Monday, January 30, 2012

Are You Sitting Comfortably? 28th January

Continuing the storytelling trend I set by going to Spark London, we decided to go to Are You Sitting Comfortably, another storytelling night, this time stories submitted in advance, again that had to adhere to a theme, but unlike before, decidedly fiction. 

Cornflake cakes

I invited a few friends along, and after a quick drink in the Commercial Tavern up the road, we went down to Toynbee studios, where it was taking place. The website had said it started at 7:30, but I didn’t know if that meant doors opened then, or the show started then. We got there at about 7:25. I had also never been to Toynbee studios before so other than knowing it took place in their Arts Bar and Café, I didn’t know what to expect. We collected our tickets and walked in. Clearly doors opened before 7:30 as almost all the places were filled and there was a lot of hustle and bustle as extra chairs were being brought out to ensure everyone had a seat. This was in additon to the toing and froing as people arriving and sitting were hastily asked if they required a chip butty and these were ordered and brought to wherever you had found a seat. Seating was not, as I had imagine, in a theatre or auditorium format, but in fact lots of tables replete with red and white checkered table cloths, with various literary and hipster types chattering in them with their bottles of red wine. Each table had some complimentary sweets in teacups and also some very delicious cornflake cakes, which had the best chocolate to cornflake ratio I’ve ever encountered. We ended up crowded round the front of a table, barely a footstep away from where the stories were being read, tucking into our chip butties, and popping sweets into our mouths. 

The spooky stage
The theme this night was Ghost stories, our hosts were Gareth and Bernadette, who run White Rabbit and are writers themselves. They write a story each for the night, and then from the 70 or so submissions they receive from amateur short story writers, they pick seven to read aloud to the audience. The little stage was set up to reflect the theme of the night, and Bernadette had bedecked herself in a bit of a spooky costume (Gareth had stuck to a suit) and there was also a screen showing creepy, ghostly images while the stories were being read. 

After all the chip butties had been served (they were complimentary, as were the little treats) and everyone had settled, they began the first story. The take on the theme of Ghost stories was quite varied (and I suppose that is why they chose the stories they did). There was one story that I thought was quite chilling, about a woman who discovers the grave of a clown, and who may or may not have ended up trapped and killed by him in the end. There were a couple of stories with the ghosts being the narrator – one an evil lady haunting her manor, surprised when the ghosts of her own children she murdered come back to haunt her, and another with a man telling us what he has got up to since he died (voyeurism mostly), and what life after death is like. One ghost story was almost a love story, and quite moving. Both Bernadette and Gareth’s stories were very entertaining, and you could tell that they were accomplished yarn-spinners. I will never think of Croydon the same way again, not that I thought of it much at all before. They each took turns telling all the stories, with one guest speaker (as there were 9 stories in all, this keeps it fair I guess). 

At the end of the evening, it was time for a few little competitions. On the tables in front of us had been pages from a book. We were now invited to guess at what that book was, and whoever did, won a prize. Reading the page I had, I didn’t feel I recognized the text, and yet something within me made me think of The Magus. It turns out it was that book, but I know this because someone else shouted it out, not because I was brave enough to make a punt at it. Then, there was a bit of a general quiz about ghoulish things, you had to raise your hand or shout out the answer to win a prize. And finally, all through the evening we had been invited to write down what we were most afraid of, and the top 5 were picked at the end of the night. I didn’t enter, as I felt writing something like ‘dying alone’ wouldn’t really suit the mood of the evening, and the winners were indeed people with far wittier phobias than mine.

The evening finished at about 10 and we went home. It was a very different night to Spark – you were almost guaranteed the stories would be good, and perhaps even better, that the people telling them knew what they were doing. You were safe with them. It was almost a strange experience – actually being read to. I can’t think of the last time it really happened. It made me wonder whether I ought to give audio books a try. But for some reason, I know they’d really annoy me. Best just stick to Are You Sitting Comfortably. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spaniards Inn and stargazing, 14th January

After our ill-fated but ultimately successful trip to Broadway Market we had little time before heading out to our nighttime activities. Between October and April, the observatory in Hampstead opens to the public to use their telescopes and look at the stars. I also wanted to go to the Spaniards Inn which wasn't too far away from the observatory and so thought to combine the two. We invited a couple we're friends with and I made reservations at the Spaniards for 7 pm.

The Spaniards Inn is a little bit of a trek to get to and we were running a little late. Luckily our friends got there a bit before us so we didn’t lose our reservation. I can only imagine this is quite a popular pub, with people eating there all day, because when we arrived, we were told that they were out of pork belly (I was considering having the pork belly salad), the smoked haddock and both burgers (Stephen was thinking of having the pork and chorizo burger). So our bad food luck was continuing. At least it gave me an excuse not to order something healthy, although none of us were impressed that they had run out of a good chunk of the menu so early on.

I opted for the ox cheek pie with red wine and kale colcannon (mash to the uninitiated). 

Stephen had the fish and chips. 
Not sure why my photos are sideways

Nick enjoying his pie
My friend Nick also had the pie, and Claire, the vegetarian among us had the vegetarian options – a fig, goat’s cheese, pecan and roast squash tart. After the meal she said it was the best vegetarian option she’d ever had, and it certainly looked impressive, coming with a tower of kale on the top and sitting on a red sauce. I was happy with my pie, though Stephen thought there was too much batter on his fish. All in all, the food is quite good. However, although it doesn’t say it on its website, the pub is part of a larger chain, run by the same people and you can get the exact same menu in any of them (the Alwyne Castle for instance, in Angel). 

Best veggie tart ever!
The reason I wanted to go to the Spaniards though, was to sit 
in a part of history. It is a very, very old pub (built late 1500s) and has a history of highwaymen (possibly including Dick Turpin – it is rumoured he was born there) frequenting it, and also being hung from a tree down the road. It has been mentioned in The Pickwick Papers, and Dracula, and Byron and Keats are meant to have been visitors, possibly even penning some of their works there.  It’s actually also just a nice pub to be in, all dark wood lending it a proper pub feel. If it weren’t so far away, I’d happily spend more time here. It’s a classic British pub.

After finishing off our bottle of wine and beers, we went back into town to go to the Observatory. If you have a smartphone and look up Hampstead observatory, you won’t find it, which I thought was a bit odd. Luckily, I knew roughly where it was from their own website, and on the way up, noticed a little sign pointing towards it. We found said sign, and followed it around. Typically for an English sign it pointed us toward a crossroads and then didn’t bother to tell you whether to turn left or right. Thank goodness for being able to check the observatory’s own website again for the exact location. On my smartphone. We turned down a small road, and there was a gate with some steps which seemed to have a few people around it, so we figured we were at our destination.

I was expecting something like Greenwich observatory – something large and impressive. It was almost the opposite, though they did share having a dome in common. Whereas Greenwich has a huge museum etc attached to it, the Hampstead one is literally just a dome, in a field. You would never know it was there unless you knew it was there. There were a few people also there to look at the stars so we got in the line and queued for about 5 minutes to look through the Cooke’s telescope that was pointing at Jupiter. Looking through, you could see two of its moons as well, and some knowledgeable chap was standing by spouting facts about Jupiter and answering any questions anyone had.

Outside, there were another two telescopes. One was also set up to look at Jupiter, but was a more modern telescope and hence afforded a sharper picture. We had a look through that one as well, just for the hell of it. And then we went over to the third telescope which was moved around to look at different things. We looked at Orion’s belt and then another cluster.

The people on hand were the sort of uber-geeks whose enthusiasm is infectious. It was also obvious that they all had a slightly different passion when it came to astronomy. One person clearly knew all about Jupiter, another was more into telescopes themselves – telling us about a telescope that adjusts automatically for the effects of the atmosphere (which moves all the time and can make for a hazy, wavy viewing). He said it was like looking at the stars from the Hubble Space Telescope, if you look through that one. Another pointed out Mars and the constellation Leo (which is mine) and then boasted about how he could see stars at magnitude 5 with his naked eye. He then negated this boast by pointing out the star’s location, and helping us all see it for ourselves once we strained our eyes hard enough.

It was an evening of pure, innocent enjoyment, reminding all of us of our youths when we first became fascinated with the sky and the stars in it. Apparently Mars will be close in a few months and I’d love to go back again when it is.

I don’t know how lucky we were in terms of business. There were definitely a few people there when we arrived and another 2 or 3 came along after us. We got there just before it closed at 10 (though when we left at 10:10 or so, they didn’t seem in a hurry to shut up shop) so perhaps we missed the rush. Or maybe just not many people go. Though, with the current BBC show Stargazing being produced in collaboration with Hampstead Observatory, that may be likely to change.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lucky chip, 14th January

We headed out at what was already way past lunchtime, down to Broadway market. We thought a stop at yum bun for one each and then sharing a banh mi before taking a leisurely stroll home in the sun would be a good way to while away our Saturday. But the food gods were against us.

First, to the school yard where yum bun are normally located. They weren't there. Ok, so we'll just both get a banh mi. We brave the crowded gauntlet that is Broadway market to get right to the end where the vietnamese ladies set up. They weren't there either. That's when Stephen suggested we go to Lucky Chip. 

There was quite a queue but it was a Saturday afternoon, even though by this point it as well past lunchtime. We joined it. It completely obscured two other food stalls, and we felt a bit sorry for them as no one would really even know they were there if you weren't already in the queue for Lucky Chip. But the fish guy seemed to get the odd person in the queue who was hungry enough to want to have a quick oyster while they waited, and I daresay the cheesecake guy got a few people who'd noticed him and wanted dessert after their burgers.

It took no time at all for our extremities to become extremely cold. I had purposefully left my scarf and gloves behind, thinking that if we were walking back, I'd warm up in no time and wouldn't have a need for them. I did not expect to be spending over an hour queuing for a burger. And when I say 'a burger' I do not mean one apiece because I do not even like burgers. This was part of Stephen's quest to find the best burger in London. While we waited, people kept going past with stupendous-looking onion rings and I decided that's what I wanted in place of a burger. I was also going to get a hot dog, which I had heard were pretty good as well, though my main thoughts were on the onion rings. With maybe a little garlic aioli. Finally, we made it towards the front of the queue and fortuitously some chairs freed up so I went over to nab them while Stephen queued the remainder of the time to order. I saw him texting and moments later my phone went off. He was informing me that they had run out of onion rings. Curses on you food Gods! Curses!

He ordered some chips instead. 

All through the last hour he had been debating on which type of burger to get. They have some specialty burgers, named after various film stars, which have interesting toppings. Stephen couldn't decide between the Sheen (philly cheese, cheddar, beer soaked onions, applewood smoked bacon and burger) or just a regular cheeseburger. Forty five minutes into waiting, with our noses colder than anyone's nose should be, Stephen declared that he didn't care how good the burger turned out to be, this would be his final visit. Nothing is worth queuing this long for. I suggested that if that were the case, then maybe going for the Sheen over the normal cheeseburger would be the way to go.

When he joined me at my seats (outside, and next to some heaters which curiously weren't turned on) he told me he'd taken the plunge and gone for the Sheen, which came along not too long after we were sitting. As did my hot dog and chips. Once again, I forgot to take any pictures, but the burger looked really good. Stephen was going to give me some as a way of easing me into burgers (I think I should take them up) but he was enjoying his so much he clearly forgot all about giving any away. The one little criticism he had of it was that it was a little overdone for a medium burger. However, he said that given all the sloppiness on top of it, a slightly sturdier burger was probably not such a bad thing.

My hot dog was ok. It definitely was a hot dog and not just an English sausage in a bun. But it still wasn't quite an American hot dog. And the bun was good (definitely better than some I've had) but it wasn't quite right. Hot dog buns should be longer versions of hamburger buns - slightly sweet like brioche. The chips were pretty tasty but I suspected not a patch on the beetroot onion ring beasts I had so set my heart on.

As we walked back to the bus stop, too cold to do anything but get back as quickly as possible, Stephen mused aloud about his next visit. "I thought you weren't going to go back there again," I said. "Well, next time I'd just make sure I got up early and got there before the lunch rush," he replied. I doubt, and I suspect he does too, that there isn't really a 'lunch rush' with Lucky Chip, just a steady stream of hungry hipsters. So I guess that's as good evidence as you can get that the burgers are pretty excellent.  

Lucky Chip on Urbanspoon

Spark London, 16th January

Upstairs at the Ritzy, and I was beginning to get that slightly uneasy feeling I get when I've insisted on taking someone (namely Stephen) to something that I don't know too much about myself, and am starting to worry it's going to turn out to be a bit shit. There weren’t many people there at all and, knowing it was an open mic night, I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be embarrassing for everyone involved, if no one was willing to tell a story. At about 8 pm, some sweets were distributed among the table, and someone took the microphone. She introduced herself as Mathy, gave a brief overview of what Spark is about, and welcomed to the stage the first speaker.  This guy had apparently ended up drinking in the Ritzy by chance after being banned for the foreseeable future from his regular drinking establishment around the corner. He was quite amusing as he took us through his last 24 hrs, which included being ‘tricked’ into accompanying his friend on a skiing holiday (but the backing out of it he said was another story) and how he may be up for disciplinary action at work because his boss thinks there are dubious reasons for his laptop being corrupted. This guy seemed quite a character and certainly made for an interesting beginning to the evening. I started to relax.

The audience was then given opportunity to get up on stage. No one volunteered and there was that familiar awkward silence hearkening back to everyone’s school years when the teacher asks if anyone wants to give an answer. Mathy reassured us that this always happened at this stage of the night and not to worry. Each of the hostesses told a story and then we had a break to give people time to be inspired and put their names down, and also to contribute to the tip cup, as the event was free, but not without running costs.

After the break two people had signed up to tell a story. The first was a girl whose resolutions this year were to keep up her running, drink more moderately, and to take it easy with the number of boys in her life. You can probably guess the outcome of these resolutions, especially as she was on stage divulging them to complete strangers. Funnily enough, she broke her drinking resolution at Secret Cinema on January 5th which is the same night I was there!

Next up, a German girl who revealed she really needed to be more punctual and stop being so cavalier when it comes to being on time for flights - it was costing her money and she was missing out on holidays. Then the hostess asked again if anyone else wanted to tell a story, and someone's arm went up. This person was relating a story that was told to them, the resolution being to continue to explore any island that crosses his path, just like his uncle did when he was seven and had to be rescued when his ‘ship’ (cardboard box) was lost at sea.

It was now time for another break. Someone had indicated they might be willing to get up and tell a story but they wanted a bit more dutch courage first. I wasn't drinking myself, but by this time I really wanted to get up and tell a story myself! I didn't though (like I said, I was stone cold sober) and I couldn't think of a well rounded story to tell. When we left Stephen said he would describe the night as inconsistent but I think this is no bad thing. As Mathy stressed at the beginning of the night, the people getting up weren't professionals at speaking in public, they just fancied telling stories in front of a willing audience. And if they can do it, then why not you? They've already proved that no one’s going to laugh at you, unless your attention was to raise a smile and you find yourself starting to picture yourself up there.

But as I said, tempted though I was, my participation only stretched to listening and when we entered the third 'half', another two people were willing to take the stage; one girl at 27 determined to turn into a homebody with her boyfriend and to get out and do more, and a guy who basically said never let your girlfriend join you when you're ' finding yourself' - the relationship won't last. And finally, one last girl got up to say she had come to the last event almost by accident and made friends there, so her resolutions was to do more random things. It was blatant Spark promotion but Mathy said she didn't pay her and I begrudgingly believe her.  I think, honestly, the girl was just a sweet person sharing her appreciation. And then, at the end of the night there were prizes for two of the brave souls who got up there, designated at random. With one of the prizes being a pair of tickets for the Ritzy, that's even more motivation to get up there next time.

I really enjoyed this night. At the first break there were about 30 people there but at least ten more came in later and chairs were scarce. Mathy had said at the beginning that it wasn’t a comedy show but of course, being English there wasn't a single story that didn't have a humorous element to it, even when one lady was in fear for her life, having found herself in a rundown taxi with a gun pointing at her from a glove compartment, potentially ready to go off with every bump in the road.

If you’re interested in going (and I think you should be) here’s when it happens: The open mic night, which we went to, happens monthly at the Ritzy, but they also have one at the Canal Cafe which I will also be attending at some point. That one is a bit more structured, with people signing up in advance and getting the opportunity to work with the Spark team to hone their story. Each event has a theme, published beforehand on their website. I will be thinking hard about a story for the next one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Secret Cinema, 5th January

I feel like I shouldn't be telling you this. After all, it's supposed to be a secret. However, judging by how the viewings sell out within minutes, it's clearly not the underground film experience it once might have been. But I still don't want to give the game entirely away. 

I've known about Secret Cinema for so long that I can't remember how I heard about it. But the price has always put me off. However, I had a bit of a windfall from my redundancy so I decided to treat us to the experience. Tickets are now £35 a pop and that doesn't include a booking fee.

Once you book you get emails from a mysterious person advising you of where to turn up, and what fashions you should sport, but until you get to the venue and actually sit down to watch the movie, you don't know what you're seeing. Mine and Stephen's opinion before we went was that we hoped it was something we hadn't seen, because we didn't want to pay all that money to see a movie we already knew and potentially didn't like. In retrospect, I'm not sure that's the attitude to take.

We met at the prescribed meeting point, wearing attire which proved we were part of the adventure and were guided to the secret venue, which just happened to be up the road from where I used to work. It seemed to be a massive, out of use building, with several floors, each floor kitted out to match, what we thought, was the general era of the film we were about to see. You are invited to exchange your money in order to purchase food or drink. I was kind of hoping that you might get some refreshments for free considering the steep price of the ticket but unfortunately not. There was popcorn, sweets, several bars and a few different types of food, from hot dogs, to cafe-type stews to a full sit down meal. I wasn't sure there would be food and so had eaten something before I got there, but that didn't stop me from having a bag of popcorn, freshly made for £3. The drinks prices were typical of London and there was mulled wine and spiced cider on offer as well as the usual beverages. By the time we'd had two drinks each and some snacks, we had paid another £25. This is not a cheap night by any means.

But I think it is just about worth it. It is definitely fun, and they put a lot into it. You are free, and indeed encouraged, to fully explore the arena you are in, and to interact with the characters you may find there. Stephen and I found ourselves rushing to pray with a nun when the children's hospital we had wandered through moments before turned out to be infected. They also re-imagine scenes from the movie, and re-enact the key scenes. All of these are, of course, clues as to what movie you are about to see. Right down to the names of the bars and food stalls. 

As we sat down to watch the movie (which opened with a very amusing short film - Future Shorts are Secret Cinema's sister) we started to realise that contrary to our early thoughts, it might have been better to have seen the movie beforehand. It turned out that it was a movie that I hadn't seen all the way through (though had, oddly, seen the end and its memorable scene). As you watch you realise that everything you have witnessed in the hours before the movie has some connection to it and I think I would have enjoyed it, or appreciated it more, if I had recognised what they were recreating. Having said that, it was fun to watch the movie and think 'ohhh, that's why they did that' as it unfolds. Every key scene and set has been alluded to before you sit down. 

The movie was shown in a separate building to the rest of the goings-on, which was clever because as we wandered around we came across two 'red herring' cinema set ups which threw us again as to where we'd be watching the film. And this was probably the biggest let down of the night. As much as I enjoyed the movie, being in a massive, deserted and draughty warehouse meant freezing temperatures made it really hard to concentrate. Also (and I hope this isn't always the case) the audience seemed to be one of the worst I've ever been a part of. People kept getting up and down, and going in and out of the warehouse we were in, causing more draughts each time the door was opened and disturbing you again, just as you had warmed up enough to enjoy the viewing. I don't know whether they were getting more drinks, or going to the loo after having imbibed too much in the preceding hours. Whatever the reason, it was very distracting. The movie itself was very good, I can't fault the choice.

This is definitely not something you can choose to do on the spur of the moment, like an ordinary trip to the cinema. Much as I would like to do it again, the price means it is always going to have to be something I do as a special treat. And of course, the very nature of Secret Cinema means that you never know what you're going to see, which is always a gamble. Fingers crossed that next time it's something I've seen and like!

DrinkShopDo x 2, 13th January

It so happened that the first time I went to Drink Shop Do, I went twice in one day. I had already organised to go for drinks with some friends there on the evening, and then my colleagues decided to lunch there. As Drink Shop Do is a café/shop by day and bar by night, I thought it would be good to see it in both its guises. 

Everything in Drink Shop Do is for sale – there is a little shop of craft type stuff at the front, including some wry cards that I particularly found amusing, and then you go into the back where they serve the food and drinks. They also hold different arts and crafts type evenings. Hence the name. They have some specials on every day and we asked the waitress to tell us what they were. We all ended up ordering one of them. I had the spinach and ricotta quiche, which I asked to be warmed. It was very nice and came with an assortment of salad which I wasn’t expecting. However, I must admit I had food envy when I saw what the others had ordered. The soup special was thai coconut and sweet potato, with a bit of chili, which I didn’t go for because I don’t like coconut. To my chagrin I was informed that it didn’t taste coconutty at all, and also came with some lovely crusty tiger bread and a clump of butter. The other order making me see green was the special of beef and ale stew. This too came with some bread and butter and was served in a cute stew pot from which you could see the great hunks of beef and veggies poking out. It looked delicious and I am told it was. And all very reasonably priced. They have a selection of home made cakes on the shelf which looked amazing, but as no one else was indulging, I wasn’t tempted to. Not this time round anyway.

At the end of the working day back I went to DrinkShopDo. While it wasn’t exactly transformed, the ambience was definitely different. There seemed to be more tables and the lights had been dimmed. The cakes had been removed from the bar, and though I think you may still have been able to order them, by the time I got into drinking, the tasty bar snacks of vegetable crisps and chilli wasabi peas and cashews they serve seemed more appropriate. They have a selection of cocktails, as well as wine, beer and cider. The prices are fairly average for London. A cocktail will set you back £7.50, which is actually less than what I have been paying at other cocktail-oriented places. I must highly recommend the Gorgy Porgy. If you have a sweet tooth, this is the drink to go for, like liquid creme brulee.

I was at the venue by 5:45 and the place was already quite busy. I’d say by 6:30 there wasn’t a free table. But luckily, for anyone arriving later, there is a downstairs area with a bar, playing music. You would be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t, as the sign advertises a toilet down the stairs and nothing else, but if you do go to the loo you will discover it. It used to be part of the sex shop next door, which explains the multicoloured streamers at the entrance.

Downstairs is a bit livelier. Upstairs is perfect for having a catch up with a few close friends. When we went in the daytime there was an assortment of board games at the bigger tables, and it was still commonplace to find people getting them out and settling down for a game with their pint.

I think this place is delightful and will definitely be going back for lunch and cake. I tend to go to places that are a little more upbeat in the evenings, but when I’m looking for somewhere friendly, where it’s important to be able to talk without straining your voice or ears, then this would be the place to go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Breakfast Club, 30th December

I had twice tried to go to the Breakfast Club so far and twice been foiled in my efforts by a queue that was far too long when taking into consideration mine and my companions' hunger. The first time we ended up in Lo Profile, a place that lets you build your own burgers on weekends and does amazing nachos and alcoholic milkshakes. The second time I ended up in Diner. Third time we were lucky as we went on one of those hinterland days between Christmas and New Year when everyone seems to be hibernating/recovering.

I am very happy that we tried again at the Liverpool Street branch. Stephen was again with me, and once again showing his perversity by deciding what he really fancied was a burrito. I put it to him that probably the thing to do, when going to a new place that specialises in breakfasts, was to try something from the breakfast menu, in order to be guaranteed a good meal. Luckily, they did huevos rancheros which satisfied his Mexican craving while also falling into the breakfast category. After careful deliberation I went for the French Toast with apples and cinnamon.

Not the prettiest plate but looks aren't everything
I think it is possibly the best French toast I have ever eaten. Three big slices of it, absolutely covered in apples. At first, I was a little worried about the amount of maple syrup. That was, until I delved to the bottom layer and discovered it was absolutely sodden with maple syrup and so everything around the edges was more than enough for the top two slices. The apples were great - a bit soft but not turned to mush. The french toast was wonderfully thick and, even better, around the edges there were bits of pure fried egg. I appreciated this because I am always torn between eggs for breakfast or pancakes/waffles/french toast and the residue round the edges made me feel I was getting a bit of both. Especially when Stephen gave me a slice of his chorizo.

Huevos rancheros con sour cream
Stephen's huevos rancheros came with two fat, ridiculously juice/greasy chorizo sausages, two fried eggs on tortillas, some quacamole, salsa and refried beans. It looked very tasty and Stephen said that it was, only he thought there needed to be some extra crunch amongst all the softness - some tortilla chips perhaps would have been a welcome addition.

To put an extra smile on your face, I thought the prices were very reasonable. I think my dish was around £6 and Stephen's wasn't much more than that. Totally filling, totally delicious. I will certainly make this place where I go to get my french toast fix.

However, I think if I am certain I fancy something more savoury involving eggs, I'd probably head to the Diner instead. The egg selection at The Breakfast Club was a little more traditional - eggs benedict in various guises - than I tend to go for when getting brunch out.

The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Russian Tank, 8th January

We were meeting some friends for a catch-up as we hadn’t seen each other since before the Holidays, and a bit of a wander which was more than welcome considering I hadn’t done any exercise, or indeed barely left the flat, since before Christmas. We agreed to meet at the Brunel museum (though not go inside) and head out from there in the direction of Bermondsey, an area I wasn’t acquainted with.

Bermondsey is meant to be a bit of an up and coming place and from what I saw it does seem to have its fair share of trendy and inviting cafes, bars and eateries. At least along Bermondsey High Street. We stumbled across the Bermondsey (obv) branch of the White Cube gallery and decided to have a mosey in there. There were two artists showing their work. Both contemporary. Neither particularly appealing to me. I do like modern art sometimes but this stuff didn’t really speak to me on a visual level, and as they weren’t accompanied by explanations of their meaning, they didn’t really speak to me on an intellectual level either. The actual building they were showcased in was impressive. Cubic and, you guessed it – white. Very large rooms with tall ceilings and not much else apart from the works on show.

After having completed some wandering, I had my bearings a bit, and while in the Cube, realised that I was pretty sure that one of the things on my List was in this rough area. I had a quick scroll (I keep a copy of my list on my phone) and checked where Mandela Way was in relation to where we were. It was a mere mile away. I suggested to my friends that we make it our next destination and they agreed.

It was fairly easy to get to Mandela Way, but it didn’t really look as I had expected. We were there to see a decommissioned Russian tank, that as far as I could remember, was sitting in someone’s front yard, with it’s gun pointing toward City Hall (or the local council offices, not sure which) because they tried to stop the owner from leaving it there. Where we turned up was in the middle of what looked like an industrial estate, not the sort of place with houses in front of which tanks could be planted. I was a little disheartened. But not for long. Our techie friend immediately looked it up on the Net and it turns out the tank has its own Wikipedia page which kindly tells you exactly where on Mandela Way it is. We were in roughly the right place and only had to walk ten minutes to reach it.

There it was, on corner of some scrubland, sitting behind a fence. 

It has been painted and repainted a couple of times but now is mostly covered in graffiti. I thought it was going to look more like it did when in use but actually, the graffiti is quite effective in making it look like it’s just a natural part of the urban landscape. I was busy trying to take pictures of it through the fence when I noticed my friend wander into my shot, which rather surprised me as I had assumed it was cordoned off. In fact, just one foot along there was an opening in the fence, clearly so people could get up close to it and have a play on it, which my boyfriend duly did. 

Other people might think it’s not really worth the effort to get to it, as it’s not really near any tubes and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to walk in that area alone or on a dark night but I’m glad we did it. I get to cross another quirky bit of London off the list, but also it was oddly enjoyable seeing it there.