The Barbary

Getting a seat at The Barbary at last

I’m not a fan of the no booking  fad that restaurants in London are so keen on.  I’m not a fan of queuing nor of wandering around to find a restaurant that has a table. But The Barbary in Covent Garden has been on my list of ‘must visit’ restaurants for a while now so when I was in the area early one evening for a play at the nearby Donmar Warehouse, I  thought I’d give it a try and hurrah there was space at the bar for 2! Top tip is to arrive at 5.15pm and to do so before Time Out make it their number one restaurant in London as I fear it will be even more busy now!

Seated at the counter you have a perfect view of the chefs at work on the grill and are greeted by the friendly staff explaining cheerfully the menu and concept. Just  24 seats give it an intimate feel and the cooking spans north African through the Mediterranean to Israel giving it plenty of scope a wider one than its sister restaurant Palomar  near China Town which focuses more on the city of Jerusalem.

The Barbary

Firstly the bread, the Naan e Barbary,  comes hot, puffy and ready to scoop up the other dishes.

The Barbary

As you will see from what follows, we slightly over ordered but we both wanted to try different dishes and it gave us plenty of variety to test out.

Despite being someone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, unfortunately I don’t like aubergine, particularly when smoked so the next dish was not for me although my friend loved it. Baba Ghanoush , the roasted aubergine dish  came with lots of nuts and some raspberries on a tahini dip,  looking so lovely I was almost tempted.

The Barbary

Chicken Abu Kalmash was also my fellow diner’s choice and was voted a success too, marinated to give extra spice to deepen the flavour and cooked on the open grill right in front of us. The bed of tahini balanced well with the spices and a small garnish worked well.

The Barbary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Batata was one of my choices, it was very lightly cooked but the quality of the beef meant it was full of flavour and with a hearty sauce to balance the meat.  It was a large portion than I was expecting but delicious and I somehow managed it!

The Barbary

Cauliflower Jaffa, again on a bed of tahini  dip, was a favourite as it was deeply spiced with a crispy crunchy texture balanced with the freshness of the tomato dressing. A real delight.

The Barbary

There was really no room for any more dishes but then I spotted someone having the Baklawa so that was it , I had to have a mouthful and it was fabulous.  Light, nutty, syrupy and great to share with a piece each.

The Barbary

By the time we were leaving at about 6.30 there was a queue forming so get there early to take lots of patience with you.

Our meal cost £62 for 2 plus wine, which we both thought was a good price for the quality of the food and the fun of the experience.

To find out more about The Barbary check their website https://thebarbary.co.uk/

Full disclosure:  we paid for ourselves and it was well worth it!

Draper's Hall

London’s Hidden Treasures at Open House

Once a year London lets us into its hidden treasures, the many fine buildings which we usually can only see from the outside. Open House weekend is when it happens and it’s one of my favourite times to be exploring London.  Some of the buildings are accessible all year,  some only for an entry fee but during Open House weekend, a huge list of buildings are there for us to enjoy and it’s all free!

Planning is key as when the guide arrives it’s a little overwhelming, listing hundreds of options and as you pound the streets you often see fellow Open House-ers clutching their green guide as they head to their next treat.  I have a friend who visits every year just for this event and we aim to get a sneaky peak into buildings that are not open to the general public.  Here are my top 3 highlights from 2017.

  1. Draper’s Hall 

The livery halls in the City are always on our list as they are so full of history as London’s old trades associations and guilds.  The Draper’s Hall certainly has plenty of history to enjoy as the company dates back to the 13th century, but we were not expecting the extraordinary opulence of the interiors and the number of fine rooms to explore. The Drawing Room would not have been out of place in a grand palace with its deep Aubusson carpets, highly decorated and gilded ceiling and walls and fine chandelier.  Dating from 1870 it is pretty much unchanged expect for the addition of the fine carpet in 1925.

Draper's Hall

Drawing Room

Draper's Hall

The Livery Hall is a huge room where formal dinners can be held and you can even hire it yourself for that very special occasion. It’s the ceiling paintings that grab your attention ,. dating from 1903-1910.  Along the walls are painting of our Kings and Queens from William lll onwards.

Draper's Hall

 

Draper's Hall

There are several other rooms with treasures to explore and even a set of 12 Hogarth prints entitled The Idle and Industrious Apprentice, a typical cautionary tale about the fate awaiting the idle or those lacking moral fibre.

Draper's Hall's Hogarths

Hogarth print

2. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

The extraordinary surprise in this building was the hidden secret terrace.  Normally reserved for the top members of the Society such as the President and board members, we were told by our excellent guide that many staff didn’t even know about the terrace let alone had the opportunity to step out on it so we felt really lucky.

Offering unparalleled views out over Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and  Big Ben (sadly currently silent so we missed the 4pm bongs!), Parliament Square and over to the London Eye.  Such a view is a rare treat and we were jealous of the President’s guests who get to enjoy all this for the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

3. Institut Francais

With our 3rd highlight we move forward in architectural styles to an Art Deco building dating from 1930. It was modernised in 2014 and the mix of the modern and the art deco styles works wonderfully. The library is a listed items and blends beautifully the colour, the light, the furniture and the wooden floor to calm the soul and delight the eye.  The entrance has a more classical look with marble friezes.  The modern areas are all light and open and there is even a branch of Aubaine as their cafe!

Institut Francais

Institut Francais

We visited plenty more buildings over the course of the Open House weekend and it was exhausting and exhilarating and we can’t wait for next year’s event!

Entry to all the buildings is, amazingly, absolutely free! To find out more about Open House check their website: https://www.openhouselondon.org.uk/

Jazz Cafe

The Jazz Cafe

London has lots of great music venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, 606 Club, Roundhouse and I would happily count the Jazz Cafe among these.  It’s a fun place to see live music and I went there recently to test it out for 2017 and I wanted to tell you how it went.

Continue reading

Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival 2017

As a lucky resident, I look forward to the Notting Hill Carnival every year and make sure I get out and about and enjoy the world’s second largest street carnival right on my doorstep.  It splits views in the neighbourhood with many residents making sure they are nowhere near and boarding up their houses against the feared hoards, while others, like myself, enjoy the vibe, the music, the food, the costumes and the all round good time. Continue reading

Zip line London

Riding a zip line at top speed in London!

Zip lines, I’ve known a few….  It began with a  3 sector zip in Jamaica,  which went well apart from a slightly strained arm caused by grabbing the wire too vigorously in an attempt to lose speed as I hurtled towards the cushioned tree at the finish line.  Then I moved up to an 11 stage zip line back and forth across a deep ravine in Swaziland which was rather ambitious and I have to admit to being a little scared despite it being perfectly safe.  So when  I heard of a big zip line coming to London so I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. Continue reading