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It had to happen, didn’t it? We’ve had gourmet burgers, gourmet hot dogs and gourmet fried chicken. So when we heard about this purveyor of posh kebabs, it was less a case of us asking ‘What?’ and more ‘What took them so long?’ The backstory is pure junk food-to-jewels. Two chaps meet at uni. Bond over ‘a mutual fascination with the ancient gastronomy of kebabs’ (their words – seriously). Decide one day to ‘go gourmet’. Do the sensible thing and get experience via ‘stages’ (chef internships) at Michelin-starred restaurants and even a stint at Le Gavroche (where they’ll later hire their chefs from). Launch street food operation. And finally, move to a small, permanent Soho spot. Cue our visit. It was Saturday night, so we had to go away for 45 minutes until a table came up. But hey, it was worth the wait. The kebabs are beautiful. They have an almost Scandinavian look, being served ‘open sandwich’-style, the contents painstakingly arranged over a thin, house-made flatbread. It almost seems a pity to roll them up. Fillings change with the seasons, with preserved, charred and fermented ingredients adding to the Nordic vibe. We loved ‘roe deer adana’, with its peppery chunks of robata-grilled meat, fragrant juniper berries, blackberry and chilli jam, and even a sour cavolo nero ‘kimchi’. The other ’bab we tried, a ‘free range pork shawarma’ with crunchy crackling and pork aioli, was nice enough but a touch oily; it needed more ‘winter salad’ (beetroot, radish, cabbage). In facRead more
When your neighbourhood café serves cocktails worthy of Zone 1, you know the only way you’ll ever leave London will be in a box. But this Herne Hill newcomer – the second from the team behind Brixton’s Shrub and Shutter – will even go so far as to help you keep the Grim Reaper at bay. Because, as the name suggests, it specialises in ‘cure-all’ drinks. A great fit for the area’s relaxed, thirtysomething inhabitants, First Aid Box’s white tiled walls, shelves of pseudo-pharmacological gear and menu with a medicinal theme suggest the snap of a latex glove, but it’s a concept lubricated by charming staff, upbeat music and flattering, flickering candlelight. Drinks make ample use of ‘shrubs’: spirits suspended in vinegar-based syrups that make for thrilling flavour bases. Updates of tried-and-tested classics include an aviation-style mix called Conscious Pilot (£8.50). Here, the rhubarb-infused gin lends the drink a subtle tartness that prevents the triple whammy of violette liqueur, violette shrub and violette droplets from delving too deep into granny’s knicker drawer. Elsewhere, the creamy exuberance of a Ramos gin fizz is given added depth with a shot of rich, earthy matcha-and-pistachio shrub. Both are served without gimmicks – though if it’s theatre you’re after, there’s a smoking cocktail served in a bell jar (£8), a cucumber sherbet in a bottle with a miniature cone of sorbet as a stopper (£9) or a vitamin C-laced bramble with a syringe of blood-hued Chambord (£8).But tRead more
One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any one time, comprise millions of objects. First-time visitors generally head for the mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo ship burial. Indeed, the Sutton Hoo finds provide the centrepiece for the new Sir Paul and Lady Jill Ruddock Gallery (Room 41), designed to display the museum's exceptional early medieval collection. Covering finds from across Europe from AD 300 to 1100, the Ruddock Gallery shows off not only the Anglo-Saxons' iconic Sutton Hoo masked helmet, but also late Roman mosaics and such extraordinary objects as the fourth-century Lycurgus Cup, made to change colour in different lights, and the Kells Crozier, a holy yew wood staff decorated and adapted many times from the ninth century onwards. Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the eighteenth century is a permanent exhibition of around 5,000 objects chosen to cast light on the period between the mid-eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, a time of great discovery and learning when the British Museum was founded by an Act of Parliament. It is displayed in the restored former King’s Library – a huge neo-classical room built in the 1820s to house the books collected by George III. Living and Dying, a permanent exhibition in the Wellcome Trust Gallery, explores the ways in which people throughout history have diagnosed and treatRead more
The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits, including the Apollo 10 command module and a flight simulator. The Wellcome Wing showcases developments in contemporary science, medicine and technology. The Medical History Gallery in the museum's attic contains a substantial collection of medical history treasures. Pattern Pod introduces under-eights to the importance of patterns in contemporary science and Launch Pad is a popular hands-on gallery where children can explore basic scientific principles. Exhibits in the Exploring Space galleries include the three-metre-high, 600kg Spacelab 2 X-ray telescope that was flown on British space missions and full-scale models of the Huygens Titan probe and Beagle 2 Mars Lander. The Clockmakers' Collection, previously held at the Guildhall, will move to the museum on October 23 2015. It's the oldest display of clocks and watches in the world, with most of the 1250 exhibits dating from between 1600 and 1850. The museum’s in-house IMAX cinema shows scientific films in 3D, allowing visitors to be surrounded by space or submerged in the depths of the ocean. Tickets start at £11 for adults and £9 for children, and booking is recommended. The shop is worth checking out for its wacky toys, while the Dana Centre is the Science Museum’s adults-only centre for free lectures and performance events on contemporary scientific issues (www.danacentre.org.uk). Read about our favourite exhibits in the Science MuseuRead more
‘One dish, one style; a hundred dishes, a hundred tastes.’ Baiwei (which means ‘a hundred flavours’ in Chinese) exemplifies this Sichuanese culinary adage. This more poetic name has now replaced the unsavoury moniker the restaurant opened with – ‘Big Leap Forward’ – which stuck in the throats for some. (The Chinese characters pictured in the propaganda painting above translates as 'drumming support for The Great Leap Forward'.) The Mao-era decor remains, but it’s a cosy place with a lengthy selection of authentic, home-style Sichuan, Hunan and northern dishes served with uncommonly friendly service. Dispelling misconceptions about Chinese food and educating the masses on proper Chinese food one book at a time, Sichuan food expert Fuchsia Dunlop has also left her mark on the menu of this newest addition to the Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn restaurant group. True to another Chinese saying, ‘China is the place for food, but Sichuan is the place for flavour’, the dishes from the southwestern province are robust with an abundance of dried chillies, Sichuan pepper and fragrant garlic. For the Chinese, the texture of food is as important as the taste. The slithery, rubbery bite of the cold pig’s ear, tongue and tripe tossed in tangy black vinegar made an appetising starter. The gong bao tofu is an interesting variation on the better-known gong bao chicken. Silky pieces of pan-fried egg tofu are coated in lustrous sweet and sour sauce, then lavished with crunchy peanuts and driedRead more
Romantic settings don’t get more splendidly over-the-top than this. Take your pick from the wood-panelled restaurant or the atmospheric conservatory, bedecked in a forest of fake white blossoms that seem to extend into eternity as they bounce off the restaurant’s mirrors. Fairy lights, candles and a fireplace add to the soft focus vibe. On our early evening visit, tables were filled with mature couples and curious tourists. It’s a Provençal-inspired menu, and although à la carte choices are pegged at the sharp end, the pre-theatre menu offering is a bargain. A cavernous bowl of gazpacho topped with crunchy croûtons and diced cucumber blew our socks off (in a good way) with its unashamedly pungent garlicky kick. Satisfyingly filling, a trio of meaty bites – foie gras terrine, herby pork shoulder confit and a tasty kofta – made for a carnivore’s delight. Less memorable, chunky roasted pollock fillet was tender and juicy, but overshadowed by a rich moat of vermouth cream, buttery crushed potatoes and softened leeks (more butter) – not one for the faint-hearted. Service is polished, if a tad austere, and the wine selection seriously impressive.Read more
The transition from street stall to permanent site is not an easy one. Many successful street food traders simply lack the skills for staffing rotas, spreadsheets and hitting slim profit margins. That’s why the three founders of Bao cleverly teamed up with more experienced and deeper-pocketed operators – the team behind Trishna and Gymkhana – to smooth the journey from market pop-ups to permanent Soho establishment. This Bao-Trishna marriage seems like a happy one. There’s a slick Japanese-looking interior and relaxed yet efficient service. But most strikingly, the tantalising menu is fresh and innovative. While it’s based on Taiwanese street food dishes, the kitchen pushes far beyond those boundaries. Chef David Chang did something similar with Korean food in New York – the Momofuku founder’s steamed buns became a cult food item. Subverting and reinventing dishes, Chang targeted a new generation of novelty-seeking urban diners. Bao is London’s equivalent of Momofuku’s Ssäm Bar. The restaurant’s name derives from gua bao: fluffy white steamed buns, in this case filled with braised pork, sprinkled with peanut powder, and yours for £3.75. Other sorts of bao (bun) are more slider-like, such as little burger baps wrapped around soy-milk-marinated chicken, sichuan mayo and kimchi. There’s even a dessert bao – made with doughnut batter and filled with Horlicks ice cream – that echoes the malted cereal milks at NYC’s Momofuku Milk Bar. Yet buns are only half the story. Xiao chiRead more
Both a research institution and a fabulous museum, the NHM opened in Alfred Waterhouse’s purpose-built Romanesque palazzo on the Cromwell Road in 1881. Now joined by the splendid Darwin Centre extension, the original building still looks quite magnificent. The pale blue and terracotta façade just about prepares you for the natural wonders within. Taking up the full length of the vast entrance hall is the cast of a Diplodocus skeleton. A left turn leads into the west wing or Blue Zone, where long queues form to see animatronic dinosaurs- especially endlessly popular T rex. A display on biology features an illuminated, man-sized model of a foetus in the womb along with graphic diagrams of how it might have got there. A right turn from the central hall leads past the ‘Creepy Crawlies’ exhibition to the Green Zone. Stars include a cross-section through a Giant Sequoia tree and an amazing array of stuffed birds, including the chance to compare the egg of a hummingbird, smaller than a little finger nail, with that of an elephant bird (now extinct), almost football-sized. Beyond is the Red Zone. ‘Earth’s Treasury’ is a mine of information on a variety of precious metals, gems and crystals; ‘From the Beginning’ is a brave attempt to give the expanse of geological time a human perspective. Outside, the delightful Wildlife Garden (Apr-Oct only) showcases a range of British lowland habitats, including a ‘Bee Tree’, a hollow tree trunk that opens to reveal a busy hive. Many of the musRead more