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Home News Lifestyle & Renting What’s On in London – May 2015

What’s On in London – May 2015

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As the spring weather gains traction in the Capital, colours start to play a significant role in everyday life. Purple comedy cows along the Thames, vibrant impressionist art at the National and a sea of Arsenal red and white at Wembley, London is bursting with vibrant life.

FA Cup Final/League Championship Playoffs – Wembley Stadium


It’s the time of the footballing year when the romance of the FA cup and the rollercoaster emotions of the playoffs, all coalesce around the nation’s favourite North West London venue. Theoretically, anyone can upset the big clubs and go on to glory. It seldom happens, but the possibility still captures the imagination of fans around the world. This year, Arsenal take on Aston Villa and manager Arsene Wenger will want a trophy with which to answer his critics; Villa meanwhile have nothing to lose.

The playoffs are a chance for the country’s less glamorous teams to perform at the highest level. Fans from the provinces head to the Capital dreaming of promotion and a night out in the West End. The standard of football may not be as high in the playoffs as in the cup, but the passion and pride of the travelling contingents of fans is as unmistakable as it is unmissable.


The Merchant of Venice – Globe Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare can always be counted on to polarise socio-political opinion nowadays. The Merchant of Venice comes with a lot of racial baggage and has the habit of raising uncomfortable questions. Is the play anti-semitic? Does Christian charity extend to outsiders? Is mercy the same as forgiveness? Shylock, the Jewish moneylender resists all attempts through history to make him acceptable, but that doesn’t mean that the drama is flawed. The plot concerns the love that drives an impoverished man to borrow above his means, thereby putting himself in mortal danger.

Shylock is Antonio’s nemesis, who will have his pound of flesh – no matter what. Portia, a beautiful noblewoman and the unwitting cause of the dispute, disguises herself in order to rescue her loved one from this terrible debt. All the classic Shakespearean motifs are in this play: reckless love, faithful friends, hidden identities and the price of revenge.


Udderbelly – The South Bank Centre

Southbank Centre

The Udderbelly festival specialises in the funny, the satirical and the downright unbelievable. Housed in a giant upside down purple cow, it’s purpose is to kick off the warmer months with a dash of riverside colour. The events run from April to July and are ideal for weekend family trips into the Capital. A giant outdoor pub in the forecourt of the tent is also a magnet for office workers and tourists.

A cavalcade of comic talent will be on show in the month of May as the Comedy Store sets up shop with a no-holds-barred assault on the public’s collective funny bone. Improvisation experts, “Showstoppers” take audience participation to unprecedented levels and Australian acrobatic troupe, “A Simple Space” will be performing jaw-dropping stunts with a slick combination of skill, strength and imagination.


The Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy – British Library

The British Library

An enduring symbol of freedom, the Magna Carta document was actually quite a modest contract in terms of what it set out to achieve. 800 years ago, a series of foreign adventures had drained the coffers of King John, leading him to do what any self-respecting despot would do. The resulting tax was so burdensome, that the nobles forgot their differences and united against their – until then – absolute ruler.

The paper that the King was forced to sign guaranteed certain limited freedoms, however the spirit of the letter has inspired pro-democracy movements down through the ages. The original document is on display in addition to some priceless artefacts from the era. Interactive displays are both entertaining and informative in this skilful and imaginative exhibition.


Inventing Impressionism – National Gallery

The National Gallery

In these post-modern times when interpretation and original intent are of equal importance, everybody is drawn to the hazy uncertainties of the impressionists. Monet, Degas and Pissaro are seen as a band of like-minded iconoclasts, intent on upsetting the art establishment when in fact the truth is less romantic, yet more interesting. Paul Durand-Ruel was an art dealer who handled the majority of their works and made them famous. He is the “inventor” that the exhibition refers to.

In order to invent Impressionism, Durand-Ruel had to sell it and his genius was in the managing of public perception. When Manet, Renoir and others first burst onto the Parisian art scene, critics where outraged by the “primitivism” and “disorder” of their work. Durand-Ruel arranged private viewings, courted favourable press and even bought up unwanted stock: in short, he single-handedly created a market for unpopular art, many of which feature in this exhibition. We owe him a large debt of thanks.


Sculpture Victorious – Tate Britain


By the late 19th Century, Great Britain presided over the largest empire ever to have existed before or since. From this vantage point, they attempted to reimagine the British nation as people of destiny and moral certainty. Sculpture Victorious is a wry, unflinching and sometimes uncomfortable look at how this mindset expressed itself through art. The Victorians may not have been the most original thinkers but they certainly knew how to apply technology.

There’s a lot of over-engineered curiosities in the collection as everything from salt cellars to public drinking fountains is overlaid with gilt, decorated with weaponry and accompanied by angels, demons or both. Majesty, empire and conquest were recurrent themes but technology has a habit of overpowering art which seems to be the one coherent message of the exhibition.


Diana Thater: Life Is a Time-Based Medium – Hauser & Wirth Gallery

Hauser Wirth

Diana Thater’s latest exhibition, Life Is a Time-Based Medium, utilises footage from the Galtaji Temple in Jaipur. Thater immersive projections surround viewers in order to give them a pilgrim’s eye view of the Hindu holy place. There is an interesting focus on the famous Jaipur monkey colony and their interaction with the worshippers.

Thater says she was inspired by the Hindu god Hanuman who is often depicted in the form of a monkey and worshipped as a symbol of strength, perseverance and devotion. Her exhibition seems to be asking whether the carefree attitude of the monkeys in the temple indicates an awareness of the reverence with which they’re viewed by the local human population. Are they mocking the pilgrims or are they casually assuming their own god-like status?


Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Warner Borthers Studio Tour

This already hugely popular attraction has now added a new permanent extension that is bound to wow first-time visitors as well as Potter veterans. Here, the famous starting point for so many Harry Potter adventures, platform 9¾ has been meticulously recreated, complete with the original Hogwarts Express steam engine. The same craftsmen who worked on the films have returned to build this 20,000 sq ft marvel using original props and special effects.

The remainder of the tour is still a marvellous day out for all the family with the Great Hall centrepiece still evoking memories of the young wizards as they embarked on their magical education. All the fantastic monsters and supernatural wonders of the movie series are dotted throughout the rest of the converted aircraft hanger. A fully stocked gift shop and snack bar serving delicious meals are on site selling themed treats and mementos.


Wheelers Rib Room and Oyster Bar – Bank


Wheelers is the venerable fish restaurant brand that top chef Marco Pierre White took over some years ago. After establishing a solid presence in the Home Counties, White is now ready for a London relaunch and has teamed up with the Threadneedles Hotel near the Bank of England. Whitstable rock oysters, grilled Dover sole and fish pie are all old favourites that will appeal to lovers of traditional British seafood.

The rib room will specialise in the finest British steaks – all dry-aged for 28 days. Rib (serves two), sirloin and fillet are all served with hand cut chips plus a choice of side dishes. The old-school vibe continues in the dessert menu. Sherry trifle, Eton mess and chocolate brownies may seem safe choices, but in the hands of Marco’s team, they are set to reach new heights.


Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen Retrospective – Victoria & Albert Museum


As a cab driver’s son who went to work in Savile Row, McQueen was forever the outsider. Whether “improving” the linings of suits with graffiti or absconding to Theatreland in order to hang out with the various costume departments, his theatrical instincts and sense of history were never far from the surface. An untimely death which came so soon after collaborating on the wedding dress of the Duchess of Cambridge gives this retrospective a somewhat poignant appeal.

McQueen was always fascinated with the more macabre aspects of Victoriana. His debut collection was titled “Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims” and featured his twin obsessions of animal trophies and tailored frock coats. Despite this seemingly outlandish approach, he always professed a desire to drag fashion out of its self-imposed ivory tower and connect with people from all walks of life.


Bateaux London Cruise – Thames Embankment

Bateaux London Cruises

As London’s skyline continues to grow more and more prestigious, a trip down the River Thames has become a delightful way to spend precious time with loved ones. At night, the illuminated riverbanks provide a romantic backdrop for dinner, dancing and intimate conversation. Bateaux London operate two luxury cruise vessels that accommodate a restaurant, champagne bar, disco and live band.

As guests enjoy their four course meal, they’ll be able to view the famous landmarks of the Capital from their window seat. The live band specialise in smooth jazz, pop classics and romantic ballads which will guarantee an entertaining and carefree trip along the river.


Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown: The Musical – Playhouse Theatre

Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown - The Musical

Pedro Almovadar’s sassy big-screen take on post-feminist Madrid has been adapted into a sublime musical that features the stunning versatility of Tamsin Grieg. Grieg plays Pepa, a struggling actress who seems to have no problem with dating a married man whose wife is safely locked up in an asylum. The fun and games start when the wife is released, leading to Pepa being unceremoniously dumped.

Trying to regain her self-esteem, Pepa digs into her ex-lover’s background only to discover criminality, terrorism and even more madness. Blessed with a strikingly expressive face, Grieg is an expert at combining comedy with acute sadness and her singing is a welcome bonus. Dynamic Latin-tinged numbers are used to move the action along and feature an on-stage six piece band.


Trip Kitchen – Haggerston

Trip Kitchen Haggerston

Between the Cityboy-induced inflation of Shoreditch and the experimental pop-ups of Dalston lies Haggerston and a strip of very good restaurants. Trip Kitchen stands out with its Turkish Cypriot roots that nevertheless steers clear of an over-emphasis on protein. Decked out in industrial chic and offering unpretentious service, this is an eatery that is both adventurous and honest. Well-balanced small plates include lamb with pomegranate and grilled sardines with a quite delicious Turkish tapenade. An intriguing pesto made out of pistachio nuts leaves you scratching your head – what would it go with? The answer comes in the form of a wonderfully sea-fresh bowl of clams and the combination at once makes perfect sense.

Hipsters love this place. It’s got just enough ethnicity and just enough quirkiness. It’s also housed in a railway arch which earns it extra cool points as trains rumbling overhead becomes the trendy East London equivalent of background “Dinner Jazz”.


Keeper’s House: Royal Academy – Piccadilly.

Keeper's House: Royal Academy - Piccadilly.

Most restaurants that are associated with bastions of high culture are situated in plain view so that guests may look out over the fine examples of sculpture/paintings/literature that they’ve come to see. Keeper’s House differs in that it is sequestered away from the main building of the Royal Academy across the courtyard in a renovated townhouse.

Run by restaurant mogul, Oliver Peyton, the Keeper’s House is smart, professional and confident. Chef Ivan Simeoli is determined to use the beast seasonal ingredients, but without the helping of smugness that seems to be added to the menu these days.The relaxed and cultured atmosphere is just the right antidote to all the seasonal hoopla of last month and the staff are switched on enough to know when to enquire and when to retire. Main courses feature exquisitely prepared roast lamb, fillets of brill and delicate sea bass with kale, chard and heritage carrots being complimented by bold sauces. A dessert of clementine flavoured rice pudding is incredibly light and refreshingly tangy while still being the comfort food we all know and love.


Blagclub – Notting Hill

Blagclub - Notting Hill

The London nightclub scene is as varied as the seemingly endless dance genres that keep proliferating in the charts. This means that venues can differ wildly in terms of size, taste and location with a good chance of the discovery of some hidden gems. The idea behind Blagclub is simple and that is the creation of a space that resembles your friend’s house on a Saturday night get together. Getting through the doors, you can’t help but feel like you’re walking into someone’s flat. The bar, DJ booth, dancefloor and lounge take up an extended loft space guaranteed to put everybody at ease. The decor is simple with a splash of ethnic chic, including some interesting statues and wall art.

The eclectic crowd are a fairly tolerant bunch and the music ranges from pop-dance hits to more the urban variants of dubstep and grime. All in all the music policy is designed so as to keep the clientele dancing, laughing and drinking the premium cocktails on offer. Midweek nights host live acoustic music and jam sessions.


Forge – Cornhill, EC3

Forge - Cornhill, EC3

Forge is a new bar/grill founded on the site of the infamous Abacus dive bar near Bank station. Once a notorious hangout for City boys bent on excess, the new owners have decided to target a more thoughtful demographic and the refurbishment reflects this. Dancing space has thankfully been sacrificed for dining space and a state-of-the-art kitchen installed.

It was once rumoured that back in the Abacus days, tables had to be specially reinforced because of the amount of dancing that was performed on them. This might still be the case, but instead of inebriated bankers, the tables will have to withstand the weight of the awesome selection of sharing platters that are available. Forge obviously looks to nearby Barbacoa for inspiration and the steaks, ribs and skewers on offer are as big and as bold as the resumes of its clientele.


Chiltern Firehouse – Chiltern Street, W1

Chiltern Firehouse - Chiltern Street, W1

When the owner of LA celebrity hangout Chateau Marmont opens a restaurant in London, it’s a given that A-listers will come flocking. Andre Balazs has enlisted the design expertise of Paris based Studio KO to convert a former fire station into a temple of gastronomic excellence. High-end restaurants all over London must be on a recruitment drive as it seems that a large chunk of culinary talent has been poached by the Chiltern Firehouse and the results are predictably spectacular. From the bar snacks to the coffee; every course is cooked with artistry and presented with panache.

Crab-stuffed doughnuts are a tasty accompaniment to the drinks menu; indeed, all fish dishes are imaginative and generously proportioned. Sea trout is cooked ceviche style and Cod comes with leek hearts and romaine lettuce.Slow-roasted short rib with hazelnut purée and bone marrow is bound to become a firm favourite together with the pristine chargrilled Iberico pork. Frozen apple panna cotta is one of the highlights of the dessert menu.


Skylight – Wyndham’s Theatre

Skylight - Wyndham's Theatre

Skylight tells the tale of Kyra, who after a disastrous fling with Tom, a married man, resorts to teaching in an inner city school as a form of penance. Three years pass until Tom, now widowed, tracks her down as he seeks to balance his desire with his conscience. The years have changed them drastically. Tom, played with scornful relish by Bill Nighy is a successful advert for capitalism while Cary Mulligan’s Kyra has grown into her role as ghetto mentor and now has the deeds to match her creeds.

The political sparring, which David Hare is so expert at writing, fizzes and crackles all around Kyra’s shabby Kensal Rise flat. Tom repeatedly fails to see why her love for deprived kids should exceed her love for him while Kyra draws the audience in with her emotional honesty and clarity of purpose. For fans of dialogue and technique, Skylight is a total treat and it’s not hard to predict that this revival will win as many awards as the original.


Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre, London

Miss Saigon - Prince Edward Theatre, London

This is musical where the artistic merit was almost eclipsed by its impressive props but where the sheer intensity of the subject matter still got through. Music and words are by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg who struck gold with Les Misérables and this adaptation of Madame Butterfly focuses on the big themes of love, loss and redemption. The doomed love-affair between a Vietnamese prostitute and a US marine isn’t very sympathetic to American foreign policy but a Western audience should be able to stomach that in these post Iraqi war time.

The evacuation of Saigon and the appearance of the famous life-size helicopter get the biggest cheer of the night and there is no doubting that the heroism of the soldiers is a counter to the abandoned mother and child. The beautifully sung message that Miss Saigon brings back to London after fifteen years is that the casualties of war are not restricted to the battlefield and that true love does not always prevail.


The Mercer – Threadneedle Street EC3

The Mercer - Threadneedle Street EC3

There’s something fishy going on in the Square Mile and this time it doesn’t involve insider dealing! Diners in the City have plenty of culinary options but The Mercer understands that good ingredients, served simply, will always keep the customers coming back. This theory applies to both comfort food favourites and lighter, seafood-based dishes. Pan-fried seabass and salt-baked sea bream are delicious alternatives to their signature pies and steaks. Popular starters include rock oysters, crab on sourdough toast and potted shrimps.

This exploration of classic English dishes by chef-proprietor, Warren Lee has unearthed some mouth-watering specials with both skate and hake regularly making appearances.


Fairground – Kingsland Road, Dalston

Fairground - Kingsland Road, Dalston

There won’t be a dodgem ride in sight when you rock up to this converted warehouse in the ultra hip Dalston/Shoreditch area. Instead what you’ll experience is the latest mash-up event that London seems to excel at: namely, a club weekender which is themed around high-end street food. Walk into any kitchen in a top London eatery and you’ll find clue- up young chefs who are as knowledgable about chilled breakbeats as they are about chilled gazpacho and Fairground is their collective vision made flesh.

Spread over three floors, the venue contains a mega bar run by Strange Hill on the first level. DJs from dance labels Hot Natured and Black Butter will host a fashion show by the Love Bullets collective. The second floor takes the form of a chill-out and knowledge space with talks and seminars by such trend-surfing luminaries as English Disco Lovers on the power of social media. The top tier is where everybody hopes to end up. This is where a deliciously unpredictable selection of pop-up restaurants will hold court. The opening of Fairground coincides with Thai New Year and Jude Sangsida from Busaba Eatha will be on hand to demonstrate the incredible levels to which mere “street food” can rise.


Book of Mormon – Prince of Wales Theatre

Book of Mormon - Prince of Wales Theatre

Clean-cut Mormon missionaries meet with poverty-oppressed Africans with hilarious results. It sounds implausible, even offensive but this musical from the creators of South Park has been a runaway smash on both sides of the Atlantic and shows no sign of wearing out its welcome in the West End. The script is subversive and darkly comic but importantly never patronises its targets and is helped along by some of the cleverest, catchiest and downright scandalous tunes ever performed on stage.

Reports have suggested that inquiries about the Mormon faith have gone up by 50% since the musical started and it certainly didn’t deter Mitt Romney from running for president (he lost but that was because his party was unpopular not because he was a Mormon). As the production pokes fun at some of the stranger beliefs of the Latter Day Saints, the underlying sentiment is that anybody can pick holes in religion but the hope that springs from it is undeniable and even transferable: deeds, not creeds if you will.


Polpetto – Berwick Street W1

Polpetto - Berwick Street W1

Adventurous Italian cooking in the heart of Soho is what the recently relocated Polpetto is all about. Commitment to the very best ingredients is the hallmark of any fine cuisine but it seems that it is even more essential in Italian dishes. This may have something to do with the fact that the regional food characteristics are so strong in that part of the world. Polpetto know all this by heart so you get green winter tomatoes from Sardinia, simply sliced and served with oil. This might sound rudimentary but the taste is indescribably good. Chef/owner Florence Knight is famous for her Baccala mantecato and happily it remains on the menu. A garlicky paste of salt cod on grilled bread is the ideal snack and comforts the stomach.

Polpetto also make the best scallops in town. Rather than swamp the delicate shellfish under a blanket of low-grade pork, they use lardons and cauliflower cream to elevate an already sublime dish. Desserts are sensibly palate cleansing, particularly the zesty blood orange sorbet and the Italian wine list is well chosen and reasonably priced.


Chriskitch Deli – Muswell Hill

Chriskitch Deli - Muswell Hill

We are continuously being told by health gurus that salads are not only necessary, but incredibly tasty when you put the right ingredients together. However, no matter our good intentions, we tend to neglect them when we eat out and opt for something that excites and intrigues us more; we are eating out after all. Salad still tends to be an afterthought that springs to mind when we are guiltily looking for a light lunch after a previous night’s blowout and this is the mindset that Christian Honor seems to be debunking on a daily basis. Christian is no rabbit food merchant. He has worked for Gordon Ramsay and run the kitchens in the Dorchester so he brings quality, precision and passion to his task.

Salmon smoked over Chinese tea and feta lasagne are great main courses but you could lunch on the salads alone, such is the attention to detail coupled with top-notch ingredients on show. Three bean salad with cinnamon shouldn’t work but it does. Apple and fennel with quinoa reads like a yummy mummy posted it into the suggestion box; yet it is so nuanced and well-presented that you wonder why other chefs aren’t doing the same. With a range of wonderful cakes and tea infusions, Kitch looks and feels like a local deli which is probably a good thing as it makes the treasures within even more exciting.


Chotto Matte – Frith street W1

Chotto Matte - Frith street W1

With cheery economic news an almost daily occurrence, London’s restaurant scene has seen the return of the super-size eaterie. In the noughties, this sector was ruled by the Conrad empire as Quaglino’s and Mezzo fed the city’s foodies to much acclaim. In 2013, new faces have arrived in the West End to satisfy London’s seemingly never-ending hunger for new places to eat. Chotto Matte is split into several levels and can comfortably seat over 200 guests. The food is a deliciously fresh take on the Nikkei style of Japanese cooking with dedicated areas for sushi lovers and a Japanese barbecue.

The atmosphere is gregarious and fun with a DJ and live music in selected rooms; perfect for the after-theatre or pre-clubbing crowd. Entrepreneur and owner, Kurt Zdesar has a solid track record in London having launched the first Nobu restaraunt here and he seems to have judged this opening perfectly. So as a raft of new shows hit the West End, expect to find the cast, crew and audience toasting one another at Chotto Matte.


Oblix – The Shard

Oblix - The Shard

High-rise dining is becoming a more common occurrence in the capital, thanks to the recent proliferation of downtown skyscrapers. The views tend to affect the prices which, in turn, affect expectations. Oblix unapologetically go for the City-boy pound by offering such favourites as crab cakes, scallops, rib-eye steak and lobster cerviche. These are all tried and trusted meals so beloved by the transatlantic suits and suitesses who frequent Oblix by day.

In the evening, the lights dim and the views become even more entrancing. From this vantage point, you can actually track the progress of underground trains by the way their lights leak through cracks in the ground. A lounge menu and live music give Oblix the same kind of ambience that can be found in the New York Grill in Tokyo’s Park Hyatt hotel immortalised in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation movie. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that these two high-flyers share the same origins. Both have been conceived by Rainer Becker, who with Arjun Waney launched Zuma and Roka.


About the Author

Established in 1958, Benham and Reeves is one of London’s oldest, independently owned property lettings and sales agents.  With specialism in residential sales, corporate lettings and property management in prime areas of London, the company operates from 21 prominently located branches and 14 international offices.