Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Stew House

Stew, stew, glorious stew! There's nothing quite as comforting as a hearty bowl of homemade stew to warm the cockles, especially when it involves eating it in unusual surroundings whilst wearing Dickensian garb. So that's just what a friend and I did last week, as we ventured off to a fantastic dining pop-up called The Stew House which is one of the brainwaves by Adam & Kate, the creative duo behind The Dead Dolls Club (makers of creative spaces, interiors and art studios for hire).

Located in The Arch Gallery in Bethnal Green, this was a brilliant venue to host the meaty (and non-meaty) banquet for 108 diners no less. It was a magical feeling nipping through an unassuming door into a large inviting arch, glowing with candles and fairy-lights. At the far end was a cool bar serving wine, cocktails and cider, whilst two huge trestle tables dominated the entire length of the room, all creatively decorated with pretty fruit platters and feather arrangements.

We were given a warm welcome and shown to our seats where we drank wine and soaked up the ambience as other diners arrived and the banqueting hall gradually filled up. Soon the place was brimming with enthusiastic banter and top hats, deerstalkers, cravats and feathers aplenty. Music played in the background as we all tucked into the delicious dinner, all of it excellent. The stews didn't fail to impress and both the beef & ale and the spring lamb broth were spot on, tender and full of flavour. And I have no doubt that had he been there, Charles Dickens' infamous character, Oliver, would certainly have been asking for more! The only thing I felt was missing were dumplings. You can't beat a good dumpling in your stew. But the chunky bread was ideal for mopping up the gravy. We sat next to some really friendly and interesting characters, and all got chatting so much, we almost missed the last train home!


Cured Scottish Salmon with Sweet Cucumber Pickle, Rye & Cress
Butternut Squash & Goats Cheese Tart with Cress & Nut Dressing

* * * * *

Spring Stews with Chunky Seeded Bread
Beef & Ale Stew
Spring Lamb Broth
Mixed Bean with Spring Greens

* * * * *

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream

I especially loved all the artwork adorning the walls by the curiously clever artist, Dan Hiller. He has a wonderful and unique style which was perfectly befitting of this Dickensian-inspired evening. If deer-headed men, or feathery-faced ladies appeals to your imagination, then you should definitely check him out.

I'm not sure if or when The Stew House will return, but judging by its recent sold-out success, fingers crossed The Dead Dolls Club decide to bring it back. And if they do, I suggest you get booking. You'd be stewpid not to. A huge thank you to Adam & Kate (and the team) for a truly fun, tasty and memorable evening. It was stew-pendous!

The Stew House
The Arch Gallery
289 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9HA
3 course dinner £25  (cash bar)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Fourth Wall - A Wandering Cocktail Bar

There's a brilliant bar wandering around London called The Fourth Wall. Wandering being the operative word as it literally up-sticks every week and relocates to a new secret location. It is a perfect recreation of the Bourne & Hollingsworth bar in Fitzrovia - a cute little basement bar with a vintage flair. This roaming twin is an exact replica down to the last detail, clad in floral wallpaper, chintzy decor, vintage furniture, old lamps and tablecloths. In fact, it's a bit like hanging out in your granny's sitting room, but sipping delicious cocktails rather than lemon barley water.

Where Is The Fourth Wall?  Well, when my friend and I went looking for it on Friday night, we found it hidden under the rafters of an unassuming store room off Brick Lane. A discreet glowing pink light beckoned us towards its hidden entrance, so we slipped inside...

There's something quite unusual about drinking at The Fourth Wall  as it's a bit like being on a film set or a theatre stage. Comprising of just four walls and a dose of decor, it can be assembled pretty much anywhere. You may find it in an old arch, a disused shop, an empty warehouse or even inside a ballroom. There's a top notch bar serving sophisticated cocktails made with love, including Rose 75, Chimps Tea and a Margerinha, some of which are served in teacups and old jam jars which seems to be all the rage at the mo, and all very reasonably priced at around £7 - £8. And with soft candlelight and a resident DJ playing cool tunes, the unique atmosphere and experience is complete.

I absolutely loved The Fourth Wall, such a fun and original concept. In fact, I can't wait to go and find it again! If you want to find out where it is, you'll need to go to their website and follow the instructions. It does get pretty busy, so it's advisable to book. Or if you need a chintz fix somewhere more permanent, then head to Bourne & Hollingsworth.

The Fourth Wall
Secret London Location every Fri & Sat 5pm - 1am

Bourne & Hollingsworth
28 Rathbone Place
London W1
020 7636 8228

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Royal Greenwich

Due to its historic roots with the Royal family, and to mark the upcoming Diamond Jubilee, the Borough of Greenwich has recently been appointed a new title. The Royal Borough of Greenwich. So I thought this green and pleasant part of London deserved a little blog post of its own. Luckily for me it's only a short stroll from home, so stroll I did on a recent ridiculously balmy spring day.

When you're in Greenwich, it doesn't feel like London any more (or Kansas for that matter). It's so pretty, leafy and green, green, green! There's a gorgeous large park where not only can you wind your way up to the Royal Observatory, the home of Greenwich Meantime and stand on the line, but also frolic in the grass, collect conkers, picnic under the trees and admire the far reaching views over the the Royal Naval College, the Maritime Museum, St Paul's Cathedral, the O2 arena, Canary Wharf and the city beyond. Before rolling all the way downhill again! And for the horse lovers amongst you, Greenwich Park will be hosting the equestrian events for this year's London 2012 Olympic Games.

There's also the Thames foot tunnel where you can literally walk under the river in around 6 minutes flat. The wonderful Cutty Sark (the world's only remaining Tea Clipper) is a big local highlight and has just been resurrected to its former glory following a terrible fire and will be relaunching ready to meet its public next month. Maybe in time for the London Marathon on 22nd April where the Cutty Sark is one of the most memorable landmarks of the course.

Aside from all the history and grandeur of Greenwich, there are lots of quirky and cultural things to be found. For those who like film and theatre, there's The Greenwich Playhouse and the Greenwich Theatre, both of which put on some excellent productions. Then there's the Greenwich Picturehouse, a great cinema with comfy seats and a bar. And a visit to Greenwich wouldn't be complete without a visit to Greenwich Market which has been around since the 1960's. This covered market sells everything from vintage collectibles, antiques, crafts, jewellery, clothes and art, as well as a diverse selection of world food.

And not forgetting the open air market too just along from the cinema, which is more of a flea market selling curious odds, sods and bric-a-brac. Always good for a rummage and a bargain. And if fans are your thing (as in in cooling, not screaming), then why not venture to The Fan Museum, the world's only museum dedicated entirely to fans. Located in a lovely old house, the museum is home to a collection of over 3,500 fans, dating back as far as the 11th century. And when you're all fanned out, why not take tea in The Orangery overlooking a secret fan-inspired garden which is literally an oasis of tranquility.

Just across from the Fan Museum is a newsagent. Nothing unusual about that, except if you look closely in the small ads on offer in the window, you'll see a few funny ones such as 'For sale: parachute, used once, unopened'. It's enough to make you titter.

As I walked down towards the market, I happened upon a Pearly King cab driver with his button-embellished pearly black cab. With songs blasting from his speakers, he was chivvying up the locals (and tourists of course) with his renditions of good old Cockney classics such as Knees Up Mother Brown and Any Old Iron. I ended up walking all the way to the river with I've Got A Lovely Pair Of Coconuts stuck in my head!

There are a multitude of fantastic places to eat and drink in Greenwich, but my favourite pub is the Trafalgar Tavern, a fabulous historic old pub situated on the edge of the Thames with stunning views over the river. Charles Dickens no doubt enjoyed a pint of mead here back in the day. And not only is it a great watering hole, but it does excellent food too. And once you've decided it's time to bid Greenwich farewell, what better way to leave than via the Thames Clipper which zooms you along the Thames back to the heart of London, leaving beautiful Greenwich in its wake.

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