Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Soy Cuba (for a few more days anyway)

One-part overwrought Soviet propaganda - one part cinematic eye candy, Soy Cuba is playing at London's ICA through 1 June 2006. This Russian made film from 1964 is a series of four vignettes set in Batista ruled, pre-revolution Cuba and portrays that period from the revolutionaries’ point of view.

I caught Soy Cuba last night and was as captivated as the first time I saw the film in the mid-nineties. Honestly, it’s a bit long (and ICA’s theatre seats aren’t the most comfy) at 141 minutes … and can feel even longer as the story attempts to beat viewers over the head with revolutionary dogma. Characters are caricatures: noble peasants and revolutionaries as good guys and slimy, lecherous Americans and bloodthirsty pro-Batista pigs as baddies. Still, the story is compelling and I gather even hardened McCarthyists would have been slightly swayed for a moment or two during a viewing. However, much of that swaying would be due the masterful cinematography, not the scriptwriting. Where Soy Cuba scores is with its long, mobile shots soaring above crowds of marching people, dashing across buildings, dipping into swimming pools – practically, going any and everywhere to tell one of the most effective (and stunning) visual stories in film history.

Click here for more information.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Modern (f)art

Art of noise kicks up a stink
By Jack Malvern
The Times
May 23, 2006

Martin Creed’s Work No 401 is a recording of nine minutes of the artist blowing raspberries into a microphone, which is played back on a loop. It can be heard throughout the new Material Gestures wing, which contains works by Claude Monet and Mark Rothko.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

GBK: Gorgeous Burgers Kiwi-style

Yummy! Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) was developed by three New Zealanders craving for a taste of home, 'where gourmet burgers are recognised as a favoured way of eating for busy people and families seeking good quality convenient food.' There are 10 GBK locations, with more in the pipeline. Their growth strategy seems to be setting up shop in London's antipodian ghettoes - and based upon my recent visit to their Battersea flagship restaurant, this seems to be working! It was a dreary Sunday midafternoon, and the place absolutely teemed with GBK enthusiasts.

During my visit, I had the Kiwiburger (100% Aberdeen-Angus Scotch beef, beetroot, egg, pineapple, cheese, salad & relish) along with chips and garlic mayo. Wow! Their menu has an extensive list of not just burgers that looks impressive. However, when (not if) I go back, I doubt I'll be able get past ordering anything other than the Kiwiburger. The menu also lists milkshakes, which several customers were enjoying - but I just didn't have the room.

I could go on about how this place, but it's all been said before:


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Did you know that London has an official stone?

from Wikipedia:

Whether or not this is true, the London Stone was for many hundreds of years recognised as the symbolic authority and heart of the
City of London.


Here's a recent BBC article about plans to move the stone:

London's heart of stone
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Magazine
Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

The mysterious "London stone" is going to be rescued from a building due to be demolished. Does it mean that London is going to be saved from an ancient legend?

Read the full article:

Even more from Londonist:


Monday, May 22, 2006

Undercover Surrealism at the Hayward Gallery

The subversive climate of late 1920's Paris is recaptured at the Hayward Gallery with the UNDERCOVER SURREALISM: Picasso, Miró, Masson and the vision of Georges Bataille exhibition (11 May - 30 July 2006) with exceptional talks, such as conversations with Jake Chapman, to screenings of the pioneer cinema, such as that of oceanographer/filmmaker Jean Painlevé.

More about Jean Painlevé may be found at my personal blog:

3 x 15 = Jamie Oliver in Cornwall

Jamie restaurant opens its doors
Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK

TV chef Jamie Oliver has launched the third branch of his restaurant chain Fifteen near Newquay in Cornwall.

Read the full article:

And you thought London was expensive? Try Oslo.

The country that's got it all - but is still saving for tomorrow
Patrick Collinson
The Guardian
Saturday May 20, 2006

Perhaps the shops are quiet because, unless you're on a Norwegian salary, the prices are eye-popping. Even the well-off Danish on day-trips gasp. Norwegians, meanwhile, pour over the Swedish border every weekend just to pick up groceries. And when they fill up their (heavily-taxed) cars, the price they pay at the pump is amongst the highest in Europe. Rather like whisky in Scotland, there's no discount on petrol just because they make it there.

Read the full article:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Gordon's Wine Bar

An article in the Toronto Star takes readers to one of many Londoners' favored drinking nooks.

Make a date to visit Gordon's Wine Bar
Toronto Star
May 20, 2006. 01:00 AM

Stepping inside the narrow doorway, I saw only a tight hallway with three closed doors and a rickety staircase leading to the basement. This is Gordon's? It must be the wrong Gordon's.

here to read the full article.
Visit Gordon's online:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Long weekend of modern art on the South Bank

'The Long Weekend' is a four-day festival of live events at Tate Modern scheduled for 26 May - 29 May, 2006.

Futurist Friday 26 May 2006
Surrealist Saturday 27 May 2006
Abstract Sunday 28 May 2006
Minimalist Monday 29 May 2006

Much of the line-up looks promising, especially
Joan Miró's Grotesque Puppets in Merma Neverdies by Joan Baixas set to perform 'for the first time in over 25 years.'

The Mothership to land at Heathrow

World's biggest airbus heads for UK
Press Association
Thursday May 18, 2006 6:08 AM

The world's biggest passenger airliner, the giant 555-seater Airbus A380, is flying into Britain for the first time.

Read the full story:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Battersea Vintage Fashion, Accessories & Textiles Fair

Battersea Vintage Fashion, Accessories & Textiles Fair

Date: 21 May
Battersea Arts Centre
Location: Lavender Hill, SW11Times: 9.30am – 4pm
Prices: £4 or £2.50 for students with ID.
Nearest Tube station:
Clapham Common or Stockwell and then a 15 minute bus journey (345).
For more information:

An Aladdin’s cave of beautiful unique pieces, the perfect haunt for individuals looking for one offs or research purposes - prices to suit all.

This popular vintage fashion fair features everything from vintage buttons and trimmings to fashions from the 60s with prices ranging from £5 to £500.Browse 65 stalls from all over the UK, France, New York and Hungary offering the likes of vintage Biba, Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, YSL and more.

Quick yummy Japanese near Moorgate


2/3 Bassinshaw Highwalk
London Wall
London EC2V 5DS
Tel: 020-7256-9433
Fax: 020-7588-5656

Open Monday to Friday
Lunch 11:30-14:30
Dinner 18:00-22:00 (Last sitting at 21:30)

A great option for a quick, but completely satisfying, lunch is Noto. Close to Moorgate Station this Japanese/Sushi restaurant in a modular building has huge windows looking out on Barbican and London Wall.

Noto is not as cheap as many lunch options around the City (expect to pay ₤8-10 for a lunch). Nevertheless, service is lightning fast, portions are generous and filling, and the food is delicious (I love their tempura).

Noto is also open for dinner and makes a great stop before any Barbican event, with the Barbican Centre only a short stroll away.

This location is their ‘flagship’ restaurant. They also have a number of take-away shops in the City and central London.

For more information:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anatolian Cuisine in North London

Testi Anatolian Restaurant
38 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 7PL
Telephone Number: 020 7249 7151

Testi is an incredible, reasonably priced Turkish restaurant in Stoke Newington. In this a very Turkish part of north London, it’s impressive that one Ocakbasi (barbeque) restaurant stands out among the rest of kebab shops et al. The menu is comprised of items one might find in a Anatolian (Asian part of Turkey) home ... that is if the kitchen is well-stocked and the home cook is utterly brilliant.

Service is prompt and friendly, and dishes are well-presented with great sides such as delicious charred onions in pomegranate juice.

Seating is comfortable, and the spacious dining room is a relaxing setting. This is a very nice place to dine with friends if you find yourself in the area. Delish!

Monday, May 15, 2006

What have they all got in common?

MP David Blunkett has named academic Professor Sir Bernard Crick to set up a controversial "Britishness" test for would-be immigrants, according to this BBC article. However just what does it mean to be British?

What is Britishness anyway?
BBC News
Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
David Blunkett mentioned two things in particular - forced marriages and genital mutilation - which he said were certainly not part of Britishness.

Read the full article:

19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields

Built in 1719 by, and as a home for, Huguenots escaping persecution in France, this 'brick messuage' later served as home for immigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe. By 1869, a synagogue had been erected in its back garden. Then after the Jewish residents, the Bengalis, the Somalis, and others came seeking refuge in this house.

Today, this 'magical unrestored Huguenot master silk weaver's home, whose shabby frontage conceals a rare surviving synagogue built over its garden' is open to the public viewing - and well worth a visit! Similar in spirit to the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum in New York, public open days for the rest of 2006 are as follows:

- Sunday 21 May 12 - 5pmfor Museums and Galleries Month
- Sunday 28 May 12 - 5pmfor Museums and Galleries Month
- Sunday 18 June to Sunday 25 June 12 - 7pmevery day for Refugee Week
- Sunday 3 September 12 - 5pmfor European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage
- Saturday 16 September 12 - 5 pm and Sunday 17
- September 12 - 5 pm for London Open House weekend (prepare for possible queues)

Otherwise organising a group visit is possible. Please visit their website for more details:

London's Largest Antiques Fair

Over 700 stands sells a wide range of collectibles 'for the individual, home and garden including ceramics, jewellery, art, furniture, vintage and retro clothing and accessories.' I went to yesterday's fair (14 May) and found the variety impressive but a considerable number of antiques to be overpriced. However, it should be noted that most items appeared to be reasonably priced and many vendors seemed eager to haggle. Furthermore, plenty of visitors were pleased with their purchases, and a few suggested to me that, at the end of the day, prices dropped substantially.
The next fairs are 17 September and 19 November 2006.

More information:

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bangali New Year on Brick Lane

Bangla New Year Festival (The Baishakhi Mela)
Sunday 14 May 2006
Brick Lane, Weavers field & Allen Gardens London E1

Established as the premier Bengali celebration outside of Bangladesh, the Baishakhi Mela brings together the very best of Bengali arts, music and culture To Brick Lane ‘Banglatown’ one of London’s most vibrant quarters. The Baishakhi Mela is the largest gathering of Asian community in the UK and known as the best cultural event in London’s Calendar ... The festival has developed into a sensational extravaganza promoting all that Brick Lane and ‘Banglatown’ has to offer to people across London, the UK and abroad. From its humble beginnings the event has rapidly established itself as the world’s largest Bengali celebration outside of Bangladesh, regularly attracting over 80,000 visitors.

Official website:

More at the Londonist too:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Modernism at the V&A

Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939
6 April - 23 July 2006

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road

London SW7 2RL

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939 concentrates on modernism in the early twentieth century and is the first to explore the concept of modernism without confining itself to an individual decade or geographic region. In doing so, it sets upon a rather daunting endeavor. In fact, at times all the isms and movements associated with this “loose collection of ideas” (as modernism is described in the exhibit’s program) gets a bit oppressive. Still, a deep breath and quick look around alleviates any ideological bogging down of the senses: as busy as the concepts behind modernism seem to be, the end results are not. Clean lines and crisp imagery are the highlights of this exhibit, which focuses on architecture and design in an effort to reflect early modernism’s “emphasis on the unity of the arts and the key role of the fine arts in shaping contemporary visual culture.”

Not nearly as awe-inspiring as the V&A’s art deco exhibit a few years back, Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939 is still worth a visit and is impressive in its attempt to wrangle in all that was modernism from 1914-1939.

For more details:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Have you seen this man?

Emiana recently received the following 'e-alert' in her work email inbox:


The business community is asked to be aware of an opportunist thief operating within the City boundaries who enters buildings, usually by tail gating staff and by-passing security.

If challenged, the male has, in recent weeks, inferred that he is either a fire extinguisher engineer or a lighting engineer and will gain entrance to offices where he will steal wallets/purses, mobile phones and money from desks and bags.

The male is described as white, 5'6-5'7 tall and aged about 50 years told with grey short hair. He is of slim build and has been described as scruffy in appearance although he tends to try and look smart by wearing a shirt and tie. He has a scar on his lip thought to be a hair lip.

He has been very active in the past week and has managed to gain entrance to offices that have security systems in place by convincing staff members that he is an engineer.

He requires only a few minutes to find what he is looking for, normally wallets, phones, cash and credit cards. If challenged whilst searching people's desks, he will use the excuse that he is looking for a pen.

A photo of the male is attached for your information. Please remind staff to be extra vigilant. Do not be afraid to ask people for identification.

If you see this male, please contact City of London Police on 0207 601 2222

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Simply MUJI

Spend any amount of time roaming central London and you’re apt to come across the Japanese retail chain, Muji. Muji sells basic, but stylish, items at affordable prices. Think Mandarina Duck for the masses meets an urban Japanese version of IKEA and you’re on the right track. With everything from clothing to electronic goods to furniture, stationary and storage seem to be what Muji does best (I’m also quite keen on their flip flops too).

Muji (which means ‘simple’ in Japanese or ‘No Brand Quality Goods’ according to muji.co.uk) was established in Japan in 1980 with the guiding principle of developing ‘new, simple products at reasonable prices by making the best use of materials while considering environmental issues.’

This principle is well observed in Muji’s (lack of) product packaging. In an attempt to conserve resource and reduce waste, Muji products appear on store shelves in minimal packaging bearing only relevant information and a price tag. Such an approach enables Muji to stock its shops efficiently and effectively. Items are neatly arranged and very easy for shoppers to find and to visualize how efficiently and effectively Muji products might fit in their homes.

Visit Muji on the web for more details:

New 3D digital map of London

BlueSky use speed of light to model London skyline
Directions Magazine
May 09, 2006

Aerial mapping company BlueSky (http://www.bluesky-world.com) has announced a new 3D digital map of the whole of Greater London.

Read the full article:

LA Times fashion critic on London's retail scene

Try it on for size
Tag along as our fashion critic samples London's hot spots and trolls for finds, like a true Brit 'it' girl.
By Booth Moore, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times
May 7, 2006

More than any other fashion city right now, London is full of creative energy.

Read the full article:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stony Street Cafe

Just a stone's throw from a couple of Starbucks and the other big name establishments squeezed between Southwark Bridge and London Bridge is a homey little reprieve - the Stony Street Cafe. On Stony Street (duh) across from Borough Market, this bakery/cafe/sandwich shop with its large wooden tables and view of the market is a topnotch spot for contemplation over a cuppa. The staff is exceptionally friendly - if somewhat lackadaisical - and the place exudes an overall feeling of bucolic calm ... on a weekday morning anyway. With the Saturday market on, however, I can only imagine this cafe would be brimming with patrons.

I can vouch that their bacon sandwich really hits the spot and that their soups look and smell very appetizing.

Chocolate goodness just off Brick Lane

Choc Star
Mobile Chocolate Bar
Every Sunday on Brick Lane, London, E1 (just south of 93 Feet East)
Also available for private hire
0774 807 3848

What once was a Scottish ice cream van has now become the country’s first mobile chocolate bar - a veritable hotbed of tempting treats, all dedicated to the magic ‘C’ word.

What an absolute pleasure it was to happen upon this van of chocolate delights! For about five quid, Emilia and I enjoyed some extremely yummy midday treats. Emilia went with the hot chocolate, which was delicious (not too sweet!) and thick (although not as thick as on the Continent), and I had the 'van specialty' - the Triple Chocolate Malted Bliss (essentially a super-mega-delish chocolate milkshake).

Should you find yourself roaming Brick Lane among the multitudes of Sunday foragers, Choc Star makes a perfect dessert option.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Foxes in London

Interesting article about foxes sharing London with its human residents.

Foxes thrive in urban Britain
(Photograph by Adam Butler)
Associated Press
Posted on Sun, May. 07, 2006

Conservationists estimate up to 30,000 foxes roam urban Britain, lured by the burgeoning suburbs with their gardens and generous trash cans.

Click here for complete article.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Freud Museum marks 150th anniversary of Sigmund Freud's birth

Follow your dreams and be Freud for a day
Davis Smith
The Observer
Sunday May 7, 2006

The Freud Museum in Hampstead, London, is marking this weekend's 150th anniversary of Freud's birth with an exhibition in which visitors can sit at a replica of his desk and ponder whether their troubles can be blamed on repressed sexuality.

Read the full article here:

Visit the Freud Museum online:

Anti-racism event

London to stage anti-racism event
Published: 2006/05/06 08:35:43 GMT

'London is a successful city because it is diverse and open and we will fight for that diversity with every breath because it is our city's lifeblood.'


"The New City"

This Financial Times in-depth report examines the City of London's 'remarkable change as different parts of the financial services sector move to the West End and Canary Wharf.' The report also includes an interactive map 'to find key institutions in London, view data on the sector and read about the factors driving the transformation,' as well as a picture gallery of 'A day in the life of the New City,' and a forum for voting on and discussing if London is the world's financial capital.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who knew the history of Portuguese exploration tasted so good?

With roughly 50 locations throughout greater London, Nando's is a unique chain of restaurants offering flame-grilled ‘peri-peri’ chicken. What is peri-peri? Here’s how nandos.co.uk explains it:

… Portuguese explorers came into contact with African people who introduced them to the African Bird's Eye Chilli … The African people called this fiery little chilli, Pili-Pili, which means Pepper-Pepper in the African language of Swahili. The explorers tried in vain to pronounce Pili-Pili but ended up calling it PERi-PERi. The settlers immediately exPERi-PERimented with PERi-PERi in their cooking and because much of life revolved around food, PERi-PERi became an integral part of their lives. The women were also delighted with the effect that PERi-PERi had on their men; they were amazed that something so small could be so satisfying.

Nando’s peri-peri sauces are available in six varieties: garlic, sweet, medium, hot, extra-hot, and wild herb. Their A-grade chickens are prepared ‘fresh, never-frozen’ and are butterfly-cut and marinated for 24 hours. ¼ chicken and ½ chicken combination, each with two regular ‘sidelines’, are on offer - as well as a variety of sandwiches, salads, platters and other options. A fairly lengthy list of ‘sidelines’ includes spiced mixed olives and grilled corn. Decent drinks, a children’s menu, and desserts round out the menu.

My experience has been that the ¼ chicken combo with coleslaw and chips (with added peri-peri spice) is a substantial meal that won’t bog you down. I usually order my chicken with hot sauce and then pour a bit of extra-hot on the side. And, for less than six quid, it’s not too extravagant a meal either.

Ordering at Nando’s is a little different than at most restaurants. Upon entering, diners decide where to sit and take a number. After deciding where to sit, orders are placed at the front counter. Once the food is ready, it’s brought to the diners’ table. Utensil, napkins, fountain drinks, condiments and the like are located at self-service kiosks in the restaurant.

I’ve visited Nando’s a number of times and have found the quality of food and service to be consistent and far better than most other options in this price range. I’ve been to their Earl’s Court location and, more recently, to their newer Clink Street spot. Both locations are clean and friendly. In particular, the Clink Street restaurant is in a well-appointed South Bank nook that seems exceptionally lovely for a fast-casual restaurant.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Eating 'Nose to Tail' at St. John Bar and Restaurant

'Nose to tail eating' is on offer at St. John Bar and Restaurant located (aptly enough) on St. John Street, just a short skip from Smithfield Market. Not for the squeamish, St. John's menu of traditional British fare reads like a poem for omnivorous readers eager to partake in the sampling of delectable titles, such as 'Grilled Squid & Green Sauce' and 'Mince On Dripping Toast.'

During my visit, I shared a starter course of Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad with my wife and went halves on Crumbed Veal Rump, Chicory & Anchovy and Calf''s Liver & Beetroot. Our server commended us on ordering what she considered her favorite items, and, upon our dinner's arrival, we soon congratulated each other on a meal well chosen.

Now open for almost twelve years, St. John Smithfield (they have another, newer location at Spitalfield) is in a Georgian building that was once part townhouse and part five-chimney smokehouse. According to the restaurant's website:

The building is pretty much as it was found, our bar is situated in what was the main smoking room with some of the chimneys housing our pastry kitchen and the bar itself. The three remaining chimneys are used for dry goods and wine storage ... The building was painted white, skylights put in to the 20 foot high smoking room, a kitchen installed and thus St. JOHN opened.

The above statement demonstrates the sort of understated elegance to be expected at this restaurant where appropriate attire ranges from suit-and-tie to t-shirt-and-trainers. Main courses range from £13.50-20.50. Reservations recommended.

26 St John Street
020 7251 0848
Fax 020 7251 4090

Monday, May 01, 2006

Extended stay in central London? Skip the hotel

If planning an extended stay in central London, keep in mind that even the not-so-hot hotels can be rather expensive. One pleasant option might be to forego your hotel stay all together and, instead, rent a fully serviced residential accommodation ... at a fraction of what a hotel or bed & breakfast would cost.

At present, I've just moved back to London and will not be able to move into my flat for about a month. Until that time, my wife and I are shacked up at One Globe View, which seems a great option for anyone doing business or pleasure in the City of London or thereabout.

Our temporary flat was rented through City Apartments Ltd, a leading specialist provider of fully serviced residential accommodation in the City of London. In addition to being seconds from the Millennium Bridge, One Globe View features a quiet courtyard with nice water features (to be in such a trafficked location, this is a very tranquil building). A long list of amenities includes the following notables:
  • Ridiculously low rates for overseas calls! For example, calls to the US are just 10p (that's less than 20¢)for the whole of the first hour - calls to Australia are just 20p for the whole first hour and calls other 'major destinations' also have 'almost free' calling rates;
  • Free wireless internet in our room;
  • Weekly cleaning/laundry service as well as our own in-room washer/dryer;
  • A full kitchen with dishwasher, all necessary utensils, etc (even some food);
  • Nice TV with full package Sky Digital Television, DVD player, etc;
  • and considerably more, such as fresh cut flowers.

City Apartments Ltd can be found on the web at http://www.cityaparts.com/.

Other websites with information about serviced apartment lettings in London include the following:

Tiki Chris


Island Living, London Style

With a network of islands in the Thames, getting away from it all yet still remaining close to London's buzz may be attainable, according to this Financial Times article:

The real waterfront properties
By Ben West
Financial Times
Arts & Weekend/House & Garden
Published: April 28 2006 16:15 Last updated: April 28 2006 16:15

To many people, living on an island conjures up images of remote, sparsely populated, overgrown patches of rock where there is no such thing as a trip to the shops. Few would think of sprawling, built-up London as a location for island living.

here to read the entire article.

Tiki Chris

A Piratical Summer coming to London’s South Bank

A Piratical Summer coming to London’s South Bank

Fascinated by pirate history? Then check out Under the Flag: The early life, adventures and piracies of the famous Long John Silver before he lost his leg, opening 9 July at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Based on the real life cutthroat of Stevenson’s Treasure Island and set around the historical pirate republic of Rabat, this wild tale of high seas and low politics exposes the class hatreds and religious hypocrisy of the 17th century … The production features bare flesh and filthy language.

More details:

If Long John Silver's ‘bare flesh and filthy language’ would be a bit much for you or the little ones, another treasure for pirate buffs is hardly more than a few breaths away on Clink Street. Located here is the SV Golden Hinde, an accurate reconstruction of privateer Sir Francis Drake’s Tudor galleon in which he circumnavigated the world from 1577-1580. The ship operates as a living history museum, running a fulltime schedule of educational programmes, such as guided tours, workshops and the opportunity for school and family groups to spend a night aboard ship on an imaginary voyage. The ship is also open to the public for self guided tours.

More details: