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London In The Sky: Fine dining suspended 25 metres in the air

London In The Sky

Fine dining in the air with London In The Sky

Calling all foodies with a head for heights! Move over The Shard and Walkie Talkie – this is fine dining with a view with a difference. A new pop-up restaurant is coming to London in September with diners suspended 25 metres (82 foot) above the ground. London In The Sky will be offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and Champagne Taittinger sessions while hovering over St Katharine Docks.

Twenty-two guests can be accommodated at a time, with diners being securely fastened in to their seats before the platform is raised from the ground. Some of London’s finest chefs will be in the centre of the table preparing meals in front of their customers. Among the chefs taking part are Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle, Robert Ortiz of Lima, Sophie Michell of Pont Street, Michael Reid of M Restaurants, Martin Morales of Ceviche and Andina, Tom Aikens of Tom’s Kitchen, Calum Franklin of Holborn Dining Rooms and Chantelle Nicholson of Tredwell’s from Marcus Wareing. They will be serving up a menu of signature dishes, with dinner guests being treated to a Champagne Taittinger reception before their meals. All lunch and dinner guests will have their food paired with Villa Maria wines.

Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle enthused: ‘London is now one of the leading food cities in the world. As if that wasn’t enough, we took it to another level with London in the Sky. It’s a view we are used to at Duck & Waffle being located on the 40th floor but to have the opportunity to cook outside suspended with a view of one of London’s landmarks, Tower Bridge, and being able to directly connect with our guests is something very special indeed.’

  • London In The Sky takes place on 17 – 30 September 2015. Tickets go on sale on 17 July 2015. Breakfast: £50 per head, Lunch: £125 per head, Dinner: £200 per head and Taittinger In The Sky flights at £75 per head. For more information and booking, visit the Events In The Sky website.
  • NB: Since publication, this event has now changed location from St Katharine Docks to the Southbank. It will now take place at 99A Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PP. Nearest station: Waterloo.

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

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Turning circus on its head (and then some): Scotch & Soda headlines London Wonderground

© Matilda Temperly

Scotch & Soda headlines London Wonderground this summer
© Matilda Temperly

It’s nearly that time of year again – when the Southbank becomes a hotbed of international entertainment at pop-up venue London Wonderground. The festival will be returning to Jubilee Gardens for the fourth year in a row with its heady mix of circus, cabaret, booze, food and fairground rides.

Headlining this year’s entertainment is the critically-acclaimed production of Scotch & Soda. Imagine a group of friends get together and after a few drinks, decide to show off their party tricks. Jazz fusion group Ben Walsh’s Crusty Suitcase Band has teamed up with some of Australia’s top acrobats to create a boozy mix of cabaret and circus. With talented stars from previous productions such as Cantina, La Clique, Cirque and Tom Tom Crew, there will be gravity-defying tricks and beatnik soul galore.

Following hit runs in Sydney and Edinburgh, Wonderground marks the first time Scotch & Soda are coming to the capital. The production will run six nights a week from 14 May until early August, with Sunday matinees.

  • Scotch & Soda is on at London Wonderground in Jubilee Gardens from 14 May – 2 August 2015. Nearest station: Waterloo. Tuesday to Sunday 7.30pm, Sunday matinees 4pm, No performances on Monday or 2 June, 14 June, 15 June, 16 June, 17 June, 14 July and 28 July. Tickets: £12.50. Suitable for ages 12+. To book phone: 0844 545 8282 or visit www.londonwonderground.co.uk or www.southbankcentre.co.uk.
  • London Wonderground runs at Jubilee Gardens from 7 May until 27 September 2015.

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

For Metro Girl’s post on a previous London Wonderground, click here.

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Sit back and enjoy one of London’s best views: The swan benches on the Albert Embankment

Swan bench © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

The swan benches line Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridge

I’ve previously blogged about the creation of the Victoria and Albert Embankments in the 19th century which coincided with the creation of the camel and sphinx benches, the sturgeon lamps and Cleopatra Needle’s sphinxes. However, there is another item of street furniture which appeared around the same time – the swan benches on the Albert Embankment.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Bringing some grace to the Thames: The benches are often used by patients and visitors to nearby St Thomas’s Hospital

In Victorian London, the rapidly expanding population were creating major issues including the disposal of waste and sewage, most memorably the ‘Great Stink’ in 1858. The local government recognised the infrastructure couldn’t cope with surge of people living and working in the city and established the Metropolitan Board Of Works in 1855. One of board’s biggest projects was the creation of the Victoria and Chelsea Embankments on the north bank of the River Thames and the Albert Embankment on the south. The MBW’s Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazelgette (1819–1891) oversaw the extensive project, which involved reclaiming marshland and making the river slimmer in that part of the capital. As well as creating a sewage system and new streets to relieve traffic congestion, a lot of slums on the banks of the river were cleared. In regards to the south bank, the creation of Albert Embankment was also designed to protect low-lying areas of Lambeth from flooding at high tide. The creation of the Victoria Embankment started in 1862, with work commencing on the Albert Embankment in July 1866 and was finished in November 1869. The Chelsea Embankment wasn’t finished until 1874. The embankments were named after the reigning monarch of the time Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, who died in 1861.

In the typically Victorian way, the new Embankment needed to have suitable ‘street furniture’ to give London – heart of the British Empire – a look of prestige and style. English architect George John Vulliamy (1817–1886) was hired as the Superintending Architect. Among one of his many projects in addition to the iconic London ‘dolphin’ lampposts, were creating benches for both sides of the Thames. On the north side, the benches’ panels and arms were designed in the shape of Egyptian sphinxes and camels – complementing Cleopatra’s Needle. On the south side of the river, there aren’t quite as many ornamental benches. However, on the stretch of Albert Embankment between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges are 15 benches featuring cast iron swan panels and arms. These benches were Grade II listed in 1981 and are established within Lambeth’s Conservation Area due to their aesthetic and historical significance. Although I am yet to find official confirmation, I would assume the swan benches have been similarly designed by Vulliamy and made by Z.D. Berry & Son of Regent Street. While the reason behind the Egyptian theme of the Victoria Embankment benches is established, the significance of the swans is not clear.

Swan bench Westminster Embankment © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2015

Enjoy the view: Take a seat on the swan benches and gaze across the River Thames at the Houses Of Parliament

The name Henry Doulton is stamped on the base on the benches. I admit I couldn’t find a definite answer (but would welcome anyone who knows to comment below), but perhaps Sir Henry (1820-1897) contributed to the funding of the Embankment. Sir Henry was a key player in the expansion of the family ceramics company Royal Doulton, which was founded by his father John (1793-1873). The company had factories on various sites in Lambeth over the years located just a couple of minutes walk from the Embankment. Sir Henry’s brother Frederick (1824–1872) was a MP for the Liberal Party and a member of the Lambeth Vestry of the Metropolitan Board Of Works from 1855 to 1868. Today, the only remainder of the pottery industry which once stood there is the former Royal Doulton headquarters building on the junction of Black Prince Road and Lambeth High Street, a neo-Gothic building (built 1878) now renamed as Southbank House. Royal Doulton left the Lambeth premises in the 1950s for Stoke-on-Trent.

Whatever the reasoning behind the design of the swan benches, today they stand elevated on a concrete plinth so people can sit and admire the fine view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Located so near to St Thomas’s Hospital, the stretch of Embankment and benches are popular with hospital patients and visitors.

  • The swan benches are on the Albert Embankment, in between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges. Nearest stations: Westminster, Lambeth North or Waterloo.

For Metro Girl’s blog post on the Vulliamy’s camel and sphinx benches on the Victoria Embankment, click here.

Or for more on Vulliamy’s Dolphin lamps, click here.

To read Metro Girl’s other blog posts on London history, click here.

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Hop along: Giant rabbits ‘Intrude’ upon the Southbank

The South Bank Lion: A historic big cat looking a bit off colour…

 © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The South Bank Lion has moved around a bit since he was sculpted in 1837

The South Bank is one of London’s most heavily tourist-populated areas, thanks to the London Eye, London Dungeon, Aquarium and view of the Houses of Parliament to name but a few. Those who have lived in London a long time, know this is a relatively recent phenomena, having really kicked off with the opening of the London Eye by the southern shores of the Thames in 2000. Prior to the 1950s – when the Royal Festival Hall was built for the Festival Of Britain – the South Bank was a place of industry, which has long since gone.

Standing on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just by the pedestrianised steps leading down to the front of County Hall, is a proud-looking stone lion. Tens of thousands of people – predominantly tourists – walk over Westminster Bridge every day to get a selfie of themselves with Big Ben behind or to board the London Eye for a 360 degree vista of the capital and many not even notice him. He stands tall at 12 feet at a width of 13 feet, weighing an impressive 13 tonnes.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Standing guard: The lion is now located around 400 metres away from his original home in the early 19th century

While the grey-coloured lion looks very comfortable against the backdrop of the similarly coloured County Hall building, his origins weren’t quite so low-key. This sculpture was originally red and belonged to the Red Lion Brewery, an imposing great building on the site of the Royal Festival Hall. The brewery was designed by Francis Edwards and built between 1836–7 for owner James Goding. The site spread south of Belvedere Road after Goding acquired land for stables and warehouses as his beer empire expanded. (For an image of the Red Lion Brewery, click here). Our current lion was one of two red ones which stood at the brewery – a great emblem for the beer brand. What makes these lions special is they are made of Coade stone – a type of stoneware made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, named after its creator Eleanor Coade (1733-1821). Coade’s Artificial Stone Company stood not far away on Westminster Bridge Road.

The red lions stood on the site for nearly 100 years until the brewery was damaged in a fire in 1931. The semi-ruined building was briefly used as storage for waste paper before lying derelict for years before it was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall. Apparently King George VI (1895-1952) rather liked our lion and encouraged city planners to find a new home for him. The lion was then moved to Station Approach outside Waterloo railway station, but that home didn’t last long either when the station was later expanded.

Finally, in 1966, the lion was restored to his original Coade Stone grey colour and placed on a plinth outside County Hall, where he remains today. During his final move, the name of the noted sculptor William F Woodington (1806-1893) was found engraved on one of the paws, along with the date 24 May 1837. He is now Grade II-listed by English Heritage. As for his twin, the other lion is now painted gold and stands at the Rowland Hill Memorial Gate at Twickenham Stadium 12 miles away. (For a photo of the Twickenham lion, click here).

  • The South Bank Lion stands on the south east corner of Westminster Bridge. Nearest station: Waterloo or Westminster.

For the history of the nearby 19th century swan benches and the Albert Embankment, click here.

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

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London Dungeon review: Scare yourself silly as you travel through the city’s gruesome past

© Copyright 2014 Merlin Entertainments

The London Dungeon features live actors guiding you through the horrors of the city’s gruesome past
© 2014 Merlin Entertainments

The London Dungeon is a stalwart on the city’s tourism attractions and has long been on visitors’ places to see list during their trip. Now located near the London Eye and the Houses Of Parliament on the Southbank after decades down the river at Tooley Street in London Bridge, the new Dungeon has been reinvented as a scarier and more immersive experience for customers.

© 2014 Merlin Entertainments

The London Dungeons are now located at County Hall on the South Bank
© 2014 Merlin Entertainments

Having grown up in London, I visited the original Dungeon back in the ’80s when I was pretty young so my memory of it is pretty hazy. I had been intrigued to return as an adult to the new and improved Dungeon, so recently paid a visit with some family members ranging in age from 20s to 60s. Immediately upon entering the attraction at County Hall, you are plunged into near darkness, setting the scene for the creepy goings on. The tickets are time-slotted as you move through the experience as a large group. Stepping back in time centuries before, you are treated to the sights, sounds – and sometimes smells – of old London, through the Medieval, Georgian and Victorian periods. Essentially a history lesson brought to life, the Dungeon focuses on the most grim aspects of the capital’s past, such as its diseases, serial killers and cruel capital punishment methods.

The Dungeon is a walk-through attraction featuring a combination of special effects, live actors and rides to demonstrate the horrors of London. As we moved from the different zones, there was constantly a tension in the air and we found ourselves on edge, trying to prepare for something to suddenly jump out at us. Despite our attempts to pre-empt, we inevitably did end up screaming or yelping a few times with fear. As the audience, we were invited to participate in history, with my godmother being handed a note to deliver to a 17th century soldier hiding out in the basement of the Houses Of Parliament waiting for Guy Fawkes. I have to applaud the cast of live actors who appeared as executioners, victims and serial killers along the way. After a saucy introduction by Mrs Lovett in her pie shop, we had a particularly creepy experience in the pitch black barber shop as Sweeney Todd pondered over his next victim while we sat in chairs. Of course, no trip down London’s horror lane would be complete without Jack The Ripper, which was explained over several different rooms, including a meeting with one of his potential victims and a visit to the Ten Bells pub – where two of his victims were regulars. In the Victorian period of the Dungeons, we also ended up in court where several visitors ended up going on trial for a variety of bizarre cases. For me, this was the funniest part of the experience, with the crowd laughing our head off and the innuendos by the actors (which will go totally over the head of younger visitors so need to worry parents!).

© 2014 Merlin Entertainments

Step back into 17th century in the basements of Westminster Palace to check out Guy Fawkes’ explosives
© 2014 Merlin Entertainments

For me personally, the rides were my favourite part of the Dungeon. The first ride was Henry’s Wrath, a fast-moving boat ride along ‘the Thames’ to the Tower for execution, which was incredibly dark and somewhat confusing as I didn’t know quite was going on and what direction we were travelling in. Jack The Ripper’s Whitechapel Labyrinth – essentially a hall of mirrors – was particularly good – it was confusing, disorienting and eventually left the whole group feeling helpless when we couldn’t find a way out (temporarily of course!). Drop Dead – a dark plunge ride which sees you drop three storeys – was a thrilling climax to the Dungeon experience.

Although it could be easily dismissed as a scary attraction for horror fans, history buffs will also find plenty to interest them as it lifts the facts and figures out of the text-book into reality. Overall, I did enjoy the experience. The actors and rides were brilliant and I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the attraction. As well as trying to scare you, the actors also provided plenty of humour to counteract the heebie-jeebies. My only negative was I would have preferred our group to be a bit smaller. I think families and teenagers will particularly enjoy the Dungeons and would definitely recommend it to visitors with an interest in the dark side of life.

  • London Dungeon is located at Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube/train: Waterloo or Westminster. Tickets start from £17.50 for adults or £15.94 for children, cheaper if booked online in advance. Opening times vary. For more information and tickets, visit the official London Dungeon website.

For a review of the nearby London Eye, click here.

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A pop-up with a view: The Garden Gate @ Oxo 2

The Garden Gate @ The Oxo 2 brings the outside in. © The Garden Gate

The Garden Gate @ The Oxo 2 brings the outside in.
© The Garden Gate

Admittedly I’m a bit late to the party, but for those who love eating or drinking with a view, check out The Garden Gate pop-up restaurant and bar in its last week of opening.

With the summer weather unfortunately cooling down at the moment compared to recent weeks, The Garden Gate is a great place to retreat to for a drink or bite. Located in the Oxo 2 venue on the Southbank, the pop-up offers a casual dining menu at their kitchen and bar with views over the Thames, the City of London skyline and St Paul’s Cathedral.

The venue is full of outdoor paraphernalia – such as AstroTurf and deckchairs – so you can imagine you’re outside, but without the wind from the Thames. Customers who bring a garden gnome will receive a free drink.

Who cares if the weather's bad? Enjoy the 'outdoors'... indoors © The Garden Gate

Who cares if the weather’s bad? Enjoy the ‘outdoors’… indoors
© The Garden Gate

On the menu is a host of garden-themed cocktails, such as  Orchard Mojito, Flower Show and Cucumber Fresh, with watering cans replacing pitchers for groups to share.

Among the entertainment on offer includes table tennis, Jenga and coits, or the chance to win a free ice cream by hooking a duck from the pond.

  • The Garden Gate is open from now until Sunday 24th August 2014. Opening times: Mon Wed 5pm11pm, Thur Sat 12-11.30pm, Sun 1210.30pm. The bar closes 30 minutes before. Located in the Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Waterloo or Blackfriars. For more information, visit the Oxo2 website.

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

For a review of the Oxo Tower bar upstairs, click here.

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Travel through the Tunnel of Love at the Southbank’s Festival Of Love

Competition! Win tickets to see Meow Meow at London Wonderground

© Harmony Nicholas for Boom Ents

Meow Meow: Feline Intimate runs at London Wonderground for just three weeks
© Harmony Nicholas for Boom Ents

This month, the brilliant London Wonderground returned to the Southbank for the third year in a row. As well as providing an opportunity to eat and drink alfresco and ride in the funfair, there is also the chance to enjoy a wide range of entertainment over the summer in the pop-up theatre.

One of the biggest draws this season is the fabulous post-post-modern showgirl MEOW MEOW, who is making her London Wonderground début with her dazzling show Feline Intimate. Following her hit West End shows, and a critically acclaimed season at the Southbank Centre, the crowd-surfing queen of song will be wowing the Wonderground for just three weeks only with her unique brand of kamikaze cabaret. Be ready for anything, from Brecht to Radiohead… and her own original material.

Just in time for Memoirs Of A Metro Girl’s 2nd anniversary this week, we have teamed up with Boom Ents to offer you and a friend the chance to win two pairs of tickets to see the sexy chanteuse in action. All you have to do is answer this question in the form below correctly to be in with a chance.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Wonderground returns to Jubilee Gardens

Q) Meow Meow starred in The Umbrella’s Of Cherbourg in London’s West End in March 2011. What theatre did the show play in?

A) The Apollo Theatre

B) The Shaftesbury Theatre

C) The Gielgud Theatre

Terms and conditions

Winners will be selected at random from all correct entries. Winner receives a pair of tickets see Meow Meow at the London Wondergound for any Monday – Friday performance. Over 18s only. Tickets to be collected at the box office with no cash alternative. Tickets are subject to availability and cannot be resold or transferred to another performance. Competition is run by boom ents.

This competition has now closed. Thanks to those who entered. Only the winner will be notified.

  • Meow Meow: Feline Intimate is on at London Wonderground from 20 May – 8 June 2014. Wonderground is open daily at Jubilee Gardens until late September. Nearest tube: Waterloo. For more information, visit the London Wonderground website. Ticket prices: Previews 20 – 22 May: £15.50 or Wonder seats: £20.50 (concessions £14). Tuesday and Wednesday £17.50, Wonder seats £22.50 (concessions £16).  Thursday – Saturday £19.50, Wonder seats £24.50 (concessions £18).

For Metro Girl’s blog on London Wonderground last year, click here.

Metro Girl’s Must Do Series – Part 1: London Eye

Welcome to part 1 of ‘Metro Girl’s Must Do’ series, a guide to my essential sights or activities to do during your visit to London. Many tourists may only spend a few days in the capital before escaping to the likes of Oxford or Bath or jumping over the English Channel to see the continent. So if time is of the essence and you’re torn between where to go, this is my opinion on London’s top attractions.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The London Eye stands on the South Bank of the Thames

1: London Eye

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

At night, the London Eye is one of the illuminated landmarks

Although the London Eye has only stood in the capital since 2000, it has quickly integrated into the city’s skyline and is now an iconic piece of ‘architecture’, with its silhouette appearing on postcards and T-shirts at tourist shops. Situated in front of the former County Hall building, casting a shadow on Jubilee Gardens, the London Eye is located on the South Bank of the Thames. Although The Shard can now boast higher viewing platforms, the London Eye’s close proximity to Westminster means it is often favoured by tourists looking to see those famous London landmarks such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

The Eye itself is a huge Ferris wheel of sorts – but with capsules you can move around in instead of little passenger cars. There are 32 capsules – one for each London borough – and can hold up to 25 people at a time. The 135 metre (443 foot) high wheel is generally constantly moving during operating hours, but moves alongside the boarding platform slowly enough for passengers to board. Although I have heard many friends fear being travel sick or scared of heights, it moves so slowly it shouldn’t be an issue. If you are feeling a bit nervous of the height, the bench in the middle means you can observe the views without feeling insecure standing against the floor to ceiling glass walls. The rotation pattern of the London Eye means you will see North-East (ish) first before finishing looking South West over the 30 minute journey.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Looking over the West End, including Charing Cross station and the BT Tower

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The London Eye stands tall at 135 metres (443 foot)

The London Eye is open all year round and I myself have been on it at different times of day and different seasons. While summer is a great time to visit, it is incredibly popular so you may find you spend time queuing or have to book tickets far in advance. With this in mind, the Spring is probably the best time to go. If its heavy rain, I would say don’t bother at all, and low cloud will also diminish the views. I highly recommend timing your visit for just before sunset and watching London start to twinkle as the lights come on. You can buy guides that can help you find landmarks across the city, even Wembley Stadium or the Olympic Stadium on a really clear day. While I’ve known friends to dismiss the London Eye as ‘so touristy’, it’s a great place to start your trip to London to give you a feel for the city and how it is spread out.

After you’ve disembarked, there’s plenty of other attractions nearby, including the London Aquarium, London Dungeons or London Film Museum. Alternatively, you could walk along the South Bank to the many bars and restaurants around the Southbank Centre and beyond. During the Christmas season, there is also an open-air ice rink under the gaze of the wheel.

  • Standard tickets start from adults £19.20 (walk up) or £17.28 (online), children £12.30 (walk up) or £11.07 (online). Tickets can be bought from the Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo, Westminster or Embankment. Opening times vary depending on season. For more information, visit the London Eye website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Each of the 32 capsules holds up to 25 people


For Part 2 of Metro Girl’s Must Do series on Borough Market, click here

Or for Metro Girl’s review of the nearby London Dungeon, click here.

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