Posts Tagged ‘London’

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Resto 56 Estorick Café, Highbury

October 10, 2017

I nearly forgot my visit to the Estorick (more of which in another post) as it was a bit of a pit stop but since they brought me the bill I should add it for completism’s sake. And also because the service and food is always excellent.

On this occasion I just stopped by after the exhibition (Arte Povera, recommended) for a quick coffee. So I got an espresso and then was tempted into having a custard tart by the very cheerful waiter. It was too cold to sit outside but now that they have a conservatory style fitting it feels like you’re in the garden anyway. Even if you’re not visiting the collection it’s worth having a pop in to do the crossword or chat with a friend.

Though why you wouldn’t want to look at the art as well I don’t know. It’s one of my favourite places in London.

8/10

#coffee #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Bram Bogart at Vigo Gallery

September 20, 2017

IMG_1371

It feels a long time since I wrote about something other than food on here. Not because I’ve been culturally droughted of late, I’ve just been writing other things. I’m also preparing a fairly chunky piece recommending membership of the London Library in the semi-flippant style of my Southwark Jury Service post.

IMG_2944

An old-fashioned desk in the London Library. I think someone stole my laptop?! Just kidding.

So this is a quick post to recommend the Bram Bogart show at Dering Street’s Vigo Gallery. This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about Vigo; due to a family connection it’s a gallery whose fortunes I follow more closely than most. However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t flag up things that they do that I think a wider public might enjoy. As I’ve said before the private galleries of London are an intellectual resource that is underused by those not in the art world but who have an interest in culture.

And the Belgian artist Bram Bogart is a case in point. Bogart developed as an artist after World War Two and was part of the move of Arte Povera (which reminds me I should get to the Estorick sometime) towards simplicity of colour and radical interventions on the plane of the canvas. While some, like Fontana, went in for slashing the canvas in order to break the surface Bogart treats the canvas as a basis for sculptural creations, pushing the paint out towards the viewer in a more extreme version of, say, Van Gogh’s heavy impasto.

The works collected in the two rooms at Vigo come from a later stage in Bogart’s career when he had moved away from the minimalist colours of AP and embraced vibrant colours, mixing paint with glue to achieve billowing effects on the canvas. If you visit the show, and I hope you will, you’ll be met with a riot of colour that would elevate even the lowest spirits crushed by a combination of a rotten global outlook, the cruel chill of September in London and the very hell that is trying to walk on Oxford or Regent Street.

IMG_1369

Bram Bogart, ‘Zonzucht’

You can see the sculptural aspect to his work in the above photo but as ever I advise you to see these works in the flesh if you can. Taking photographs of paintings really is the most redundant thing in the world. If you want a record of something write about it, or pull a more professional image down from the net for your personal use. Unless you want to illustrate a hurriedly written blogpost of course! But do go to the Vigo if you can, they have an excellent booklet to accompany the show which talks far more articulately about Bogart’s work than I can!

#Art #London

Resto 54 Mildred’s, Dalston

September 18, 2017

A bit off my usual track to meet an old family friend in Dalston. Mildred’s is in the new(-ish) development round the back of the Overground in what some (not me) might consider a rather soulless building. The room is bright and cheerful and we were given a slightly awkward round table in the corner to sit at. While it wasn’t ideal for three from a seating point of view its smallness did mean that conversation was easy enough.

Mildred’s is veggie-vegan but there’s a great variety of food, enough that a chap of a carnivorous nature can be easily satisfied. To start I had gyoza with chilli sauce. The menu didn’t explain what was inside them and I couldn’t tell specifically from the taste but they were delicious. Five in a portion is pretty generous too. For main a Sri Lankan curry was the curry of the year so far. Coconut, crunchy brown rice and a punchy sambal sauce in a ramekin on the side to spice it to your preference. I whacked in the whole lot and enjoyed. Chunks of butternut squash and beans made it nice and filling.

House white at £21 a bottle was delicious (Hoopoe if  my memory is correct) and the service throughout was attentive without being intrusive. I’m sure there are more ‘authentic’ (whatever that means) vegan places around the area but I’d thoroughly recommend Mildred’s to veggie and non-veggie friends alike. The fact that they were pretty busy on a Sunday night shows that I’m not alone in my opinion.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 47 The Keeper’s House, Piccadilly

August 28, 2017

Having lunched at Caravan, I was rather improbably dining in The Keeper’s House later the same evening. Sometimes the most banal days turn epic. Hence my memory of the meal is sketchy, especially given a couple of days of August Bank Holiday (one of which drinking Gamma Ray in the hottest car park in London) occurring since we ate.

The room is down the warren of corridors off the main body of Burlington House. But it’s worth the trip. As you’d expect there’s a selection of artworks on the walls to occupy the eye if you’ve had enough of looking at your fellow diners. There was a smattering of these but it wasn’t difficult to get a table on a Friday night.

The food is solid high-end stuff. Pea soup was a decent warm up, then a bit of fish for main (I don’t remember the brand of fish … hake? No. Umm, possibly salmon) was good too. The new potatoes on the side were perfectly cooked (not always the case) and the best thing I’d eaten all day. The only disappointment was an underwhelming pistachio ice cream.

There’s stiff competition round these parts for this kind of food at this kind of price (plus £25 for most mains) but I kind of liked it’s dungeon-y vibe and could be tempted back for a post-show scoff. Matisse is definitely worth the trip, even if (like me) you feel a bit Matissed out from a holiday in Paris.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

Resto 38 St John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

August 8, 2017

iu

To my shame I only became a client of St. John in 2017. My first visit was a literary lunch at their Bermondsey branch but that was a freebie so not subject to the rules.  Such was the excellence that day that when my friend suggested we try out SJB&W for a late supper I was very happy indeed.

It being late-ish on a Monday trade wasn’t brisk but that didn’t matter. The room is stripped back yet homely, you feel that everything about the design has been thought through but not in a twattish Soho way. The menu is pleasingly brief – around a dozen or so small sharing plates and then half a dozen bigger ones with a couple of specials on the board. I could have eaten anything or everything on there – St John is the place to go if you want to get out of a dining rut.

Famously, offal is king at St John and we had sweetbreads (I wanted to lick the plate the gravy was so good) from that side of things. But the veg is good too, kohlrabi was beautifully crispy crunchy. I was wishing I’d got one to myself. Half a mackerel with horseradish and beetroot made me want to cry with pleasure. Cheese to finish off was a bit of a bridge too far but I managed to squeeze some down.

Service too was outstanding. From our table I could see the chefs at work in the kitchen and at one point observed them debating the state of the pig skin. The waitress brought the dish to the table and told us that the chef wasn’t happy with the level of crunch: we wouldn’t be charged for them but they left it to us to try it out and see what we thought. I thought they tasted delicious, especially dipped in a sauce that was like a pumped up HP (and I don’t mean that as a criticism, HP sauce is the sauce of the gods). They were however chewy as hell so chapeau to the chef, he called it right. I was still glad we had them though.

The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced – we had a bottle Alsatian white at around 26 quid followed by a beautifully deep glass of Cahors red with the fromage. It was one of those evenings where everything went right; even the error added texture. I’ll be back.

Oh, and the bread! I want to go back as soon as I can please.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 37 Walnut, Finsbury Park

August 2, 2017

IMG_1048.jpg

I was disappointed to find that the previous occupant of this site had closed a couple of months ago when I  was in search of my usual post-seminar, pre-quiz meal of pizza, Nastro and rocket salad. What had put paid to the outfit I’m not sure as there always seemed to be a steady enough stream of customers. I’m hoping that Walnut, the new restaurant, endures as this was an excellent meal.

It being early evening it was pretty quiet. The room hasn’t been altered much except the seating is now a mixture of café style and more formal dining (though not overly so). We warmed up with a round of cocktails (£5 in happy hour, worth doing as a post-work wind down on their own) while we had a look at the menu.

The selection on offer is big enough without making your brain ache. I went for the starter special of razor clam (one of my favourite things) in a salad with bacon. The clams weren’t drowned out by the salty bacon and the whole thing was despatched very quickly. The main of hake was perfectly cooked with plenty of crispy green beans propping it up. We shared some noticeably good chips (truffle and parmesan gave them a bit of oomph) and I wished I’d had a bowl to myself.

Alongside this a bottle of Pinot Gris was delicious and reasonably priced for the quality. Did we have room for dessert? Probably but we also had an eye on meeting friends down the road so we got the bill. Service was friendly without being too chummy and we left happy. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

Resto 36 Hanna Maria, Finsbury Park

July 25, 2017

We were looking for pre-quiz eats but it being a Monday most of Finsbury Park’s more refined venues were closed. So we turned to Hanna Maria, which has been around for a long time but which I’ve never visited before. My only previous acquaintance with it was Luca the Pizzaiolo from our football team. He had a dynamite right foot but was a determinedly erratic attender of football matches.

Thus service at Hanna Maria would make Luca proud. On arrival the man making the pizzas, having no English, gave us the Italian equivalent of a Gallic shrug before we sat ourselves in the back room. The room is a bosky bricolage delight. Past old album covers suspended from the ceiling one steps into a log-pannelled den facing a surprisingly well-appointed bar. I liked it.

IMG_1040.jpg

Eventually someone appeared to give us menus and after some confusion we ordered. Pizza is king at Hanna Maria and they have plenty of toppings listed. We took half a metre to share and though we picked two different toppings I couldn’t discern where one started and the other finished. It didn’t really matter, the whole thing tasted really good. Crispy charred dough around the edges and plenty of good stuff on top.

The side salad was bigger than expected and though it contained raw red onion (I spurned it) this was mitigated by some excellent olives. The Pinot Grigio was drinkable but nothing more. Several people popped in to ask us if our food was okay, which it was, but when it came to getting the bill we had to go up to the desk. For twenty quid a head it was good enough value for a filling dinner with booze on top.

So I’d recommend HM but with the proviso that you’re not in a hurry. The pizza is excellent but Luca’s spirit lives on in the randomness of its delivery.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 35 The Oystermen Bar & Grill, Covent Garden

July 21, 2017

Oysters are attractive. Not in an aesthetic way (although I’m sure there are those who would disagree) but rather as an idea of what it means to live in London. So I was very happy the the Oystermen were laying on Essex oysters straight out of Maldon. Maldon is a town that recalls deep English history and also personal memories of long car journeys on crap Sundays to see people I still don’t know who they were/are. I’d arrived at the OB&G from the Summer Exhibition where nothing to my untrained eye had the emotional power unleashed by the simple scrawl Oysters from Maldon £2.00.

So we ordered six. Which on arrival turned out to be twelve, I guess they’d assumed we want six each. It didn’t matter, we had the capacity between us for a dozen of salty slithers seasoned with a bit of onion relish. We munched them in the window, observing the passing trade of tourists, workers and a curiously shaped man much gutted, not unwealthy and certainly confused. He passed by a couple of times yet did not seem to have reached his destination. The window of OB&G is a good place to sit and stare and I’m glad that we chose there and not a table.

IMG_1038

Two diners enjoy London’s brilliant parade.

The staff are friendly souls, friendly enough that I didn’t umbrage at a pat on the shoulder but instead reflected that I should be able to cope with physical contact from strangers after four decades of walking the earth. Plaice was next, simply grilled in its entirety (head and all) with samphire, butter and capers. Who couldn’t enjoy that? Chips on the side and a splash of Muscadet in the glass made for a good combination and having gone this far we decided to speculate on dessert.

Dessert was ganache or cheese. Ganache then, I was feeling quite full. Yoghurt ganache but too much of that for someone without the sweet tooth; strawberries and basil leaves worked well though. Did we want a digistif? Yes we did but we also wanted to get on with our evening.

It is a good place. The waiter/manager told me they’d been open for three weeks and I hope they make a go of it. Covent Garden has an awful lot of crap but the Oystermen aren’t involved in that scene, they cook straight up good food and serve it well  at a reasonable price for the area. I hope they thrive.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 33 Pall Mall Fine Wines, Haymarket

July 16, 2017

We had a short window for lunch so fell back on an old favourite in Pall Mall Fine Wines in the Royal Opera Arcade. In the centre of tourist London this is a tranquil oasis where you dine on simple food in a calm atmosphere. Being wine merchants they have an excellent selection to choose from and simple plates of charcuterie and cheese to nibble on while you do that.

At lunchtime they have an offer of two glasses of house white or red and a mixed plate of cold for a bargain 15 quid. The ideal accompaniment to an hour of conversation and far more civilized that paying a similar amount of money per head for a sandwich and a can of Coke in the Pret around the corner. With charming service it mystifies me as to why PMFW isn’t more popular.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap


%d bloggers like this: