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
Touted as THE restaurant opening with Clare Smyth at the helm the Michelin Female Chef of 2017, former chef and chef-partner at Gordon Ramsay 3 star Michelin restaurant and in charge when the stars were earned and retained. Could anything live up to that? Very short answer: yes, Core by Clare Smyth is wonderful! Continue reading
The last 2 years at Notting Hill Carnival were rather hard work in the rain and the chilly temperatures but 2016 saw blue skies and a full burst of summer. It’s one of London’s great events and a major feature in our diaries. Continue reading
Notting Hill is famous for the crazy annual carnival, Portobello market, posh houses, garden squares and of course that unforgettable film with its bookshop and blue door. As it’s my own stomping ground, I have a special fondness for of the above but also love this area for its restaurant and bar scene.
Was it the chilliest and wettest August bank holiday Monday ever recorded? It certainly felt like it as the rain poured down and soaked us to the skin but did it wash out the Notting Hill Carnival? Of course not! The crowds braved the weather and the dancers in parade carried on as if being completely drenched was perfectly normal for them.
I’m a great fan of cinema and much prefer seeing a film on the big screen than on the TV with all the fun of the movie going experience. London has an amazing range of cinemas, from the swanky thousand-plus seaters in Leicester Square like the Empire and Odeon, through to the many intimate local and boutique places.
London has great movie credentials as it hosts one of the world’s top film festivals in October every year when over 200 films are on show and the stars come to town to parade on the red carpets. As a venue for shooting of films there are too many to mention but from the top of my head come ‘Notting Hill’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Bridget Jones’ and of course the recently released ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.
My favourite cinemas are the small, boutique and quirky ones and here are my top 5, not in any order as it’s too hard to chose! Those of you with a working knowledge of London cinemas will notice that these are all around the Notting Hill area. This is not just because I live there, but we have an amazing concentration of great movie houses and I celebrate that!
1. The Electric
This is the last word in luxurious film viewing with extra wide seats, a bar with snacks in the auditorium, plenty of space for drinks by your seat, a footstool, bed sized seats at the back for – well, best leave that there…. All this and up to the moment films and a long and interesting history as they have closed and nearly gone under many times since opening in 1910! They are one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK
2. The Lexi
This a wonderful warm hearted little cinema, staffed by volunteers and sending their profits out to an amazing project in Africa, the Sustainability Institute. They show you a film about their work with kids so you are in no doubt as to the good they do. You can catch the latest films here and it’s well worth heading out to find them.
3. The Gate
The Gate is a very comfortable stylish cinema dating from 1911 with a splendid Edwardian interior. It is an independent cinema showing big name films as well as more hard to find gems and live screenings of opera and plays from the National Theatre, which is pretty cool of them!
This is a brilliant place – a digital non profit microplex, the antidote to multiplexes, made of recycled materials, sitting under the Westway. The box office is made out of – you’ve guessed – cardboard boxes and the seats are a collection of odd reclaimed seats. They show a range of films, of with director’s Q&A. This year I saw My Beautiful Launderette with a chance to chat to Michael Frears. There’s no booking, no tickets, you just turn up – how refreshing! Just check when their season is….
5. The Coronet
Lots of history associated with the Coronet as it started as a theatre in 1898, featured in the film Notting Hill (remember the scene where Hugh wears his snorkel goggles – of course you do!) and I recall it being the last cinema you could smoke in – upstairs only! The interior gives away its theatrical background and the tickets for all the latest films are good value too.
London has loads more great cinemas but these are my top 5 – which are yours?
Bye for now,
This was the week when London caught Royal Wedding fever and I’m going to show you just how much we were taken over by it! The weather was beautiful, London looked amazing and we really got into the party spirit.
The first set of photos show you the streets and shops all decked out in bunting and flags. You can see Notting Hill streets, street stall,, even Ann Summers getting covered (just) in the flag, and the most over the top of them all – Regent Street – winning the prize for the most possible flags in one street award!
Finally the day of the wedding arrived. You had to get up in the middle of the night and ideally camp out for several days to get a spot on the route itself and I decided not to try this as being rather short of stature I’d probably not see very much . I was offered an exclusive ride on the London Eye to see the procession to the church so here’s a photo of the royal car passing Big Ben and a shot of the Mall as it looked the day before the big moment. From the Eye we walked through to Trafalgar Square to see the service on the giant screen where it was absolutely packed with people trying to catch a glimpse and be part of the party.
The next party was Hyde Park where, surrounded by thousands of Londoners and visitors, we saw the balcony moment, the WW2 fly past and then the band struck up and there was dancing and flag waving everywhere! Dressing up as well of course with knights and lots of brides. And finally the street party back in Notting Hill. What a day!
Good job we had a long weekend to recover!
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….
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!
The highlight of the last week was a Cocktail History Masterclass at The Lonsdale. Jim Wrigley gave an amazingly informative talk from behind the bar at the rather fabulous Lonsdale in Notting Hill. They’ve just been refurbished and are on a mission to get us all to go and hang out there and I was invited to a special press event, but snuck in somehow! We had a great evening and Jim’s history lesson went way back to the 1500s. His talk was interspersed with cocktail making from the period he was telling us about, , when he took one person out of the crowd to work on some cocktails for tasting – you’ll not be surprised to hear that I had a go and we mixed and stirred a tasty brew! Some of the cocktails were a bit potent but after several tastings, I confirmed that my usual tipple was indeed my favourite and I will stick to the trusty cosmopolitan. The venue was a bit dark and I didn’t want to use the flash too much so here are a few slightly grainy photos to give you an idea of the bar and the mixing fun.
A new restaurant opened just round the corner from me on Westbourne Grove (Notting Hill again!) so we dropped in to test out Cote and really like it, as do many others judging from the full tables. It’s an all day French brasserie serving mid range priced good food and I can recommend the fillet steak with thin chips! We’ve had a bit of rain lately so here’s the good looking exterior on a wet evening but it still looks good.
It was an exciting week at the Natural History Museum as they treated us to a late opening on Friday night so we could meet their scientists. It was mobbed with people and we could hardly get through the crowds at each desk waiting to ask about dinosaurs, plants, rocks and mammals. This event was happening in 200 cities across Europe in other science institutions. It was a fun evening as the bars were open and everyone was wondering around with drinks enjoying the atmosphere and the special tours of the key areas. Hopefully they will do this again as everyone was having a good time in this most wonderful of buildings. Have a look at these 2 photos, one of the outside wonderfully lit and the other putting you face on to the dinosaur you see as you enter this home of natural science, an enormous diplodocus.
Art was on all around London as these weeks in September are the peak time for art exhibitions and shows. There was London Fashion Week, Decorex, 100% Design, Origins and Tent to name just some of them and this week I went to visit the last two. Origins was in Spitalfields Market where the central hall was given over to this year’s show entitled Made not Manufactured. There were hundreds of stalls selling a wide range of original pieces from small traders from glass, pottery and jewellery through to leather goods and hats and scarves. We stopped for lunch at Spitalfields as this area is really good for restaurants and we visited John Torode’s Luxe. They were busy but the wait for the food was worth it as it was very high quality. From there we went on to Tent in the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane where newer designers and more experimental work was on sale/being exhibited. Photos here are the posters at Origins, the outside of the Luxe cafe and the landmark chimney at the Truman Brewery, now an exhibition space.
More art on Wednesday as I visited three galleries that show glass items with a friend of mine who is a glass artist and we are working on how best to market her lovely creations. We went to Flow and Vessel Galleries in Notting Hill and Zest in Earl’s Court and all the folk were really friendly and helpful. They have great stuff too so do poke your nose in their doors.
I had a treat on Wednesday night as I went to a party at the Hospital private members club which was thrown by Wolf and Badger. Lots of champagne is always fun and we had a great night. We’d had lunch at Taqueria in Notting Hill where you can taste more original and authentic Mexican snacks than you find at most places. They serve one of my favourites which is hot black beans with crumbled cheese.
Bye for now,