20 November 2014

Where to eat near St Paul's Cathedral

London has a rich and vibrant restaurant scene and making the right choice is often really challenging. To help with these dilemmas I'm writing a series for the great Cool Places website which offers reviews, recommendations and inspiring ideas for places all around the UK. They use local contributors with expert knowledge and have kindly asked me to do this restaurant series on London. 

Each of my reviews takes a major London site you might be visiting and gives you the low down on somewhere nearby I recommend you go to eat. Here's my piece on where's good near to St Paul's Cathedral:

Brasserie Blanc, St Paul's

Emerging from St Paul’s Cathedral, you are surrounded by cafes, restaurants and bars – and, if you have boldly climbed the hundreds of stairs up to the viewing galleries, you will definitely be ready for some sustenance.  However, remember you are in London’s financial quarter, The City, which means there are some rather pricey options around. Luckily I’ve been by there recently to check out the the best mid-price places.  Brasserie Blanc is one of the best of these.
Click here to read the review....

Bye for now,

17 November 2014

Face to face with a golden tiger at the Queen's Gallery!

All that glitters is definitely gold at the new exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, London. One stunning piece which keeps drawing you back is the golden head of a tiger which stares out at you with its rock crystal eyes  Tipu Sultan, an Indian rule,  said that it was 'better to live a single day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep' and used the tiger as a symbol of his power, decorating his throne with gold heads and as a motif on his guards' uniforms. This magnificent beast dates from the late 18th century and although the throne that he was part of was broken up, his head survived and was given to William lV so now part of the Queen's Collection in Windsor.

Staring into the face of the tiger

Beautifully decorated

The tongue is articulated so it can seem that he is roaring!

The original throne resting on the tiger

This new exhibition focuses on gold, its symbolism and beauty from the bronze age through to 20th century, displaying 50 items to tell gold's story.

One of the other really striking pieces is a crown from Ecuador, dating back to pre-Columbian times (1000-1400) and is made of beaten sheets of gold. As you walk past the stripes vibrate and shine, I can just imagine the delight of those who found this precious object near Cuenca in 1854. 

A more recent creation is the Coronation Girdle made in 1936 for the coronation of George Vl (our Queen's father), is made of gold cloth with gold thread, a silk lining and a gold (of course!) buckle. This girdle is a sword belt as the sword is one of the regalia used in the coronation ceremony.

The Coronation Girdle

The oldest and one of the loveliest gold pieces in the exhibition is the Rillaton Cup dating way back to 1700-1500 BC showing that Bronze Age people also knew about fine gold working.The ridges were probably made using antlers so the delicacy is astonishing.  It is amazing that it has survived at all and is testament to gold's enduring properties. It is fashioned from a single ingot and was found in Cornwall and is now on long term long to the British Museum. 

The Rillaton Cup

If you want to gaze on just solid gold, head for the large tray which is made of 8.5 kgs (19lbs) of the pure stuff. At that weight it can only be for decorative purposes as lifting it even empty would need several servants. The designs has the badges of the Order of Knighthood and celebrates George lV's chivalric credentials, although whether he was chivalrous is another matter....


A more delicate item that caught my eye was a fine cross which was an early 15th century reliquary, for keeping precious religious relics, in this case a piece of Christ's cross was believed to be housed inside the gold framework. 

You can also enjoy a number of paintings and to finish I'll show you a different view of gold, with a 16th century Dutch work called The Misers. Here we see the greed and ugliness of the pursuit of gold on the faces of these men counting money in the light of a candle, symbolising the shortness of life.

These are just a few of the many items on display from the Queen's Collection. Most of the works are kept in Windsor Castle so it is a great opportunity to see them here in London, until 22nd February 2015. For more information click here.

Bye for now,

4 November 2014

I've been on a Paddington Bear hunt!

London has been invaded by Paddington bears! We have 50 statues all round town ahead of the release of the new film and already Londoners and visitors alike are checking out the Paddington Trails. 

The bright sunshine and blue skies tempted me out to try out the classic trail around Paddington station as it seemed only right to start here. So I set off on the hunt for 8 decorated statues of Paddington bear with my handy trail map. 

I soon bumped into fellow Paddington trail-ers, exchanging tips and locations: 'have you seen the Mayor bear?', 'I've lost the brick bear!', and, 'where am I?'! Luckily I live just round the corner so managed to find them all easily and help a few other folk on the way.  

Each bear has a unique decoration, chosen by film and TV stars, designers, musicians, companies, artists and even our own London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Join my bear hunt here:

The Mayor of Paddington

Love Paddington -  Lulu Guinness

Texting Paddington - with matching deckchairs!

Futuristic Bear - Jonathan Ross

Bearing Up - my favourite as he feels furry!

Brick Bear


Michael Bond's original Paddington in the station
 As I reached my final bear for the day in Paddinton station, there was a real treat in store - a photoshoot with Karen Jenkel, Michael Bond's daughter! 
2 Paddintons!
I couldn't leave Paddington station without popping along to see the permanent statue and there he was, sitting on his case, waiting to be found...

A quick trip up the escalator and there's a shop, a treasure trove of all things Paddington, so don't miss out this last stop to complete your trail.

Find out about more about the whole project and the other trails here.    Enjoy!

Bye for now,