Dolphins, and whales, and kelp – oh my! New Carnaby Christmas installation to be unveiled at shopping party
The subject of the environment and the urgency to save the planet is rightly a big concern right now. So this festive season, Shaftesbury are collaborating with ocean conversation charity Project O to launch the Carnaby Christmas 2019 installation. Instead of traditional festive decorations, the light installation will be given an oceanic twist.
The iconic Carnaby Street will be transformed into a theatrical underwater scene, with pink coral, whales, dolphins, clams and seahorses floating above you. The message ‘One Ocean, One Planet,’ will highlight the need for conservation and the desperate need to reverse the effects of climate change. One of the main features will be a 5-metre sculpted whale which blows bubbles. Meanwhile, on the side streets of Carnaby – Foubert’s Place and Newburgh Street, 200 illuminated vampire squids will glitter away, while a mermaid will be resting on the famous giant plug on Ganton Street.
A host of sustainable materials have been used to create the installation, with every element made using recycled and reusable materials, including repurposed fishing nets, 500m of used bubble wrap and 1,500 recycled plastic bottles. The installation will be given its colourful appearance with 100% cotton fabrics and 100 litres of water-based, eco-friendly vegan paint.
The lights switch-on will coincide with the annual Carnaby Christmas Shopping party, where visitors can enjoy special events, activities, promotions and discounts throughout the district’s over 100 shops, restaurants and bars. There will also be tap-to-donate points, with all money raised going to ocean charities.
- The Carnaby Christmas Shopping Party takes place on 7 November 2019. From 5pm-9pm (lights switch-on at 6pm). Free. Carnaby London, Soho, W1F. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. The light installation will be on show throughout the festive period. For more information and to register for your 20% discount, visit the Carnaby London website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this December, click here.
Enjoy masterclasses, special menus, cookbook launches and more at this month-long food festival in September 2019.
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.
Highlights of this year’s Soho Music Month.
Soho is the capital of London’s nightlife, dating back to the 1950s and beyond. So where better to celebrate the district’s rich musical heritage with a month long series of events and gigs. Soho Music Month 2019 runs throughtout June, bringing a mix of established and rising artists to various venues across W1.
Throughout the month, visitors will be entertained by a range of musical genres, as well as collections, promotions and exclusive activations in shops and restaurants. There will be live sets by indie king Baxter Dury at Moscot eyewear; Lilllördag music evenings at Swedish café Söderberg; and DJ Trey Rodriguez hitting the decks at menswear brand Oi Polloi. Underground drinking destination Cahoots will be taking guests back in time with Auntie Maureen and her 1930s gramophone, theatrical DJ duo The Roustabouts and Tom Carradine’s Cockney sing-along. There will also be live music at stores such as Paul Smith (Beak Street), Dr Martens (Carnaby Street) and Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Laurel Wreath by Fred Perry (Newburgh Street).
On Saturday 8 June (12pm-6pm), ocean conservation organisation Project 0 will co-host a joint celebration of World Oceans’ Day. Pull up a bean bag on the pop-up lawn on Ganton Street and listen to the sounds of world music collective Lokkhi Terra, Delilah Holliday, St Martiins and Ese & The Vooduu People, Vista Kicks and Allthingsmata.
During Soho Music Month, there will be a Platform LDN hub and exhibition space at 3 Carnaby Street, run by the Creative Media Network. Music aficionados can enjoy DJ residencies, live music broadcasts, creative workshops and panel talks. The space will play host to hip-hop duo Run The Jewels with their first ever UK gallery exhibition, RTJ UK, to showcase UK artists and creatives. Panellists appearing at the hub include Not For The Radio presenter Duane Jones (AA Vis) and actor and filmmaker Femi Oyeniran. There will also be curated events hosted by Beats 1 radio presenter Julie Adenuga, TV and radio personality Maya Jama and DIY Generation presenter Jamz Supernova.
Meanwhile, Londoners will be able to delve deeper in Soho’s music history with free music-themed walking tours, visiting sites linked to Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Kanye West and Mos Def. The tours takes place at 6.15pm on 4, 6, 11 and 13 June and start at Cahoots for a complimentary cocktail. Register here for a place on one of the tours.
- Soho Music Month takes place from 1 – 30 June 2019. Nearest stations: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road. For more information, visit Carnaby website.
It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but we like it! Coming to Carnaby this month is a new exhibition of some of music’s most iconic stars. Photography legend Gerard McNamara will be displaying some of his classic music images. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Kate Bush, Blondie, Clash, The Police and The Pretenders. The showcase will celebrate the 40th anniversary of McNamara’s photography career and contribution to music.
For 10 days, a free exhibition will be hosted in the Newburgh Quarter on behalf of The Museum of Soho. Rarely seen and previously unseen images from McNamara’s archives will be on show at 3 Newburgh Street from 12 – 21 April 2019. On show will be McNamara’s first ever published photograph, of Kate Buss on her Tour Of Life concert in 1979, which appeared in Smash Hits magazine.
Other artists captured on McNamara’s Olympus OM-1 camera include Adam & The Ants, Gary Numan, The Selecter, Iggy Pop, U2, and Toyah. The photographer’s work has appeared in a host of books and publications, including Mojo, The Face, NME and Record Mirror.
Meanwhile, on Record Store Day on 13 April (3pm onwards), visitors to the exhibition will be invited to enjoy performances from Parisian jazz singer Florence Joelle, rising singer/songwriter Emily Capell and ska and reggae favourite Nick Welsh aka King Hammond.
- The Unclosed Eye exhibition runs from 12-21 April 2019. Open daily 11am-7pm. Free entry. At 3 Newburgh Street, Soho, W1F 7RE. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby website.
Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the mostly highly anticipated films this year. Named after the iconic hit single, the movie tells the story of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen in the lead up to Live Aid in 1985. Ahead of its release, the Carnaby district of London has teamed up with 20th Century Fox to create an immersive exhibition and light installation inspired by the rock legends.
For the art installation, fans of the band will see Freddie’s lyrics for one of the greatest rock songs of all time shining brightly over the pedestrianised shopping hub. Giant neon words will bring Queen’s 1975 song to life, including the opening: ‘Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?’, along with the iconic ‘Galileo’ and ‘Figaro’. The Queen crest – designed by Mercury – will also appear on Carnaby’s famous arches.
Meanwhile, a pop-up shop and exhibition will open on 18 October so fans can get even closer to the rock gods. There will be a showcase of photographs, prints, footage and costumes from the band. Official film merchandise and Queen-inspired products will also be available to buy. Visitors can also pose for a selfie with the official Madame Tussaud’s Freddie waxwork. Meanwhile, the shops, bars and restaurants of Carnaby will also be joining in with Queen inspired products and menus.
The light display, shop and exhibition are launching to coincide with the release of the Bohemian Rhapsody movie on 24 October. It stars Rami Malek as Freddie, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee as Brian May and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon.
- Bohemian Rhapsody Pop Up Shop & Exhibition, 3 Carnaby Street, Soho, W1. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Open from 18 October 2018 – January 2019. Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 12pm-6pm. For more information, visit the Carnaby website.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
Chips and dips are the staple of any party. A great snack to stave off hunger in between meals. When it comes to regular crisps eaten solo, I can take it or leave it. However, I’ve always loved chips with dips. When it comes to dips from the supermarket, we’re usually limited to the likes of guacamole, salsa or houmous. Here’s where Hipchips comes in, a casual dining destination offering chips and dips.
Located on bustling Old Compton Street, Hipchips is an interesting concept restaurant with a simple premise. It stands out from other eateries because it offers snacks. Having opened in 2016, it caters to those looking for a mid-afternoon or evening snack rather than a meal. While the premise sounds strange, think of comparing it to a savoury (or sweet!) version of an ice cream parlour or cake shop. The menu is very straight-forward – a choice of sweet (cinnamon sugar) or savoury (salt) chips and a huge selection of dips. The chips themselves are made from a variety of seasonal, heritage potatoes, such as Highland Burgundy or Shetland Black.
Depending on your mood or tastes, deciding on the chips is the easy part. While there’s a huge range of dips to choose from, you don’t have to limit yourself to one flavour. Hipchips offer a variety of menu options, from a small chips and two dips for £4.95 to the large portion with six dips for £12.95. My friend and I were interested in trying both sweet and savoury and up for experimenting.
Before picking up your first chip, I recommend setting the boundaries on ‘double dipping’ if sharing with a friend. The chips can be pretty big so one dip is not always going to cover it. Although I’m usually not mad about beetroot, I was pleasantly surprised with the Beetroot and Lemongrass Marmalade, a lovely combination of sweet and savoury thanks to the Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Salted Caramel) and Crème Fraiche. I really enjoyed the Veggie Ceviche (Chunky Tomato, Lime, Coriander, Red Onion and Chili), which had a nice kick. However, my favourite savoury dip had to be the Baba Ganoush (Smoky Aubergine Dip with Lemony Yoghurt and Garlic).
Moving on to dessert dips, I was spoiled for choice. As someone with a sweet tooth, I was torn between the flavours when it came to a favourite. Every month, Hipchips develops a different dip, with the August offering being a Banana Mousse with Rum Caramel. The combination of banana, rum and caramel was a winner for me and I anticipated I was going to love it before trying it. Thankfully, I was right. I thought the Peanut Butter and Jam swirl was particularly interesting. Taking a popular sandwich filling and turning it into a dip is a clever concept. Meanwhile, chocoholics will also enjoy the Campfire S’more (Chocolate Mousse with Marshmallows), one of the chunkier, thicker dips that can be a bit trickier to scoop, but worth the effort.
Overall, Hipchips is a quirky concept that is a great place for a stopgap in between meals. It’s fully licensed selling a selection of wine, beers and ciders so could be a sensible option to those looking to line the stomach on a night out. The staff was friendly and can give you helpful menu descriptions if you are struggling to decide. Worth a pitstop next time you’re in Soho feeling peckish.
- Hipchips, 49 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 6HL. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Hipchips website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Disclaimer: Metro Girl was a guest of HipChips for this review. However my views are, as always, honest and my own.
The capital is hot, hot, hot! Although these sizzling temperatures won’t last forever, it will always be summer in London’s newest pop-up. Casa Bonita is bringing a taste of Latin America to Carnaby. Soho’s newest venue opened in Kingly Street in June and aims to refresh thirsty Londoners until Christmas.
Situated in the heart of Carnaby, Casa Bonita is a flamboyant Latin hybrid bar, celebrating the best of Central and South America. This boozy hideout will be serving fabulous rum, tequila and cachaça cocktails to the strains of Reggaeton, Cuban Hip Hop, Brazilian beats and other Latin beats.
If you’re a fan of the classic Latin cocktails, you won’t be disappointed with an extensive menu featuring Mojitos and Old Cubans made with the finest Barcardi Carta Blanca, Caipirinha made with Leblon cachaça or a Margarita made with Patrón Silver tequila. There will also be frozen Pina Coladas and ice cold Cervezas if you’re feeling hot.
Casa bonita can also keep you fed as well as watered with a menu of Mexican-style street food, such as chicken & chorizo empanadas or cheese & jalapeno quesadillas. Sports fans will be pleased to hear Casa Bonita will be screening Wimbledon and World Cup matches.
As well as two bars inside (with the basement available for private hire), there is also some alfresco space on Kingly Street if you want to enjoy the fresh air with your tipple.
- Casa Bonita, 5 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PF. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Opening hours: (Ground Floor) Mon-Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 2pm-11pm. (Basement) Mon-Sat 5pm-1am, Sun 5pm-11pm. Also available for private hire. Tel: 0203 696 0070. For more information, visit the Casa Bonita website.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
It’s June so that means summer is officially here! What better way to greet the best season (in most people’s opinion!) than a month-long celebration of the capital’s rich musical heritage. Taking over W1 this month is Soho Music Month, featuring a host of cultural events in venues across the area.
With 2018 being the centenary of women getting the right to vote, part of the festival will celebrate females in the industry. Independent label Market will be curating an all-female line-up, while female founders of independent labels will be taking over Berwick Street Market (16 June) selling their roster’s best vinyl. Meanwhile, three female DJs Xanthe Fuller, Sophie Callis and Cherrie Flava will be broadcasting live from the market on Soho Radio.
Throughout the festival, the hub and exhibition space Platform LDN will be opening its doors at 3 Carnaby Street. Daily throughout June, it will play host to a variety of free events, including a GRM Daily panel discussion, Reprezent Radio’s live broadcasts, book signings with DJ Jumping Jack Frost and DJ Target, of BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra fame. Check out the Carnaby website for listings and to register for a place on one of the sessions.
Every Thursday evening (5pm-9pm) in June, there will be a series of free outdoor gigs in the Newburgh Quarter. A pop-up stage will appear under ‘The Plug’ light installation on Ganton Street with a lawn and bean bags. Kicking things off on 7 June will be an all-female hip-hop DJ battle with Melody Kane, Emily Rawson, Ellie Prohan, Fearney and Sandra Omari. Following on 14 June will be Alex Tracey and his funk and indie pop-rhythms, presented by Stageside, a platform for unsigned, emerging or breaking artists from Instagram collective @London. On 21 June, will be a showcase of new talent from Platform LDN, NME Emerging and TuneCore. Closing the month on 28 June will be resident female DJs from NYC restaurant Dirty Bones, spinning old school hip-hop, R&B, funk and soul.
Throughout the month, there will be a host of musical events taking place in the streets, boutiques and restaurants of the area. Expect to see jazz sessions at The Duck & Rice, instore performance from Swedish singer-songwriter Natali Felicia at Sandqvist, ‘Bring Your Own Vinyl’ listening parties at Shinola and Campfire Music Sessions at Filson. There will be free guided walking tour on the music heritage of Carnaby and Soho. Meanwhile, Dirty Bones will be launching a limited-edition Doo Wop cocktail in homage to Lauryn Hill, as well as selling limited-edition Mac Daddy sliders, with a portion of the sales going to charity partner Youth Music.
- Soho Music Month takes place from 1 – 30 June 2018. For more information, visit Carnaby website or ThisIsSoho.co.uk.
For a guide to what else is on in London in June, click here.
If you know your gin, then your taste buds are required to help find the world’s best gin. Graphic Bar in Soho are hosting the Gin Off 2018 awards to hunt down the finest ‘mother’s ruin’. Sixteen of the planet’s most exciting brands will be competing for the top honour in a series of heats.
Each gin brand will put forward a mixologist to create a cocktail that makes the most of their tipple. The rules state the cocktail must be served in a disposable vessel, so expect to see drinks served in quirky alternatives, such as an ice glass or hollowed-out cucumber.
The Gin Off has been taking place annually since 2015 and Audemus Spirits’ Pink Pepper Gin have reigned supreme for the past two years. For 2018, Audemus have stepped out of the competition, leaving the field open for a new champion. Brands big and small are taking part this year, including Haymans, Beefeater, Fords, Marylebone, Copperhead, Nordes, NGinious, Brooklyn, Scapegrace, Nicholson, Daffy’s, Vidda, Boxer, Thomas Dakin, Monkey 47 and Bols.
Round 1 has already taken place on 30 April, but there’s three more rounds before the semi-finals and final take place in November. For this exciting competition, it’s the guests who have the power. Each gin lover is given a polling card before going on to sample four different cocktails and voting for their favourite. The overall winner will be crowned with a Copper Still trophy and will be featured on the Graphic Bar’s 2019 cocktail menu. Graphic Bar is a stylish, contemporary bar located in Soho and boasts a selection of over 300 world-class gins.
The remaining fixtures in the 2018 Gin Off are:
Round 2: 21 May – Haymans, Daffy’s, NGinious, Scapegrace.
Round 3: 25 June – Bols, Nordes, Monkey 47, Brooklyn.
Round 4: 30 July – Copperhead, Marylebone, Boxer, Fords.
Semi-final: 24 September.
Semi-final: 29 October.
Final: 26 November.
- The Gin Off takes place on Mondays once a month until November 2018. At the Graphic Bar, 4 Golden Square, Soho, W1F 9HT. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Tickets: £10 (include 4 gin cocktails). From 6pm-9pm on relevant dates. Tickets available through Eventbrite or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Graphic Bar website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in October 2018, click here.
Last week, I ended up dining in Soho’s hottest new opening by accident. A friend and I had been at a launch party so were feeling peckish after canapés failed to satisfy our hunger. Walking down Frith Street, we spotted Freakscene, a pan-Asian fusion restaurant which opened just a month ago. The bar-style seating overlooking the kitchen gave the venue a really buzzy feel and easily pulled us inside. We grabbed two stools and were immediately hit with the amazing scents coming from the Kobata grill. I’ve visited South East Asia quite a lot and the love the hawker open-kitchen style so this really appealed to me.
Freakscene’s arrival in Soho comes after a hugely successful pop-up in Farringdon from Chef Scott Hallsworth and co-founder Phar Shaweewan. Like many, we were intrigued by the name and Phar told us it was named after a song by 90s grunge band Dinosaur Jr. Hallsworth was previously head chef at Nobu, Park Lane for eight years before finding Kurobuta Izakaya on the King’s Road so really know his stuff when it comes to Asian cuisine. The menu describes Freakscene’s dishes as ‘curious Asian plates’, which I interpreted as pan-Asian fusion tapas.
As you would expect, we started with drinks. As it was a warm night, I was attracted to the Freak Smash (St Germaine, Gin, Grapes, Mint), a light and refreshing cocktail. We also ended our night with the saucily titled Wet Pussy shots (peach schnapps, vodka and a twist of lemon and lime), which was quite nostalgic as we reminisced drinking schnapps a lot as students in the ’90s.
When it came to the food, the menu is short and manageable, with a selection of around 12 dishes and sides to choose from. As we had eaten a bit already, we went for a small dinner than usual, but enjoyed everything so much, in hindsight probably could have ordered more. Like in a tapas restaurant, the various dishes just arrive as they’re cooked so your meal is stretched out into a relaxed and informal sitting. Our first dish to arrive was the Chili Crab and Avocado Wonton ‘Bombs’. Served in a crispy taco-esque wrap, the ‘bomb’ really packed a punch with a flavour explosion, with the avocado cooling down the heat of the chili. After our first bite, my friend and I actually looked each other and murmured ‘soooo good’ in unison. The crab bomb set the bar high for the remainder of our evening and we were not disappointed. My friend chowed down on the unusual Chicken-Fried Chicken with Peanut Soy and Picked Cucumber, which she thoroughly enjoyed. As a pescatarian, chicken was off-limits, but I was kept occupied by the Foil Baked Garlic Mushrooms with Sake, Soy and Butter, a tasty light side dish. The garlic was evident, but subtle so I wasn’t overpowered by the flavour. We finished with the Miso Grilled Black Cod Tacos with Sushi Rice and Scorched Red Chili Salsa, which was pretty special. As a huge fan of Mexican and Asian cuisine, this creative mix was a perfect combination.
I cannot recommend this place highly and have already been telling numerous friends to go. I am not exaggerating when I declare it was one of the best meals I’ve had in London in a long time. Every single dish was delicious and so different from anything I’ve tasted before. If you’re a fan of more informal dining in more of a bar atmosphere, than Freakscene is definitely for you. This venue is a cool and valuable addition to the Soho dining scene in a time where there’s too many chain restaurants creeping in for my liking. As Arnie says, I’ll be back… and soon!
- Freakscene, 54 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4SL. Nearest station: Tottenham Court Road. Tel: 07561 394 497. Open Tues-Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-10.30pm. For more information, visit the Freakscene website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.