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Open House London 2019: Tips and highlights of the annual architecture festival

How to make the most of one of London’s most fascinating and photogenic festivals.

View of the City from the Leadenhall Building

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.

Top 10 tips on making the most of Open House London

  1. Make a list of places you want to visit and also a few back-up options if the queues are too long by searching Open House’s official website. Alternatively, you could buy a hard copy of the guide here or download the free app available on Apple Store or Google Play.
  2. Check out TFL’s website to make sure there are no engineering works affecting your transportation to the sites.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes and check the weather forecast to inspire suitable clothing. You will be walking and standing a lot.
  4. Get up early: Most of the buildings taking part open around 10am or 11am, but some open even earlier. If you get there before they open, you could beat the queues.
  5. Make sure your phone and/or camera are fully charged and bring a portable charger if you have one so you can search online maps and share photos on social media.
  6. Bring ID – some buildings may require ID to enter.
  7. Make sure you don’t carry too much in your bag, as many buildings are subjected to security searches.
  8. Go the toilet whenever you find one. Some of the more unusual buildings may not have any available facilities or you could end up desperate while waiting in a very long queue.
  9. Follow Open House London on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
  10. Share your discoveries on social media with the hashtag #openhouselondon. It’s worth searching this hashtag on Twitter to find out where the long queues are.

Top picks to visit at Open House London 2019

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

Dirty Martini Summer Drinks review: Enjoy a colour injection in your gin with ‘Pink’ or ‘Orange’

Limited-edition menu sees competing gin cocktails with House of Pink vs House of Orange.

Dirty Martini summer drinks gin © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

A Strawberry Pink gin and tonic (left) and a Blood Orange gin and tonic from Dirty Martini’s Summer Drinks menu

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.

Dirty Martini summer drinks gin © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

A Summer Lover – Dirty Martini’s twist on a Pornstar Martini with Blood Orange Gin

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.

  • Dirty Martini’s Summer Drinks menu is available from 3 June – 1 September 2019 at all branches. London branches include Bishopsgate, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Monument, St Paul’s and Minories. For more information, visit the Dirty Martini website.
  • Dirty Martini’s Bottomless Gin Brunch is available from 7 June – 1 September 2019 at Bishopsgate (Fri, Sat & Sun), and St Paul’s, Hanover Square and Minories (Fri and Sat). Featuring Bottomless G&Ts, Prosecco, choice of three Martinis or beer for 90 minutes, alongside a birdcage of sharing food.

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

Dirty Martini Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Munch your way around the world at foodie festival Carnaby Eats

Enjoy masterclasses, special menus, cookbook launches and more at this month-long food festival in September 2019.

Wrights Brothers will be taking part in Carnaby Eats

The many eateries of Kingly Court will be taking place

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.

  • Carnaby Eats is taking place from 1 – 30 September 2019. 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 a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.

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Serpentine Pavilion 2019: Slope down to Junya Ishigami’s rock-y structure

Backyard Cinema – LA Nights review: Frozen cocktails and palm trees as you watch your favourite movie at the beach

See you at the beach! Backyard Cinema – LA Nights is running in Camden for a short time only

After returning from my holiday to Italy last month and being well and truly back in the daily grind of work and commuting, a little bit of beach action would be lovely right now. I was especially tempted by Backyard Cinema’s latest immersive film experience so went along to check it out this week. Having launched at the Camden Roundhouse last month, Backyard Cinema’s LA Nights is running for a limited time only.

Backyard Cinema LA Nights © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Bright colours and palm trees galore as you follow the trail to the beach

If you’re unaware, Backyard Cinema is a themed, pop-up cinema company which hosts immersive screenings at special locations around London. They have given film fans the chance to roam the Lost World, get lost in a Labyrinth, be roused by a live choir in a church and fly with the Snowman, among their many other creative themes. For five weeks only, the BC posse have transformed the roof of iconic north London venue Roundhouse into a slice of sunny Venice Beach.

Guests enter through the Roundhouse itself and climb the stairs to the roof. It isn’t long before you are taken on a trail, with lots of neon, weatherboard beach signs, fairy lights and a pair of Instagrammable angel wings to pose against. The screening room is ‘the beach’, with golden sand, palm trees and plenty of comfortable beanbags. The space is fortunately covered over so you don’t need to worry about the temperamental British summer.

Backyard Cinema LA Nights © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

A Passion Fruit Martini was the perfect beachy drink

After selecting our seats, my sister and I headed straight to the bar to sort out our refreshments. A special drinks menu has been curated to complement the theme, with adults-only Slush Puppie cocktails, tropical cocktails and its own beer created by the Gipsy Hill Brewing Company. We were particularly drawn to the palm tree glasses so started with some Passion Fruit Martini, which were very fruity, but a little boozy. After collecting our drinks and snacks (there is a vegan ice cream stand, which proved popular), we were suitably put in the retro mood with lots of classic Californian and retro tracks keeping us entertained before the movie kicked off. Read the rest of this entry

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams review: Go crazy for couture at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Exploring eight decades of Dior and the man himself at this stylish exhibition.

Christian Dior Couture © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Early Dior designs, including the red Ulysse coat (right) from 1952

Without a doubt, Christian Dior is one of the most important designers in women’s fashion. Launching his label in 1947, he transformed ladieswear with the ‘New Look’, among many more stunning designs. I’ve visited several fashion exhibitions in the past, but my ultimate design house to see was Christian Dior. As you may have read, the tickets were a huge hit and sold out immediately, prompting the V&A to extend opening hours. A friend and I managed to get tickets recently to a late Sunday evening opening and ending up spending about three and a half hours in fashion heaven.

The exhibition not only explores the story of the man himself and his path to establishing the worldwide brand, but also follows his successors, including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and the current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. While there is something very ‘Dior’ throughout the company’s fashions, each designer has their own signature look they bring to their label.

The entrance to the exhibition was Parisian-esque with the classic Bar Suit given centre stage

A Gianfranco Ferre Allyson Ensemble from 1990

Designer of Dreams starts with the French designer’s early life, growing up in a wealthy family and residing in Paris and Normandy. A display shows artefacts from the young Dior’s youth and creative beginnings, from running an art gallery to becoming an apprentice to fashion designer Robert Piguet. With Europe recovering from World War II, women were tired and weary of wartime fashion so were ripe for Dior’s ‘New Look’. Establishing his eponoymous fashion label in 1946, he stood out for giving women shape and silhouettes – a contrast to the boxy, plain designs which were synonymous at the time. One of the first designs you see in the exhibition is the iconic ‘New Look’: the Bar Suit and Hat, a silk, wool and taffeta ensemble of a structured jacket and full skirt. Being a fan of Netflix’s The Crown and its fashions, it was great to see the silk, couture gown designed for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday portrait in 1951.

The initial rooms of Designer of Dreams were focused on Dior’s realm at his label, with gorgeous dress upon gorgeous dress. The lighting and layout was very effective at highlighting the detail and complementing the aesthetic of the fashions. Following the designer’s death at just 52 in 1957, his young protégée Yves Saint Laurent was appointed artistic director at the tender age of 21. While trying to keep that signature Dior look, YSL embraced a more softer and wearable style. However, YSL didn’t stay long at Dior and moved on in 1960 after just six collections. As a result, there is an understandably small amount of YSL creations in the exhibition. Read the rest of this entry

Take a ‘wade’ on the wild side with Creekside Discovery Centre’s low tide walk

Explore the history and nature of Deptford Creek with the Creekside Center

With the current pace of building in the capital and developers looking to seize every last piece of land to build on, London’s wildlife is being squeezed into increasingly smaller environments. As banks of rivers and streams are absorbed into manmade land and structures, many animals and birds are running out of space to build nests, or even shelter during bad weather. While we need more homes in this overcrowded capital, it’s trying to balance fulfilling demand while protecting the wildlife’s habitats that is a real challenge.

Recently I paid a visit to the Creekside Discovery Center in Deptford, south-east London to join one of their Low Tide Walks. My boyfriend and I were up bright and early on a Sunday (well, by my standards early for a Sunday!) morning to get suited up for our visit to Deptford Creek. We were told to wear old clothes and a hat, with the CDC providing thigh-high waders and a walking stick. The Center itself is a one-storey educational space in a garden full of beautiful, coloured wildflowers. In fact there are over 130 different wildflower species across the site. It was rather amusing to see various memorabilia retrieved from the Creek dotted around like a modern art display, such as shopping trolleys, rollerskates and typewriters. I’m always baffled why someone would find enjoyment by throwing a trolley into a river or creek… perhaps they should get an actual hobby?!

The old lifting bridge, built in the 1830s

The name Deptford comes from ‘deep ford’, with the Creek forming the north end of the River Ravensbourne before it flows into the Thames. We started our two-hour expedition being led down to the Creek by a conservationist Nick. We entered the water – and mud – near the historic lifting bridge. It was originally built in the 1830s for the London and Greenwich Railway, which connected London Bridge with Greenwich, which was incredibly busy at the time due to its naval and royal connections. The railway was the first steam service in the capital and also the first entirely elevated railway. When it came to crossing the Creek, the railway owners realised it was problematic. They couldn’t build a regular fixed crossing as that would have blocked the many ships passing up and down the Creek. Civil engineer George Thomas Landmann (1779-1854) came up with the idea of a lifting bridge, which would allow trains to pass over while in situ, but could be lifted up for passing barges via pulleys, chains and sliding rods with eight men required to operate it. The current bridge you can see today, is a younger replacement, with several bridges replacing the original 1830s one. At time of writing, it’s been out of action for decades and is a listed structure. Read the rest of this entry

Ready to throw? Check out the EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling live experience in London

© EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling

EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is a feminist-punk-rock wrestling live experience

Women’s sports are rightly getting the spotlight they deserve right now after decades of hiding in the shadows of their male counterparts. With the hit Netflix show Glow fuelling the popularity of women’s wrestling, there’s never been a better time to hit the ring and cheer on the ladies.

EVE Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is a feminist and fabulous, punk-rock wrestling live experience. EVE was founded by married couple and activists Emily and Dann Read, who have been fighting for acceptable of women in the professional wrestling industry since 2006 and create events showcasing the talents of female wrestlers.

Already this summer has seen some of EVE’s biggest shows to date, including Wrestle Queendom II – the largest ever women’s wrestling event in Europe. On 10 August 2019, the home of the EVE Academy in Bethnal Green will host Fights and False Lashes. Expect an empowering and entertaining show of fight and fun. Following in the autumn will be the three-day 2019 SHE-1 Series in November, with Wrestle Queendom kicking off the new year in January 2020,

Meanwhile, if you fancy being the next Ronda Rousey or Nikki Bella, you can enrol at the EVE Academy’s classes. You will be taught in the art of callisthenics, core strengthening, stretches and aerobic exercises and tune-chanting by two-time EVE champion and fitness instructor Rhia O’Reilly and Lucha Libre head coach and pro-wrestler Greg Burridge.

  • EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: Fights and False Lashes takes place on 10 August 2019. 7.30pm-10.30pm. Tickets: £25 + booking fee. Over 18s only. At Resistance Gallery, 265 Poyser Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9RF. Nearest station: Bethnal Green or Cambridge Heath. For more information and tickets, visit EVEWrestling.com.
  • Further events: 9-11 November 2019: EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: THE 2019 SHE-1 SERIES @ Resistance Gallery and 11 January 2020: EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling Present: Wrestle Queendom @ York Hall, Bethnal Green.

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

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Anniversary of Seven Dials’ Sundial Pillar marked in new artwork

Rene Gonzalez Seven Dials art © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

At the Entrance of Seven Obscure Passages by Rene Gonzalez in Seven Dials

A new piece of art is on show in Seven Dials to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the district’s famous sundial pillar. ‘At the Entrance of Seven Obscure Passages’ by Rene Gonzalez is the latest installation for the Seven Dials’ The Artist’s Artist Project and was unveiled in May 2019.

The Artist’s Artist project features the showcased artist nominating another for a new installation. Iona Rowland nominated Gonzalez and two other artists following the display of her Agatha Christie piece earlier this year. A panel of Shaftesbury representatives and Seven Dials stakeholders then select the winning artwork. Following display, the piece will be donated to charity.

Gonzalez’s art not only pays tribute to the sundial, but also the rich history of the area. Politician and project manager Thomas Neale (1641-1699) – who designed the Seven Dials estate – is featured in the image, alongside Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who unveiled the reconstruction of the sundial monument for The Seven Dials Trust in 1989.

  • ‘At the Entrance of Seven Obscure Passages’ is on show until September 2019 at the junction of Shorts Gardens and Neal Street, WC2. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Seven Dials website.

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

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Summer spritzes in a hidden oasis at the Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden

The Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden will be popping up in Farringdon this August

Popping up in bustling Farringdon this August will be a secret hideaway cocktail haven. Hidden from passers-by behind ivy-covered walls will be the Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden.

The city oasis will be a destination for after-work drinks and weekend cocktails during the warm August evenings. Step inside a garden full of plants, medicinal herbs and a 200-year-old olive tree to shade under. Guests can sneak through the privet hedge to find the hidden bar, before enjoying a drink on the jasmine-trailed swing seat and gazing at a lemon-filled fountain. As the sun sets, garlands of fairy lights with light up the space, which will be filled with the sounds of live jazz and acoustic music.

Botanical drink company Fentimans have teamed up with mixology expert Dino Koletsas (The Langham, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Callooh Callay) to create a special spritz menu. Visitors can enjoy a redefined series of spritzes featuring Fentimans tonic waters and top British ingredients. The full range of Fentimans tonics (from Valencian Orange to Pink Rhubarb) will be mixed with homemade herbal infusions and liqueurs, fresh fruit and aperitifs. Guests will be able to garnish their own spritzes with rosemary, sage and lavender from the garden. Throughout the three-week pop-up, the Spritz Garden will also host masterclasses, such as floristry, flower pressing, Limoncello making and collages.

  • The Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden, Clerkwenwell. Nearest station: Farringdon (5 min walk). Open from 7 – 30 August 2019. Opening hours Wed-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm and Bank Holiday Sunday 12pm-11pm. For more information and the location, visit the Secret Spritz Garden website.

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

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