17 October 2016

London restaurant and bar reviews

The restaurant scene in London is a constant delight with new places opening all the time. I do my best to try out as many new restaurants as possible while not neglecting my old favourites. This blog post will take you on a short tour around just a few of the wide variety of places I've tried out over the last few months around London. .


The area around Spitalfields, just east of the City of London, is a busy set of streets offering a huge variety of food options from the top end such as Galvin La Chapelle through to the pop up food markets by the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.  I was invited to check out Barraka, a couple of moments from Liverpool Street station, specialising in Mediterranean Street food. We were offered the chance to try out their tasting plates as well as their freshly made salads - these salads came with a goodly portion of meat from the hot plate, although halloumi options are also available. 

Barraka is well worth a visit for their range of tasty meals and for their warm welcome. Food is made to order and even their dips are made in house, giving familiar items such as tahini, a twist to the usual taste. Chips, a constant favourite, came with extra bite and soon disappeared and then we enjoyed watching the chef at work at the hot plate preparing our main. dishes. Barraka means 'blessing' in Moroccan and for this restaurant team, good food is their blessing to you!  My tip: make sure turn up hungry as portions are generous!

Tasting plate of chicken and dips 

Another great tasting plate - love the p.ate too!
Chips, but with a bit more bite

Cooking to order 
My made to order beef salad 

Find out more about Barraka here.

Pharmacy 2 

Art and food are a great combination and when both are new to me that makes it a top experience. We headed to the Newport Street Gallery, owned by Damien Hirst to see his collection of Jeff Koons' work - yes, his own collection and the mind boggles at the thought of how many other great works Damien has in his collection! The restaurant, Pharmacy2 is a successful partner to the gallery.  I enjoyed a light and flavoursome Portland crab linguine with chilli flakes. My friend chose the brunch salad, which was an unusual description but proved a great combination of healthy and filling, topped with a beautifully cooked poached Bradock's White duck's egg.  The room references the original Pharmacy in Notting Hill with pill bottles and tablets the key theme, however it does not feel overly medical as it is a light an airy room with fun decorated windows. 

Portland crab with linguine 

Brunch salad
Walls lined with pill bottles at Pharmacy2 

Pharmacy2 windows

More on Pharmacy2 here.

Traders Wine Bar

St Katherine's Dock is one of my favourite hidden gems although as it grows as a foodie destination it's becoming less hidden so I'm happy to praise a new arrival. Traders Wine Bar, has opened up on an impressive corner site with wonderful picture windows.  Inside you can feel the history in the large wooden beams and the decorative nods to a nautical past. Traders majors on oysters, supplied by the Wright Brothers, whose fish restaurants I have enjoyed on many occasions. I'm not too keen on oysters but was fascinated to hear about the range of oysters they serve and the different parts of the country their natives hail from. My companions managed to get through several plates without any difficulty, taking the advice to chew not swallow!  I was keen to see the charcuterie and cheese plate arrive and I was not disappointed.  We were treated to a good range of hams and salamis with four soft and hard cheeses and a pot of rillettes, always a favourite.  We chose the English sparkling rose from Digby wines to accompany our food and I can highly recommend its fizz and flavour which easily competes with champagne. 

Traders Wine Bar's corner location 

Wright Brothers' oysters and Digby Wines' pink sparkling 
A fine board of charcuterie and cheeses 

Check out Traders Wine Bar here.

The Chipping Forecast

This punningly titled restaurant prides itself on being 'hook to Hill', the Hill being Notting Hill where they have recently opened on All Saints Road. I watched the site as it was being developed and chatted to the owners before opening so got a strong sense of their passion for fresh fish. 
The room has a good rustic feel and the staff are friendly and welcoming.  We went straight for the fish, cod was our choice,  and chips to test this classic dish but they do offer a range of other ways to eat your fish such as fish pie and fish cakes.   The fish itself comes from Cornwall, brought to us by small sustainable fleets and arriving on our plate in under 48 hours - their hook to Hill promise!   The cod, fried in beef dripping gives an extremely light batter which is a delight as all too often a full heavy batter drowns the fish and leaves a greasy after taste - no danger of that here. The triple cooked chips were crispy and the tartar was more like a bernaise to my taste but went well with the chunky chips. 

The rustic look of the Chipping Forecase

Classic Cod and chips 

We spotted that they are now open for breakfast and as they are just around the corner, that's a tempting offer....

Find out more about the Chipping Forecast here.

Scarfe's Bar, Rosewood Hotel. 

I've enjoyed several evenings of cocktails at Scarfe's Bar so dropped in one lunchtime to see what was on offer. I was surprised to find the menu featured curries, Indian bar snacks and kebabs which is not the classic lunch in a posh hotel 

Beans with light rice 
Dips and chicken 

Both dishes were full of delicate flavours and beautifully presented. I had the tasty beans with a portion of light rice and my friend had the sample plate with chicken, dips and beans. The bar itself is a beautiful room, by day or night and the hotel is a stylish addition to the Holborn area.  

The beautiful Scarf'e's bar 

Check out Scarfe's Bar here.

Keep an eye on my blog for more food and drink testing to come over the coming months....

Bye for now

Full disclosure:  I was invited to Barraka and Traders Wine bar as is customary in the travel industry but this has not influenced my views.  All other venues we paid for ourselves. 

10 October 2016

A stroll around London's Frieze Art Fair 2016

London hosts a large number of art fairs in October but the daddy of them all is Frieze where the world's top galleries gather in a huge marquee in Regent's Park to show off their best wares. 

I go each year with a friend who lectures in Fine Art so I get the best low down on what we are seeing. You can discover new artists but also find new work from established favourites. 

I didn't see much I would want to buy but was sure there was little I could afford, although it's hard to tell as it is a world without price tags!

Here are just a few of the works you might have seen if you went to Frieze and for those who didn't go, have a stroll around with me.  This are by no means the best works on display but just some which caught my eye. 

Melik Ohanian

Mona Hatoum

Paulina Olowska
Paulina Olowska 

Michael Landy 
Michael Landy - detail 

Peter Piller

Damien Hirst 

Jake and Dinos Chapman

Tracey Emin

Damien Hirst - detail  

Raqib Shaw 
Raqib Shaw - detail 

Grayson Perry 

Grayson Perry - detail 
Grayson Perry - detail 

Grayson Perry 

Haegue Yang 

Jesse Darling 

Berta Fischer 

The toilets had been turned into an artwork by Julie Verhoeven and were great fun - loud music, dressed toilet seats and scattered pieces around the wash basins. I'm voting for more interesting toilets everywhere!
It's an intense afternoon, trying to see as much as possible inside the marquee so it's good to round off the day with a wander around the sculpture park just outside.  An added bonus is that you can explore these pieces for free!

Claude Lalanne 

Conrad Shawcross

Jean Dubuffet 

Barry Flanagan
Can't wait for next year!

I hope you enjoyed a stroll around Frieze. Follow me on Twitter to explore more of London,
Sue  @itsyourlondon

29 September 2016

What's on in London this autumn and winter 2016

I send out a seasonal newsletter 4 times a year to subscribers and my blog readers can enjoy it here.  There is always so much going on in London that's it's a tough job to pick out a few highlights but I've had a go and I hope you find some stuff you will enjoy. I know I'm looking forward to a busy autumn and build up to a London Christmas.  


OCTOBER  This is a big month for film and art with major events for both creative industries. The 60th London Film Festival is a showcase for Hollywood stars and block buster films and yet still finds space for first time directors and documentaries.  Frieze Art Fair brings the art world to London and takes up residence in Regents Park showcases top galleries and there is a whole range of other shows around London offering some pieces at more affordable prices.

NOVEMBER The week of the 5th sees firework displays all over town as we mark Guy Fawkes Night when a group tried, but failed luckily, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  It’s a great month for jazz fans when the London Jazz Festival brings top names to London’s famous night spots like Ronnie Scott’s. As winter is chilling the temperatures, you’ll see ice rinks opening all over town at great venues such as the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum. The Lord Mayor’s Show will delight the crowds as it has since 1215!

DECEMBER The build up to Christmas is in full flow with all the famous lights decorating the streets of London with their best festive look. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers a fun fair and a large Christmas market offering something for all the family. Look out for the famous, tall Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, an annual present from the people of Norway in memory of Britain’s help during the 2nd World War where carols are sung each evening – a magical sound to put you in a festive mood.


  • October   Shakespeare’s 400 continues with The Merchant of Venice at the Globe with Jonathan Pryce as Shylock. By contrast The Boys in the Band at the wonderful Park theatre stars Mark Gatiss and explores more contemporary themes at a party of gay friends. Lots of publicity ahead of the opening of The Dresser at the Duke of York’s theatre starring Kenneth Stott and Reece Shearsmith.  The ever popular ‘Goes Wrong’ team have a new play ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’
  • November Back to her acting roots after over 20 years in politics as MP, Glenda Jackson jumps right into the tough stuff in the Old Vic’s production of King Lear, as King Lear! Another star of the cinema, Ed Harris, makes his West End debut in Sam Shepherd’s Buried Child at the Trafalgar Studios. The highly acclaimed Stephen Daldry production of An Inspector Calls returns to the London stage at the Playhouse Theatre
  • December It’s taken 35 years for the award winning musical Dreamgirls to come to London as it opens at the Savoy Theatre, starring Amber Riley from Glee.  Shakespeare continues his presence in London as the Royal Shakespeare Company put on Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Theatre Royal. As it’s the festive season, we have Christmas classics such as Cinderella at the Palladium which will feature great casting such as Paul O’Grady as the wicked stepmother.  A fairy tale continues the festive theme as the Hans Christian Anderson inspired The Little Matchgirl and Other Happier Tales opens at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse.


  • October  A Rodin exhibition opens at the Courtauld Gallery entitled Rodin and Dance: the Essence of Movement, these works made in the latter part of his career have not often been seen on display. The National Gallery brings us Beyond Caravaggio, exploring his work and his influence on his contemporaries and followers. Picasso Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery is billed as one of the shows of the year, with work spanning his whole career, and, as I am a huge fan of his work, I’ll be heading there as soon as it opens.  Paul Nash opens at the Tate Britain and a new turbine hall installation arrives in the Tate Modern from Philippe Parreno.  Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park is huge marquee featuring many of the top galleries from across the world and attracts hordes of art lovers.
  • November The Tate Modern has a modernist photographic show of work from the collection of Sir Elton John called The Radical Eye, he has one of the world’s greatest private collections. Over 70 artists feature and early 150 rare vintage prints make up this unique show. Also opening at the Tate Modern is Modigliani, a comprehensive survey of his work in his short career. Talking of the Tate Modern, don’t miss the last month of Georgia O’Keeffe, as none of her work on public display in the UK this is your one chance to see her wonderful paintings.
  • December It’s a busy season at the Tate Modern, still celebrating the opening of its new wing, as they are showing Robert Rauschenberg, the first retrospective of his work since his death in 2008. A pop artist who worked with Andy Warhol he experimented throughout his life and even created a work out of his bed, way ahead of Tracey Emin! The National Gallery bring us the first UK exhibition to focus on Australian impressionism, a significant and distinctive movement, little known compared with the European movement.


  • October  London Chocolate Week has events all over town from a chocoholic show at Olympia to themed cocktails at the best bars, they offer the chance to ‘learn’ about chocolate, I hope that’s code for ‘eat’!  Real Food Markets continue even tho the summer has gone, each weekend at the South Bank and the Slow food market at the Rosewood Hotel every Sunday. Don’t forget London’s regular markets: Portobello on Saturdays, Spitalfields biggest on Sundays and Camden all the time.
  • November Christmas markets are popping up all over town from the South Bank to Kew Gardens and the huge Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is full of chalet style stalls. The Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia is packed full of present ideas, and some for yourself of course! 
  • December  The Christmas lights will all be on now and London’s shopping street look at their festive twinkly best. Don’t miss Regent Street, Oxford Street, South Molton Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and the beautifully decorated shop windows including John Lewis, Liberty’s, Selfridges, Harrods and Bond Street’s top end shops. Don’t forget that all the museums have great shops which are excellent places for top quality present hunting.


  • October The British Museum’s latest exhibition is South Africa: The Art of a Nation which explores the history of South Africa through its art from man’s early rock art through to cutting edge contemporary work. The last weekend in October brings us the annual Museum Nights when the public can enjoy a festival of late openings across London. This includes the major museums but also some smaller ones, and as this covers the Halloween weekend, expect some spooky-ness! At the V&A is the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery, showcasing an art which England excelled at from the 12th to the 15th centuries. These ancient elaborate, luxury embroideries, with their exquisite craftsmanship, will be displayed alongside contemporary works to give them historical context.
  • November See the Museum of London Docklands in a new light, or rather a dark light as they launch a series of late openings, tours and chilling tales in haunted sections of the museum. The Museum of Childhood, part of the V&A, brings us a big dose of nostalgia with their Game Plan exhibition, where over 100 old board games are looked at, their history, design and influence, many well-known names but others which have perhaps been forgotten.
  • December The British Museum are getting all festive with a one off production of Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol. Opening in November but feeling more of a December event is the Geffrye Museum’s annual Christmas Past exhibition where each period room is decorated as it would have been, spanning the last 400 years.  You can see how far back your favourite Christmas traditions go. In a surprising but welcome move, the Bank of England are running Crafty Christmas and Creative New Year events at the end of the month, where you can try your hand at making Bank inspired items such as gold money boxes (no gold supplied unfortunately) 


    October   Fucina opens in Marylebone, a modern Italian with separate shop and a fire pit, and is from the man who brought us Chotto Matte, Kurt Zdesar. Margot in Covent Garden is headed up by the former Maitre D’ at Bar Boulud, Paulo De Tarso, expect rustic Italian. Bar Douro opens in Elephant and Castle where a lot of redevelopment is happening, offering Portuguese small plates to tempt us. A 3 storey creperie called Mamie’s Creperie opens in Covent Garden with a basement bar dedicated to cider. One of my favourite restaurant groups Salt Yard brings us Veneta, all day Venetian in newly developed St James’s Market.
      November Victoria has been a building site for a while so it’s good to see new places opening – Rail House Café, from the Riding House Café people – will be a large site offering all day dining and bar and some outdoor space. The Hart brothers are famous for Barrafina and now they turn their attention to Mexican food, opening El Pastor by London Bridge. Another opening in the St James’s Market development is Aquavit London, their New York restaurant is a Michelin star winner so expect top end. Neil Rankin is due to open Temper on Soho, expect a meat based offering. A busy month for openings, this is just a small selection of ones that caught my eye.
  • December The Spirit Show in Islington promises to be the ‘ultimate tasting event’ if you need a break from shopping. This is its first appearance and my guess is it will be popular…  Restaurant wise, several have are listed as opening ‘late 2016’ it seems best to put them in my December section. The Tandoor Chop House in Covent Garden will mix British chops and Indian spices. Ole and Steen are Danish bakers and will also be opening in St James’s Market with soups, stews, and of course breads and sandwiches. The amusingly named Dumpy Lynn will have dumplings on offer in the City, brought to you by the people behind Egg Break.


  • October Greenwich Park is holding a harvest festival with stalls and talks including bee experts. Regent’s Park hosts the enormous marquees of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters so expect lots of very fashionable arty looking folk in the park. Kensington Palace are holding an Eerie Evening on Halloween and I’m sure they have plenty of tales to tell!
  • November   Ke w Gardens put on a big show at Christmas with their Illuminations Trail, a one mile sparkling path around the gardens including dancing illuminated fountains It’s very popular so book early!
  • December  Hyde Park hosts the huge Winter Wonderland event which has stalls selling food and gifts, a seasonal fun fair and even its own ice rink and ferris wheel.  The ice rinks will be open at Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.  The annual Peter Pan swimming race will take place on the Serpentine in Hyde Park on Christmas morning, an annual event for the very hardy since 1864! The Royal Palaces all have festive events and fairs and don’t miss the BBC Good Food Festival Festive Fayre at Hampton Court Palace. 


  • October The NFL rolls back into town with 3 matches between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars, followed by the New York Giants versus the LA Rams at Twickenham and the 3rd game where the Washington Redskins play the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley.  There will be a fan rally in Regents Street if you can’t get to the games. World Cup qualifiers see England play Malta at Wembley, after the Iceland game in the Euros nothing can be taken for granted!  In a complete contrast, the International Ballroom Dancing Championships take place at the Royal Albert Hall and we are all experts now thanks to Strictly.
  • November The Autumn Rugby Union Internationals see the 4 Home Nation teams of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland take on the best of the southern hemisphere including Australia, S Africa, NZealand, Argentina and Fiji with a Barbarians match thrown into the mix. Matches are across the UK with Wembley and Twickenham hosting for London. The ATP end of season tournament takes place at the 02 where the top 8 men’s players battle to be World Tour Tennis Finals champion.
  • December Tennis greats bring their skills and loads of fun to the Champions Tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall, they are just as competitive but hide it well! The London International Horse Show at Olympia is always popular but even more so in Olympic and Paralympic year as we’ve all marvelled at their skills and loved the medals they bring home.  The Mosconi Cup sees the world’s top pool players at Alexandra Palace when Team Europe play the USA. 


  • October The end of year burst of shows kicks off. An old favourite Jean-Michel Jarre will play his new album at the 02 in a sound and light spectacular. Michael Kiwanuka, who I saw this year at BST supporting Carole King, is recommended so try to catch him at the Shepherds Bush Empire, also there is Lapsley with her debut album as is Aurora with her debut album. Rumer’s first show for 2 years is at the Cadogan Hall, also there is Suzanne Vega.  The Christians are on their 30th anniversary tour at the 02 Islington and other blasts from the past include Lindisfarne playing Under the Bridge and Level 42 at the Apollo Hammersmith and Heaven 17 at the Empire Shepherds Bush.
  • November The 10 days of the London Jazz Festival deliver a world class line up of over 2000 artists playing in 50 venues around London. Outside of that it’s the usual eclectic mix of music in London with Paul Simon at the Royal Albert Hall and Sleaford Mods at the Camden Roundhouse. Jools Holland and his band at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing Elvis songs with him ‘live’ on the big screen. The Undertones celebrate 40 years (!) at the Forum and Mercury Prize winners GoGoPenguin play the Roundhouse.
  • December  The original line up of Culture Club will bring back the 80s to the SSE Arena, Wembley in their only UK appearance on this tour, supported by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Pete Tong presents.. Ibiza Classics at 02 Arena, Skepta plays at Alexandra Palace, Soul ll Soul are at KOKO, Status Quo at the 02, The Human League at the Royal Festival Hall and there is a silent disco underneath the Cutty Sark


*All listings correct to the best of my knowledge but exact details should be checked with each venue.

1 September 2016

Notting Hill Carnival 2016 was a hot and sunny one!

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. 

I was taking a couple of guests around and they loved the sights, the sounds and the food. We saw the parade of costumes and floats which had more emphasis on samba than I've heard before, so was great for dancing.  We ate jerk chicken and saltfish with ackee on the kerbside, danced to the sound stages and got caught up in the raving crowds by Rampage but escaped intact! My guests loved it and thought it was an amazing to experience this side of London's culture but were glad to dive into the wonderfully calm Commander Bar afterwards to recover...

Here are a few photos to give you a feel of how much fun it is to spend a few hours in the carnival spirit.

My favourite carnival band are Batala. You hear them coming streets away with their incredible loud and fierce rhythmic drumming.  

How do they keep so cheerful, it's such a long day of dancing and smiling?

New this year - composting toilets - remarkably good....

I love the inclusiveness of the parade:

A hint of panto with this one:

Another marching band:

She matched the sunshine with this amazing head dress:

Not sure what the references were here but lots of green was fun:

Always lots of dancing at carnival:

I just had to include this one!!

It gets busy....

Getting covered in paint or chocolate is a favourite look.  These folk were trying to persuade me to join in with this group and be in the parade next year. Who knows...

It's called 'wining' not twerking and there's a lot of it going on...

Anything for the best view and to be seen...

In case you were not sure, Red Stripe is the drink of carnival

Many residents head to the country when carnival weekend hits the streets but others set up a rum shack and have fun

This truck wanted to dress up too: 

Very happy to pose in her great costume

Covered in chocolate and having a great time.  

So there you are, another Notting Hill Carnival is over and we're looking forward to 2017 already!

Bye for now,