Monday, 24 September 2007

HOT: Atonement, Odeon Whiteleys, Bayswater

A beautiful film of my favourite Ian McEwan book. The cast and scenery looked ravishing and although I didn't love Keira Knightley's acting all the time, the moment where she and James McAvoy meet in the cafe after years apart had me all choked up.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

NOT: Hat and Feathers, 2 Clerkenwell Road, Islington

More of a lukewarm really - I loved the bright white high-ceilinged room, the chocolate fondant and my pork belly with savoy cabbage and pancetta. I hated the bread that looked like it came out of a packet and the terrible service, which caused us to resort to a table-wide Mexican wave in order to get the waiter's attention. Good value with 50% off toptable deal but I think there are other gastropubs that do it better.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

HOT: A Disappearing Number, Barbican

A really imaginative production of a play about mathematics and its impact on two intertwining relationships - the Cambridge mathematician GH Hardy and Indian prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan, and on the other hand Ruth, a mathematician obsessed with Ramanujan's work and her husband. There was great use of Nitin Sawhney's music, videos and images, moving screens and dance. I really like the Barbican too, with its fountained courtyard and sixties concrete exterior.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

NOT: Brick Lane Music Festival

A tiring and stressful day spent trudging up and down the bottleneck known as Brick Lane in search of people, food, music and a place to sit down. Never again am I going to the east on a Sunday unless it's to the sedate Spitalfields Markets (which are a HOT). Call me a grandma but I can't do pushing, crowds and lining up on a Sunday.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

HOT: HK Diner, 22 Wardour Street Soho

You have to line up to get in, it's clean, the service is quick and it's filled with young Asian people, all a good sign. The food proved to be fantastic and cheap. I love their dry beef stir fried noodles - I hate it when noodles are gluggy and full of sticky sauce. Our snow pea sprouts had the proper kick of garlic and the salt and pepper pork was tender and tasty. A great place in amongst a lot of other Chinese dross in Chinatown, and open till 4am!

Update 13 February 2009: Part 2 of Martin's introduction to proper Chinese food was another success. Without even realising it, we ordered the same food as my previous visit - noodles, snow pea sprouts, pork - and it was just as good. Also great was the seafood and tofu hotpot and the sesame bubble tea. I'd avoid the lettuce wraps though, as I thought the filling was a bit too soggy.

HOT: Helvetica at Institute of Contemporary Art

A gallery and cinema hidden away on The Mall (a pleasant cycle through the parks from my house), the only sign of it was a bunch of cool arty-looking types in skinny jeans loitering out the front. The doco Helvetica traced the development of the most ubiquitous typeface since the 50s, and interviewed the graphic artists who were adamantly for and against its use (in passionate nerdism). My conclusion: I liked Helvetica for it's clarity and simplicity, and it really is EVERYWHERE once you start looking.

NOT: Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant, Queensway

This is apparently the best place for crispy duck but I wasn't overly impressed (although I'm willing to give it another chance). The first duck we had was really dry, to the point where I actually had to ask for a replacement (after a bit of arguing with the waiter). Our veges were a too oily, and the stuffed bean curd was gluggy and the stuffing was a hard little rock of not much prawn.

Friday, 7 September 2007

NOT: Emperor Jones at National Theatre

I don't know whether it was Friday night tiredness or because I'm not as literary as I thought, but I found this play pretty incomprehensible and was secretly relieved that it only went for 70 mins. The positives were the interesting use of space and light, the live music soundtrack, the lead actor was fantastic and it involved lots of really built sweaty men stripped to the waist.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

HOT: Prince at The O2

For a man with SO MANY HITS (as he kept proclaiming) I didn't know 50% of the songs - but the 50% of the songs I did know were fun and fantastic and took me back to my daggy primary school days when hearing 'Cream' in the same room as my parents made me feel uncomfortable. My favourite moment was actually a non-Prince part with his keyboardist and amazing saxophonist, ringing the notes throughout the arena. I also wished that I was leggy with long brown hair that I could swing around like the Twins as they writhed on the dance floor.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

HOT: Aesop facial, Liberty of London, Regents Street

A relaxing way to end the day with Ingrid's magic hands massaging beautiful smelling Aesop products into my face and shoulders. The 40 pounds redeemable with purchase charge makes it really good value and I have a cupboard full of Aesop products to prove it.

Monday, 3 September 2007

HOT: Knocked Up at Notting Hill Coronet

I'm going to go more often to this creaking old world cinema - on Tuesdays it's only 3.50 (and with my still-valid student card, also 3.50 on Mondays) and all of their preview notices (Don't Smoke etc) have a crackling 60s style print. I quite enjoyed Knocked Up but I'm sorry, the whole story about the beautiful girl falling for the slobby pot-head really didn't ring true for me. And I certainly wasn't expecting the graphic birth scene - you could hear the whole crowd shriek at that point.

HOT: Gate Restaurant, 87 Notting Hill Gate

I have no idea why more people haven't discovered this place as it does fantastic tapas in a subterranean environment right near two cinemas. Everything comes quickly, beautifully presented and served with a smile. The homemade bread is unbelievable.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

HOT: Green & Red Bar and Cantina, 51 Bethnal Green Road

Very good churros - crisp and hot and not too sugary, though chocolate dipping sauce could have been hotter. Though apparently nothing could be as hot as the Adrien-Brody lookalike bar man who managed to kill all conversation while everyone (except me) gawped. I'd like to go back and see whether the Mexican food makes up for the boring brown ambience and decor.

NOT: Hookah Lounge, 133 Brick Lane

It looked so promising - low stools, casual atmosphere, hearty food - but the dodgy service rapidly put me off. We sat for ages without menus, then had to gesture to order food, ordered twice for more bread to go with the dips, they tried to take our plates away before we were finished then didn't take our dirty empty plates away for ages, wouldn't let me order baklava at the counter as they were 'coming to our table', had to gesture to get them to actually come to our table and take our baklava order.The last straw - ONE piece of pita bread cost 1.50 pounds! However, an interesting "Close Encounters" email exchange with a mysterious admirer came out of it....

Saturday, 1 September 2007

HOT: Ping Pong, Soho and various locations

Going inside made me want to eat again (dim sum) but we just popped in for a drink as no other bars were open. Big high stools and a sleek black curved marble bar serving what I'm told are reasonably priced cocktails - I had a yummy mocktail.

HOT: Restaurant Tokyu, Japan Centre, Picadilly

Great food, free miso soup refills and lots of Japanese patrons - a great find. My salmon and ikuru don was delicious (I'd never had salmon roe that big and juicy before) and it made me realise how much I missed that kind of food. The grocery store downstairs is well stocked and I'm told cheaper than Chinatown, plus the takeaway sushi is ridiculously cheap - 2 pounds for 8 california rolls!

NOT: Regents Street Festival, Soho

I think they should make Regents Street pedestrianised all the time, but otherwise the crush of people at this fizzer of a festival was like battling through Oxford St on a normal day without the advantages of shopping purchases. A couple of random stages and looong queues for food.

HOT: Portobello Markets, Notting Hill

I used to live around the corner and never truly appreciated the fashion gems there (probably due to lack of funds). The hoards of tourists who stop in silly inconvenient places are a bit annoying, but otherwise I love the food section and the clothing - this week there seemed to be a preponderence of Japanese fashion students manning the stalls. Luckily I wasn't in the market to buy clothes after my spending spree in Stockholm.