Posts Tagged ‘St. James’s’

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.


#Food #London

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

Resto #10 Boulestin, St James’s 

February 11, 2017

Meeting a friend at the library we were looking for somewhere new within walking distance. I’d read about Boulestin a while ago (when it had freshly revamped a classic restaurant brand) – some okay, some bad. On the whole I liked it.

First impressions were good. The room feels light, a nice change from the rather ‘masculine’ venues around these parts, and we were given a table with a view of the famous (amongst the guiding fraternity a least) courtyard which had once hosted the Texas Legation. High quality art work around the walls added to the air of sophistication.

The food was pretty. I’d ordered like a supermodel – artichoke soup (poured at the table over a bed of croutons and dinky mushrooms) followed by a good lump of turbot. Stuffed that in my face, yum. The clientèle around us was a mix of hedgies and loungeurs. Our waiter got tremendously excited when I ordered a Hungarian white – it was the first one he’d sold. Such enthusiasm was a good thing.

Coffee was delicious but then the bill. Oh ah ooh ooh ah, wahoo. Oh well. Slightly north of my usual lunch budget and definitely above what you’d pay in the kind of Parisian bistrot that Boulestin models itself on. But hell, the food was good and we were eating on one of the most expensive streets on earth so what did we expect?


#Food #London #French

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #111 Rowley’s, St James’s

December 31, 2016


A little visual pun for the kids as I forgot to take a picture of Rowley’s

A festive meet up with the family in St James’s saw us take on a classic British one two – G&T in the Chequers followed by a solid lunch in Rowley’s. The Chequers is the pick of the pubs around here and the G&T slipped down nicely even if the FT crossword seemed more difficult than usual.

Once we were assembled we strolled up Jermyn Street, a trip just long enough for one of us to have a crafty fag while we mused on the tragic fate of Stewart Lee, a sad clown it seems for his inability to escape the chrysalis of comedian and transform himself into a fully-fledged public intellectual.

They found a table for us (in a room which has a beautiful period interior) near the window. There were plenty enough fellow diners to make for a civilised atmosphere while we looked at the card. Rowley’s does grown up food – cuts of beast, pies, fish and a couple of veggie things. After days of feeding off scraps and party food I was definitely in the mood for something solid with a good dose of vegetables on the side. I’d come to the right place.

Artichoke and asparagus soup to start was an excellent idea – a deep bowl of yum with a generous portion of bread and butter alongside. This was followed by a fillet steak, cooked perfectly medium rare and arriving on its own little gas warmer. You get unlimited chips at Rowley’s to go with, plus I took a cauliflower cheese which was golden and crusty on top. I surveyed my food and demolished it with glee, slurping down a hefty quantity of Berry’s claret to aid digestion.

The service was polite and attentive and though I was tempted by dessert I had one eye on an evening engagement and just had a coffee. Conversation roamed widely from family matters to the dubious delights to be had at Torture Garden, then to the miraculous survival of Mark E Smith in the year of pop death. We also talked about the reviews of 2016, which like a lot of internet journalism are done on a pro bono basis. But the question was, cui bono? Well, I hope that I’ve encouraged in a minor way my readership to reward the good stuff with their patronage and avoid the stinkers. I’ll be  drawing up a digest (arf) of 2016’s postings in the New Year with a top ten and a bottom three (possibly more) to laud the champions and trash the sinners.


#Food #London

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


Francis West at Megan Piper

September 18, 2016

Following on from a great evening at Vigo I was fortunate enough to be invited to another art show just around the corner from the library in Jermyn Street. Within Harris Lindsay Works of Art lies the Megan Piper Gallery and it was Megan herself who introduced me to the work of Francis West, an artist recently passed away whose work deserves wider renown.

West grew up in Scotland before coming to London to study at Chelsea College of Art. The exhibition is concerned with showing his late works which I could broadly divide into two broad categories – day and night. Or those largely grounded on black and those whose blue speaks of the ocean near where West stayed when visiting France.


One of West’s sea/dreamscapes

Once you know the connection to Menton and the South of France then all sorts of reference points spring to mind (Picasso, Dufy, Matisse, Mirò … ) but as we were discussing while walking from painting to painting this business of referencing can be insidious. Certain elements or motifs of a style may be reminiscent of other artists but if the work is strong (and in West’s case I believe it is very strong) one overcomes the references to concentrate on the artist’s individuality, the elements of the painting that convey their personality, their way of seeing the world. And so once I’d gabbled about what the canvases reminded me of I tried to slow my mind down and let the art speak for itself.

Because these are complicated pictures. This is not minimalist art. There is a proliferation of life depicted in the paintings. People, dancers, lovers, bathers, gamblers, drinkers. Creatures, birds (lots of birds, fantastically depicted), creepy crawlies and in the illustration above a wonderful crab (I was told that West’s wife is a Cancerian) holding a note with ‘W’ inscribed up on it. Each painting is a richly complicated composition that your eye can pore over and enjoy because as much as the life teems thickly across the surface so does the colour grab you and make you like life. Which is what I want from art.

It’s worth pushing the button on the door and getting inside. I’m told that during Frieze week that Piper, like a cuckoo, will take over the whole of Harris Lindsay’s nest and bring West’s work to the shop window.


In passing Megan told me about another project she works on that was equally interesting called The LineTo my shame I’d never heard of it but it concerns a series of outdoor works by leading contemporary artists strung along a walking route from the Olympic Park to the Greenwich Peninsula. It seems a boon for guides and I can’t wait to visit.



September 4, 2016

I am not a big fan of getting my hair cut and since my son left school I’ve been scratching around for somewhere to go since I no longer have the occasion to go to J. Moriyama‘s neck of the woods on a regular basis.

Briggs, in a little alley between Jermyn Street and St. James’s Square, is a place I have been going past on a regular basis for several years now as it’s on my favourite route to the library from Piccadilly Circus. It’s a little booth of a place tucked away and I’d often see its barber chopping hair or watching the world go by if he was between customers.

With friends I would speculate as to whether it really was a barbers given its unpromising, indeed improbable, location or whether it was rather some kind of front. A front for a shadowy department of M15 perhaps where those in the service would tap their nose before being ushered through to a shabby beige Le Carré interior that had somehow survived spending reviews, smoking bans and digitisation.

Well, this week I decided to take the plunge and find out for myself. The truth turned out to be no less romantic and a whole lot more interesting. Briggs in fact is run by Fylaktis Philippou, a Cypriot of advanced years (92 of them) who came to London in 1949 as one of the first 3,000 or so Cypriots whose community has now expanded to over 300,000. Mr Philippou (or Phil to his regulars I’m informed, I don’t think I yet qualify) hasn’t done a bad job of helping out on that score as he told me that he has four great-grandchildren (as well as the intervening descendants of course), all growing up in London.

Briggs was the owner of the shop when Mr Philippou came to London and the shop has been on its present site since 1959. To the inexpert eye (i.e. mine) it looks that it has largely been untouched since then, other than the addition of various dignitaries and family that adorn the walls. It really is a historic interior in the right sense of the word in that it is both a record of a certain era but also an organic space that remains useful for the purpose for which it was created. People often describe such a space as being like a film set but of course it’s not. It’s lived in, inhabited by real people.

The technology is historic too. Rather than electric clippers there’s some hand powered shears for your short back and sides, and a bit of scissor work to straighten up your thatch. Mr Philippou doesn’t keep you hanging around so if you choose to visit (and I urge you to) make the most of the ten minutes or so of conversation that you’ll have in return for your twenty quid. There are few people of my acquaintance who have such a long experience of the changing shape of London in the twentieth century at first hand.

It was a good lesson in the art of guiding in that if you want to find out about somewhere you can do all the research in the world but nothing beats walking into a place and asking somebody about it. I’ll be back for more.

Review #68 Getti’s, Jermyn Street

August 8, 2016

Getti’s is an old standby for pizza/pasta in the Piccadilly area and since we’d just exited the Summer Exhibition at the RA (where the only thing that took my eye was an unusually sprightly Anselm Keifer) we thought we’d load up on Italian goodies before heading home.

The crowd is pretty democratic for Jermyn Street – tourists rub shoulders with hedgies – and the room is pleasant, especially if you get a table near the window from which to gaze out on passers-by. A shared calamari to kick off was perfect – crispy batter, tangy garlicky aioli and a bit of salad on the side. This went down with a lashing of Pinot Grigio. Next up my pizza was loaded with good goaty cheese and everything was going swimmingly.

Until the cheese course. Oh dear, the cheese. It came on a bed of limp rocket and was very much a grab bag of stuff that none of us was in a hurry to finish off. The stock of Port had run out (how on earth does that happen in as civilised a location as Jermyn Stree?!) and its replacement, a sweet Sauternes-like liquor, was not really what was wanted on the side of the salty slabs. And it took a long time to get the bill.

So we should have left after the mains but I’ll be back at Getti’s as this is the first time I’ve had a less than excellent experience there and I’m convinced it must have just been an off day.


To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Park Seo-Bo at White Cube

January 28, 2016

Tucked away between Jermyn Street and St. James’s Square the White Cube Gallery is not the easiest to stumble across in London. You have to know it’s there to go there. As it happens to be next to the library I try and pop in whenever they have a new show but have been rather neglectful of late. Fortunately it started raining as soon as I got out of the door yesterday and rather than ducking back inside to the books I stepped in to the white stark of the Cube instead.

Good move.

Inside they are currently showing the work of Park Seo-Bo, an artist of whom I knew precisely nothing before yesterday. He was a revelation. Minimilism is his thing; his technique involves painting a canvas white then making regular marks in pencil in the paint in a single sitting before it has had time to dry. The finished product is reminiscent of the American Abstract Expressionists while being wholly original.

To get an idea of the beauty of Park’s canvases you really have to see them in the flesh. Like Frank Auerbach (currently on show at Tate Britain – highly recommended if you haven’t been) a photograph can’t render the texture of the paintings – a texture that varies from work to work – the paint thicker or less evenly applied, some areas of the canvas left bare, and the looseness or tightness of the pencil marks creating entirely different moods. In fact the gesture of the pencil marks in the paint reminded me of music. While Park calls them Ecritures numbered individually one might equally describe them in musical terms such as legato or agitato.

In the handout it is said that Park is interested in reaching a sense of ‘pure emptiness’ to whose effect his use of white – ‘a signifier of immateriality’ – is fundamental. For myself,  I find that the best abstract paintings create a blankness, a space in which the mind can wander which it then fills with attempts to cohere the abstraction into something more meaningful, if only as a sensual experience. Park’s work to me seems entirely about nature. For example one of them, whose lower quarter was rough with unprimed canvas, was suggestive to me of a landscape with a horizon supporting sparse arabesques that might be clouds or lights in the sky.

My favourite is on the left in the photograph below. In this shot it looks rather anodyne but when you’re sitting in front of it it buzzes and hums with rhythm and energy, like a tidal pattern on a shallow beach. I can’t recommend this show highly enough for 30 minutes of contemplation away from the sales, the noise and the rain in the West End. The receptionist was friendly and the gallery is free to visit.


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