Monday, 28 January 2008

HOT: Daniel Barenboim Beethoven Sonata Series, Royal Festival Hall

Royal Festival Hall will be the place to be for the next three weeks as classical music superstar, Daniel Barenboim, plays all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas, the New Testament of classical music (Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues being the Old Testament). With my student card valid until 2009, I couldn't miss the chance on getting half price seats for all the concerts as I love his playing and I love Beethoven. The whole auditorium held its breath in every movement while Daniel took them from high drama to the most delicate of tones. This event will be something to tell my grandchildren.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

HOT: Sampled at Sadler's Wells Rosebery Avenue, Islington

I think its a great marketing idea to perform snippets of upcoming performances to introduce audiences to new art forms. Sadlers Wells does this brilliantly - for £5 standing (£10 seated) you can get right up close to the physicality and skill of flamenco, ballet, hip hop and contemporary dance.

NOT: Tay Do, 65 Kingsland Road

I would have thought that if a restaurant managed to survive the competition in Kingsland Road the food can't be too bad. I was wrong - this restaurant served horrible sloppy 'Vietnamese' food which repeated on me for the next 5 hours in pungent burps. Awful and nasty - avoid at all costs.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

NOT: Carbon, Old Quebec Street, Marble Arch

Rating this bar was difficult - on the one hand, I hate stupid dress codes (no Timberlands, no trainers, no headgear, casual/glam, Shoreditch style?) and the rigmarole involved in getting on a guest list. On the other hand, the wood and leather interior had a relaxed feel to it, the bar staff were friendly and apparently Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child fame was having a party there. But on the whole, getting kicked off a reserved table (minimum spend £500) and then making people pay £15 for the privilege of entry makes this bar NOT.

Friday, 25 January 2008

NOT: The British Ambassador's Belly Dancer, Arcola Theatre

The life story of the the belly dancer who captured the heart of the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan was very compelling. Unfortunately the one-woman-in-a-dark-room delivery was stilted and lacked emotion, even though she was telling her own story. Also, what was the point of the gratuitous belly-dance at the end?

HOT: Mangal Ocakbasi, 10 Arcola Street, Dalston

Literally HOT as the restaurant has a large coal stove inside - guess they disabled the fire alarm. This cheap and extremely popular restaurant (beware there are at least 2 other restaurants in the vicinity with similar names) appears to only serve one menu item - mixed meat grill.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

HOT: Sofra 18 Shepherd Street, Mayfair

Amazing - two fantastic meals in a row this week. Sofra is an extremely busy but still comfortable Turkish restaurant which serves the most tender, succulent lamb shish I have ever had - and I'm not usually a lamb fan. For our work dinner we had the party menu, which was great value at 20.95 for endless bread, hummus and olives, a myriad of small dishes such as borek, felafel, tabbouleh etc, a large selection of enormous mains and a small plate of dessert including baklava and icecream. After the feast all I wanted to do was to change into something with an elasticised waist, lie down and digest. Highly recommended.

HOT: Ye Grapes, 16 Shepherd Market, Mayfair

Shepherd Market is little bit of hidden London in Mayfair, an area I always associate with big flash hotels and designer shops. Ye Grapes is about as traditional as an English pub can get with stuffed birds, fish and moose heads as eccentric decorations. I didn't try the Thai food upstairs but I think it's unlikely to be good (note below).

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

HOT: The Lonsdale, 48 Lonsdale Road, Notting Hill

It seems that fashionable Notting Hill-ites go to The Lonsdale to look cool and drink cocktails (Sienna Miller had her store opening party there), which means they are missing out on some of the best food I've had in London. Absolutely to die for: perfectly cooked fennel risotto, seared king scallops and pea puree and an amazing combination of pine nuts and thyme in a pink champagne rhubarb crumble - for only £20 a head. And to top it off, the service was attentive, smiling and friendly. Perfect 10.

Monday, 21 January 2008

NOT: Dang @ Ben's Thai at The Robert Browning, 15 Clifton Rd, Maida Vale

I have my doubts about Thai food being served in pubs (see Walmer Castle) and this restaurant confirmed those doubts. An almost empty dining room on pub quiz night should have been a warning. It's not that the food was awful, it was just boring and mediocre - food that could have come out of a jar ("chop chicken, add vegetables and pour over sauce") and 'hot' was at best 'mild'.

Monday, 14 January 2008

HOT: Charlie Wilson’s War, Electric Cinema

I have to confess that most of the story went over my head – American-Afghani politics is not my forte and the quickfire yet mumbled dialogue didn’t help. However, when I was awake (those couches at the Electric are sooo comfortable!) the film was quite enjoyable thanks to Phillip Seymour Hoffman and despite Tom Hanks not being completely believable as the debauched congressman.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

HOT: War Horse, National Theatre

It must be pretty good theatre if a puppet can make me cry. This isn’t your usual WW1 story - instead of focusing on soldiers, the main character is a horse and the supporting storyline is his boy owner’s search for him through the trenches of France. The most awesome thing was the ability of the puppeteers to imbue emotion into their puppets, such that you forgot that they were made of wood and plastic.