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Lumiere London 2018: The capital becomes a gallery of neon

Where to celebrate Burns’ Night 2018 in London

© Pear Tree Cafe

Listen to a live bagpiper at the Pear Tree Cafe’s Burns’ Night celebrations

You don’t have to be Scottish to celebrate Burns’ Night, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. January 25 is an annual festivity to mark the birthday of Scottish poet Robert ‘Robbie’ Burns, who died in 1796. Traditionally, a meal of soup, haggis, tatties, neeps and lots of whisky is served to celebrate his life and poetry. With a host of Scots living in the capital, there are tons of Burns’ Night celebrations on around town.

  • Burns’ Dinner and Music @ Boisdale (22 – 27 January)

Scottish restaurant chain Boisdale will be hosting a series of Burns evenings, featuring special three or four-course meals, with live music in some venues (each branch’s menu choice and price differs). Menus from £35.

– Boisdale – Four branches in Canary Wharf, Belgravia, Bishopsgate and Mayfair. For more information, visit the Boisdale website.

  • Burns events @ Barworks (various venues) (22 – 27 January)

Barworks will be running special Burns events at a selection of their bars and restaurants across the capital. Haggis and Neeps & Tatties will be on offer, as well as a dram of R&B Distillery’s Raasay While We Wait. Meanwhile, Harrild & Sons in Farringdon will be hosting a three-course traditional supper on actual Burns’ Night, coupled with Scottish cocktails which includes the Grain & Ginger a of R&B Distillers’ Borders Single Grain Scotch Whisky with fiery Ginger Ale.  From 7.30pm. Dinner: £45 pp including whiskies.

– Venues taking part included the Slaughtered Lamb, Exmouth Arms, Well & Bucket, Harrild & Sons and Singer Tavern. For more information, visit the Barworks website.

  • Week Of Burns @ Mac & Wild (22 – 28 January)

Scottish eaterie Mac & Wild will be celebrating with a whole week of Burns inspired menu and events. Including Whisky and Beer Pairing, Haggis Making Masterclass, Whisky Tour Tasting Experience, Whisky and Chocolate Pairing Masterclass and traditional Burns’ Night menu. Throughout the week, customers can order Mac & Wild Haggis, Neeps & Tatties Burgers and Rabbie’s Drams whisky flights.

– Mac & Wild Fitzrovia: 65 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PS (Nearest station: Oxford Circus) or Mac & Wild City: 9A Devonshire Square, City of London, EC2M 4YN (Nearest station: Liverpool Street). For booking and more information, visit the Mac & Wild website.

  • Whisky 101 @ The Gallery (25 January)

The Gallery bar has created a special Robbie Burns drinks menu featuring their favourite whiskies and beers, including Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and beer and whisky pairings including Chivas 12 with 6° North Four Saisons. Open 12pm-12.30am. Free entry.

– The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6 3AY. Nearest station: West Hampstead. For more information, visit their website. Read the rest of this entry

Schumann Street review: A fascinating musical ‘crawl’ around Spitalfields

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Andrew West and Rob Murray perform during Schumann Street, a ‘song crawl’ around the Huguenot houses of Spitalfields

The Spitalfields Music Festival is an annual celebration of innovative music, featuring local and international talent. Venues across east London play host to a wide variety of performances. The last event of the 2017 festival in December was the captivating Schumann Street. Sixteen artists from very different genre and backgrounds were invited to perform their own interpretation of the songs in German composer Robert Schumann’s 1840 song cycle Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love).

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Baritone Benedict Nelson expresses forlorn desperation in Allnächtlich im Traume

The audience were split into groups to start our journey on the immersive, promenade musical installation. For the evening, eight local residents of the Huguenot houses of Spitalfields had opened their doors to stage two performances across different floors. The whole event takes place over 75 minutes so participants were invited to come and go as we please from each house, spending just long enough to hear the 16 pieces. We started our experience in Wilkes Street, a small group of us stepping into the parlour of a charmingly creaky early 18th century home. With just six of us squeezed into the wood-panelled front room, we sat quietly as a pianist Andrew West and tenor Rob Murray provided an interpretation of one of the song cycles by candlelight. Next, we headed upstairs for a cosier experience with a guitarist Aart Stootman accompanying singer Abimaro by a roaring fire in the living room.

Despite being a classical piece, the story of Dichterliebe was told to us through hip-hop, Bengali folk, soul, jazz, R&B, blues, as well as a classical. We stood, sat on chairs, tables and floors; or lingered in dark corners as we snuck in and out of the performances trying not to interrupt. The song cycle is about love, then loss, with the musicians giving musical expressions of the joy and the torment the heart goes through. One particularly enchanting performance was Mara Carlyle and Liam Byrne in the basement kitchen of a courtyard home. Carlyle sang while wearing Marigolds and washing up at the sink, as Byrne accompanies her on the viol. She then switches direction with a musical saw, bringing a quirky, modern end to the piece. Moving upstairs, we were greeted by an incredibly emotional performance by soprano Héloïse Werner and harpist Anne Denholm in a darkly lit living room. Werner looked positively heartbroken as she forlornly belted out lines from Und Wüssten’s die Blumen. I also particularly enjoyed German duo Apollo 47 depicting the torment and obsession that love can inflict as they rapped Hör’ ich das Liedchen Klingen. In a room covered in lyrics on the wall, the pair were oblivious to the audience as they rambled around with their lanterns trying to make sense of their emotions.

In the end, I only visited seven houses and was disappointed to have missed the last one, due to the fault of my own time management. I enjoyed the different stagings – from a more formal setting of a singer by a piano, to a drunken singing rampage around another house. While some artists acknowledged your presence, for many of the others, it felt like we were eavesdropping on a private or mundane moment – the writing of love letters, household chores, a lonely moping session. In addition to being entertained by very different performances, I felt privileged to see inside these amazing Georgian houses. I loved checking out their original shutters, fireplaces, wood panelling and window seats. Overall, it was certainly an ambitious premise, but the Spitalfields Music Festival certainly pulled it off. The result was a quirky, innovative experience which brought the classical workings of Schumann to a new audience.

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Vault Festival 2018: Comedy, theatre and immersive experiences as London’s biggest arts festival returns

Vault Festival 2018

The Vault Festival returns to the tunnels underneath Waterloo station
© Vault Festival

Returning to the tunnels underneath Waterloo this winter is one of the country’s biggest arts festivals. Now its in sixth year, the Vault Festival features over 300 shows over eight weeks. Expect a jam-packed schedule of comedy, film, circus, musicals, theatre, immersive experiences and late-night parties. As well taking over the atmospheric and historic tunnels, the festival is also expanding to satellite venues such as Waterloo East Theatre and Network Theatre. Expect to see homegrown and international talent, with a spotlight on names to watch at the Vault New Writers Award.

One of this year’s big shows is Neverland, an immersive musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. Guests will come face-to-face with glittering pirates, mermaids, food fights, absinthe bars and live music from a band of lost boys. If immersive experiences floats your boat, there is also Caravan, a journey through hip-hop dance, or Lamplighters, an improvised spy story in the style of John Le Carre.

If you want to be amazed, there’s plenty of mind-blowing circus acts, including the Chivaree Circus’ award-winning re-imagining of the Persephone myth, Becoming Shades. Explore hypnotism with David Aula and Simon Evans in their show The Vanishing Mankind, or be wowed by the brilliant Madhi The Magician, who was born without hands or feet. There will also be a busy comedy schedule, with Joe Lycett, Bridget Christie, Richard Gadd, Phil Wang and Adam Riches, Mat Ewins, Graham Dickson and Joe Sutherland aiming to tickle your funny bone.

The Vault Festival promises to showcase some of the best female and BAME talent, with over 52 per cent of shows written or directed by women. Fringe First winner Katie Bonna explores gender conditioning in Paper Scissors Stone, while Edinburgh hit Glitter Punch deals with student/teacher relationship boundaries. Nicole Acquah examines racism in the UK in her powerful piece For a Black Girl, while round-table discussions on gender equality will also be providing food for thought.

Among the late-night parties at the weekends, includes Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Ball, St Patrick’s Day, the South London Soul Train and the opening and closing bashes. As well as all the entertainment, there will be plenty of options to keep you fed and watered with intimate themed bars and street food stalls.

  • The Vault Festival runs from 24 January – 18 March 2018 and takes place at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN; Network Theatre, 246a Lower Road, SE1 8SJ and Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, SE1 8TN. Nearest stations: Waterloo or Lambeth North. For more information and tickets, visit the Vault Festival website.

To find out what else is on in January, click here.

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Brick & Liquor Clapham review: Creative cocktails in a friendly neighbourhood bar

Marshmallow Martinis at Brick & Liquor

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.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A Salted Caramel Espresso Martini and Californication

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.

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Shake off the winter blues at the London Remixed Festival 2018

© Alejandro Tamagno

London Remixed Festival returns to Rich Mix
© Alejandro Tamagno

Need to shake off those winter blues? Well, you don’t have to wait until spring as the London Remixed Festival is returning to Shoreditch this February. Over two days, over 25 innovative and exciting bands and DJs from a range of genres will perform across four stages. Revellers will be entertained by talented artists playing Latin Grooves, Afro beats, Tropical Bass, Vintage-Remix, Desert Remix Balkan Beats, Urban Roots, Acoustic Soundclash and Brass Band Remix.

Taking over Rich Mix, music fans can soak up the festival spirit without the mud or dodgy toilets. As well as live music and DJ sets, guests can also take part in the free Remix workshops, Silent Disco, the ‘Disco Lift’ or the infamous Remix Speed Dating. Among the headliners include Wara, Holy Moly & The Crackers, The Baghdaddies, John Fairhurst, Siska and Subajah.

On Friday night, the Brass Off stage curated by Continental Drifts features New York Brass Band Vs Temple Funk Collective; DJ Chris Tofu and Count Bassy. On Saturday, revellers will be spoiled for choice with four stages to choose from, including Tropicarnival (Curated by Wormfood, Movimientos and Vibes & Pressure); Polka Club (Curated by Continental Drifts and Arts Canteen); and Folk Ghetto (Curated by Two For Joy and Woodburner).

  • The London Remixed Festival takes place from 2-3 February 2018 at Richmix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA. Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street. Open Fri 2 7pm-1am, Sat 3 8pm-4am. Tickets: £7-£15. For more information and booking, visit the festival’s official website.

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

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The ceramic bakers of Spitalfields on Widegate Street

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The façade of 12-14 Widegate Street features four ornamental bakers

Spitalfields is full of fascinating buildings, with Georgian, Victorian and early 20th century well represented. Many businesses are moving into the area, with some redeveloping or demolishing older buildings. While some historic architecture has been restored and changed for the better, there are others which meet a sorry fate (see my post on a crime against architecture in Artillery Lane). One of the things I love about the Spitalfields area is its many old lanes and alleys. Although many were destroyed during the Blitz, some still remain despite the encroaching modernity and skyscrapers of the City. As businesses come and go from the area, it’s interesting to see which ones embrace the history and heritage of the buildings they occupy… or completely annihilate any original features.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Widegate Street is named after the former ‘white gate’ entrance into the Old Artillery Ground

This post focuses on one particular street and one of its buildings. Widegate Street is just 200ft long and connects Middlesex Street and Sandy’s Row. The name Widegate comes from the former ‘white gate’ entrance into the Old Artillery Ground, which was established in the 16th century. Areas of the ground were sold off for housing and shops in subsequent centuries, with its legacy living on today in names such as Fort Street, Gun Street, Artillery Passage and Artillery Lane. Widegate Street used to be longer than what you see today, but some of it was absorbed by Middlesex Street in the 1890s. Today, Widegate Street features a mix of narrow historic buildings, including two listed houses at No.24 and 25 dating back to 1720.

No.12-13 is currently home to Honest Burgers, who have branches across London in a variety of historic premises. However, long before burger buns were being served, more traditional buns were being baked on site. The building was designed in the 1920s by architect George Val Myer as a bakery, in a neo-Georgian style to complement neighbouring buildings. The ground floor features glazed white bricks, giving a clean, clinical look. The two upper stories are made of red brick, Crittal windows and a strong cornice projecting above. The most striking part of the building are four ceramic panels, giving a permanent reminder of its origins as bakery. ‘Bakers Relief’ were created by Brixton-born sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark (1899-1977) in 1926 and were fired by Carters of Poole. The white and blue glazes are 1.2metres by 50 centimetres and depict the baking process. The panels start with a man carrying a sack of flour; a baker kneading the dough, baking the loaf in the oven and a baker carrying a tray of loaves. The original business itself was called the Nordheim Model Bakery and was opened by Charles Naphtali Nordheim (1864-1941). Although the bakery has long moved out, today customers their getting their carb fix in buns with their beef burgers.

  • 12-13 Widegate Street, Spitalfields, E1 7HP. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.
Spitalfields Widegate Street © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark created the ceramic panels depicting the baking process

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

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Gods Own Junkyard: A trip to Walthamstow’s neon wonderland

Guide to what’s on in London in January 2018

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The Winter Lights Festival lights up Canary Wharf

Happy New Year! All the festivities are over and things are a bit calmer and cash-strapped after the big blow-out of Christmas and New Year. In January, it can feel tempting to curl up in front of the TV in the warm and not go out. However, if you’re not the type for cosy days in, there’s plenty of events and festivals going on around town, many free.

To find out where to celebrate Burns’ Night in London on 25 January, click here.

  • 1 January : New Year’s Day Parade

Hundreds of thousands of spectators will line the streets of London to watch 10,000 performers from around the world. Starts from Piccadilly’s Berkeley Street at 12pm, ending at Parliament Square at 3.30pm. Free. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus, Westminster or Charing Cross. For more information, visit the Parade website.

  • Now until 1 January : Winter Wonderland

The south east corner of Hyde Park is transformed into a Christmas fair with rides, food and drink stalls, ice rink, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Berserk, The Sooty Christmas Show, The Magical Ice Kingdom and more. Open 10am-10pm daily. Free to enter. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner, Victoria, Knightsbridge or Marble Arch. For more information, visit the Winter Wonderland website.

  • Now until 1 January : Christmas at Kew

A one mile glittering trail which weaves its way through Kew Gardens with stunning sights lit up upon the way. There will also be Santa at the North Pole Village, a Tunnel of Light, vintage rides, festive food and drinks. 5-10pm. Tickets (advance): Adults £16, Children £10. Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens), Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest station: Kew Gardens. For more information, visit the Kew Gardens website.

  • Now until 1 January : South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop

Brixton Rooftop has had a festive makeover, with plenty of bars, street food, live music, DJs and entertainment to keep you occupied. Opening Hours: Thur: 5pm-12am, Fri: 5pm-2am, Sat: 4pm-2am. South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop, Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Brixton Rooftop website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

  • Now until 1 January : Magical Lantern Festival

Go on an immersive journey through a sea of lights. Over 50 life-sized sculpted lanterns will be dotted through the gardens with light depictions of animals and nature. Open 5pm-10pm daily (except Xmas Eve, Xmas Day and Boxing Day). Tickets: Adults £16.50, Child £10. Chiswick House Gardens, Chiswick, W4 2QN. Nearest stations: Turnham Green and Gunnersbury. For tickets, visit the Magical Lantern Festival website. For photos of a previous year’s festival, click here.

  • Now until 1 January : Winterville

An alternative festive wonderland in south London, featuring Christmas markets, ice rink, roller disco, cinema, plonk golf, fairground, spiegeltent and more. Free entry (except Fri and Sat nights). Clapham Common, SW4 9DE. Nearest station: Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Winterville website.

  • Now until 4 January : Beauty And The Feast

Go on an underground dining immersive theatrical experience, featuring pantomime, performers, cocktails, food and fabulous fun. For 16+. Show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets from £35 (includes dinner, dessert and DJs). The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. For booking, visit The Vaults website. For Metro Girl’s review, click here.

  • 7 JanuaryTwelfth Night Celebration

Theatre company the Lions Part host their annual celebration of the new year, ‘mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity’ in the Bankside area of London. From 2pm. Free. Outside Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT. Nearest stations: Blackfriars, London Bridge or Southwark. For more information, visit the Lions Part website.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2012

Cirque du Soleil is on at the Royal Albert Hall

  • 7 January – 4 March : Ovo by Cirque du Soleil

The newest touring production from the Cirque, a spectacular exploration of the ecosystem, with insects working, playing, fighting and looking for love. Tickets range from £25-£231. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP. Nearest stations: South Kensington, Knightsbridge or High Street Kensington. For more information and booking, visit the Cirque Du Soleil website.

  • Now until 7 January : Christmas in Leicester Square

The West End’s famous square will feature a Christmas market and a Spiegeltent, hosting shows including A Christmas Carol, Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Austentatious, Black Cat Cabaret, Fascinating Aida, House of Burlesque 2.0 and more. Free entry to Leicester Square, but tickets required for the Spiegeltent. Leicester Square, WC2H. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Christmas In Leicester Square website.

  • Now until 8 January : Winter Forest

New winter installation comes to Exchange Square, featuring food and drink stalls, Tipi cinema, market and art exhibitions. Open Mon-Fri 9am-11pm, Sat 11am-11pm, Sun closed. Free entry. Exchange Square, Broadgate, EC2. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit The Winter Forest website.

  • 10 – 14 January : London Boat Show

Boats of all shapes and sizes on show at ExCel in Docklands. Open Fri-Sun 10am-6pm (late nights Thurs until 8pm). Tickets: Adult £15-£22, Children 15 years and under free with a paying adult. ExCel, Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1XL. Nearest station: Prince Regent or Custom House (DLR). For more information and to book tickets, visit the London Boat Show website.

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Happy New Year! A look back on blogging in 2017

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Happy New Year! Here we are, about to move into the latter part of the decade. 2017 has proved a turbulent year with politics and some horrific terror attacks in our great city. However, I’ll always be proud of how us Londoners stay strong in the face of terror and refuse to bow to fear. As we continue to move through the Brexit process, the fate of the capital and country as a whole seems uncertain as ever, with our economy expected to show more unpredictability in 2018.

As well as looking back on the year, I’m also taking stock of my blogging and how it’s gone. When I started my blog in 2012, there were dramatically less bloggers than there are now. Sometimes it feels difficult to stand out and be heard amongst a sea of other blogs. Occasionally, some people have suggested I try to find a USP. However, to me, my blog isn’t to make money and win ‘likes’. I started my blog to write about what I want to write about, to showcase my passion for and knowledge of my hometown. My interests and hobbies cannot be pigeon-holed into a certain ‘type’ and I often enjoy polar opposites. I love both luxury and bargain restaurants. I love history and art, but I also love clubbing and concerts. I would expect many of my readers are the same – we are versatile people with a range of interests. I don’t know how long I will continue blogging, but for now, I still enjoy it and am committed so expect more London events, restaurant reviews, history and more from Metro Girl in 2018.

Taking my what’s on guides out of the equation, here are Metro Girl’s most popular blog posts of 2017.

  1. Bolton House: A rare piece of Art Nouveau in the City of London.
  2. Granada Tooting: A neo-renaissance cinema masquerading as a bingo hall.
  3. Is this London’s smallest alley? Squeeze down Brydges Place in Covent Garden.
  4. Beauty And The Feast review: A fabulous and playful immersive, theatrical dinner experience. (On until 4 January 2018).
  5. Neal’s Yard Water Clock: A quirky timepiece in Covent Garden.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year and see you in 2018 for more London adventures.

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