This year sees Backyard Cinema launching their biggest film events to date. Setting up camp at festive experience Winterville is the Christmas Labyrinth. I’ve been going to Backyard Cinema events for several years and am always impressed by the various theme they come up with. It’s safe to say they’ve surpassed their previous themes with a fantastically Christmassy immersive experience on Clapham Common.
The Christmas Labyrinth is one of two Backyard Cinema’s festive screening experiences – the other being The Snowman Experience at Winter Wonderland. This year, Backyard Cinema has taken over a large section of Winterville, with their huge, cosy tent hosting two screening rooms, a huge labyrinth adventure, cinemas bars, as well as a lobby bar with live entertainment.
Upon arrival, you can stop for a drink at the bar or head straight in to start your journey. Our evening began in a magical room, with a mysterious voice urging us to choose one of four different doors. I’m used to taking a special route to get to Backyard Cinema’s screening room, but this year’s Labyrinth experience is clearly much bigger, with many choices for the visitor. Although you are encouraged to take a separate door from your friend, my pal and I decided to take the same one and headed into the ‘Jester’ door, being the pair of jokers are we (according to my friend!). Our journey through the maze was disorientating, confusing, but exciting as we figured out what way to go. Finally, we ended up in a twinkling forest – which made me feel like I was in Narnia – which opened to the screening room.
While the previous Backyard beanbags have always been comfortable, there’s some higher, bulkier and even cosier ones for their new Winterville home. My friend and I claimed a good set of beanbags with a prime position and headed to the nearby bar for some festive drinks. There’s a selection of craft beer, soft drinks, wine, prosecco and winter warmers. I’m a sucker for hot booze at the time of year so a mulled cider and rum was an easy choice… one I made twice as it happens. As you would expect for a cinema, there’s the typical snacks, including Proper Corn popcorn and pic and mix sweets. The bar is open throughout the screening should you feel the need to refresh yourself.
On our visit last week, we were watching the musical film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. We had never seen it before and I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. Throughout the film, I was really comfortable all settled in the beanbag, although I did use one of the BC provided blankets towards the last half hour to warm me up even further. Overall, it was a entertaining evening and the labyrinth was a creative and fun way to enter the cinema. Tickets are already sold out for many dates in the run-up to Christmas so I recommend buying them ASAP.
- Backyard Cinema’s Christmas Labyrinth runs until 22 December 2018. At Winterville (entrance just north of the Long Pond), Clapham Common, SW4 9BX. Nearest stations: Clapham Common or Clapham South. Tickets: Adults from £18.98, Children from £9.98. Stalls, premium and loungers available. For booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website.
- Backyard Cinema Presents: The Snowman™ Experience at Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, W2. Under 6 January 2019. Nearest stations: Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch. Tickets (vary between standard, off-peak, and peak): Adults/teen £9.95-£14.95, Children £6.96-£12.95. For booking, visit the Winter Wonderland website. Read Metro Girl’s review of the Snowman Experience.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
For a guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you would have noticed the huge rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets in recent years. This autumn, a new pop-up offering plant-based food will be coming to Clapham. The Meet will be serving indulgent comfort food along with vegan cocktails.
The Meet will launch on 2 November 2018 in an urban, industrial space of railway arches in Clapham North. The pop-up is a new concept from chef Dominic Taylor, former Executive Chef of London favourite, The Jam Tree. His menu will feature popular millennial dishes revamped into indulgent vegan alternatives. Committed vegans, healthy eaters and experimental foodies alike will find a dish to whet their appetite.
Expect sharing plates, burgers and late night bites. During the weekend, there will be bottomless vegan brunches and Sunday roasts. Among the breakfast choices will be cold press juices, ‘uppers’ (Chai seed and acai Bircher muesli pot) or ‘Avo go’ (crushed avocado on garlic sourdough toast topped with jalapeno spiked pico de galo). Meanwhile, among the lunch dishes will feature Seitan and Jackfruit zingy herbs and spices to transform recognisable meaty dishes into unexpected vegan delights. Meanwhile, the extensive drinks menu features fresh pressed juices, vegan cocktails, vegan wines and craft beers. The cocktail menu will comprise vegan reworkings of classic cocktails.
- The Meet launches on 2 November 2018 (soft launch from 25 October – 1 November). The Meet @ Fu Manchu, 15-16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham, SW4 7UX. Nearest station: Clapham North. Tuesday – Friday 5pm-10pm, Saturday & Sunday 11am-9:30pm. For booking enquiries, visit The Meet website.
For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.
When it comes to nightlife, the Junction and High Street parts of Clapham are well represented with a huge choice. However, the Clapham South part of town has been somewhat neglected… until recently. Last summer, the team behind successful Brick & Liquor in Tooting opened a sister bar on Balham Hill. A friend and I went along to check it out just before Christmas for a festive cocktail session.
The bar is styled like a Brooklyn loft, with exposed brick, natural wood and industrial furniture. Brick & Liquor is billed as a neighbourhood bar, giving a more friendly and local vibe than other cocktail bars, which can be guilty of focusing too much on the drinks and not enough on the customers. However, Brick & Liquor certainly delivers on the hospitality, the staff were friendly, approachable and certainly know their stuff when it comes to mixology.
The drinks menu features classic cocktails with a twist, alongside a selection of wines and bubbly. We started off-menu with their festive cocktail – a Marshmallow Martini (Absolut Vodka, Café Cartron, Vanilla Carton, milk and cream, finished with toasted s’mores and a melted hazelnut chocolate garnish). The marshmallow proved messy, but satisfactorily delicious and gooey. The cocktail itself was like drinking a dessert, with the chocolate and hazelnut garnish giving a Ferrero Rocher-esque flavour.
After our festive first round, we returned to the main cocktail menu, with my friend opting for one of their most popular concoctions – the Salted Caramel Espresso Martini (Absolut vodka, espresso, cafe liquor, vanilla, salted caramel and a hint of orange). My pal is a regular connoisseur of Espresso Martinis and it certainly met her high standards as she loved it. Meanwhile, I opted for a Californication (Prosecco and homemade strawberry and mint purée), a refreshing and light cocktail which was very easy to drink.
Overall, we were impressed. Brick & Liquor is a great addition to the area, which was crying out for a good drinking destination. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and the cocktails were brilliant, they were certainly a step up from what you would expect from a local cocktail bar. Although we didn’t eat on this occasion, there is a sharing plates food menu, featuring dishes such as arancini, ribs, lamb skewers and sweet potato fries, or a brunch menu on weekends, so I will have to return to check it out.
- Brick & Liquor, 47 Balham Hill, Clapham, SW12 9DR. Nearest station: Clapham South. Open Mon-Thur 5pm-11pm, Fri 3pm-1am, Sat 10am-1am, Sun 10am-11pm. For more information, visit the Brick & Liquor website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Aquum has been one of Clapham’s late-night staples since it opened back in 2007. However, with nightlife appetites evolving in recent years and becoming more food orientated, it’s time to roll with the changes. Last week, I was invited to the re-launch of the Clapham High Street venue, which has added to new dining element to its drinking and dancing hotspot.
Aquum has had a makeover in both its design and its format, with the addition of a restaurant making it a more versatile day-to-night destination. Taking over the kitchen is Head Chef Anastasios Tologlou (previously at Medlar, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Coloniales Huerta in Valencia), who has conceived a menu inspired by his Greek roots and his experience in some of the world’s top restaurants. The new menu features a variety of light dishes, sharing plates and mains. During the evening, we tried some delicious tasters, such as the Razor Clam and Black Eyed Bean Salad and the particularly fun Halloumi Martini – described as a ‘modern twist on the classic Cypriot dish’, featuring grilled Halloumi cheese soaked in a herb essence.
While Aquum hopes to attract a wider audience for its restaurant, it will continue to stay open late on weekends for DJs taking to the decks. The venue’s mixologists have created a new menu, full of original cocktails and twists on some old classics. We started with some Kir Noirs (Pinot Noir syrup, cherry syrup and Mercier Champagne), which were refreshing and subtly sweet. Next up, was the very girlie-named Twinkle, which appealed to me because of its elderflower ingredient – which has been having a resurgence in popularity over the last couple of years and is one of my favourite flavours. Served in a martini glass, the combination of Elderflower cordial, Eristoff vodka and Mercier Champagne managed to taste both strong and light at the same time. A few of those and you’d be well on your way to a good night out!
Aside from the new eating dimension, the venue has also had a design makeover. Aquum is now spread across four levels, with a second bar and private dining/events space available. The white leather seating has been stripped out for a more contemporary stone and dark leather seating. Many of the nightlife venues on Clapham High Street have been looking rather tired of late, so it’s great to see one of them taking a new approach. Both the drinks and food I sampled so far were different and delicious, so I look forward to returning in future for a weekend which will start with dinner and end with dancing.
- 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 more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
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.
The history of the World War II shelter underneath Clapham South tube station.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to have a peek of one of London’s secret subterranean treasures. As part of their Hidden London series, the London Transport Museum were running tours to visit the Clapham South Deep-Level Shelter, one of the only purpose-built World War II shelters that is still accessible to the public, albeit rarely.
Following the outbreak of World War II and the subsequent Blitz, many Londoners were using tube stations as shelters from the Nazi bombing. However, many civilians were concerned the stations weren’t adequate protection, which was confirmed in October 1940 when a bomb hit the road above the north end of Balham underground station. Water from the burst sewers above and earth filled the southbound tunnel, killing 66 people who were sheltering there at the time. Three months later, a further 111 civilians were killed when a bomb hit Bank station.
The same month of the Balham disaster, the Government started making plans to build deep-level shelter accommodation for 100,000 people. Having lots of experience of building underground, it made sense for the Government to enlist London Transport to co-ordinate the project within the swiftest time possible. With Londoners frequently dying in bomb attacks by the Nazis, time was of the essence. It was decided it would be easiest and quickest to create shelters below existing tube stations, specifically the Northern and Central lines. Originally the plan was for 10 shelters to be built, however ones at St Paul’s and Oval were abandoned during construction due to concerns over being too close to the Cathedral and unsatisfactory ground quality respectively.
Construction – by hand – began on the tunnels in 1941, with final eight complete in 1942. Situated 30 metres (just under 100 foot) below ground level, the tunnels were built from either end using two vertical shafts. When they were complete, each shelter consisted of two parallel tunnels around 400 metres long divided into upper and lower floors. The tunnels at Clapham South were divided further into 16 sub-shelters with each named alphabetically after a senior British naval officer. The sub-shelters at Clapham South were named Anson, Beatty, Collingwood, Drake, Evans, Freemantle, Grenville, Hardy, Inglefield, Jelicoe, Kepple, Ley, Madden, Nelson, Oldam and Party. Each sub-shelter featured triple-tier bunk beds and some wider bunks for mothers with young children, bringing the total number of bunks to 7,952.
By the time the shelters were ready for action so to speak, the Nazi bombing campaign on Britain had eased off. The Government ended up letting the American military use half of the Goodge Street shelter. By June 1944, Hitler’s armies had set their sights on destroying London again – albeit this time with V-1 flying bombs, followed by V-2 later that year. Finally, the shelters could be used for the purpose they were intended for.
Returning to Clapham this summer, pop-up supremo Jimmy Garcia has opened not one, but two pop-ups. Last year I checked out his supper club at DVine Cellars (which is back again for 2015) and had an amazing culinary adventure. However, this year I went along to visit his long-term pop-up restaurant The Secret Garden. Situated above the Clapham North pub, The Secret Garden could not be more of a contrast from the venue downstairs. While the pub can is a bit of a party venue at the weekends, the restaurant is relaxing, earthy and comfortable.
Entering through an old wooden door on Landor Road, the whimsical theme is set with flowers and greenery as you wind your way up the stairs. The light and airy first floor contains a small bar and restaurant, with the kitchen service window located in what looks like a caravan, which is a fun touch. The room was full of plants and garden furniture, really bring the ‘outside inside’, making it feel very summery. The Secret Garden prides itself on using fresh and seasonal ingredients, sourced from independent farmers and foragers. The menu had changed a bit from the one on the website, but the dishes looked amazing. You have the choice of the traditional à la carte menu or the Deluxe Picnic for 2, featuring sharing dishes served on a mini picnic table. While we perused the menu, my friend and I chose some of the botanical cocktails. I ordered a summer spritz with elderflower and bubbly, which was light and refreshing.
To start, my friend and I both opted for seafood/fish options. I decided on the Octopus, which was served with garden vegetables. The octopus was full of flavour, an easy texture to chew and was well complemented by the sauce and vegetables. My companion thoroughly enjoyed the tuna tartare. I’m a frequent connoisseur of salmon and aim to go for other fish when I dine out. However, at the Secret Garden I couldn’t resist a fillet with breadcrumb and herb topping. I have to admit it was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever tasted, the breadcrumbs and herbs really brought out the traditional salmon flavours in a different way. It was accompanied by puréed peas, tomato, edible flowers and mashed potato – again one of my favourite things to eat – so the dish was a win-win all round for me. My friend plumped for the oxtail, served with summer vegetables, which she said was incredibly filling and rich.
By the time it came to dessert, we were feeling pretty stuffed. However, we were intrigued by the ‘Edible Garden’ so decided to share one. The Edible Garden was a chocolate pudding topped with watercress, meringue mushrooms and edible flowers. The watercress with the chocolate was definitely an unusual combination but it worked. The chocolate was rich and tasted delicious, but I was glad to be sharing it as it would have been too rich for me to eat the whole thing.
Overall, we really enjoyed our Secret Garden experience. The staff were friendly and enthusiastic, regularly topping up our water glasses. All of us dishes were rich in flavour, fresh and delicious, while the summery and light cocktails complemented our meal well. The Secret Garden is only open until the end of August, so I recommend you get down there before it goes.
- The Secret Garden, 409 Clapham Road, Clapham North, SW9 9BT. Nearest station: Clapham North. Is open from 25 April – 13 September 2015. Opening times: Mon-Thurs – 5-12pm, Fri – 5pm-1am, Sat – 12pm-1am, Sun – 12-7pm. For more information and booking, visit Jimmy’s Pop Up website.
Disclaimer: Metro Girl was a guest of the Secret Garden restaurant for this review.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Clapham has long been a draw for South Londoners for a night out with its extensive range of restaurants and bars. As a frequent visitor to Clapham, I believe there’s been a gap in the market for somewhere a bit more sophisticated and a more attractive late night option than Infernos!
Injecting new life into Clapham’s bar scene is new late night drinking and dim sum den Fu Manchu. Located in railway arches at Clapham North, the venue is inspired by Sax Rohmer’s cult character Fu Manchu. Entering the bar, the bare brickwork, Eastern-influenced interiors and graphic arts projections, gives a feeling of being in an old Opium Den. Full of little nooks and crannies, there’s some private hidden areas in the venue for those who want a bit of privacy or high tables and bar stools for those who like to be centre of the action. I particularly liked the lighting projection of Fu Manchu on the wall as soon as you enter.
I was invited to the launch this week to check out the new spot and was immediately won over. The cocktail list features inventive twists on classics named after characters and plots from Fu Manchu’s adventures, such as Lin Tang’s Szechuan Sling (Homemade Szechuan pepper shrub, Finlandia Mango Vodka, Yellow Chartreuse and Mango Juice) and Manchu’s Mind Control (Secret grog recipe shaken with mango, guava and lime juice). I tried both and really liked the fruity freshness of the Sling, while my sister was a fan of the Mind Control which was served in an amazing Fu face tumbler. On the night in question, the bar was incredibly busy, but the staff were fast and obviously expert mixologists, whipping up concoctions swiftly.
Food wise, there’s an extensive range of dim sum – both steamed, fried and baked depending on your preference. We tried several of the steamed dim sum and it was a delicious accompaniment for a social evening out. As well as offering drinks and dim sum, the venue is open until 3am on weekends with DJs spinning Nu Disco and Soulful House. For me, Fu Manchu had that winning combination of good drinks, service, food and atmosphere – which is rare to find all four. I’ll definitely be back.
- Fu Manchu, 15-16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham North, SW4 7UX. Nearest station: Clapham North. For more information, visit the Fu Manchu website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Jimmy Garcia has been winning over Londoners with his culinary creations since 2011 and with summer fast approaching, it’s time for his latest pop-up The Secret Garden to open. Located behind a wooden door, awaits an enchanting and secret world featuring gourmet delights and botanical cocktails. Open daily and on late nights at weekends, the Secret Garden will feature tabletop BBQs, tasting menus, roasts on Sundays and produce from UK foragers and small farmers.
I visited Jimmy’s Underground Pop-Up Restaurant at DVine Cellars in Clapham last spring and absolutely loved the food (review here). The theme of this season’s pop-up is to showcase the best of Britain’s garden produce. Setting the scene for the culinary journey, the space has been transformed by Firecracker Works into an immersive dining experience. Among the menus on offer, will be a seven-course tasting menu at £35pp or the tabletop BBQ at £23pp.
JIMMY’S SECRET GARDEN MENU
‘Peas and Love!’ Garden Peas, Pea and Mint Mousse, Neal’s Yard Goat Curd, Hazelnut Crumb, Confit Lemon, Lemon Vinaigrette – £7
Wild Garlic Soup, Crispy Poached Truffle Egg – £6.50
‘Asparagus Bed’ Asparagus, Mushroom Puree, Potato Soil, Parmesan – £8
‘Back to the roots’ Roasted salad of heritage carrots, beetbaby onions and parsnips – £8
‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Smoked Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Bon Bon, Crispy Sage leaves – £9
‘Papa G’s Chorizo’ Chorizo and Guinea Fowl ballotine, Crispy Skin Shards, Chorizo and Spinach Risotto – £9.50
‘Porky Beans’ Belly, Cheek, Smoked Eel and Pork Beigneit, Martok and Bacon Beans – £8
Venison tartare, Wild Garlic Puree, Pontac Elderberry Vinaigrette, Beet Carpaccio – £9
‘Smoked Salmon Sundae’ Ice Cream, Fish Skin Wafer, Confit Salmon, Seawater Pearls. Lemon and Dill Oil – £9
Seared Sea bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Pickled Cucumber, Squid ink Pearls, Cider Emulsion – £8.50
Scottish River Trout, Fennel Ceviche, Lemon Balm, Sorrel Salsa Verde – £7.50
Host your own indoor BBQ at your table, with Jimmy providing all the necessary tools, meats, marinades and salads. You’ll have the choice of three types of organic meats and secret marinades to brush on. £23pp, minimum 2 people.
Organic Applewood Smoked Pork
Corn Fed Chicken Breast
28 Day Aged Ribeye Minute Steak
The Edible Garden – £7.50
Earl Grey Bergamot lemon tart, Crème Fraiche – £6.50
‘Strawberries and Cream’- Macaroons, Jelly, Shortbread, Meringues, Elderflower – £6
Jimmy’s Ultimate Ice Cream Factory Dessert – £6.50
There will also be a yummy choice of sides, bar snacks and cocktails. The Secret Garden opens this weekend and will run in Clapham North until mid September. Booking in advance highly recommended.
For Metro Girl’s review of The Secret Garden, published in July, click here.
- The Secret Garden, 409 Clapham Road, Clapham North, SW9 9BT. Nearest station: Clapham North. Will be open from 25 April – 13 September 2015. Opening times: Mon – Thurs – 5-12pm, Fri – 5pm-1am, Sat – 12pm-1am, Sun – 12-7pm. For more information and booking, visit Jimmy’s Pop Up website.
For Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
This venue is now permanently closed.
There has been a resurgence in burgers in recent years, and as a result, American diners are now popping up in London. Originally dismissed as fast food, American cuisine is now finding favour with foodies. Following the success of their first Chelsea branch, the team behind Honky Tonk opened their second branch by Clapham Common last autumn.
Located moments from Clapham Common tube station, with alfresco seating for the warmer months, Honky Tonk is an American-inspired diner, with exposed brick, plush leather seating and vintage-style artwork, giving it a very New York feel. Although most of the seating is at a regular level, unfortunately our party of five were placed at a high table with bar stools, which wasn’t as comfortable as we would have liked. The first thing that struck us about the restaurant was the noise. Honky Tonk prides itself on its vintage playlist and live music, but the volume could have been just a little lower. We were dining from around 7-8pm ish on a Saturday and could barely hear the person beside us talking. Admittedly, the DJ and musician were good, but it was still too loud. Our party was a mix of 20 and 30somethings and all left in agreement that the volume had lessened our enjoyable experience of the venue somewhat.
Noise and seating aside, everything else about the venue for a positive experience. Our waitress was very attentive and speedy and we gave her a good tip. All anticipating the main meal would be pretty filling, we decided to share a plate of Smashing Nachos (tortilla chips topped with smoked applewood, red Leicester and cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa), which was swiftly demolished. Not too greasy, the nachos’ good flavour was down to the evident freshness of the ingredients. For our mains, most of our party opted for the Pulled Pork Sandwich (Slow roasted shoulder of outdoor reared pork smothered in barbecue sauce and apple slaw in an onion bun with a side of rosemary fries). My friends said the pork was cooked well, tasted good and was filling. As I’m a pescatarian, I chose the Halloumi Burger (Roasted aubergine, peppers, flat mushroom, lettuce, tomato, homemade burger sauce, grilled halloumi cheese and guacamole) which was really tasty. The halloumi was cooked perfectly so wasn’t too chewy and the burger wasn’t too overloaded so it was possible to actually eat it without making a mess (like some other burgers I have eaten!).
Accompanying our meal we tried some drinks from the short, but sweet cocktail list. The Over Proof Zombie (Triple rum with pineapple and passion fruit) was pretty strong, but fruity and zesty. I also tried the more refreshing USA Elderflower Martini (Hanger vodka with mint with elderflower liqueur) which was really good. The venue is renowned for its milkshakes, which I usually love, but we were strictly drinking alcohol on the night in question as it was a celebration so I didn’t get to sample.
Billed as a bar/restaurant, this is probably not the venue to come to if you want a relaxing meal. While the food is admittedly good and filling, the energetic ambiance means it’s near impossible to have a decent conversation. For those looking for a night out, there’s a fun atmosphere and is open until 2am on weekends so a good place to pop into for a cocktail or two. The food was enjoyable so I’m considering returning, but maybe earlier in the day or a weeknight to see if it’s a bit quieter.
- Honky Tonk, 16a Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AB. Nearest tube: Clapham Common. For booking and menus, visit the Honky Tonk website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.