Sunday, 30 December 2007

HOT: Sherlock Holmes Museum 221b Baker Street, London

I’ve always been a massive fan of Sherlock Holmes, and it seems that he has a large audience in Japanese girls and Eastern European men as well judging from the clientele of his museum. Pretty small for £6 entry (given the National Gallery and Tate Modern et al are free) but the kitsch mannequins are pretty frightening. The best bit though was the cute scrapbook with letters to Mr Holmes from people from all around the world wanting their mysteries solved, including a letter from HM Revenue and Customs wanting to know his current address for tax purposes.

HOT: Xin at Harrods 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge

Harrods Food Hall definitely makes my London ‘to do’ list although for lunch can be a bit of a bunfight. Nevertheless, we managed to find two low stools at Xin and enjoyed some not-bad yum cha and pretty jasmine flowering tea.

HOT: The Art of Lee Miller, Victoria and Albert Museum

Beautiful Lee Miller certainly led an amazing life as a model, photographer and muse. In particular, I thought her photographs of Egypt were beautiful, her stories and photographs for Vogue during WWII quite moving and stark and her photo-essay of her friends at work in her house was amusing.

HOT: Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft, Victoria and Albert Museum

I really enjoyed this free exhibition – the premise is that the use of craft to create art. I loved the massive red paper chains hanging from the walls, the old wooden table with ‘paint’ splashes (inlaid pearl) and dirty dust-sheets embroidered ‘paint’ splatters and the moulds of various parts of the body. Some of it is hard to explain so you’ll have to see it for yourself!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

HOT: Yauatcha, 17 Broadwick Street Soho

I'd been wanting to try this glamorous yum cha joint ever since Huy showed me its window display of dainty desserts in my first week of London. It didn't disappoint - fragrant tea and beautifully made little morsels served by waitresses who all looked like Singapore Airlines hostesses. A bit more expensive than your usual yum cha scrum (hence very few Asians inside), but nice for a special lunch occasion.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

HOT: Lord of the Rings Musical

The staging and special effects are amazing, the dancing and acrobatics are energetic and the incidential music creates the right atmosphere of doom and gloom for this adventuare into Middle Earth. Unfortunately it's let down by the terrible songs and twee scripting, especially in the cobbled-together love story between Strider and Arwen.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

HOT: TEA, Liberty of London, Regent Street

Three tiers of sandwiches (average), warm fruit scones with clotted cream and organic jam (great), three large pieces of cake (yes yes yes!) and a pot of tea pured into beautiful bone china set me back £17 for lunch, but what the heck - high tea in the tea room at Liberty’s was a congratulations to myself for my new job!

HOT: Enchanted, Odeon Whiteleys

I couldn't believe it when I read rave reviews about this kitsch Disney Christmas romcom, but given the other movie options on offer, off I went. Your standard fairytale cast was assembled - beautiful princess, the supposed prince charming, the real prince charming, evil stepmother, talking chipmunk. The film was quite charming, especially the Central Park song and dance number, although Tim slightly ruined the magic by whispering 'She's HOT' when the princess appeared.

Monday, 17 December 2007

HOT: The Alice Project, Camden's People's Theatre 58-60 Hampstead Road

I was mildly concerned when I was given a 'feedback form' with my ticket - would I be spending hours cringing through some school-production amateur play? Luckily, it was a great piece of fringe theatre - low-fi props and music, young versatile actors playing numerous parts and a whimsical storyline based on my favourite children's book, Alice in Wonderland.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

HOT: The Green, 2 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell

The dodgy haphazard service didn't detract too much from the great Sunday roast on offer at this cosy gastropub. There's a selection of sirloin beef, corn-fed roast chicken, ham and everything comes with a mound of roast veges and a Yorkshire pudding. Perfect lunch for a 4 degree Celcius London winter.

NOT: My Chocolate Chocolate Making workshop, B1/16 Baldwin Gardens, Farringdon

I thought a course involving 3 hours of chocolate making would be just my thing. However, our over-crowded class watched the stressed and disorganised guy melt chocolate and caramelise sugar for about an hour before we got our hand dirty - to dip chocolate. I don't need to pay £40 for a lesson in dipping chocolate! So while I was happy with my final products, beautifully packaged in cellophane bags and ribbon, I thought the whole operation was a bit amateurish. If I ever give up the lawyering game I'm going to set up my own chocolate experience class (where the dark chocolate isn't 55% cocoa!). Disappointing overall.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

NOT: Golden Compass, Odeon Whiteleys

Sometimes it is really difficult to decide whether something is HOT or NOT. I had been looking forward to this movie, based on the Phillip Pullman book, as the new Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, the list of NOTs (Dakota Blue Richards, stupid lines, daggy predictable soundtrack, annoying daemon voices, truncated ending) outweighed the list of HOTs (the bear fight, flying Zeppelins. icy tundras).

Friday, 14 December 2007

HOT: Ice skating at Somerset House Strand

The perfect end to a night of Christmassy fun is to go outdoor ice skating in the courtyard of Somerset House. Tiffany's have set up a massive Christmas tree which twinkles in the shadows of the Duke of Somerset's 16th century palace, and in the rink amateurs scream and topple while the experienced glide casually to the sounds of Kylie Minogue and Dolly Parton.

HOT: Tate Modern Restaurant Tate Modern, Southbank

One of my favourite spots in London - the Level 7 restaurant has wall to ceiling glass which provides the most incredible panoramic view of London from Charing Cross to the Gherkin. Lots of people must propose up here because it appears the only champagne they sell is Billecart. The hot chocolate and mulled wine are recommended as well.

HOT: Bankside Frost Fair, Southwark

Christmas market along the beautifully lit Thames Path, in front of the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe. We had delicious churros dipped in chocolate and a very nice crusty pie from Pieminister, and wandered around the stalls selling decorations, accessories, chocolate and toys.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

HOT: Pines and Needles, 123 Shirland Road, Maida Vale

Apparently one of the best places to get Christmas trees in London. While the customer service wasn’t exactly slick, I’m absolutely delighted with my 6 foot no-drop Nordman fir – it looks so pretty now with all my Christmas decorations from around the world.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

NOT: Mem & Laz, 8 Theberton Street, Islington

The site of our team Christmas dinner and I can safely say not a selection I would have made. I was enthused by the menu but disorganised staff and sloppy food did not make for an enjoyable experience.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

HOT: Piotr Anderszewski, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank

I wasn’t really in the mood to head out after waking up at 5am for my cooking class – luckily it was pretty soothing classical music. I wasn’t much of a fan of the modern discordant piece (call me a traditionalist) but the Bach counterpoint was played very well.

Monday, 10 December 2007

NOT: Café Rouge, 30 Clifton Rd, Maida Vale

As far as chain restaurants go I really like Café Rouge – I can normally be assured of good hearty food and GREAT desserts (in faux French décor). Unfortunately this time I didn’t get my usual friendly waitress but a surly man, and the food was a bit substandard (very slap-everything-on-a-plate). Luckily I could still pay with my Teso vouchers J

Sunday, 9 December 2007

HOT: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Picadilly

This is a temple for Asian tourists buying tea and shortbread and rich Sloane-y folk buying tres expensive Christmas decorations (£15 each!). Everything inside is sparkly and lovely, and the chocolate counter was particularly tempting.

HOT: The Island Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Terrace

Great location right on Hyde Park, good ambience (busy but not too busy), a nice selection of food = good workaday restaurant.

HOT: Multi-Charity Christmas Card Shop, St James' Church, 197 Picadilly

Out in front of the churchyard was little market leading into a Christmas card grotto. There is a wide selection of high quality cards and every charity receives at least 80p in every £1 from their card sales. Worthy and festive.

HOT: National Gallery tour, Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery run free hourly tours twice a day which I think is one of the best things about living in London. Entry to the world-class gallery is free and you can just dip into a couple of paintings in depth with a guide. This tour didn’t disappoint – amazing what things you notice when someone knowledgeable points them out!

Friday, 7 December 2007

HOT: The Victoria Pub, 10a Strathearn Place, Paddington

This is the location for my monthly book club meeting and I thought it would be the perfect English pub experience for my German guests, Sasha and Isabelle. They were absolutely delighted with the roaring fire, the beautiful wood panelling and glass, the deep leather couches and the good pub grub (I recommend my fish pie and a glass of mulled wine). They liked it so much they returned again the next night!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

HOT: Twelfth House, 35 Pembridge Road, Notting Hill Gate

A coffeeshop (which is hard to find in London, the city of pubs) where they also do tarot card and tea leaf readings. It's so cosy that everyone who walks past looks enviously through the windows at the people lounging in couches, drinking their hot chocolate. Lovely.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

HOT: Millais at Tate Britain Millbank

This is a dramatic contrast to the conceptual art exhibited in the Turner. Beautiful ethereal paintings of intricate delicacy abound, and when you have a look at Millais’ earlier work, it’s amazing to think that he was executing them as a teenager. I particularly admired his series of lover set in historical moments.

HOT: Turner Retrospective at Tate Britain Millbank

The annual Turner Prize is the enfant terrible of the art award world and this retrospective exhibition of the winners shows why – there is a lot of crap on display (sometimes literally –elephant dung decorated with puffy paint featured). At least the range of art/crap provoked some spirited debate amongst my friends. My favourite was Anish Kapoor’s “Void”: three large cones of dark blue felt which sucked you into its dark cavernous space, engendering a strange sensation of floating queasiness and calm at the same time. My least favourite - last year’s winning entry of randomness painted over with insipid geometrical shapes. Even “Lights going on and off” had more to say.