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Craft beer, cider, food and music as CBR London 2016 returns to Old Truman Brewery

CRAFT BEER RISING 2015

CBR (Craft Beer Rising) comes to the Old Truman Brewery this month

Taking place at the climax of London Beer Week, CBR London 2016 is a new and improved version of the Craft Beer Rising festival. A two-day extravaganza at the Old Truman Brewery will feature 150 brewers showcasing over 600 different beer and ciders to sample. As well as plenty of drinking, there will be street food, live music and DJs.

This year’s festival will be CBR’s largest ever and include a diverse mix of breweries from the UK and abroad. Featuring UK brands such as Beavertown, Thornbridge, and Harviestoun, to international talent from Little Bichos, Lagunitas, Mikkheller, and Bronx Brewery. They’ll be ample opportunity to try your favourite craft beers as well as new product launches and recipes.

New at this year’s festival will be ‘Lost in Cyder Space’, a dedicated cider zone from Sheppy’s cider, who will be launching a new drink. Also taking part are Caple Road, Hogan’s And Italian producer Angioletti with their new blueberry rose infused cider. For those who want to mix things up, Auchentoshan and Don Papa will be serving their special whisky and rum-infused beers respectively. And for friends who prefer alternative tipples, there’ll be a wine bar, Hawkes ginger beer and Harry Brompton’s Ice Tea.

Bringing the sounds to CBR London will be headliners James Lavelle and Rob Da Bank on Friday and Saturday night respectively. Other acts performing over the weekend include Coldcut’s Jon Moore, Portishead sample digger Andy Smith, Boca 45, DJ Ross Allen, BBC6 Music’s Don Letts, music journo Pete Paphides and the Showhawk Duo. Meanwhile, The Vintage Mobile Disco, aka Donna Somerset, will be providing the grooves in the ‘Lost In Cyder Space’ zone.

At this year’s CBR London, the token system has been abolished so you can pay with cash and enjoy beers to take away. The Old Truman Brewery will also be the epicentre of London Beer Week (22-28 February 2016) so will play host to pop-up beer bars and immersive beer experiences for guests with a LBW wristband.

  • CBR London takes place on 26-27 February 2016. Tickets: £15 (includes branded glass and programme). Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street, Liverpool Street or Aldgate East. For more information and booking, visit the Craft Beer Rising website.

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

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It’s London baby! Central Perk comes to the capital at FriendsFest

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Monica and Rachel’s apartment has been recreated at FriendsFest in Shoreditch, London

Like millions around the world, I was a huge fan of Friends back in the 90s and early 00s. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since the show finished, but thanks to the joy of re-runs, there’s always an episode on somewhere. Last month, I heard there was a five-day Friends festival coming to London and knew I had to get tickets somehow. The tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, but I was fortunate enough to check it out at the press launch last night.

Comedy Central’s FriendsFest has set up camp at the Boiler House on Brick Lane, transforming a huge space into a slice of ’90s Manhattan. The shining glory is a meticulous reconstruction of Monica and Rachel’s apartment, which we were able to walk in to and interact with the props. There was the TV where the gang watched the Prom Video, the notepad where Monica used to insist everyone write down phone messages and the clock face biscuit tin on the kitchen counter. The iconic yellow door frame – which fans will remember was the last shot in the series finale in 2004 – was in situ, prompting many a selfie in front of it. One of the highlights of the evening was meeting the very friendly James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk manager Gunther, in Monica’s kitchen!

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That’s familiar! An orange sofa in the Central Perk-style café

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That’s not Monica! Actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, surprised fans by attending

After walking around Monica and Rachel’s apartment, we visited the photobooth, complete with costumes from iconic episodes, such as Father Christmas, Dr Drake Ramoray’s scrubs, Rachel’s cheerleading outfit and wedding dresses. For those wanting a ’90s style makeover, there was a pop-up hair salon for ladies after a ‘The Rachel’ blow-dry. Around the corner, a small section of Joey and Chandler’s living room had been recreated with black barcaloungers, an entertainment unit and foosball table – which I admittedly lost playing against my friends.

Amidst all the emotional revisits of favourite episodes and photo moments, there was also somewhere to eat and drink in the Central Perk-inspired café, with Monica’s Mac N Cheese and Joey’s favourite pizza on the menu. Taking centre stage was a familiar orange sofa – which featured in Central Perk and the opening credits. While chowing down on the snacks, we checked out the mini museum, featuring actual props from the show, including The Geller Cup and the VHS of ‘Buffay The Vampire Layer’.

What was notable about FriendsFest was how excited everyone was. People from different backgrounds and varying interests shared a common love of Friends with different props or pieces of furniture prompting people to quote lines from their favourite episode – ‘Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!’ Even the celebrities in attendance, such as Alesha Dixon, Michelle Keegan and McBusted’s Tom Fletcher, were free to let their public personas drop and enjoy a ‘fan girl or boy’ moment over a beloved show. For those lucky enough to get tickets, you’re in for a treat.

  • FriendsFest is on at the Boiler House in Brick Lane, Shoreditch from 16 – 20 September 2015. All tickets have sold out in advance and will not be available on the door.
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The familiar purple doors to Monica and Rachel’s bedrooms with the vintage French poster on the wall

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Fans could sit in barcaloungers and watch TV in the oversized entertainment unit in Joey and Chandler’s apartment


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

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DF/Mexico review: Self-service, tacos and free drinks refills… eating Mexican NY-style

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Mexican street food: Fish tacos at DF/Mexico

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Once you’ve seen the menu, you can order on the self-service touch screens

DF/Mexico is the newest venture from the people behind Wahaca. I’ve long been a fan of the Wahaca chain and Mexican food in general and am thrilled there’s finally decent Mexican food in London after years of nothingness. A close friend, who like me has also travelled around Mexico and is quite discerning when it comes to its cuisine, recommend I try it… before the name completely slipped my mind. Then on a Friday afternoon in Shoreditch, I accidentally stumbled upon DF/Mexico and instantly remembered it as my friend’s recommendation. The DF in the name is what Mexicans refer to Mexico City as, aka Distrito Federal. The premise is a modern Mexican diner serving street food. There’s no reservations and an unusual self-service system, so if you’re looking to be treated, then maybe this isn’t the place for you. However, if you’re looking for filling and tasty food and don’t have much time on your hands, this is a good place to stop.

My sister and I visited for a late lunch and were pretty ravenous by the time we arrived. We claimed a table before studying the menus – featuring a mix of burritos, tacos, salad and grilled chicken or meat. Once we were ready to order, we headed to one of the self-service touch screens, where you put your order in. I found it pretty simple and straight-forward, despite the lack of interaction with a human. We both ordered some of the bottomless soft drinks at just £2.30, which was very appealing if you’re particularly thirsty. I’m a fan of Hibiscus – a flavour I don’t find very often – so enjoyed a few glasses of it and it was pretty gorgeous I must admit. In addition to the usual soda, the venue is also licensed and serves Mexican classics such as Frozen Margaritas or Sol and Pacifico Clara beers.

Upon returning to our table, we didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. I ordered the MSC Fish Tacos, served helpfully upright in a taco tray. Cooked in Panko crumbs, the cod was filling and tasty – not too oily – and served with red coleslaw and Chipotle mayonnaise, which gave it a bit of a kick. Admittedly, I could have ordered more, but the lateness of the day being caught between lunch and dinner meant I was forced to reel in my appetite. Overall, the venue was light and contemporary and we felt quite comfortable stopping by for our quick eat. The food and drink were really good and the prices were very good value. Definitely a pit stop to refuel at next time I’m in Brick Lane.

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Thirst-quenchers: Unlimited refills of ‘Aguas Frescas’, in either Horchata, Hibiscus or Lime and chia

  • DF/Mexico, Hanbury Street, Shoreditch, E1 6QR. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. for more information, visit the DF/Mexico website.

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

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Lego art is Awesome! The Art Of The Brick exhibition at Old Truman Brewery

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Art Of The Brick features over 75 sculptures, including ‘The Swimmer’, and runs at the Truman Brewery until April 2015

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The mask: Three facial sculptures, including a self-portrait of the artist (blue)

Like many, I was a huge fan of Lego growing up. Forget dolls and playing ‘house’, I preferred to build houses, towns and goodness knows what else with Lego bricks. Now I doubt Lego has ever really fallen out of favour with children over the decades, but it certainly seems to be cooler than ever at the moment, following the release of the Lego movie earlier this year.

Following successful showings in New York, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Shanghai and Singapore, artist Nathan Sawaya’s Art Of The Brick exhibition has finally arrived in London. Running at the Old Truman Brewery until January, AOTB features over 75 sculptures made from over 1 million Lego bricks. Although I missed the launch, I went along recently with my sister (a fellow childhood Lego aficionado) to see how humble plastic bricks can be used to create pieces of art.

After watching a short video with an introduction to American artist Sawaya and his inspiration, we then started in the ‘classics’ section of the exhibition, where he had created Lego versions of iconic artwork such as Rodin’s The Thinker, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. While it was admirable to see these recreations, we were more interested to see Sawaya’s original pieces. His creations ranged from small to huge, with information boxes detailing his inspiration, the meaning and how many bricks used. It was interesting  to see contrasting size sculptures sometimes having surprisingly close number of bricks involved to make them.

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The T-Rex was made using over 80,000 bricks and measures over 6 metres long

Among the recognisable pieces of Sawaya’s work ‘Yellow’, a sculpture of a male torso opening his chest to reveal bricks spilling out. My favourite was ‘The Swimmer’, which was stunningly lit in its own room, featuring only the top half of a swimmer that you would see out of the water. The pièce de résistance was the huge T-Rex, made with 80,000 bricks and measuring over six metres in length.

An exhibition for both adults and children, there is also an Interactive Zone at the end so you can make your own creation. But given Sawaya’s sculptures took over 4,188 hours to make, budding Lego artists may find their options are limited. For those looking for some nostalgia or those with an interest in art made from non-traditional materials, I can recommend checking out Art Of The Brick.

  • The Art Of The Brick exhibition runs at the Old Truman Brewery from now until 12 April 2015. Tickets: Adults: £14.50-£16.50, Children under 12: £8-£9.50. Open daily, hours vary. Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6QL. Nearest station: Aldgate or Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit The Art Of The Brick website.
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Poignant: A grief-stricken male carries his dead love

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19 Princelet Street: Step back in history in this unique museum of immigration

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Unique: 19 Princelet Street is only open to the public on selected days a year

I have seen or visited museums of immigration in various cities abroad and found them fascinating places. However, it’s astonishing that we don’t have a permanent museum dedicated to it in London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The word ‘immigrant’ can conjure up negativity in the media and I have been astounded to hear people I know – who are first generation British born to immigrant parents – talking about immigrants in a bad way, despite their family history. London itself was built by immigrants after all – the Romans! I myself am a daughter of immigrant parents, who came from Ireland in the 1970s. While the Irish are greeted with open arms nowadays, 40 years ago they were often unwelcome in Britain, with signs being placed in pubs and shops reading ‘no dogs, no blacks, no Irish’. My parents faced racism from some areas of society when they first arrived, but fortunately they stayed and I am proud to be a Londoner and of my Irish roots.

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Princelet Street is located just off the bustle of Brick Lane

While London is noticeably lacking a permanent museum of immigration, this is where, hopefully one day, 19 Princelet Street comes in. This unique building in Spitalfields is a window on the past and an insight to different waves of immigration which shaped our city. Princelet Street is a lovely road off Brick Lane full of 18th century terraced houses which have been mostly restored. At No.19 is the unrestored, Grade II-listed Museum of Immigration and Diversity, which is open only a few days a year.

Two weeks ago, a team of volunteers opened the doors of No.19 to the public for a few hours on three separate days. Despite the biting freezing temperatures, I ventured out on a Sunday afternoon, joining a growing queue along Princelet Street. Although I anticipated waiting for over an hour, it was actually only about 30 minutes (although, I did arrive 15 minutes before opening). No.19 is a three storey (not including the basement) Georgian house which started life as home to French Huguenots, who were fleeing persecution in France. Over the years, the building was divided into separate lodgings and workshops for weavers. As the years went by, No. 19 housed other trades. After the Huguenots moved on, the Irish came to Spitalfields, fleeing the potato famine, then the Jewish. Over their decades at No.19, the Jewish residents built a hidden synagogue in the garden in 1869, which is the main draw of the museum today. The light streams into the synagogue through the coloured glass roof, lighting up the names of those who donated to the synagogue inscribed on the wood panels of the ladies’ balcony.

Within the building are exhibitions prompting the visitors to think about their ancestry and what they think about culture and diversity today. ‘Leave to remain’  by three contemporary artists looks at asylum in Britain, while ‘suitcases and sanctuary’ is a look at immigration through the eyes of local schoolchildren. For me, my visit was a mix of indulging my love of history by seeing an old house in its ‘natural’ state and also giving me food for thought. No.19 is slowly crumbling, hence why it isn’t open all year round. While the faded wallpaper and creaky floorboards are undeniably charming, the building is in need of restoration, with a team trying to raise money to save it and develop it as a museum. I hope they reach their aim, it really is a special place which should be preserved for future generations.

  • 19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BH. Nearest stations: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East or Shoreditch High Street (overland). Check out their website or follow them on Twitter to find out about the next open days or how to donate.
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Popular: Be prepared to queue on the rare open days


Find out about another unique Georgian building in the area, the Dennis Severs’ House.

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

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