Things to do
Kew's incredible gardens get another magnificent seasonal makeover in 2018, as Christmas at Kew brings illuminations to light up the buildings and plants. The mile-long, twinkling trail promises to be bigger than ever this year. Feast your eyes on over a million sparkling pea-lights, thousands of laser beams and tree canopies flooded with festive colour. New for this year is a moonlit Laser Garden hidden in the woods and a festive flotilla of hundreds of glowing boats bobbing on the lake. They'll sit along side the usual fire garden and glorious Palm House Pond lights, which dance along to Christmas classics. Santa and his elves will also be in attendance, while grown-ups can take advantage of the festive shopping, seasonal snacks and warming mulled wine. Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London
Get your skates on. Somerset House's grand 18th-century courtyard is the stunning setting for an ice rink again this winter. No matter how unimpressive your skating skills a trip to this 900-square-metre outdoor rink will be the very definition of festive fun. There are lots of tempting extras too: the Fortnum's Lodge offers champagne, mulled wine and winter dining; and Skate Lates will feature top-notch DJs and music nights, including Total Refreshment Centre, Five Miles and Balamii. This year there'll also be special collaborations inspired by Somerset House’s major winter exhibition ‘Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Celebrating Snoopy and the Enduring Power of Peanuts’ and a new artistic commission from British artist and ice skater, Ruth Proctor. Plus the Fortnum’s Lodge menu features winter classics like raclette, cheese fondue, smoked salmon and mince pies. The Christmas Arcade will bring posh shopping from Fortnum & Mason - this year with a focus on all things chocolate - and guests can admire the skaters with drink in hand at the Skate Lounge, both of which can be accessed without a ticket. Tickets are available from mid-September. Find more places to go ice skating in London
Festive playground Winterville is back in Clapham Common and features more dancing, eating, laughing, drinking and skating than you can shake a snow globe at. Street Feast, Backyard Cinema, Plonk Golf, an Ice Rink and the Solo Craft Fair Christmas Market will be popping up, plus the Common will play host to the Spiegeltent, packed full with party people like Chivaree Circus, Lucha Britannia Mexican Wrestling, Mariah & Friends and the Mighty Hoopla’s Christmas Jumpergeddon. Backyard Cinema will be making an appearance with their Christmas Maze and there'll also be club nights in the Roller Disco. There’s also an indoor area for kids complete with Santa's Workshop and a fairground. Entry: Tue: free, Wed: £2, Thu: £2, Fri: £2 after 12noon & £5 after 6pm, Sat: £2 after 12pm & £5 after 6pm, Sun: £2. Free all times under 16s. Free for SW4 residents expect after 6pm on Fri and 5pm on Sat. Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London
Experience one of our signature silent discos at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. Don a pair of glowing headphones and tune into one of three channels as you immerse yourself in the world of water. Tickets are just £29 and include the silent disco, welcome drink and guided tours of the brand new jellyfish exhibition.
The ice rink at Canary Wharf is back once again, filling the business district with frosty fun. The 1,200sqm rink is open for three magical months of ice skaring beneath the twinkling lights. Open seven days a week, it's the perfect place to enjoy one of London's most loved winter traditions. The Grandstand Bar returns for this year, but is joined by some new features, including a huge LED screen where skaters can upload photos to a rolling Instagram feed. Finally, a chance to shine and get your 15 seconds of fame. Find more places to go ice skating in London
The Harry Potter studio tours get a festive makeover once more this Winter, with Christmas trees and a seasonal feast in the Great Hall, decorations in Gryffindor common room and snow drifts in Diagon Alley. The beautiful scale model of Hogwarts that was used for sweeping shots over the school will also be looking wintry, with snow and ice effects carefully applied by hand.Visitors will also be able to get up close with the different types of snow used during production. Remember to wrap up warm. Personalised knitted jumpers optional. Hogwarts in the Snow is included in the standard ticket price. Book your tickets here.
When work gets too stressful or your every day feels mundane, do you often think ‘That’s it! I’m quitting and going to become a potter!’? That’s exactly what Danish lawyer Stine Dulong did. Sick of her day job in the City and doing pottery as a hobby, Stine decided to take the leap and carve out a clay-based career for herself. She rented a beautiful light-filled studio in De Beauvoir which she filled with plants, her gorgeous creations and her cute labrador and started selling her stylish Scandinavian minimalist ceramics to the likes of Nigella Lawson, Ottolenghi and Tom Kerridge. Sounds like the good life right? Well let’s be real, most of us probably can’t jack in the day job just yet. Luckily, Stine now opens up her studio for 12 week pottery courses for all levels from beginners to advanced where you can get a real idea of the joys of playing with clay. Over the weeks you’ll learn hand building techniques including pinch pots, slabbing, coiling and how to combine them. You’ll also get expert hands on tuition on the pottery wheel (not in a creepy Ghost way!). You’ll then finish off your pieces by trimming and glazing them, and at the end of the course you’ll leave with lots of lovely wonky creations. The classes on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings are for 12 people maximum so you get lots of attention but also freedom to experiment. Surrounded by Stine’s beautiful designs, you can create your own Skandihus-inspired pieces or just freestyle. The vibe of the clas
If you’re looking for an antidote to London’s traditional Christmas lights, head to Chiswick House and Gardens where designer Nick Gray is messing with the rule book. This new celebration of illumination is scrapping baubles and Santa in favour of a super slick light display responding to the 18th-century grounds. Look out for food trucks and pop-up watering holes where you'll be able to warm your cockles after the 45-minute trail. Enter at Duke’s Avenue Gate.
The Social Fun & Games Club at Roof East is sliding back in your lane this winter. This year, they're going big to celebrate their 25th birthday with a Curl Runnings theme complete with steel drum band and Jamaican-inspired cocktails. Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it's curling time!
Fancy whizzing around one of London’s most famous landmarks? Located in the dry moat, the Tower of London ice rink offers a grand historical setting for seasonal skating sessions, along with views of London's ancient fortress and the river Thames. There will be food and drink on the sidelines for tired skaters as well as those who just prefer to watch the fun. Special events will also be announced closer to the time. Booking is recommended. Find out more here. Find more places to go ice skating in London
Cycle through the city with IBikeLondon who want people to explore different parts of the capital on their regular free rides. Each ride has a unique theme so be prepared to don your wildest cycling gear.
Follow in Alice’s footsteps down the rabbit hole and embark on a magical adventure through Winterland. Bring the whole family to meet some of your favourite Carroll characters, with over 160 giant lanterns on display such as the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts. One of the real highlights is the five-metre tall Alice and a four-metre high white rabbit. Book your tickets in advance now.
Get your skates on and slip and slide your way across a mini rooftop rink in the West End. Inspired by the forst fairs that used to take place on the Thames (before global warming, obvs), this is the perfect place to pirouette away your Christmas shopping angst. A collab with Sipsmith, there'll also be a hot gin hideaway, weekly cocktail masterclasses and nooks for cosying up with warming food from Kerb alumnus MyPie. Make ours a mince pie G&T.
Food, glorious food! Fresh pasta and workshops! Discover an Italian foodie wonderland residing at La Famiglia Rana Grocer where you can do your grocery shopping, learn new cooking skills from chefs and brush up on your food photography skills from Instagram aficionados. There’s something for everyone’s palate check out the full list of events and workshops here: www.universe.com/lafamigliarana The best thing? La Famiglia Rana pop-up is raising funds for FoodCycle during their five-week residency. The money goes towards their work in helping socially-isolated people in the community. What are you waiting for? Tuck in!
Celebrate the Brixton-born superstar by discovering his south west London roots in this guided tour. As well as exploring some rarely celebrated landmarks, including Bowie’s birthplace and primary school, classic hits, such as Starman, Heroes, Life on Mars - to name just a few, will also be performed en route. Guests should meet at Brixton tube at least 10 minutes early. Book tickets here.
Get cosy and Christmassy with the help of Luna Cinema this festive period. Over the holidays, they'll be screening a number of Christmas classics, all from the comfort of two fabulous locations: Kensington Palace and Evolutionary Arts Hackney (EartH). Along with films like ‘Love Actually’, ‘Home Alone’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’ all on the big screen, festive film lovers will be treated to comforts like mulled wine, mince pies and hot chocolate. There may even be snow falling from the sky. Tickets are priced between £9.25 and £25. See website for full details.
Look lively ginthusiasts. London distillery Sipsmiths has created a festive pop-up shop where you can warm your cockles with a hot G&T, or pick up boozy Christmas gifts. Find bottles of Sipmith's entire portfolio, including their Lemon Drizzle and London Cup varieties. Buy gin books, cocktail accessories and gin-filled stockings to gift this Christmas. Slide onto a stool at their in-house bar and sink a drink, or join one one of their evening masterclasses and pick up skills on botanical wreath making and festive mixology. Workshops must be booked in advance (from £20).
What kind of weirdo goes to a ‘vampire’-themed yoga class in a pizza restaurant on a Sunday evening? This is all that’s going through my head as I hover outside Lost Boys Pizza in Archway, trying to spot anyone with deathly pale skin and a yoga mat. Once I’ve plucked up the courage to enter, I’m led down into a cold, dark basement and told to join a circle around a candlelit altar. A celebration of the occult or a cult initiation? It’s too early to tell. Teacher Fern begins by talking us through how we’ll be combining ‘the darkness that’s in all of us’ with the healing lightness of yoga. We go round the circle explaining why we’re here: one guy is a vampire historian (of course he is), the rest are mostly curious yoga fans with goth leanings (like myself). We begin to share our fears: I suppress the urge to say I’m scared that the door to the restaurant is locked and they’re all going to feast on my blood. Before I can get too spooked, we do a quick meditation to protect us from the darkness (phew), then it’s time for some actual yoga. Fern teaches us a series of kundalini-style kriyas – a repetitive breath-driven series of movements – that are supposed to help us focus. The chilly basement soon starts to warm up as we breathe, sweat, swing, grunt and shake our way through our fears. Once we’ve collapsed into shavasana (aka lying down), we’re read a dramatic chapter from Bram Stoker’s masterpiece: it’s very atmospheric, although the hum of the fridge and the ’80s pop ba
You'll have to haul yourself out of bed at an ungodly hour for the London Smoke and Cure Guided Tour, but it'll be well worth it for this guided sneak-peek at meaty Smithfield Market and fresh fish-filled Billingsgate Market as trading reaches its peak. Just think about all the juicy bacon butties and envy-inducing fish dishes you'll be able to make from your haul at these iconic London institutions.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to get you into the Christmas mood: it’s an ice skating session at Natural History Museum Ice Rink. Glide past the stunning backdrop of one of London’s best-loved landmarks and bop along to live music at their Acoustic Lates, curated by Ticketmaster Artist Services happening every Thursday throughout November, December and January (except Dec 27 and Jan 3). Some hotly tipped acts include the likes of Bang Bang Romeo, Laura Oakes, Tom Joshua and more great names to be announced.
It might have been knocked from its heady heights as the world’s tallest ferris wheel – you’ll have to head to Las Vegas for that – but the London Eye remains an iconic part of the London skyline. Snap-happy tourists arrive here in their droves, so be prepared to queue for one of the spacious 25-person pods. Once you’re airborne, take in those far-reaching views of the Thames and beyond. On a clear day, you might even see if the Queen’s opened the curtains at Buck House.
What was once a prosaic council building on the South Bank is now full to the brim with sharks, penguins and other water-loving wildlife, thanks to this world-class, world-famous aquarium. The finned predators prowling the Shark Walk are a definite highlight, as are the billowing jellyfish in the fairly recent Ocean Invaders addition. This is the perfect place to keep the sprogs entertained on a morning or afternoon.
The Warner Brothers studio may be way out west, but it’s worth the trip to see the magic of the Boy Who Lived come alive – and to try a flagon of butterbeer, too.
You know how Instagram makes everything look prettier in photos than IRL? Well, you don’t need to worry about that with the Queen’s pad, which is a stunner in the flesh as well as all those postcards. All year round, you can take a gander at pieces from the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery, while from February to November you can check out the Queen’s horses in the Royal Mews.
As long as you leave plenty of ticket-collecting time, your trip to the Tower of London should be a blast. It starts with a 50-minute tour led by a Beefeater where you’ll learn about the 900-year history of this imposing fortress (in short: torture, prisoners, weapons and exotic animals). Feast your eyes on the crown jewels and prisoner graffiti – you’ll even meet the raven keeper. If you want to get eyeballs-deep in London’s bloody history, then put the Tower of London on your bucket list.
If you’re interested in UK politics or just want a better understanding of it, the Houses of Parliament isn’t to be missed. Seriously – this is where laws get passed, y’know! Book an audio tour and soak up the history of this grand old nineteenth-century building and if you’re feeling flush, stay for afternoon tea overlooking the Thames.
The zoological gardens that reside in Regent’s Park have been entertaining the crowds since Victorian times – but it’s in the last 15 years that the Zoological Society London has really given it an overhaul. The 36-acre park has been refashioned to support conservation, with the welfare of its inhabitants a high priority, and visitor’s encounters more informative than just point-and-stare.
There are more than eight million artifacts within the British Museum’s walls and every single one of them has a story to tell. You could easily spend hours here losing yourself in thousands of years of culture and history from the world over. Its big hitter is the Egyptian mummy, which pulls in gawping kids and adults alike. If you’d rather dodge the crowds, head to the newly re-opened Sir Joseph Hutong Gallery: a treasure trove of objects from China and South Asia.
The Dungeon spent four decades under the railway arches on Tooley Street at London Bridge. Then, in 2013, it upped sticks to a new home on the South Bank. It may lack the mucky, subterranean charm of the former site – but believe us, all the frights and gross-out moments inside are still just as icky.
Not just one for nerdy trainspotting types – TfL’s transport museum offers a genuinely compelling and enjoyable journey trhough the history of getting around in London.
Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but most of it is deployed ironically; beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the sounds and spirit of Broadway’s golden age. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breath
In the unlikely event you were worried a leap to the stage for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series would result in it becoming aggressively highbrow, self-consciously arty or grindingly bereft of magical high jinks, just chill the hell out, muggle. ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ is an absolute hoot, a joyous, big-hearted, ludicrously incident-packed and magic-heavy romp that has to stand as one of the most unrelentingly entertaining things to hit the West End. Writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and a world-class team have played a blinder; if the two-part, five-hour-plus show is clearly a bit on the long side, it’s forgivable. ‘The Cursed Child’ emphatically exists for fans of Harry Potter, and much of its power derives from the visceral, often highly emotional impact of feeling that you’re in the same room as Rowling’s iconic characters. There’s also a sense that this story of wizards and witches is being treated with the respect its now substantially grown-up fanbase craves. No disrespect to D-Rad and chums, but the leads here are in a different acting league to their film counterparts’: Jamie Parker and Alex Price are superb as battered, damaged, middle-aged versions of old enemies Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Sam Clemmett and Anthony Boyle are a fine, puppyish, sympathetic engine to the play as their awkward sons Albus and Scorpius, trying to escape their parents’ shadows. It is a bit of a sausage (wand?) fest in terms of the lead parts, although in the mos
To start with, the red curtain rises just a foot off the stage. And it artfully reveals the star attraction of this mind-blowingly lavish revival of a classic Broadway musical: 40-odd pairs of tap-dancing feet, hammering the boards in perfect unison. Helmed by Broadway director Mark Bramble, ‘42nd Street’ is as American as a McDonald’s apple pie, a steaming, golden spectacle of showbiz glamour. Fittingly, the plot’s strictly vanilla. The guys are putting on a show. But its temperamental star Dorothy Brock (a wondrously voiced Sheena Easton) is a nightmare to work with, and director Julian Marsh (a rather out of his depth Tom Lister) is going spare. Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), a wet-behind-the-ears young hoofer (that’s Broadway slang for tap dancer, obviously), turns up, gets in the way, then gets to be a star. But, like Peggy, this show has a few talents that help it rise above the mundane. Firstly, the wise-cracking book, which is full of bitter, sharp-eyed one liners. Like the bit where a crowd of broke chorus girls turn up at a diner and order ‘Five cups of boiling water, one teabag’. Or still more brutal, the director’s bitter announcement, as he rehearses the living daylights out of Peggy, that ‘I’ll either have a live leading lady or a dead chorus girl’. And then, between the jokes, there are songs, songs, songs. Harry Warren and Al Dubin might not be the best-known musical theatre team on the block, but they light up ‘42nd Street’ with an electrifying hoard of hits.
The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. After its 2006 opening at Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a spectacle that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet, this is all about the women and, even by previous lead Idina Menzel's standards, they are in soaring form here. T
Three theatres, three casts, one major disaster and seven Olivier Awards on, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel about Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder. The occasion for this re-review is the end of the enforced layoff inflicted upon ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. The show figuratively blew the roof off when it transferred from the NT to the Apollo Theatre, but unfortunately the ageing ceiling responded by literally collapsing, necessitating a change of venue and months off. Hopefully, that episode will provide a footnote. The most important thing is that Simon Stephens’s adaptation remains high tech and high quality. The first Christopher, Luke Treadaway, will always cast a huge shadow, and incumbent Graham Butler can’t match his coiled spring energy and manic otherness. But if Butler offers a gentler, more ‘normal’ hero, his superficial lack of strangeness means that it’s all the more heartbreaking when his nameless condition – presumably Asperger’s – leaves him suddenly, unexpectedly broken, unable to cope with something as simple as a human touch. Ultimately ‘Curious Incident’ is a tragedy about a family torn apart by the pressures of looking after their son. Nicolas Tennant and Emily Joyce are excellent as Christopher’s bumblingly selfless dad Ed and agonised mum Judy, driven to put her own wellbeing before that of the child who will never lov
'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like the curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loat
If you’re a plucky producer hoping to get your new show into the Criterion Theatre, you’re flat out of luck once again. Because less than nine months after 'The 39 Steps' shuttered after almost a decade glowering over Piccadilly Circus, it’s now home to the brand new comedy by Mischief Theatre, which, if there’s any justice in the theatre world, will run for even longer. 'The Comedy About A Bank Robbery' is the latest play by the bogglingly prolific and talented team behind 'The Play That Goes Wrong' (or more accurately the 'Play That Goes Wrong' franchise) and it’s their best and funniest work yet. A genre pastiche, screwball comedy and classic farce that’s as clean and clear as its brassy branding, it spins with a manic energy from Two Ronnies-esque wordplay through surreal set-pieces to slapstick stunts prepped to bring the house down. The story of a bungled jewel heist in a sleepy Minneapolis bank branch, it features a host of hilarious but well-drawn characters who roar across the stage and tumble into disaster after disaster, each one more elegantly drawn than the last. The writers’ ability to snatch a laugh out of every line, and to intricately prime each scenario with zinging punchlines and pay-offs is stunning, as call-backs and running gags pile up into teetering edifices of absurdity. The entire cast is bang on the money, but Mischief Theatre’s own Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer are the standouts as booming bank manager Robin Freeboys and hapless loser (and eter
If the second longest running show in the West End was looking a little tired, a rejuvenating orchestral facelift was just what the doctor ordered. Cameron Mackintosh's 'little girl' has shaken off that 1980s synth vibe and finally woken up to the organic noughties. This is a new, richer sound with strong operatic undertones and even the faint echoes of chamber music. Led by compelling ex-'Phantom…' Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, this dynamic cast blows a whirlwind through the Queen's Theatre, hurtling along Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's famous melodrama. Aided by a swirling revolve and John Napier's stunning constructivist set, we follow Jean Valjean's journey across France as he attempts to escape his criminal past and make amends. Hadley Fraser as Javert, Valjean's fated pursuer, matches Karimloo's booming vocals and moody stares step for step (at one point rather sweetly causing a premature ovation). Craig Mather and Lisa-Anne Wood do very prettily as lovelorn young leads Marius and Cosette. But it is Alexia Khadime's soaring 'On My Own' that storms the barricades; her plucky and faithful Eponine genuinely pulls at the heartstrings. For all its legions of fans, there are many who would sniff at this revived 'Les Miserables', branding it 'opera lite'. In a sense they would be right: all this histrionic bombast is only really making soap opera respectable. But so what. This updated and improved production is a real rabble-rouser and while it may be tosh, i
Fabulously sassy, uplifting and ever so kinky, the Tony Award-winning musical that’s been dazzling audiences has finally high-kicked its way from Broadway to the West End. RECOMMENDED: Read an interview with Cyndi Lauper Based on true events, the story about a struggling Northampton shoe factory began life as an independent film, following in the footsteps of Brit-hits ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Made in Dagenham’, before being transformed into a musical. Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with music and lyrics by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, ‘Kinky Boots’ follows factory owner Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) whose chance encounter with drag queen Lola (Matt Henry) inspires a production line of sexy heels for transvestites that helps save the family business. This show is a lot of fun and the script plays up the comedy well, offering the cast some brilliantly tongue-in-cheek one-liners. It’s unfortunate that the script falls flat during the romantic storyline between Charlie, his fiancée and factory co-worker Lauren, which comes across as uneven and flimsy. That can be forgiven, though, as it’s the eccentric costumes and high-octane dance numbers like ‘Sex Is in the Heel’ that draw the audiences in. Henry gives Beyoncé a run for her money with some athletic dance moves, accompanied by a chorus line of incredibly toned drag queens. Some of the full company numbers are particularly well put together – especially the stylized boxing sequence during ‘In T
I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as romantic should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the a
Following on from its run at the Coliseum in 2017, ‘Bat Out of Hell: The Musical’ has transferred to the Dominion in a parade of dry ice, skin-tight leather, fire-belching motorbikes – and just a smattering of self-awareness.Really, it’s strange that a jukebox musical of the songs of Meat Loaf took as long as til 2017 to hit the stage. Jim Steinman’s songs drip with such mythos – youthful dreams, cars on highways, wild boys, lovelorn girls – that they half-seem destined for this daftly operatic tale of star-crossed lovers Raven (Christina Bennington) and Strat (Andrew Polec). She’s the daughter of tyrant Falco (Rob Fowler), who keeps her under lock-and-key in his penthouse-fortress; he’s the leader of a ‘Mad Max’-esque tribe of street mutants who cannot physically age beyond their late teens. Based on the amount of crotch-grabbing going on, their hormones have clearly gone nowhere.The show careens between rock ’n’ roll bangers – ‘All Revved Up With Nowhere To Go’; ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ – and tinkly piano ballads: ‘I Will Do Anything For Love’; ‘Heaven Can Wait’. You swiftly realise that they all basically tell the same story: of brutish, untameable men who are perfectly happy ravishing their swooning beauties, while offering them little else. And this is the main charge to lay against ‘Bat Out of Hell’: it’s mired in such unreconstructed ideas of romance. That’s partly countered by giving such sentiments to the female cast, so with ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’, it
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. ‘Hamilton’ is stupendously good. Yes, it’s kind of a drag that there’s so much hype around it. But there was a lot of hype around penicillin. And that worked out pretty well. If anything – and I’m truly sorry to say this – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury, is actually better than the hype suggests. That’s because lost in some of the more waffly discourse around its diverse casting and sociological import is the fact that ‘Hamilton’ is, first and foremost, a ferociously enjoyable show. You probably already know that it’s a hip hop musical, something that’s been tried before with limited success. Here it works brilliantly, because Miranda – who wrote everything – understands what mainstream audiences like about hip hop, what mainstream audiences like about musical theatre, and how to craft a brilliant hybrid. Put simply, it’s big emotions and big melodies from the former, and thrilling, funny, technically virtuosic storytelling from the latter. ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening tune, exemplifies everything that’s great about the show. It’s got a relentlessly catchy build and momentum, a crackling, edge-of-seat sense of drama, and is absolutely chockablock with information, as the key players stride on to bring us up to speed with the eventful life that Hamilton – the ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman’ – led before he emigrated to America in 1772 as a teenager
They don’t really have pantomimes in the US, which may explain why the creatives behind this hit Broadway adaptation of Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ made a pantomime, probably without realising. There’s no Widow Twankey or Wishee Washee, but Alan Menken’s musical gives you the same things as a decent British panto ‘Aladdin’: lavish set pieces (designer Bob Crowley has done some impressive things); campy, knowing, fourth wall-breaking humour; songs (obvs); a magic carpet sequence; a dull hero (Dean John-Wilson’s prominent man-cleavage is the most memorable bit of his performance); a ludicrously OTT villain (Don Gallagher’s Jafar laps up the boos at curtain call); and a scene-stealing dame (more later). It’s well done, but talk about selling coals to Newcastle: the humour hits the spot with Howard Ashman’s dry lyrics, but it lacks the inspired madness of, say, the Hackney Empire panto. Alongside the other big West End Disney musical, Julie Taymor’s ‘The Lion King’, it struggles to establish a distinct, theatrical identity. And my mind boggled at how the diverse, largely British cast has had bland American accents foisted upon them to play Middle Eastern characters. One decision producers won’t be regretting is importing star of the Broadway show Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie. The role could have been something of a poisoned, er, lamp, given Robin Williams’s iconic turn in the 1992 film. But glitter-doused Nicholas makes it his own with a kinetic mix of fabulousness and physicality. He
The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis
This comedy has, of course, actually done everything right. Produced by LAMDA graduates Mischief Theatre, the show has had successful runs at the Old Red Lion in Islington, Trafalgar Studios, and in Edinburgh; now it's made it all the way to the West End. Amid all the chatter about the overbearing West End dominance of jukebox musicals and film spin-offs, it’s cheering to see a dynamic young company land slap-bang in the middle of Theatreland.The show is a farcical play-within-a-play. Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are mounting a production of a hoary old sub-‘Mousetrap’ mystery called ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. From the first moment, in which a hapless stage manager attempts to secure a collapsing mantelpiece, we suspect that things are not going to go to plan. And that, indeed, is the case, as the production shudders painfully into chaos, taking in everything from dropped lines to disintegrating sets, intra-cast fighting, technical malfunctions of the highest order, and an unexpectedly resuscitated corpse.The show sits in a fine tradition of British slapstick, and of plays about theatrical blunders: its debt to Michael Frayn’s hilarious ‘Noises Off’, about the gradual disintegration of a touring rep production, is considerable. This is, to be fair, acknowledged by the play’s marketing, which calls it — correctly — ‘“Fawlty Towers” meets “Noises Off”’. But the trouble is that anyone who has seen, and loved, ‘Noises Off’, is likely to find the comparison unfavourable
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town. Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels. Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager. Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers. This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song. He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting. While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’
It's been decades since this skillful adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 Gothic horror story first started setting West End audience a-shiver. 'The Woman in Black' remains perennially popular – particularly, it seems, with generally hard-to-please teenagers – which is testament to its rough-theatre appeal and the extraordinary and enduring potency, not of guts, gore or special effects, but of simple suggestion. Ageing Arthur Kipps is haunted by sinister events that befell him 30 years earlier. In an effort to exorcise his demons, he hires an actor to help him tell his story for an invited audience. As they rehearse, though, their staging itself becomes prey to supernatural visitations from the titular hatchet-faced, whip-thin, funereally garbed woman. Stephen Mallatratt's dramatisation and a deft production by Robin Herford exploit the peculiarly spooky atmosphere of an empty theatre, making us, as an audience, feel almost like spectral voyeurs. And the chills are irresistibly effective: swirling fog, a creaking rocking chair, a locked door, a pale visage looming out of the gloom. Only occasionally does the staging show its age. The projected image of the gaunt, sinister house of Kipps' tormented memory looks hopelessly cheap and crude, and a graveyard conjured with dust sheets struggles to convince, even within the low-tech aesthetic parameters of the piece. Yet the shrieks and gasps that greet the performance demonstrate that, even in the twenty-first century, this doughty
Motown’s girl groups sang about needing love, love. But behind all the sappy stuff there was cold hard cash. Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s 1981 musical is built on sharp insights into pop’s economic realities. And this slick belated UK première, fronted by ‘Glee’ star Amber Riley and dripping in more Swarovski than a banker’s chandelier, doesn’t let you forget it. The plot’s not-so-loosely inspired by the story of The Supremes. The Dreams are three African-American teenage girls who sing gorgeous close harmonies in talent contests, until a gig singing back-up for sex symbol Jimmy Early (a cartoonishly hip-rolling Adam J Bernard) brings them closer to the big time. But they’re not quite there. Their music is ghettoised on separate charts, and their hits are stolen by milk-white matinee idols. Director Casey Nicholaw’s fast-paced production plunges us right into these backstage frustrations. The Dreams’ machiavellian manager Curtis Taylor Jr (Joe Aaron Reid) is waiting in the wings with a plan to get the dough rolling in. It’s none-too-subtly implied that leader Effie, played by an astonishingly good Amber Riley, doesn’t have the face for stardom – she’s relegated to the background, in favour of picture-perfect Deena (Liisi LaFontaine). In ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, Riley proves what a mistake that is with a stupefying solo – her huge, wracked voice seems to swallow up the room (and blows away all memories of Jennifer Hudson’s version in the 2006 movie).
'Faulty Towers: the Dining Experience' returns for 2017. This review is from the 2012 run. Farty Towels; Watery Fowls; Flowery Twats; the misspelling of Fawlty Towers's sign was a marvellous running gag. It was never spelt with a 'u', though, as it is in 'Faulty Towers the Dining Experience'. But despite being an unofficial tribute to John Cleese's legendary '70s sitcom, this interactive dinner-show – created by Australian company Interactive Theatre International –?captures the programme's spirit surprisingly well. Having ordered our drinks at the pricey bar, Basil Faulty (with a 'u', remember) calls each dining group to be seated. My scruffy clothes didn't go down well with the neurotic host. 'Haven't you heard of a shirt and tie?' he asked, disgusted, before directing us to table seven. Basil, Sybil and Manuel (Polly's 'got the night off', we're told) act as waiting staff, wandering between tables, interacting with guests, and performing longer set-pieces between courses which loosely recreate classic scenes from the series – pet rat, fire drill, goose-stepping etc. The trio are convincing impersonators, expertly nailing Cleese, Scales and Sachs's voices and mannerisms, and mingle seamlessly with the diners, making sure to involve each guest but never humiliate them. What's disappointing is the lack of a through-line. The skits are hardly linked, meaning the evening doesn't build to much of a conclusion. The food, too, isn't exactly haute cuisine. The soup was tasty, b
It is the ultimate musical about male privilege, a show about an under-qualified, over-entitled white guy who shambles his way to public adoration by blithely inflicting bankrupt baby boomer values upon a bunch of impressionable people who don’t know any better. ‘School of Rock – The Musical’ is also quite good fun. I dunno if it’s the state of the world today, the fact I haven’t seen the Jack Black-starring film, the fact that so much has changed – musically and politically – since the film came out in 2003, or simply the knowledge that it’s written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes, a couple of Tory lords in their late ’60s, but I felt a bit politically uneasy about ‘School of Rock’, which follows schlubby charlatan Dewey (David Fynn) as he masquerades as a teacher and proves a hit by tearing up his sensitive young charges’ syllabus and making them play old person music. Its big, catchy number is called ‘Stick It to the Man’. Yet there’s something both problematic and ironic about the fact that in Laurence Connor’s production The Man is represented by two women – Florence Andrews’s hard-working, professional headmistress Rosalie and Preeya Kalidas’s Patty, a hard-working, professional wife-to-Dewey’s best friend Ned – while in the blue corner we have... Dewey, a self-absorbed bum who everything turns out brilliantly for. Despite apparently being somewhere in his thirties – so presumably born around 1980 – Dewey exclusively loves classic rock bands, and mocks
The distinctive terracotta façade with its dark-green awnings never fails to stirs up some excitement for every visitor to Harrods. The legendary food halls and 27 restaurants are worth a trip alone.
Liberty was founded in 1875, but the present Marlborough Street site, with its ships’ timbers and leaded windows, was built in the 1920s. The interconnecting jumble of rooms, with the odd fireplace and cushioned window seat, makes for a unique shopping experience.
There's a reason why Selfridges is one of our favourite London stores. It's a veritable maze of goodies. From contemporary art installations to swoon-worthy stationery and a floor devoted to finding you your perfect pair of jeans. And it's all available to take home – for a price. While most of us can't afford the high-end stuff, there's definitely a little something in here for everyone. And even if you just go to browse or sip a coffee in the cafe, Selfridges is well worth the trip.
A thoroughly British shop with a traditional French attitude to cheese retailing in that, like an affineur, Neal’s Yard buys from small farms and creameries in Britain and Ireland, and matures the cheeses in its own cellars until they’re ready to sell in peak condition.
Rough Trade's rock 'n' roll legacy continues to live on in both sides of London, wth the original shop in Ladbroke Grove and this East End addition, which opened in 2007. This is a real music lover's paradise, with a cafe and cushions to perch upon to read books or listen to records. They also have regular free live performances from major acts, although good luck getting tickets for those shows.
Both a tourist attraction, with regular school-holiday events for children, and a ginormous toy shop, Hamleys has all the must-have toys for kids both little and large. The hands-on demonstrations will easily keep you in this five-floored cornucopia for hours.
Kingly Court has helped London’s Carnaby Street to reclaim its 1960s reputation as the heart of swinging London. The three-tiered complex boasts a funky mix of established chains, independents, vintage and gift shops, plus a café-filled courtyard.
Best known for antiques and collectibles, this is actually several markets rolled into one: antiques start at the Notting Hill end; further up are food stalls; under the Westway and along the walkway to Ladbroke Grove are emerging designer and vintage clothes on Fridays and Saturdays.
Food and Drink
Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka bartender Mr Lyan, is a London cocktail dignitary – he's worked in some of the city’s most pioneering bars and now has his own range of mixed spirits in Selfridges. He opened his first bar in Hoxton in 2013, and hot on its heels is this second one. Number two couldn’t be more different. Dandelyan has a prime spot off the lobby of the new multimillion-pound Mondrian hotel in the former Sea Containers House. Dandelyan is run by a team of super-slick international-hotel ‘servers’. White Lyan set out to shake up the cocktail scene by dispensing with ice and all perishables, and Dandelyan’s menu is just as groundbreaking – ingredients include 'chalk bitters', 'crystal peach nectar’ and the archaic-sounding 'dandelion capillaire'. The bar might be glamorous, luxurious and even a bit formal, but the drinks show Chetiyawardana’s invention and attention to detail. Ford & Warner (£12.50) was a fruitily fearsome blend of gin, 'bittered blackcurrant', dandelion flower and lemon, garnished with a little frozen cube of blackcurrant sorbet. An Evil Manhattan (£12.50) didn’t live up to its name but did contain a house-made beer 'vermouth', rye whiskey and bitters. Everything here has a hint of the garden about it, and everything is surprising without being show-off, and most of all, inherently drinkable. Dress up before you drink up; it’s that sort of place. VIDEO: Check out Dandelyan's awesome new mousetrap trolley
I love a rebel. Temper gallops up to the ‘cooking on charcoal’ bandwagon, then sets it on fire. Imagine smoked meat and fish served over tacos and flatbreads, with pow-pow Asian and Latin spices. It’s one of those rare, holy-shit-I’ve-not-eaten-like-this-before places. This Soho joint, from Scottish chef Neil Rankin (Smokehouse, Bad Egg) sources top-notch whole carcasses, which are grilled or smoked in slabs – a cow’s entire ribcage, a legless goat (no jokes, please) – ahead of slicing or dicing. The most straightforward dishes are those served over a ‘flatbread’ (more of a basic roti, made with rendered animal fat and puffed up on the grill) in small, affordable portions. Try the impossibly juicy pork, or the full-flavoured smoked goat. To this bread-and-meat-combo, you add up to eight exotic sprinkles and salsas (all homemade). I loved the simplicity of their ‘green sauce’: just lime juice, coriander and garlic. But it’s with the tacos where things really get interesting. They grind the corn on site (of course they do), and because these rough, rustic little discs are hand-pressed, they’re thicker than usual, so you can really taste – and feel – the corn. But the fillings, oh, the fillings. I adored the soy-cured beef. This is a twist on a yukhoe (a Korean ‘steak tartare’), which they make by stripping off the outside of a half-smoked joint of beef to expose the uncooked bit underneath (sort of like using the inside of a medium rare steak), then hand-chopping and mixing w
Venue says Christmas bookings now being taken for parties of all sizes!
Who needs stuffy old museums? The dining room of the Gallery at Sketch is one of the most playful – and most pink – places to be enveloped by art. The walls have around 200 original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning David Shrigley, their cartoonish quality adding to the sense of fun. He’s even designed some of the crockery: ‘ghosts’, say the teapots, ‘forget about it’, quips the inside of your cup. You can come here for dinner, but afternoon tea is what The Gallery has become famous for, so much so that you can get it before noon (it starts, specifically, at 11.30am). Service is outstanding. Once your charming host has talked you through how it works, you’re looked after by a dedicated ‘tea master’: glam gals in slinky cocktail dresses and baseballs shoes. Who happen to really know their brews. After you’ve decided on drinks and a menu (standard, children’s or – if notice is given – a special dietary needs option), the fun begins. First, there’s the caviar man, in a panama hat and pale blazer. You get a spoonful of caviar (Russian Sturgeon, cultivated in France) alongside Egg and Soldiers: two slim, cheesy toast strips and a fake egg in a very real egg cup (the white is an exceptionally good Comté cheese mornay, the yolk is from a quail and cooked to an ultra-soft 63 degrees). There’s a similar level of creativity throughout the sandwiches and cakes. Star of the sarnies was a black bread Croque d’York, or the salmon and soured cream on rye, while a perfect pear t
Venue says Enter 9 Conduit Street and embark on a Christmas journey. Each step brings yuletide traditions to life while you waltz through snowflakes!
Since this review was published, Rumpus Room has undergone refurbishment. Time Out Eating & Drinking editors, March 2017. Hotel bars used to be the straight-laced kind of place you’d take your ’rents. Not so at the Mondrian, where Dandelyan has been winning awards on the ground floor while level 12’s Rumpus Room has stayed a bit of an inside secret. Now this chic bar is ready to welcome the world, with a terrace overlooking St Paul’s and DJs to lure sophisticated after-workers and Friday night socialites. I say socialites, since the venue claims to take its cue from the Bright Young Things, a group of hedonists followed by the tabloids in the 1920s. Think England’s non-fiction ‘Great Gatsby’ (or the ’20s version of the sidebar of shame). In truth, the theme’s not obvious, but the setting is pure style. Waitresses work the room in floaty, floral numbers you’d expect to see on Kate Moss in the French Riviera. And she’d probably approve of their way (a million miles from ‘basic bitch’ service). There are mauve banquettes, glittering chandeliers, and a shiny gold bar, but it’s the view that really wins the crowd. Stick around for sunset, when the room gets more blingy. Don’t expect such an atmosphere without paying a pretty penny; solid classic cocktails cost £14. My paloma was faultless, but my bank card withered when I promptly reached the bottom of the glass. Stick with champagne cocktails to feel more at peace; after all, Rumpus Room is an occasion bar. We can’t vouch for
Hipsters: prepare to be outraged. There’s a new kid in town, with dishes as retro as a Rubik’s Cube, but without the side of irony. That’s because it’s the latest gaff from Corbin & King, the chaps behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel. Like those, it’s named in connection with classic cars (backstory: The Wolseley site was originally built as the showroom of the Wolseley Car Company). Bellanger is a nod to the Société des Automobiles Bellanger Frères, a French car manufacturer from 1912 to ’25 (fun fact: Monsieur Bellanger sold Delaunay cars). And once again, it pays homage to the golden era of all-day ‘grand cafés’. Formerly home to a popular-but-uninspiring branch of Brown’s, the site’s potential has at last been realised. The layout’s much the same (airy front section, intimate rear space, bustling middle to connect the two), but the refit by David Collins’s protégé Shayne Brady is all new. If you can call interiors straight from the Alsatian brasseries of turn-of-the-century Paris ‘new’, that is. (Bit of history: these were set up by refugees fleeing the Alsace after the region was annexed by Germany). It’s gorgeously art nouveau, all polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering golden lighting. An abundance of booths encourages group dining and café chatter. You can’t buy this kind of buzz. The food – a Venn diagram of French, German and Alsatian – is simple, yet flawless. If Angela Merkel and François Hollande embarked upon an illicit affair
Venue says Join us over the summer for our limited-edition rosé menu, showcasing some of the finest French varieties. Best enjoyed on our terrace.
With chains such as GBK and Zizzi for company, you might expect a restaurant next to the Tower of London to be brimming with selfie stick-wielding tourists. Thankfully, that’s not the case at Coppa Club. Having originally made its home next to the Thames in Berkshire, this all-day restaurant has taken the plunge into London with a second riverside restaurant, which comes with quite a view. Positioned next to Tower Bridge and opposite the Shard it boasts what must be one of the largest riverside terraces in London, but the big glass windows mean you can soak up the sights even when it’s too chilly to go al fresco. A relaxed menu combines small plates, dishes from the grill, pizzas and pasta, as well as nibbles if you’re just in it for the views. An unlikely snack of deep-fried truffled gnocchi was seriously moreish, while light, crisp calamari had an extra kick from sriracha mayo on the side. Rib-eye steak was juicy, tender and cooked to order, although the supplementary truffle cream didn’t really add anything to the dish. Better still was a delicate whole roasted sea bream, stuffed with rosemary and slices of courgette, served with a fresh tomato and fennel salad. A rich chocolate and almond cake with citrusy crème fraîche rounded things off nicely. The only slight hiccup was a clunky ordering system that meant waiters had to painstakingly search for each dish or drink on a smartphone, resulting in a mix-up with our drinks. But if they can iron out the kinks in the techn
Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern: three of London’s most enjoyable new-style tapas bars, and they’re all run by the same young company. Ember Yard is the fourth in this growing chain, and builds on the strengths of its forebears, using Italian as well as Spanish dishes and techniques as their inspiration. What sets Ember Yard apart from its siblings is an even greater emphasis on the grill. If you’ve eaten in a charcoal grill restaurant in the Basque country – or even in a Turkish grill in Dalston – Ember Yard should feel oddly familiar, especially if you’re sitting near the glowing coals. There’s a mixture of bar stools, high counters, dining tables and banquettes on the ground floor; the basement has more of the same but with even more emphasis on the list of house cocktails, and a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass, or even bigger selection by the bottle. The bar snacks are among the best in Soho. Smoked chorizo oozed flavour, and was served hot with a smooth saffron alioli. Chips are cooked in pork fat, and arrived perfectly crisp. Cheese and charcuterie platters are divided into Spanish or Italian. Every tapas flavour combination was a winner. Tender octopus was coated in a peperonata sauce, served with a green squirt of the garlic and coriander mayonnaise called mojo verde alioli. Ibérico pork ribs were grilled to melting softness, the flavours of the quince glaze and smear of celeriac purée melding into the warm fat. If we have any caveats at all about the m
Venue says Our £38 Sunday feast with seasonal menu, bottomless prosecco and live music is the only homework you need to do for Monday. Booking advised!
London’s docklands were bustling with ‘On the Waterfront’ activity right up until the 1960s. Containerisation – the adoption of uniformly sized cargo that could be lifted easily from vessel to vessel – made London’s docks obsolete, as the bigger ships moved to the deeper waters of Essex and beyond. As the working docks moved out of the city, the new offices and corporations moved in. In 1977 a major new hotel project was built on the South Bank, but failed to come to fruition. The near-complete concrete edifice, perched right on the river’s bank, was acquired by a shipping company and became Sea Containers House. After the bankruptcy of Sea Containers Ltd in 2006, the edifice was in the doldrums for a while before eventual conversion back into a hotel. Sea Containers is now the name of the hotel’s flagship restaurant. The shipping theme is carried through the Mondrian London hotel’s lobby, bars and dining area. Model freighters from its former use are still on display in cases. There’s even the illusion of a vast copper hull along one wall, a trompe l’oeil created by designer Tom Dixon’s team which has given the hotel its makeover. A model yellow submarine is suspended over the restaurant’s bar. The hotel dining room could easily be soulless were it not for an open kitchen on one side, and views of riverside joggers and strollers on the other. The menu name-checks slightly too many trends and diverse dish styles, yet manages to render them well. A South American-style cevic