This is in no way an accurate depiction
When someone asks me where to go for a quick lunch in Soho I'm often stumped, and tend to recommend one of the chain restaurants for guaranteed speedy service. A friend recently suggested going to CERU for our lunch hour on Monday, and I was willing to put their 'Express Lunch' promise to the test.
The Soho restaurant is beautifully situated on D'Arblay St (between Berwick Street and Poland Street), one of the quieter cross streets of Soho. Huge windows look out over the street which allow you to watch the world going by, but are discreet enough to make it feel as if you've found a pocket of London all your own.
The first thing I noticed on walking through the door was the colour of the space, which is bright and inviting. The use of clean lines and directional lighting is offset by the exposed wood and patterned surfaces and wall hangings.
The menu is inspired by food from the Levant region, encapsulating Turkish, Lebanese and Syrian cuisine and influences, and with the dishes on offer created using nearly 100 ingredients and over 20 spices, this is as diverse and bold a menu as you could hope for.
To kick things off we were recommended to try the homemade lemonade. We had one Honey and Basil, a glorious bright green colour with the fresh herb flavour working incredibly well with the zing of the citrus. And one Blackberry, Mint and Green Chilli - which certainly provides a kick - but is also incredibly refreshing, with an initial blast of sweet berry acidity, and after taste of cooling mint and warming chilli. That one was actually my favourite.
The menu is varied and delicious, catering for all preferences and requirements, so much so that it's incredibly difficult to make a decision! Fortunately the dishes are designed to be shared, with diners recommended to order between three and four per person. Knowing that you'll get to try everything really helps when choosing between so many tempting dishes, just make sure to invite lunch guests who positively enjoy to share!
To begin, we ordered the tasting platter of 3 dips (Three-in-one, £5.50) which offers a generous serving of either Houmous with green chilli, Fadi (roasted courgette with with garlic, yoghurt and tahini), Pancar which is roasted beetroot with crushed pistachio, or Hammara; a tangy red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. The dips are served with the choice of delicious toasted Greek pitta bread (the only item on the menu which contains gluten) or fresh vegetable crudites of carrots and cucumber. The dips are exceptional, with intense, complex flavours and incredibly striking colours.
Once we'd had a little time to look through the menu we opted to start with a couple of the salads: Apple, Mint & Pomegranate (£6) and one of their most popular offerings, Spiced Warm Cauliflower & Walnut (£6.50). The apple salad was crisp and fresh, and the zesty lemon juice worked nicely with the mint leaves to balance the toasted pine nuts and green chilli. The cauliflower salad, in contrast, is served warm and is cooked with a blend of spices which adds immense flavour and depth to the dish. The addition of pomegranate and spring onion gives the seared cauliflower a sweet and tangy caramelised element.
Other dishes were trickier to choose between as there are just so many tasty looking combinations. We sought advice, and were directed towards the Lamb Shoulder (£12) which is one of Ceru's signature dishes. It is apparently 'London's slowest roasted lamb' having taken 5 hours to prepare in a blend of 12 Shawarma spices, with pomegranate, fresh mint and pistachio sauce. Tender and immensely indulgent, it's easy to tell why this is such a firm favourite, and it didn't last long on the table.
We couldn't resist also trying the Grilled Halloumi and Red Peppers (£6.50) which are served with a spicy harissa dressing. Other vegetarian dishes we enjoyed were the Roasted Aubergines with Chermoula (£5), a marinade containing garlic, cumin, coriander and lemon juice. Cooked to perfection and served with a cooling herb yoghurt and spicy roast almonds they are just the right size to indulge in a single bite. Zucchini & Feta Fritters (£6) are flavourful parcels of melted feta and courgette, and when dipped into the mint and dill yoghurt are like super charged falafels.
If like me, you find it a challenge to narrow down menu choices, Ceru also offer 'Express Lunch platters' on weekdays from 12-3pm which bring together highlights from the menu into substantial mezze platters. There are two to choose from - the Street Platter: featuring the pulled slow roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate molasses and mint, along with a generous portion of the fadi dip, some spiced cauliflower, and the Sultan salad (dried fruits, wholegrain rice, toasted almonds and olives). The vegetarian option is the Market Platter which includes the Zucchini and feta fritters, houmous, roasted beetroot and fennel, grilled red pepper and harissa and roasted aubergine. Both are served with fresh Pita bread, cost £9, and promise to be with you within 20 minutes of ordering or they are absolutely free.
We selected dishes from the all-day menu, but our entire meal was ordered and enjoyed within the hour, making this a perfect London lunch spot for a speedy business lunch or a more relaxed social occasion.
There was the option of deserts and further teas and coffees, which on this occasion I wasn't able to make time for, but looking online I'm going to come back on a weekend to try their brunch menu, which includes a Shakshuka Halloumi and Spicy Lamb Hash. The option of sharing each dish and trying a bit of everything certainly ticks all of my boxes, and its great to discover a new Soho gem which will be the top of my list next time a friend asks for a lunchtime recommendation.
Bookings are not essential, but if you would like to reserve a table call 020 3195 3002
This London Fashion Week I’d highly recommend swinging by The Parrot cocktail bar at the Waldorf Hilton on Aldwych, Idris Elba’s newly opened bar in Covent Garden.
They have launched a delicious new Instagram-able cocktail ‘The Kingston Parakeet’, which is available for £14 during London Fashion Week, or complimentary to anyone who has a London Fashion Week pass (from Friday 15 February – Tuesday 19 February).
The ‘Kingston Parakeet’ is served in the most incredible (and delicate!) blow fish glass, with a glass straw. To raise awareness of plastic pollution £1 for every Kingston Parakeet sold during London Fashion Week will be donated to global non-profit organisation, Plastic Oceans.
Named after the area of Kingston in South West London where parakeets have inhabited the parks and green spaces since the mid 1800s, the drink contained within is a deep coral, (Pantone colour of the year) and was created by expert mixologist, Daniele Panzanaro,
The combination is sweet and fruity without being sickly, with notes of fresh orange and fig. This balancing act is achieved in part to to the Rhubarb and Hibiscus Tonic Water, a blend inspired by chefs who poach fresh-cut rhubarb in hibiscus flowers to bring out sweetness and tart notes.
The drink contains the incredibly clean-tasting Absolut Elyx premium vodka, which is mixed with Aperol Italian Bitter and creamy fig liqueur. Franklin & Sons Rhubarb with Hibiscus Tonic Water is then added, and the drink is finished with lemon juice and a dash of homemade chamomile syrup.
The Parrot Bar itself is certainly worth a visit if you haven’t done so already – a partnership between Idris Elba and identical twin brothers Lee and Nicky Caulfield (the brothers are actors and also own Cheers Luxury Alcoholic Ice Cream). The Parrot draws on the exotic inspiration of the tropically-designed Palm Court at the Waldorf Hotel next door. The menu is gives a nod to the unique characteristics of parrots from across the world.
We enjoyed live music during our visit, and were impressed with the incredibly friendly and helpful waiters, who ensured the evening ran smoothly. It is also the first London bar to offer its clientele a ride to and from the venue in a chauffeur-driven Aston Martin. Just the kind of special touch you’d expect from one of London’s great historic hotels, with a shot of celebrity added to the mix.
Parrot Bar are playing their part to raise awareness of plastic pollution by donating £1 for every Kingston Parakeet sold during London Fashion Week, to the global non-profit organisation, Plastic Oceans. To make a donation, visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/plasticoceans
For more about The Parrot, check them out on Instagram:
Independent Brixton-based coffee roaster, Volcano Coffee Works, have just introduced the UK's first 100% compostable coffee pod which is fully compatible with Nespresso coffee machines. Already renowned in the ultra competitive coffee world, Volcano Coffee Works have been supplying top restaurants and coffee shops with ethically traded and sustainable coffee since the company's launch seven years ago.
Unlike most of the established coffee pods on the market, Volcano's pods are 100% biodegradable and fully bio-based compostable. This means you can recycle Volcano pods through your green waste collection, your own composting, or even in a standard rubbish bin. The pods will have completely disintegrated within 150 days - in stark contrast to aluminium pods which take around 150 years to degrade...
The talented team at Volcano have hand-selected the finest coffee for three flavour profiles to meet your coffee needs throughout the day, and it's been the vision of Volcano Master Roaster Kurt to allow people to enjoy their coffee experience at home. Volcano only roast in small batches, which bring out the individual qualities of each of the blends.
There are three flavour levels to choose from, and I visited the Brixton coffee hub to try them each out for myself. The Bold (morning shot) is a Colombian coffee with an intense cocoa body, which works really well as an espresso served straight up first thing in the morning to get you jumping out of bed and raring to go.
The Balanced (all day) is a Brazillian blend with a mild, nutty flavour which is perfect any time of the day, and works particularly well with milk, as I discovered with a delicious flat white. Last but certainly not least is the Reserve (rich/sweet) Nicaraguan coffee with a sweet, satisfying flavour which works well as an everyday treat.
Champions of ethically traded coffee, Volcano have given us a pod that is genuinly recyclable. Never will you enjoy coffee as much, or with as clear a conscience.
Hackney riverside, or the 'Hackney Riviera' as it's become lovingly referred is really coming into its own. The Canalside district sits right on the River Lee canal, and although it has the feeling of a tranquil paradise far removed from the London hustle, it is in fact located just a short stroll from Hackney Wick.
The buildings of Canalside form part of the 'Here East' development within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park site, occupying the former site of the Olympics press and broadcast center. If you haven't visited the area since the Games in 2012, you'll be pleased to see that the intended vision of regenerating and reclaiming the area with lush greenery and wild flowers has continued to thrive. The peace of moored river boats and the only traffic being cyclists or a passing canal boat really enhance that feeling of spending a lazy day by the water.
I was meeting friend for brunch on Sunday around 11.30am, and walking along East Bay Lane I was struck by how bustling the development was, with joggers and dog walkers passing by those who chose to spend their mornings sitting on the deckchairs outside the neighbouring Breakfast Club outpost, and a plant based cafe offering acai bowls and fresh cold pressed juices.
Shane's on Canalside fits in perfectly with the surroundings, capturing the essence of foraged wilderness, with plants lining the walls and hanging from the beams in the light modern space. The restaurant’s decor, which features simple table arrangements, natural wood furnishings and lots of greenery, reflect founder Shane Harrison’s love of nature and unfussy approach to food. The bar area is blues and oranges with metal features, and the tables are made of thick wood. Detailed and interesting glassware and carafes sit alongside unique side plates which showcase the Harrison's character as much as the excellent music playlist he curated which ranges from Nina Simone to the lounge and nujazz sounds of Club des Belugas.
Having grown up in northern New Zealand surrounded by farmland, Shane's deep-rooted respect for nature and cooking has helped him to make a name for himself as a talented chef with a passion for honest and reasonably priced food served in a lively and fuss-free environment. Following the success of his first restaurant Shane's On Chatsworth, he opened this Canalside location in 2016 as a second, larger space.
Harrison’s love of nature is reflected in his seasonal menu, which features ingredients sourced from ethical suppliers or foraged nearby from the Hackney Marshes. And whilst his New Zealand roots can be seen in the emphasis on wild, natural produce, the ever-changing menu has a distinctive British sensibility too.
Although seemingly concise at first glance, it was rather tricky to narrow down our choices from the brunch menu, as in testament to a well thought-through menu, each of the items jumped out in some way. A most obvious easy choice however was the Sunday Roast (£12.50), with the option of English Lamb, Venison, Rare roast beef and Organic Chicken to choose from. Each come wih duck fat roast potatoes, carrots, parsnip, a rich flavourful dark green kale, and of course gravy. We opted for the lamb in the end, as if anybody knows how lamb should be perfected it's a New Zealander - and we weren't disappointed.
The brunch menu continues with sourdough, topped with blue cheese poached eggs, bacon and kale (£7.50) which was just heavenly. I'd never considered mixing blue cheese in with a hollandaise sauce before, but it's such an obviously brilliant idea. High quality toasted bread crisped to perfection becomes increasingly saturated with this miracle sauce as your devour this dish, and somehow makes the entire experience even more satisfying. I really cannot fault this dish, and the bacon and kale work so well together to cut through the strong flavours and balance the eggs perfectly.
Alongside these dishes we had the Quinoa Salad (£8) which can optionally be served with a poached egg (£9). I was drawn to the salad because of the sheer range of ingredients listed on the menu, boasting the inclusion of broccoli, goats cheese, rocket, oxeye (daisy), beetroot, wild garlic, fennel, roast squash, parsnip and pickled courgette. It's exactly the kind of salad I would make myself if access to fresh and interesting ingredients were no object. It was crunchy in all the right places, with the fennel giving some delicious bite, and the goats curd working in perfect harmony with the parsnip crisps sprinkled on top.
The service throughout was just right - never over zealous but always in eyeline, our Canadian waiter was able to help with a number of questions we had about the menu. When he offered us the dessert menu to peruse alongside our cappucinos it was hard to resist - Chocolate fondant, lemon curd and strawberry (£5) immediately jumped out to me. Cutting into it I was very pleasantly surprised to find it filled with warm and dark chocolate ganache the likes of which I can't recall. Rich and decadent, the dish somehow manages to be reminiscent of asoufflé in it's lightness.
My dining companion had the English classic Apple Crumble with ice cream (£5) which came in a sensibly sized portion which allowed it to be enjoyed without dominating the meal. Crisp honey rolled oats in perfect synergy with a rich vanilla pod filled ice cream. Also on offer was a lemon posset served with rhubarb and shortbread (£5) which we very nearly added on, but resisted at the last minute on the grounds of common decency!
Feeling rather sensitive on this particularly Sunday, I wasn't in a moodto explore anuthing, but as you would expect, several New Zealand stars feature on the wine list, as does a sparkling wine from West Sussex. Pimms can be ordered by the glass (£5.50) or jug (£18) as can an Italian favourite of mine, the Aparol Spritz (£7) and Bloody Mary (£6). There were also a number of menu items which I am tempted to come back to try at some point including a Roast butternut squash pancake with goats cheese and bay butter (£7) and Black pudding potato cake, bacon, poached egg, salad and hollandaise (£7.95) would make an immensely satisfying breakfast I'm sure.
Diners impressed with Harrison’s meat-based dished can pick up a trick or two by signing up to his wild butchery classes. For £85, Shane will take you through knife skills and butchery techniques, using seasonal fresh wild meats such as pheasant, deer, pigeon and rabbit, learning about the different cuts and preparations, and offer you plenty of recipe ideas. Sessions finish with a cooking demonstration and game feast, including wine, where you’ll get to taste the meats you’ve prepared.
Find out more about the Shane's Canalside here: http://www.shanesoncanalside.com
The 33rd edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival will open on Thursday 21st March with the UK premiere of biopic 'Vita & Virginia'. The film, written and directed by Chanya Button, stars Elizabeth Debicki as iconic author Virginia Woolf, and Gemma Arterton as her lover and muse Vita Sackville-West.
The rest of the line-up for the festival will be revealed on Wednesday 20th February at a special programme launch event; and if previous years are anything to go by, we'll be in for a jam packed line up of queer films including world premieres and a selection of European and UK premieres.
I'm also looking forward to see how the BFI NETWORK FLARE Mentorships programme is developing, with four successful years under their belt, the BAFTA partnered programme offers five LGBTQ+ identified filmmakers the opportunity to develop industry knowledge, professional connections and insights through one-to-one meetings with senior figures in the UK film industry, as well as a roundtable with senior industry figures. There has been success in the past, and I'm optimistic for the future.
As someone with a particular interest in Philanthropy and fundraising in the arts, it is worth noting that the BFI are continuing to work closely with the Pureland Foundation as a Mains Supporter over a three year period. The foundation aims to support social, spiritual and emotional wellness through art and music - which makes it seem like a good fit, and I look forward to observing this collaboration over the coming years.
The full programme of BFI Flare: London LGBTQ+ Film Festival will include 52 feature films, an expanded industry programme, selected films on BFI Player VOD service, a series of special events and archive screenings. fiveFilms4freedom will see Flare offer five LGBT short films for free across the world and promoted through the British Council’s global networks. In previous years this has enabled almost 2 million people to tune in from 202 countries.
The full programme will be available on 20th February. The festival runs 21st - 31st March www.bfi.org.uk/Flare
Meeting up with old friends on a Sunday for brunch has suddenly taken on a new meaning with the introduction of the bottomless brunch menu at Shoryu Covent Garden. For a start - ramen - for brunch not something I would have thought of, despite being the world's number one ramen fan. But do you know, it actually works.
One element which makes for a good brunch is actually about sharing, and not wanting for anything - so that the conversation flows as easily as the unlimited drink refills. The deal here is £38 for a starter, 3 sides, bottomless ramen, ice cream for dessert and bottomless drinks.
The food comes fast and plentiful, and it isn't long before the entire table is filled with delicious little parcels, buns, gyozas and steaming soup. Starters of seasoned edamame beans and cucumber slices prepare the palette for a Shoryu Bun filled with either pork or halloumi.
A selection of sides comes next, with options including seaweed salad, chicken karaage, tiger prawn tempura, takoyaki, black sesame tofu and Hakata tetsunabe gyoza.
The ramen options include the classic Tonkotsu ramen; a rich 12-hour pork broth ramen topped with char siu barbecue pork belly, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, and seaweed. We also opted for a curry-soy pork broth variety which comes with chicken, egg and bamboo shoots.
For desert, the ice creams are absolutely dreamy too - Black Sesame, Matcha, Yuzu and Chocolate Miso are just some of the options which round off the meal perfectly.
Lots of time to catch up, and the option of unlimited refills on soup and drinks (red and white house wine, sparkling wine, Kobai plum wine with soda, green tea and Calpico) mean that there is plenty of sustenance, to get through weeks of stories. Friendly and attentive staff make this a great option, even if you are felling a little delicate.
I wasn’t expecting an authentic Turkish shaving experience in Covent Garden, but that’s exactly what I got when I visited Ted's Grooming Room on Great Queen Street for a Tommy ‘n’ Turkish beard and moustache trim.
Having let my beard grow out in recent weeks - it being summer and all - something suddenly clicked in me making me want to smarten myself up. Feeling like going a little further than just a trim, I turned up to Ted's Grooming Room in Covent Garden, located just across the road from Freemasons' Hall on Great Queen Street.
I love how you don't need to book an appointment - just turn up and the place is already a frenzy of activity. Trims and cuts going on all around you in a friendly but frenetic environment. Having never experienced a hot towel shave with a razor before, I didn't know what to expect.
Without spoiling the surprise - because there is something quite special about having a hot towel covering your face as you hear a series of unknown tools being prepared around you - there is a great ritual to the whole affair.
What struck me the most was how fast and painless it was. I've used all sorts of razors in the past, but nothing compares to the smooth glide of a naked blade by an expert. I felt completely at ease as the staff are so familiar with the curves and bumps of the human face that they could most likely do it with their eyes closed.
Incredibly quick, within minutes I went from having a reasonably thick beard to being completely clean shaven. Leaving the moustache with just a little trim of course, my friend Adam said I looked positively Dickensian.
Finishing with a surprising flame being flicked in my ears to singe any stray hairs, and a rather brisk pounding of my arms and shoulders to loosen up any tightness. I can't think of a better start to a day. And all washed down with incredibly strong Turkish coffee.
Usually £28 for the Tommy 'n' Turkish, there is a great half price offer if you go between 9-11am, so you can get the T 'n' T for just £14. The perfect way to try it out. I can assure you that you'll be a convert.
33 GREAT QUEEN STREET COVENT GARDEN WC2B 5AA
Martell, the oldest Cognac house in the world (founded in 1715) has collaborated with the seductive and striking Mondrian London at Sea Containers to create the lavish Martell Suite, a unique pop-up experience in the luxurious private apartment suite of the hotel.
Setting out to inject curiosity and a sense of playfulness into the Cognac drinking experience, the charismatic and engaging brand ambassador Matthias Lataille will invite a maximum of 10 guests per session to explore Cognac from a fresh perspective. In showing its versatility beyond an after dinner digestif, the sessions will teach guess about the Cognac region and what makes it so special, as well as being given an insight into the Martell house and it's unique style, which makes for a lighter and more elegant drink.
Whilst what will actually take place in the Martell Suite is a closely guarded secret, I was able to establish that guests will redeem their room key at reception, before receiving a unique Cognac punch (not available at the bar) before being taken through a tasting session of special cognacs, cocktails, and food pairings.
An additional pop-up bar is also open on the ground floor of the hotel, from 5pm on Wednesdays to Saturdays for the next four weeks. Offering an opportunity to try six specially created Cognac based cocktails including the Gallienne Highball (£13), a long drink containing Martell VSOP, Aperol, Braemble, Lime and soda. For a twist on the Manhattan, the Concrete Sazerac (£13.50) combines Martell VSOP with bitters and absinthe. It's a strong, short drink. If you are in more of a celebratory mood, the Martinet (£22) combines Martell Cordon Bleu with maple, cardamom and Champagne. The Chanteloup Sour (£13.50) is also a great one, with bergamont, lemon and almond adding freshness and sweetness to Martell VSOP.
Running from 26th April-6th May at Mondrian London, Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PD
I don't always seem to have enough time in the morning to make a smoothie, or if I do I have to consume it there and then at home to avoid risk of it spilling all over my bag. I'm always conscious of my protein intake too - as when you're active: cycling or going to yoga as I do, it's important to keep your muscle building protein levels up throughout the day to avoid the peaks and troughs of high sugar or carb diets.
When I heard about Savse's new protein smoothies I was very intrigued as each bottle contains 10g of whey protein, which is the form most easily assimilated by the body. This is combined with cold pressed juices which are preserved by High Pressure Process (HPP) rather than pasteurisation; meaning that all of the nutrients are kept in each bottle without affecting the taste. With no added sugar, the Protein Smash contains strawberries, coconut water and coconut milk, and the Blueberry Blast adds blueberries to the mix.
Protein Punch is a fresher more citrus version with pineapple and lime. Because they are not crammed with too much protein they are easy to digest and at 250ml per serving they're the perfect size for a little pick me up. I brought mine to the park in a keep cool bag as part of a picnic so they really can be enjoyed at any time. Available at Waitrose and some health food shops for £2.99 per bottle.
I can't explain quite how reluctant I was to head up to the famous 'mens pond' in Hampstead. Even though everybody told me such great things about it, I have been inclined to believe what I've read in literature - books such as Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line of Beauty' where it is a hotbed of cruising and aggressive, if not unwanted, sexual encounters.
As it happens, it's nothing like that - and in fact I can't easily remember a friendlier, more gentle and glorious place to spend a summer afternoon. There is a bathing pond, with changing facilities and showers free and open to access. Yes, there is a 'clothing optional' sunbathing area within the changing area, which I certainly opted to visit. And there is also a grassy area where everyone basically just hangs out, smokes, listens to music and, as seen above, performs acro-balance routines.
All in all, it's just fabulous, and I will be heading up again as soon as the bloody sun comes out once more!
My cousin was visiting town this weekend from Scotland, so my brother and I thought of some fun things to do around town. We decided that Borough Market would be a good starting point as there is always a buzz of activity and a colourful visual feast on show, whatever the season. It was a cold but sunny day and before we even set off we decided to go for a pint at The George Inn, London's oldest pub just off Borough High Street. A roaring open fire greeted us, along with the scent of cloves and spices from hot mulled wine and gin on offer. We met Tom, who has managed the pub since the summer, who was telling us some of his ideas for drinks in the winter. Definitely worth a return trip.
After exploring the market and picking up some delicious juicy blueberries, we cut through the streets towards the water, ending up at the Tate Modern. We went to the the tenth floor of the Blavatnik Building, where there is an open viewing terrace. Breathtaking 360-degree views of the London Skyline allow you to see sweeping views of the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral, and as far as Canary Wharf and Wembley Stadium. But for me the most interesting viewing is the architecture and interior design details of the neighbouring glass walled apartments.
Delving deeper into the free exhibitions on offer I was drawn to Bruce Nauman's neon installations in the fourth floor artist rooms. They reminded me of a neon piece I'd seen at Frieze a few years ago which depicted a woman standing under a palm tree with a parrot on her shoulder. The text above read 'you don't need all your things'. I remember loving the simplicity and gaudiness of the piece, and the play on whether it was the woman or the parrot speaking, repeating her words back to her. The bright colours and the simple message appealed and I remember thinking how fun it would be to sell all my things and purchase this single art piece. Alas, I never did it, and I never did find out the artist, but perhaps it was Nauman.
One thing you can't miss on your next visit is the Turbine Hall which has been filled with swings in an installation by subversive Danish artists SUPERFLEX. Swings for 3 people and a giant silver pendulum hovering over a newly installed carpet which encourages people to lay under it and look up from unusual perspectives. Just walking through the London streets with someone from out of town gives everything a heightened sense. I was much more perceptive of colours, and found myself drawn to see the street performers and sand castle builders far more than I would ever if I was just passing on my own.
I recently explored the Monochrome: Painting in Black and White exhibition at the National Gallery, as I was invited to attend a tour by curator Jennifer Sliwka through a collaboration with two organisations linked to the arts in London: YPA and The Peggy Society.
It was my birthday and the perfect way to start the day. A morning tour of a London gallery is such a luxury - normally reserved for major donors or board members and their guests, it's reassuring that opportunities do exist to explore 'out of hours' for the rest of us.
When I first heard about the Monochrome exhibition I have to admit that I found the lack of colour off-putting - but how wrong I was. Colour has been left out of these pieces for many reasons but each tells a fascinating story. Worth doing your research with this one, as well as paying particular attention to the detail of individual pieces.
Sure there are the 'big name' artists but the really interesting stories take place where you least expect it. Exploring black and white painting over a 700 year period, the exhibition incorporates 50 pieces which demonstrate what can happen when artists focus on the visual power of black, white, and everything in between.
I usually like to take a couple of visits to the RA Summer Exhibition as there is so much to see. I also like to walk around the exhibition in reverse - so that I'm not too tired at the end. A wonderful thing happened when I went to the exhibition this Friday however - there was a guided tour just starting up. Not knowing whether it was free or by booking only, I joined in at the back. While my friend found it quite hard to follow, I was riveted. Artist and tutor Paul Brandford took us on an unexpected and unorthodox tour of both the exhibition and the art world.
Picking out only a handful of pieces, Paul took us through why artists don't always want to sell their work, why the most hideous piece in the exhibition is also the most interesting, and how a piece which depicts a celebrity will always rank higher in the minds of the judges than an equivalent work depicting an unknown figure. All of this was delivered in an unapologetic, sometimes confrontational manner, but always filled with humour and irreverence. Also helpful was narrowing down the overwhelming choice to focus in greater detail on only a few pieces.
If you have a chance to go on one of his tours I would highly recommend it. And the best thing is that they are free with your entry ticket. Running each Friday at 7pm until 18 Aug, it's a great way to see the exhibition and to start exploring.
I adore Mariame Clément - she has worked with us at the Royal Opera House, and I am always swept away by her colourful and hilarious productions, often done in collaboration with Designer Julia Hansen. At Glyndebourne this summer, is the revival of her Don Pasquale, inspired by Les liaisons dangereuses, which is set in the opera’s original 18th-century milieu, echoing the elegance of Donizetti’s music. I attended the final dress rehearsal, which was a beautifully relaxed affair, not requiring black tie dress as per the usual performances. The opera features Renato Girolami as Don Pasquale, Lisette Oropesa as Norina, Andrey Zhilikhovsky as Dr Malatesta and Andrew Stenson as Ernesto. I'm really looking forward to hearing Lisette singing Lucia at the Royal Opera House next season - and if the audience reaction in Glyndebourne is anything to go by, we have a Cuban/American star on the ascent.