‘Come back when you’re black’, says a record producer, before carelessly slamming the door in the faces of the hopeful, white four-piece band trying to make it big in Sixties’ America. Whether this encounter actually happened or not is left unsaid, but either way it’s funny because that record producer got it so wrong. Little could he have known that this band would go on to inspire one of...
Forget Girl Power. In spite of a promising script rewrite, Viva Forever! still lacks attitude. Sure it’s fun, frothy and full of the good old numbers that’ll have you bopping in your seat, but as musicals go it’s below par. Imagine Geri with the flu, Victoria in a bad outfit, or Sporty Spice on crutches. In short, it’s a limp effort. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. It is. The problem...
It’s 3pm in a decadent restaurant in London’s Connaught Hotel, and my eyelids are getting heavy. In an hour, I’ll be back home fast asleep on the sofa. As it is, my upholstered seat is so comfortable I could cat nap at the lunch table. Ordinarily, I’d be sitting at my desk at work, wishing I’d eaten more than a measly salad for lunch and contemplating the office biscuit cupboard. But today is a...
It’s strange, but finding Bramble, one of Edinburgh’s most celebrated bars, is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. To locate it again, you have to have been there before, and have its entrance mapped in your head. Unmarked and underground, it almost feels like it doesn’t want to be found. But when you do find it, memorise how you got there because, chances are,...
Tucked away down a tiny lane off Soho’s Brewer Street is a Lebanese street food eatery, and it’s a real gem. So famed it is for its delicious Middle Eastern dishes, that Yalla Yalla regularly has queues snaking out the door. And it’s easy to see why. This bijou spot is small but utterly charming, and a cosy place to grab a bite to eat. Less than ten tables are rammed into the space, so the vibe...
At first it’s like we’ve stumbled across a session lock-in. As we take our seats in the dress circle, audience members down in the stalls abandon their seats, and join the impromptu hootenanny that has broken out on stage. It all feels a bit conspiratorial: like we’ve interrupted rehearsal. But when the lights dim, the stage empties until a lone figure is left under the spotlight with his...
Burn the Floor
Strictly fans, the wait is over. Those suffering withdrawal from their weekly dose of sequins and glitter will soon be tapping their toes with delight. Burn the Floor, the West End’s answer to ballroom extravaganza, is back - and it’s a triumph. This is dancing at its best - fun, vibrant, and full of pizazz. Sequins galore. As Craig Revel-Horwood would say, it’s FAB-U-LOUS. Of...
Soho's Secret Tea Room
It’s a Sunday afternoon and the Coach & Horses pub on Soho’s Frith Street is full of people fixated by the Six Nations rugby. They nurse their pints and keep their eyes fixed on the match. It’s bustling, tense, like any average local on a Sunday afternoon. But we’re here for something entirely different. We’re here for Soho’s Secret Tea Room. In truth, it’s not...
As we take our seats in Vaudeville Theatre’s dress circle, a haunting soundtrack overhead, alternately peppered with screeching high notes and abrupt thuds, is slowly building the suspense in the audience. It’s chilling, almost spine-tingling – and feels like a promise of good things to come. And when the curtains open to reveal Miss Havisham’s decaying mansion, Satis House, it seems Graham...
Hemingway’s great work, Fiesta: the Sun also Rises immortalised a lost, post-war generation. With its pared down style and compelling fascination with the art of the bullfight, it’s the heartbeat of a bygone era – a novel of raw and volatile energy unafraid to approach regeneration and the beauty of death. And Alex Helfrecht’s spirited production attacks the work in a single sword thrust - a...
Walking into 34, the elegant restaurant off Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square, feels like stepping into a bygone era. As the waiters take our coats, we are ushered towards the art deco-inspired bar, and a beautiful baby grand, where the house jazz trio is quietly entertaining the Saturday night crowd with a self-assured repertoire of jazz numbers. Meanwhile, burnt orange leather seating, crisp white...
Ceviche. Not only is it one of Peru’s signature dishes – fresh seafood cold-cooked in citric tiger’s milk – but it’s the new buzzword on London’s restaurant map. Riding the crest of this culinary wave is a pisco bar and restaurant that takes its name from the buzzword itself. Ceviche opened on Soho’s Frith Street last May, and since then it has been entertaining the crowds with its fun and frothy...
With branches across the pond already shaking up cuisine in Miami, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago, it was only a matter of time before restaurant chain SushiSAMBA opened up a hotspot here in London. The franchise has arrived with a bang, perching itself at the top of the Square Mile’s Heron Tower, across the 38th and 39th floors, to command jaw-dropping views across the city skyline. And...
The round blue plaque in the entrance says it, so it must be true. Apparently we are standing on the very site where ping-pong was first invented and patented, way back in 1901. A trivial fact, that’s true, but even for someone with little (fine, zero) interest in ping-pong, it is somewhat intriguing. So, later, I even do some digging online just to prove this is a real fact, and not some...
The Lady from the Sea
Henrik Ibsen is notorious for his spirited and independent heroines. But The Lady from the Sea is a strange and compelling drama filled with marine symbolism that is uncharacteristically drawn to an uplifting conclusion. Red Line Productions’ uneven interpretation at the Courtyard Theatre boldly attempts to plunder the play’s psychological depths but sadly fails to enchant. Ellida Wangel, the...
Inside it is raining. No, not raining. Pouring. Water cascades from the ceiling onto the floor below like a powerful monsoon, the sound of raindrops thundering around the room. Being trapped behind a waterfall probably sounds much like this, the sheer weight of water drumming all the senses. But incredibly, everybody in here is still bone dry. Welcome to the magic of the Rain Room. An interactive...
About the Weather
The man on stage is stripped to his boxers and t-shirt trying to remove the wafer-thin sandwich ham plastered across his face without using his hands. Meanwhile, he is singing the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’. Badly. As he gives himself one final shake, the last piece of glistening ham flops onto the stage, and he wipes his sweaty meat head with a greasy hand. A pretty sight this is not. But the entire...
It’s not the most likely place to find a restaurant, but down a dark, dodgy alleyway off London’s jostling Tottenham Court Road, there’s an unassuming, small slate-grey restaurant called Kikuchi that serves up some of the freshest sushi in town. Run like a tight ship by a true Japanese master sushi Chef, this is the sort of place you come to for an honest Japanese meal. The waiters here are...
Luk Yu Tea House
Fifteen years ago, at precisely midnight on June 30, 1997, the British handed over the keys to Hong Kong. It was a historic moment for the fascinating former colony perched on the southeast corner of China. The British 99-year lease on the city had finally run out. Hong Kong had returned to Chinese rule. But those who know Hong Kong will agree that it’s still a place of contrast. Walking its...
All aboard the Sushi Train
Over fifty years ago, a Mr Yoshiaki Shiraishi was watching as endless rows of beer bottles revolved on a conveyor belt at a nearby Asahi brewery when he had a brilliant idea. Desperate to revive the ailing fortunes of his sushi business, he decided he would install a conveyor belt in his restaurant, believing it would allow him to serve more customers quicker, fit in more sittings, and match the...
The Bombay Breakfast Club
When it comes to Sunday mornings, and Saturday mornings for that matter, there is one sure fire way to trigger that warm weekend feeling: brunch time. Good weekends are made and unmade by brunch, depending on its varying grease factor, the runniness of its egg yolk and, most importantly, the crispiness of the bacon. But when the thought of yet another Sunday morning’s greasy fry-up doesn’t quite...
Le Gateau Chocolat
As you enter the Menier Chocolate Factory, check your inhibitions at the door. From the bright tutus lining the entrance to the sheer amount of spandex waiting onstage, it’s like walking straight into a playground of riotous colour and no rules. With Le Gateau Chocolat, anything goes. After all, it’s not often a show called Le Gateau Chocolat comes to the aptly named Menier Chocolate...
Staging an open-air show during a notoriously wet summer was always going to be an ambitious challenge. Yet Iris Theatre’s outdoor promenade production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It still shines despite the rain – proof that Shakespeare’s much-loved romantic pastoral comedy can still resonate with the modern audience. Exuberant and energetic, it transports its audience to the mythical Forest...
Carnaby Book Exchange
We all own at least one book that we’ve read and no longer want, whether it’s that Dan Brown you nearly dropped in the pool on your last holiday, or the dog-eared charity shop copy of Gone with the Wind that you know you shouldn’t read for the umpteenth time (or is that just me?). But now an ingenious pop-up book lounge has opened for a limited time only, and it promises to sort out all your...
The Irish Giant
Suspend your disbelief and put on a jumper in Southwark Playhouse’s ice-cold vaults – as devised theatre company Cartoon de Salvo plunges its dirty hands into the controversial story of “The Irish Giant” – and sadly fails to set the stage alight. Based on a true story, science and faith awkwardly collide as obsessive anatomist John Hunter claps eyes on Charles Byrne, the 8 foot tall Irish Giant...
Jekyll and Hyde
‘How far would you go to play God?’ Dr Henry Jekyll goes the whole distance – and so does Morphic Graffiti’s updated adaptation of “Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical” – chilling proof that the Victorian tale of good versus evil can still rear its monstrous head in contemporary London. Director Luke Fredericks brilliantly strips mankind’s condition apart and lays bare its soul in this spectacular...
The Art of the Armourer
If you haven’t queued up to admire the Mona Lisa (and realise how disappointingly small she turns out to be in real life), then you will at least be familiar with that famously enigmatic smile. But I doubt you’ll have ever appreciated the rapier of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II - an exquisite sword crafted from solid gold, set with glittering jewels, and commonly regarded as the epitome...
Behind the Door
In front of the shabby, unmarked door right in the middle of Chinatown, two hostile bouncers are deliberately sizing us up. Their unfriendly eyes flicker over our outfits and our (bemused) faces, deciding whether we are either fun or young or cool enough to be granted entry. They hope we’ll be all three, but you may delete as appropriate. Awkwardly, we wait a few agonising seconds as they pass...
The murder of Titus’s son is the spark that fires Hiraeth Artistic Production’s gory adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”. As its opening vigil descends into murderous revenge, the scene is violently set for three hours of severed heads and mutilated tongues. Throw in a couple gallons of blood, and this is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Zoe Ford directs this wild version–...
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Onstage the whiskey bottle is once again being shunted back-and-forth, its level of liquid steadily dropping as each character takes a desperate swig. Round and round the bottle goes, from mouth-to-mouth, acting almost as a barometer for the play’s tragic family woes. Occasionally, its level is surreptitiously topped up with water as each character attempts to conceal their drinking from...
Every city has a story to tell. Forget the swath of hot tourist spots viewed through outsider’s eyes – it’s the long-forgotten tales, quietly whispered secrets, and native cultural quirks that embody the living, breathing soul of a city. Those that hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons fade away as suddenly as the media turned on them, and their real stories are left untapped, unspoken. No...
The Old Swiss House
In front of us the waiter is generously scooping a large lump of creamy butter into the frying pan. Scoop is no exaggeration: after all, he’s abandoned the butter knife in favour of a dessertspoon and he’s now expertly shovelling more than half of a 250g slab of butter into the waiting pan, where it practically sizzles the words Pure Fat. Moderation is clearly not a word in his vocabulary. Much...
The Smoke that Thunders
As the plane begins its dramatic descent into Zambia’s Livingstone Airport, there’s a small-scale commotion. Seatbelts are defiantly unfastened, crowds begin to develop around the window seats, and the cameras begin to flash. As the air stewards restore order, I smile, my nose pressed up against the window. For there, in the distance, is the cause of all the fuss, the focal point of all our...
Freshly cracked oysters, fragrant langoustines, fillets of fish cooked simply with lemon and butter – Cape Town is a seafood lover’s mecca. Reading each restaurant’s menu is a roll call of the oceans, with meat dishes listed like a hasty afterthought, and the limited vegetarian options limping in last, if at all. One thing is certain: if seafood isn’t your thing, the incredible freshness of the...
The Cape Winelands
We’re in the very heart of the Cape winelands and although it’s softly raining, there’s no mistaking the almost dreamlike scenery – the vivid, fertile green of the vineyards postcard perfect in every way. Ahead a sweeping tree-lined avenue gracefully recedes, the beautiful gables of a Cape Dutch house beckoning in the distance. This is the epitome of pastoral tranquility – especially as springbok...
The African Wilderness
Last night I ate kudu kebabs. They were fragrantly spiced, cooked in the African bush by the side of the track, and they tasted surprisingly good. With the setting sun gracefully bowing out of a deeply purple sky, and nothing but the sound of silence out in the bush, it felt good to be on south African soil. Ten minutes later, and we were in hot pursuit of a male lion we’d heard roaring in...
La Bodega Negra
There’s a new Latino restaurant in town, and it’s causing a bit of a Mexican wave amongst fajita fans. (Apologies, the pun was just too good to resist). This newly-opened eaterie, La Bodega Negra- the Black Shop - is a slinky, fun spot in Soho that is hugely popular with young trendy types and sharp businessmen fresh from the office. We arrived to find James Corden merrily chowing down at the...
Behind the Lens
“Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. To do away with fashion would be like doing away with civilization”, quips Bill Cunningham – the legendary street snapper and photojournalist for the New Yorker, somewhat sensationally. To the average Joe or, to aim more accurately, the average Josephine (all the average, blokey Joes are more likely to be down the pub upon hearing...
Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk
Call me biased, but London really is the greatest city on earth. Bursting with culture, quirky individuality, and unapologetic charm, it’s magnificent: a vast, chaotic metropolis constantly in flux. But beneath the city’s buzzing exterior lies everyday uniformity – Londoners trapped by behavioural patterns, society’s norms condemning them to dreary daily routine. It’s written all over the place –...
The Jungle VIP
Of late, fashion has gone ape for cult Swedish labels. It seems the land that brought us Abba, Ikea and meatballs (alright so I shamelessly stereotype, but can you really beat these exports for sheer novelty value? I think not) is also home to sassy yet affordable designers such as H&M, Acne and Cheap Monday – three labels that currently dominate the ever-changing fashion scene. It’s become...
At first glance, it looks like an eerie still from a Tim Burton film. A gothic sprawling house with precarious, pokey turrets perches uneasily on a desolate dock. Jagged rocks loom in the foreground beside a ragged highway, as a flock of black crows suspiciously hovers in the air. They might even dive bomb at any given minute. There’s a burning pier in the distance – clouded by thick black smog....
Sometimes names can be deceptive. Dover Street Market sounds like it should be a bustling seafood bazaar, perhaps located somewhere in the East end – all wet streets, loud street hawks, and a whiff of fish so strong it makes your eyes water. But it’s not. Instead, the only fish that come anywhere near this super stylish, upmarket department store that is the real Dover Street Market are...
Hare and Tortoise
You could forgive me for thinking, nay hoping, that this restaurant would be some sort of country pub serving proper helpings of traditional British fare. In my head, Hare and Tortoise sounded like one of those rural pubs you drive past in a sleepy little village in the backend of nowhere, run by a sweet but ancient couple who were probably around when Aesop first wrote his fable. You know the...
All at Sea
Inside the theatre, it’s almost as cold as the unforgiving winter outside. Although it’s mid-performance, many of the audience remain huddled in their overcoats, scarves wrapped around themselves like blankets - their breath foggy vapour in the chilled air. As you can probably guess, this is not your average theatre. Instead, we are deep in the Old Vic Tunnels, a sprawling maze of...
It’s 5pm and I’m walking down a narrow back alley somewhere deep in Hackney. Up ahead, a tall slim woman is waiting for us, illuminated by a halo of light spilling out from a fire exit behind her. She is Laura Villasenin, the visionary founder of independent urban shoe brand Miista- a self-proclaimed fashion-forward label that has retailed in high street stores such as Topshop and Urban...
A Pocket of Spain
One of the main things I’ve missed since moving back from Spain has been the food. Besides inventing the perfect excuse to nap mid-afternoon, tapas is easily Spain’s best contribution to the world. My flatmate and I made tapas bar crawling a hobby (best hobby I ever had) so it’s a relief to discover a tapas bar in the heart of London that effortlessly matches the quality of authentic Spanish food....
King of Cool
Debit cards at the ready, Karl “Chanel” Lagerfeld’s new collection has landed…. King Karl is back. Fashion conscious women across the world have been longing for his more affordable designs since the “Karl Lagerfeld for H&M” collection way back in 2004, so news that his brand new Karl line is available exclusively at Net-a-Porter.com is like angel chorus for stylish ears....
North of Piccadilly
Yotam Ottolenghi is something of a gourmet sensation. Since bursting onto London’s restaurant scene last year, this Israeli-born gastronome has gone stellar- rapidly rising through the restaurant ranks from his upmarket takeout spot in Notting Hill to his most recent venue, Nopi, which regularly attracts queues of culinary customers eager to sample his delicate flavours and signature salads. And...
The Lion in Winter
A lion should rule his kingdom with territorial ferocity. Yes, he’ll laze around in the sun for most of the day - but every now and then he’ll roar loudly to remind the savannah who’s boss. But this fictional history play, written by James Goldman in 1966 and currently enjoying a revival at the Haymarket Theatre under the artistic direction of Sir Trevor Nunn, is more like a Cub in Spring. It’s...
"It's all make-believe"
Fashion has stepped through the mirror and into the illustrated world. Lula, the illustrated editrix of the sketched blog http://thesubjectiknowbest.com/, has turned her pencil to a newly-launched biannual fashion magazine HERSELF- and it’s entirely made up of sketched self-portraits and cartoonised celebrities, even down to the hand-illustrated ads. The magazine is the first of its kind to...