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Though technically an upstairs adjunct to Jason Atherton’s celebrated Social Eating House (which itself garnered a five-star review in Time Out), The Blind Pig is a worthy destination in its own right. Perhaps as a nod to its Prohibition-flavoured nickname (‘blind pig’ being US underworld slang for a good old-fashioned den of iniquity), it’s not immediately obvious how to find it at street level; look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker and boom, you’re in. The decor is authentically retro but never schmaltzy; lovely touches like the antique mirrored ceiling, copper-topped bar and charmingly mismatched (yet never discordant) wooden furniture made me feel (on date night) like a wide-lapelled Capone crony painting the town with his broad. If this all sounds a little contrived and too-clever-by-half, the cocktail menu brings welcome comic relief. Who could resist a Slap ’n’ Pickle (gin, brandy and pickle brine), Kindergarten Cup (incorporating ‘Skittles-washed Ketel One’), or Robin Hood, Quince of Thieves? (brandy, quince liqueur, mead). The puns are employed with abandon, but everything I tried was ace (even, yes, Dill or No Dill). Better yet, the bar snacks are made downstairs, so the grilled baby peppers, confit pork rillettes and duck fat chips are straight-up gangster.
Home to one of the world’s finest collections of children’s toys, doll’s houses, games and costumes, the Museum of Childhood shines brighter than ever after extensive refurbishment, which has given it an impressive entrance. Part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the museum has been amassing childhood-related objects since 1872 and continues to do so with ‘Incredibles’ figures complimenting bonkers 1970s puppets, Barbie Dolls and Victorian praxinoscopes. The museum has lots of hand-on stuff for kids dotted about the many cases of historic artefacts. Regular exhibitions are held upstairs, while the café helps to revive flagging grown-ups. Discover more great days out for the little ones
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 mus
The curly-wurly red scaffolding tower lords it over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from its position right alongside the Olympic Stadium. Designed by the artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond, it stands 114.5m (376ft) tall – with lifts (and a 455-step staircase) up to two platforms from which you take in the interesting, if not entirely spectacular, view – The Shard, St Paul’s and the Wembley arches are all very much on the skyline. There are also two of Kapoor's entertaining distorting mirrors inside and some newly installed digital telescopes so that you can get closer to the views.
With a twinkly, cosy, vine-clad terrace beckoning us into The Bloomsbury Club bar from the street, I was taken aback by the frosty manager who said there’d be no space – outside or in – for me and my friend for at least two hours. Perhaps we weren’t as preened as the average punter. But on a detour (okay, snoop) around the rest of the hotel we found the indoor section of the bar, where seats were offered up by more friendly waistcoated staff. I’m so glad we persevered. Wood-panelled and dressed to the nines, The Bloomsbury Club oozes plush appeal: English gent’s club meets library, the cabinets filled with booze rather than books. The analogy is apt, as the bar takes its inspiration from the group of writers and artists who hung out together in this area in the early twentieth century. There’s a drink named after each of the Bloomsbury Set’s ten core members, so you can sip on a Virginia Woolf or a Duncan Grant (a gorgeous whisky drink with a maraschino sweetness). The room is decked out with chesterfield armchairs, punctuated by modern, teal velvet stools. A semicircle of high-backed chairs rings the bar, a prime spot where I was able to soak up the expert mixology while peering at a jazz duo twanging at the foot of the room. So plan ahead if you want a seat in one of the leaf-covered alcoves on that alluring terrace. But don’t be disheartened if it’s full – the indoor bar is the real deal.
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 Museu
It really seemed that cult '90s gameshow 'The Crystal Maze' had been relegated to the dusty VHS zone, to be rediscovered only by those who spend too much of their lives watching Challenge TV. Then a team of clever, ambitious and slightly mental people decided that, with the help of a Kickstarter, it wouldn't be impossible to rebuild the whole show, dome and all, in an old building in Zone One. Considering that said project would involve building dozens of game rooms in four different age-themed zones and a glass geodesic dome strong enough to handle eight adults flailing around in it, you'd think they'd mess up somewhere. The odd panel of wall left un-medieval, a cheap-looking bomber jacket, a distinctly un-Richard O'Brien-like gamesmaster. But it was perfect. Our team of eight dashed through the zones, taking it in turns to play physical, mental, skill and mystery challenges in the hope of earning a crystal, and thus five extra seconds in the dome finale. We were rubbish, but it didn't matter. The joy of this experience is in the incredible sets, the brilliantly silly hosts, the games so faithful to the original show that you can nearly remember their secrets, and the opportunity to blast your team-mates with frustated yells and not have to deal with any hatred when their two minutes are up. This is an expensive outing – a weekend slot will set you back £60 and a pretty hefty booking fee – but it's easy to see where the money's been spent and what a costly operation just
When the British Museum was opened in 1759 it was the first national museum to be open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free to visit (and still is) so that any ‘studious and curious persons’ could pass through its doors and look upon the strange objects collected from all over the globe. Centuries before television, this was a chance for anyone to stand in front of specimens and antiquities and connect with other cultures, ancient and contemporary. The first exhibits consisted of the collection of physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane – ancient coins and medals, books and natural remains – and through the centuries since, it has become home to the most significant finds made by British explorers at home and abroad, like the Rosetta Stone from Ancient Egypt and the Parthenon sculpture from the Acropolis in Athens. In recent years there have been campaigns by other nations who want some of their historic treasures returned. (The issue over who has a legal right to the Elgin Marbles was most recently taken up on behalf of Greece by Amal Clooney.) However, the British Museum remains one of the world’s most popular attractions, with six million visitors a year. And although many of its priceless artefacts are protected by glass cases, the museum is anything but a hushed old resting place. As soon as you walk into the magnificent glass-roofed Great Court you can hear the buzz of students, tourists and Londoners who have just popped in for lunch among the treasures