Susan the urban fox and more hidden London

There’s a lot to see along London’s South Bank at the moment,including Susan the wonderful urban fox! Also this week I got to visit another of London’s hidden gems – the Guildhall Art Gallery which hides a roman amphitheatre in its basement.

In 1951, Britain was trying to recover from the Second World War, London was still full of bomb sites and food rationing was still in place. So what did they do? Set up a huge festival on the South Bank and built a vision of the future which regenerated the South Bank and lifted the mood of London. 60 years on we have a summer of events to celebrate the original festival which is huge fun. The summer theme is played out by having a whole set of beach huts with things to explore inside, a beach for kids to play in and boat on a beach, an albatross which is in fact an RSPB marketing ploy and an Indian beach restaurant thanks to the fine folks at Dishoom (great Indian cafe food). A museum shows films of 1951 with all the visitors having a great day out and as I took my mum, who was actually there in 1951, we watched them in the hope of seeing her in one but sadly no. Models of the site showed the amazing ambition and vision of the time. Somewhat left field is Susan the urban fox sitting above the Hayward Gallery, a giant fox made of straw – fabulous but I have no idea why she is there, tho’ that doesn’t matter at all!

Photos: the bunting from the Festival Hall; the beach huts; the Dishoom beach restaurant:the giant albatross; the boat and the beach; a retro ice cream van; and, last but not least the wonderful Susan!








Where is there an art gallery with a Roman amphitheatre in the basement? The not so well known Guildhall Gallery is a secret gem. Located right to the glorious Guildhall which was built between 1411 and 1440. The gallery itself was burned down in 1941 during a bombing raid but finally returned 1999 and even better news is that it has just decided to let visitors in free which is a great step forward. It houses a range of interesting work including many pictures showing London’s history and a piece by Copley which is one of the largest oil paintings in the country. However the amazing sight in the basement is the remains of a roman amphitheatre where you can see walls, wood and the shape of the ancient building. They have great lighting and have a panel showing the areas it would have covered and a wall display of the walls of the former building. Outside you can see line (just visible in the first photo) which is the outline of the amphitheatre which stood here from AD70. Well worth a visit and the photos hopefully give you an idea of the gallery exterior, the gallery interior, the projection of the amphitheatre, a plan of the site and the remains of walls and wooden structures Looking forward to next week in London with a lunch and a chance to explore the newly refurbished St Pancras building.


Bye for now,


Cocktails and sunshine!

Last week it felt like summer even tho’ it was only spring and it seemed like there was so much going on it was hard to decide where to turn first! Highlights were: the launch of a new cocktail ; a jazz show; 2 new restaurants; and, the beauty of spring!

Firstly the launch of Good Godfrey’s at the Waldorf Hotel. I was invited to this but as ever the comments are completely unbiased! The Waldorf Hotel (now part of the Hilton Group) is on Aldwych and is steeped in history, being over 100 years old and is well known for its opulent Palm Court, tea dances and having lots of style. The cocktail bar’s name comes from Howard Godfrey who was the house band leader in the 1920s and a household name at the time. The decor aims to evoke the ‘opulent and theatrical’ past of the hotel and does that rather well. The cocktails and the champagne were wonderful and their mixologists can delight any requests so this bar is well worth knowing about for pre/post theatre or a longer stay!

We’ve had the most wonderful week of spring weather in London as the trees erupted into a blaze of pink blossom. Good humour always accompanies good weather and these photos give you a glimpse of the beauty and the fun – look closely at the window box where you can see a mini Easter Island Moai head with sunglasses on! The trees are in Notting Hill where I live, which is one of the prettiest areas of London. I had visitors over from America who now believe London is like this all the time as I didn’t have the heart to tell them otherwise….


Regular readers will know I love to try new restaurants and there are 2 to report on this week. Galvin La Chapelle is in Spitalfields, which hosts a very fine market, especially on Sundays. The restaurant is set in a spectacular 19th century listed building, which was formerly a chapel so has a wonderful open feel with massive roof space. The food is top notch French so not cheap and we lingered happily for our Sunday lunch which was rather special. Photos show the exterior and interior of this fine building. The second restaurant worth a mention this week is Dishoom which recreates the feel and menu of the Mumbai cafe although I’m sure both are somewhat more luxurious than the originals. These cafes are dying out in their home land but given the Brits’ love of Indian food we’ll have a good try at keeping them going here! We had a selection of sharing plates, many of which were new to us but they were tasty and zingy. It’s a no booking, turn up and reasonably fast turnaround so as long as you go outside peak hours it’s a great place to drop into on the way to theatre or cinema as it’s right by the West End.



One more event to squeeze in was our visit to Ronnie Scott’s, the Soho landmark jazz club where the evening show starred Georgie Fame and his current Blue Flames (his band has seen many changes of membership during his long career). Georgie is a real pro and gave us a lively, varied and polished show ably supported by my favourite trumpeter Guy Barker. Polly Gibbons deserves a mention as a great bluesy jazz singer who was new to me and a wonderful find so watch out for her!

Bye for now,