once complete, the project will be the longest public art project in the world. Join Director Sarah Gaventa and Project Architect Chris Waite at the Bridge to explore the ambitious decade-long public art project and how Tower Bridge will shine in its role.
Dr Jennifer Freeman, architectural historian and writer, and a specialist in ‘at risk’ conservation buildings will guide guests through the extraordinary life of Tower Bridge architect Sir Horace Jones. A specialist on the man behind a number of London’s most iconic buildings, including Smithfield Market and Billingsgate Market, Jennifer will not only explore Jones’ legacy and his innovations as a designer and planner, but the architectural marvel Tower Bridge remains as to this day.
Don your kitchen whites and test your taste buds to explore the past century through an exclusive tasting talk with food historian Dr Annie Gray. Foodies will be taken on a whistle-stop tour of 125 years of gastronomic history at Tower Bridge.
From the fanciful to the downright farcical, explore some of the alternative river crossing designs presented to the City of London’s special committee in 1876. Tom Furber, Engagement and Learning Officer with the London Metropolitan Archive offers a fascinating insight into some of the weird and whacky designs submitted for the design competition, as well as the ground-breaking construction of Tower Bridge.
This illustrated talk by British Film Institute curator Simon McCallum will give a flavour of the BFI National Archive’s unparalleled collection of film and TV about London, with a particular focus on life along the Thames. Drawing on a rich array of newsreel footage, documentaries and home movies, this archive tour will include glimpses of the majestic Bridge itself across the past century. These films are part of the Britain on Film initiative, with thousands of newly digitised titles from the BFI and partner archives around the UK now free to explore on BFI Player. Simon’s talk will be complemented by a screening of the classic 1959 film The Boy on The Bridge, made possible by the estate of Director Kevin McClory.
(Please note this event will finish later due to the film screening).
For a guide to what else is on in London this October, click here.
For more London history and architecture posts, click here.
Open House London is a must-do for any lovers of architecture, history… or just London really! Whatever your taste in design, you can be guaranteed to find a building that appeals. To those uninitiated, Open House London is a two-day long festival of architecture, when hundreds of buildings open their doors to the public for free. It could be a chance to step inside a government building, a City of London skyscraper, an art deco masterpiece or a brutalist icon – places that would normally be off-limits to visitors.
This year’s Open House London is the 27th and takes place from 21 – 22 September 2019. Over 800 buildings are taking part in the event, with most of these accessible to those who just turn up. However, there are some special buildings – such as 10 Downing Street. the new US Embassy and the BT Tower – which are balloted entry only, so you need to apply before the beginning of September to be in with a chance. There are some other buildings which have limited numbers so offer time slot bookings in advance.
Camden Highline. A tour of the proposed Camden Highline park connecting Camden Town to King’s Cross. Open Saturday and Sunday 9.30am-3.30pm (pre-book only). Camden Gardens, Camden Street, NW1 9PT. Nearest station: Camden Town or Camden Road.
Drapers’ Hall. Livery Hall first built in 1530s, twice rebuilt. Featuring 19th century façade and Victorian interiors. Open Sunday 10am-4pm. Throgmorton Street, City of London, EC2N 2DQ. Nearest station: Bank or Liverpool Street.
Freemasons’ Hall. Art Deco meets classical, built in 1927-33. Open Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. 60 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5AZ. Nearest station: Holborn or Covent Garden. Read the rest of this entry
I’m a great believer in drinking to suit the seasons – I would never dream of mulled cider in summer and an Aperol Spritz must always be accompanied by warmth and sunshine. So whenever I hear the words ‘summer drinks’, I don’t need much convincing. Furthermore, when I heard that Dirty Martini were using my tipple of choice – gin – in their new summer menu, I didn’t need much incentive to try it out.
This summer, the cocktail bar chain has created a contrasting summer drink menu, featuring the competing House of Pink vs the House of Orange. Each ‘house’ features three cocktails each, with the common ingredient being either Beefeater Blood Orange or Strawberry Pink Gin. I’m fairly well acquainted with pink gin, but not so much with the blood orange so was keen to experiment. I’ve only been drinking gin regularly for a few years and often find friends declaring they ‘don’t like it’. However, I’ve always insisted that a cocktail or a flavoured gin will be far from their memory of gin, as its such a versatile drink. On my visit, I was accompanied by one of those said friends who didn’t think she liked gin, but was open-minded. With my encouragement, she tried a ‘Strawberries & Dreams (strawberry pink gin, pineapple, strawberries and a coconut foam), which she was pleasantly surprised by how sweet and lovely it tasted. Meanwhile, I opted for a ‘Summer Lover’ (Blood orange gin, passoa, fresh passion fruit, vanilla, citrus, egg white and Prosecco), an even fruitier twist on the Pornstar Martini, which I really liked.
My friend had soon developed quite the taste for the pink gin, as had I for the blood orange, so we let those ingredients dominate our next cocktail choice. My pal decided on the ‘I Lychee Like That’ (Strawberry pink gin, watermelon, lychee and strawberries with dehydrated dragon fruit), with the lychee and dragon fruit giving an exotic twist and refreshing taste. However, I went for the uber delicate ‘Life’s a Peach’ (Blood orange gin, Frangelico, peach, peach schnapps, eucalyptus, citrus and egg white), which was a surprisingly boozy and fragrant drink. Finally to finish, we kept it simple with pink and orange gin and tonics. Having stuck to blood orange cocktails, I mixed things up and went for the strawberry pink gin served with pink grapefruit and mint, which was sweet, but light. Meanwhile, the blood orange gin is accompanied by orange slices and fresh rosemary, with the herb really elevating the gin flavour.
Overall, the summer menu is a treat for gin lovers and even those who think they don’t like gin… you may be surprised! I’ve been back to the St Paul’s branch to enjoy the summer menu more than once, and I’m sure I’ll have to squeeze in one last visit before the season ends.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
The Carnaby district of Soho is well-known for its wealth of restaurants and bars. So it’s the perfect destination for a month-long foodie festival this September. Throughout the month, the restaurants and cafes will be offering special menus, masterclasses, and cookbook launches.
Budding foodies can take part in free expert masterclasses from Dehesa and Farm Girl, while cocktail aficinoados can enjoy a Pisco Sour masterclass at Señor Ceviche or a mixologist taster class at Jakata. Throughout the month, there will be cookbook launches from Dishoom, Leon and Chai by Mira. Popular eateries Pure, Shoryu Carnaby and Pastaio will be debuting their new autumn menus. Meanwhile, Ugly Dumpling’s executive chef Emilian Craciun will be offering a tasting menu on the first and last Sunday of September.
American diner favourite Dirty Bones will be offering customers the chance to ‘Pimp your Dog’ and customise their signature Yankee Dog. Pizza Pilgrims will be creating a special birthday pizza to mark their 7th year, as well as launching their new 100% biodegradable pasta straws. Meanwhile, Wright Brothers Soho will unveil a new selection of small plates and sustainable dishes, as well as their own gin. You can also head downstairs (and back in time) to 1940s cocktail den Cahoots, who will be entertaining and feeding guests with their ‘Squiffy picnic’ every Saturday.
Over 40 Carnaby restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs have signed up to the new Blue Turtle sustainability scheme in collaboration with ocean conservation organisation Project 0. The scheme aims to reduce consumption of single-use plastic and encourage business owners to embrace more sustainable practises.
For a guide to what’s on in London in September, click here.
This gallery contains 6 photos.
Visit the temporary pavilion designed by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami in Kensington Gardens.