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Somnai review: A surreal night in an immersive and virtual reality experience

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Somnai is an immersive virtual reality experience

Anyone who read my blog often or follows my Instagram account has probably worked out I’m a fan of immersive theatre and experiences. The word has become somewhat of a buzzword in the events industry in recent years and I’ve had a range of brilliant to mediocre ‘immersive’ experiences. However, the recent resurgence in popularity of virtual reality (VR) technology, means this type of production can utilise another platform to expand their scope. Recently, a group of friends and I went along to Somnai, which has been described by its makers dotdotdot as a ‘live, multi-sensory experience with immersive technologies’.

Somnai © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Each ‘patient’ is given an ID bracelet

Checking out the website ahead of its March launch, there were little clues on what a Somnai session would be like. The event is marketed as a type of sleep clinic, with the chilling warning ‘may cause acute death’. Now, of course, this warning cannot be taken literally, but speaking in past tense, it certainly gets your heart racing at points. Somnai is located in a large, unassuming warehouse in Clerkenwell. You are advised to avoid alcohol beforehand so my five sober friends and I arrived in the clinical white reception, slightly apprehensive about what lay ahead. We were ‘checked in’ to the clinic, as we handed in our bags and coats and were given a Fitbit, a dressing gown and padded sleep socks. One by one, we were taken into a small room, where silent assistants scanned our faces with 3D mapping, which all felt rather Black Mirror.

We started our experience in our group of six, meeting our sleep guide, an ethereal and spiritual woman who eased us into the experience with a few probing questions about our dreams (e.g. if you could fly anywhere, where would you go? What motivates you?). We start by winding down and relaxing with a bedtime story as we lie on a giant teddy bear, before zooming through the galaxy under a planetarium-style sky.

The main phase of Somnai is putting on our ‘sleep masks’ – our virtual reality masks – and beginning our VR journey. I haven’t tried virtual reality since its infancy in the 1990s and it’s certainly come on since then (and I would hope so too!). We moved through various surreal landscapes, from underwater kingdoms to grand canyons. Despite a part of my brain not knowing this was real, I found it quite unsettling to step off the side of a cliff or ledge, which was the process to changing ‘worlds’ or ‘zones’. In addition to what we were seeing, we could use our senses by touching, such as feeling the wooden plank ‘drawbridge’ we were crossing under my feet, or stroking the furry plant life in the ocean world. The whole VR experience was amazing and disorienting at the same time. Discussing it afterwards, I realised I had been quite fearful during it and had perhaps become too immersed in these bizarre environments we thought we were in.

Somnai © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Ready to sleep? The experience has been styled as a visit to a sleep clinic

Following the VR walkabout, our group was separated and two of us ended up in a very strange and spooky set of rooms. Without giving too much away, we were given a choice, ultimately made the wrong one, and ended our Somnai journey with a particularly scary 2nd session with the VR cameras. For this, our friends and I were reunited in a white hospital ward with masked attendants guiding us to lie in bed and putting on our ‘sleep masks’. I felt like we were in an asylum in a horror film. For the two of us who made the wrong choice, what we saw in the VR was rather unsettling and sent our heart rates up.

Finally, we all ended up in the digital bar, which is constantly evolving with different phases, each with a matching cocktail menu. If you download their app, your cocktail should do strange things when you scan it. With the app, we were able to check our heart rate throughout the process and see a quite horrifying (in my case!) 3D scan of my head. Overall, it was interestingly weird and enjoyable. The plot wasn’t quite coherent, but the mix of senses, VR sights and the cast provided a new and thought-provoking experience. Our group had much to discuss in the cocktail bar afterwards as we discussed our different experiences and interpreted meaning from the various surreal levels. If you’re intrigued about virtual reality, I recommend checking it out while it’s still on.

  • Somnai, 2 Pear Tree Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3SB. Nearest station: Farringdon or Old Street. Tickets: From £35 (discount for groups of six). On now until 3 August 2018. For booking, visit the Somnai website.

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

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Cycle Revolution: Get on yer bike at London’s newest festival

© Maya Jancar (B&H Group)

The new Cycle Revolution Festival will take place on 6 May
© Maya Jancar (B&H Group)

A new cycle festival is coming to the capital in May, running as a satellite to the Tweed Run. Social supremos Bourne & Hollingsworth are launching Cycle Revolution on 6 May – an all-day, outdoor event celebrating the cycling lifestyle. Taking place in the leafy Spa Fields in Clerkenwell, the festival will be a contrast to the soulless conference centres which usually host cycling events.

Cycle Revolution aims to bring cycling culture to ordinary Londoners who bike to work or on their weekends. The alfresco event will feature over 20 stalls selling cycle gadgets, accessories and athleisurewear from local businesses and cutting edge lifestyle brands from across the capital. There will be the chance to take part in interactive workshops, live demonstrations and bike polo. Meanwhile, a Cycle Forum will feature poetry slams, live quizzes, Q&As and readings. Aside from the bike-centric activities, there will also be live music, acoustic sets and vinyl DJs, while you can refresh yourself from street food stalls, coffee shops and B&H cocktail bars.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the 9th annual Tweed Run will take off from Clerkenwell. Cyclists will dress up in their best tweed and cycling attire for the 12 mile route through the scenic streets of the capital. Along the way will be breaks for tea, with plenty of cocktails waiting at the festival and closing ceremony. There will be prizes for the best-dressed man and woman, smartest bicycle and finest moustache, among others.

  • Cycle Revolution and The Tweed Run take place on 6 May 2017. The Tweed Run starts at 11am. Cycle Revolution takes place from 12pm-8pm at Spa Fields, Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. Free entry. For more information, visit the Tweed Run website or Billetto.

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

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Celebrate the Queen’s 90th with an alfresco feast at Her Majesty’s Brunch

© Bourne & Hollingsworth 2016

Enjoy brunch alfresco at Her Majesty’s Brunch at Spa Fields in Clerkenwell this weekend

With the Queen Elizabeth’s official 90th birthday coming up this weekend, what better way to celebrate than with the best of British?

A stylish and fun outdoor brunch will be taking place on Saturday at the idyllic Spa Fields in Clerkenwell. Hosted by London party experts Bourne & Hollingsworth, you can expect plenty of the great food, entertainment and cocktails they are famous for. Essentially a mini festival to mark Her Majesty’s big day, guests will be able to drink and eat aplenty, while being entertained by live music and performances.

The menu has been designed by executive chef Adam Grey, from the nearby Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, featuring tasty, locally sourced produce. There will be several sittings during the day so you can relax in the sunshine and feast on some of your favourite brunch offerings.

Meanwhile, the B&H mixologists will be at the open-air bar, creating morning cocktails to ease you into the day, such as Bloody Marys and Bellinis. After your meal, you’ll be able to burn off some calories taking part in the traditional British games.

  • Her Majesty’s Brunch takes place on Saturday 11 June 2016. At Spa Fields Park, Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 1AA. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. From 10am-8pm, with brunch sittings taking place from 12:30pm. £35 for entry and brunch. For booking, visit the Bourne & Hollingsworth website.

For a review of brunch at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, click here.

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

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Fish-filleting, knives and the perfect steak: Learn to cook at B&H Kitchen

© www.darrenbrade.com

Get advice and tips from top chefs at the B&H Kitchen cookery school in Clerkenwell
© http://www.darrenbrade.com

How often have you eaten at one of London’s fabulous restaurants and thought, ‘I wish I could make this dish at home?’ Coming to the capital this spring is a new cookery school, with some top chefs sharing some kitchen secrets both novices and experienced foodies will appreciate.

B&H Kitchen, situated at the top of Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings near Exmouth Market, will be playing host to thrice weekly classes for up to 12 participants from 1 March 2016. Run by Bourne & Hollingsworth’s new executive chef Adam Gray (Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Rhodes Twenty Four, Skylon) and Head Chef Anthony Horn, they will guide aspiring cooks through expert techniques, seasonal recipes and ingredient knowledge. The kitchen is fully kitted out with the latest kitchenware and technology across six catering stations, demonstration bench and communal dining table.

The courses will range from knife skills and butchery to sausage making and seasonal vegetables, featuring a mix of classic and specialised techniques. Students will have the opportunity to master B&H’s modern British style as they make basic or more complicated dishes.

The courses on offer will include:

Knife Skills (Short Course)
Participants will learn about each knife’s uses as well as being taught how to sharpen a knife properly. At the end of the class, they will cut and chop like a trained chef.

Fish-Filleting and Cooking
While learning the healthy properties of and the difference between white and oily fish, participants will be taught how to scale, skin, fillet and marinade round and flat fish.

Bread No.1
Participants will learn the basic making of white and brown bread dough and progress to creating a fruit loaf.

Specialty Bread No.2
An advanced course focusing on enriched dough, specialty flavoured breads and cutting and shaping various artisan bread rolls.

Sausage Making
A course on the construction of the perfect sausage that focuses on the ingredients that go into a high quality sausage meat of various flavours and styles.

Butchery -­ Meat and Poultry
Participants will be trained how to bone out various joints of meat and how to prepare poultry efficiently.

Game
This course will cover an education on the game season and offer the opportunity to prepare and cook various classic and modern game dishes

Vegetables -­ Seasonal and British (Short Course)
An introduction to buying and using seasonal vegetables, specifically from BH’s supplier at New Covent Garden Market. Additionally, partakers will be shown how to produce vegetable dishes that stand-­alone from meat or fish heavy meals.

How to cook the perfect steak
Participants will be taught the various cuts and what to look out for when purchasing quality beef before learning to cook steak perfectly.

In addition to the courses, B&H Kitchen will also offer pairing sessions of food, wine and the famous B&H cocktails.

  • B&H Kitchen, Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HU. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. Tel: 0203 174 1156. Email: info@bandhbuildings.com. For more information, visit the B&H group website. Prices available on application.

For a review of brunch at the Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, click here.

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

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Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings review: Brunch and bottomless cocktails… what’s not to love?

© Bourne & Hollingsworth

Bringing the outdoors indoors: The Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings’ greenhouse is a light and relaxing environment
© Bourne & Hollingsworth

The Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is the latest venture from social supremos Bourne & Hollingsworth. The company has already impressed with theirs bars Reverend RW Simpson and Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar and their events such as Blitz Party, Dark Circus and Prohibition. Last September, they added the B&H Buildings – their first restaurant – to their repertoire.

Located in Clerkenwell, just off Exmouth Market, the B&H Buildings is an all-day bar and brasserie offering a relaxed environment. Last week, I paid a visit to experience their new weekend brunch party, which offers fresh English dishes and bottomless cocktails. The first thing which struck me upon entering the venue was how light and airy it was compared to other restaurants. The interiors were inviting with lots of greenery, a good environment for the eyes after a boozy night before. The bar was full of inviting vintage-style sofas and coffee tables, while the dining area featured a mix of patterned armchairs, marble tables and garden furniture, giving a conservatory-feel.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Brunching: Potato hash with smoked salmon and fried duck egg (left) and B&H Breakfast, featuring Cumberland sausages, black pudding, tomato, poached egg and toast (right)

© Bourne & Hollingsworth

Something sweet: French toast with caramelised bananas and mixed nuts

The brunch menu features a choice of single serving or bottomless cocktails – offering unlimited refills on classics such as Bellinis and Bloody Marys for £15/£16. My companion was rather braver than me and ordered a Bloody Mary served to his preference of extra hot. I was in the mood for something a bit easier on the taste buds and ordered one of my favourites, a peach Bellini.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

An extra spicy Bloody Mary

The food menu, printed daily complete with weather forecast which was a nice touch, was a great mix of sweet and savoury, meaning it took me a while to finally commit to a dish. As good as my usual favourite, the Eggs Royale looked, I decided to try something different and opted for the Crispy Potato Hash (£9), which can be served three ways and with a choice of poached hen’s egg or fried duck’s egg. Presented in a crisp white bowl, my hash was mixed with the salmon and topped with two eggs and hollandaise sauce. The potato hash was fairly light and tasted lovely mixed with the salmon and egg. My companion went for a traditional breakfast (from £8.50), comprising of two eggs (to your preference) and toast, with a choice of three items. He decided on Cumberland sausages – which were a little crispy – tomato and black pudding, and evidently enjoyed the filling spread. I was in a rather greedy mood and wanted something sweet to follow so just about managed a second course of French toast with Caramelised Banana and Mixed Nuts (£6). It looked amazing – very gooey and sugary – when it arrived on our table and fortunately it tasted as good as it looked. It was pure indulgence.

Overall I really enjoyed the brunch. The B&H Buildings were relaxing and I found the space a really comfortable space to be in. The service was friendly and we were well attended to throughout our leisurely meal. The food was good and I thought the menu offered a good choice of brunch items. It was a great place to spend a rainy Sunday and I’ll definitely be back.

  • Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0HU. Nearest station: Farringdon or Angel. The weekend brunch parties run from 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit the Bourne & Hollingsworth buildings website.

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

To find out about B&H Group presents Playback: The ’90s Party in May 2015, click here.

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Game on! Enjoy a carnivore feast as pop-up restaurant Struie Road returns

© The Wild Game Co.

Venison Chateaubriand @ Struie Road pop-up
© The Wild Game Co. 2014

It’s already made quite an impression on the game-ing community last time it ran… and no I’m not talking about fans of consoles, I mean the wild, carnivorous kind of game. After a break this summer, the Wild Game Go are returning with their monthly pop-up restaurant Struie Road. Named after one of Britain’s most remote places and home to top produce, which also happens to be where WGC founder Andy Waugh hails from.

Just in time for the autumn game season, Struie Road will offer an eight-course tasting menu featuring wild treats from Scotland when it returns from September. The main attraction will be the Grouse dish, which will be served on a Forest Floor salad’, using Foraged Mushrooms, Dried Cranberries and a Pine and Oat Crumble. Two new dishes on the menu for the new season will be Pickled Herring and Wild Boar Chipirones.

Old favourites previous diners may recognise are also returning; the ‘Surf and Turf’, slow cooked Ribs and Oysters, the Venison Chateaubriand and seasonal Ripe Cheese and Hokey Pokey Shards. The dishes will be accompanied by a recommend wine list, to complement the flavours.

The Wild Game Co. was established by Waugh back in 2010. A street food concept, it uses high quality meat from his family’s butchery business just outside Inverness. Wild Game Co. has already received many accolades, including winning Young British Foodies Street Food Award 2012-2013, on Evening Standard’s Top 5 Places to Eat Game in London and a shortlisted finalist for BBC’s Food and Farming Awards 2012.

  • Struie Road is open for diners on Friday 26th September, Friday 17th October, Friday 21st November and Friday 5th December 2014, but seats must be booked in advance. It takes place at Workshop Coffee Co., 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN. Nearest tube/train: Farringdon. Tickets: £49 per person including complimentary cocktail on arrival, from 7pm. To book, visit Design My Night, or for more information, check out the Wild Game Co website.

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

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

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Tinseltown, Farringdon review: Classic American fast food until the early hours

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Veggie burger with cheese, mashed potato and BBQ sauce at Tinseltown, Farringdon

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The milkshakes are definitely worth returning for

American burger bars appear to be the ‘thing’ in London right now. Successful restaurants are fast expanding into chains, with Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron and Honest Burgers just a few examples. In between the expensive gourmet eateries and the budget, fast food likes of McDonald’s and Burger King is – in my opinion – Tinseltown. A Hollywood-inspired (hence the name!), good value chain, with branches in Farringdon, Hampstead, Baywater, Gants Hill, Great Portland Street and Wood Green.

The Farringdon branch is open until 3/4/5am (depending on the night) so is a much better alternative than a greasy kebab shop if you’ve got the late night munchies. A friend and I visit the branch on July 4 (US Independence Day rather appropriately!) for a late lunch, which was just a couple of minutes from Farringdon tube and located in a basement near the newest branch of Burger & Lobster. Billed as an ‘American Diner and Milkshake Bar’, it offers a wide range of grilled meats, burgers, wraps and burritos. Some of the burgers are eye-wateringly huge – 20 oz for those with a big appetite – while there are also normal 5oz if you don’t want to go too crazy. The menu also offers Bollywood chicken burgers and vegetarian burgers too.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Subtle entrance: Tinseltown is located on St John Street

When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who showed us to a green booth. As it is located in a basement there are no windows, but the venue is decked out in TV screens, posters of Hollywood stars and features a mix of booths and regular tables. Being a late night venue, I’m sure the restaurant gets a bit of wear and tear by drunken partygoers so I did think the decor looks a little tired.

The hardest part of ordering for me was deciding on which flavour milkshake. I have never seen such an extensive milkshake menu in my life. I started off with a Twix chocolate shake, then a banana and chocolate one. They were divine and great value at £3.33. For my lunch, I ordered a veggie burger with cheese – a pattie served with a side of your choice (I chose mashed potato) for £7.49. Although I was expecting more from the venue’s interior, the service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty and good value. During the day, it was mostly students so I did feel slightly older, but I’m sure there is probably a very different clientele at 1am. Overall, I though it was fairly good, but I have other burger bars I prefer so not sure how often I would return. Would be a great choice for late night munchies though (particularly if you’re at Fabric around the corner) as the alternatives are not great. However, the milkshake choice and taste were brilliant.

  • Tinseltown, 44-46 St John St, Farringdon, EC1M 4DF. Nearest tube: Farringdon. Open Mon-Thu midday-5am, Fri-Sat midday-4am, Sun midday-3am. For more information and menus, visit Tinseltown’s website.

To read Metro Girl’s other restaurant and pub reviews, click here for our contents page.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The American style diner features a mix of booths and regular tables

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