What’s on in London – April 2014

Ceramic Art London 2014 – Royal College of Art

Ceramic Art London 2014 - Royal College of ArtTo call a ceramic artist a potter is like calling Mo Farah a jogger. The craftsmanship and dazzling array of techniques on display at this event, which celebrates its 10th year, is sure to dispel any notion the public might have of contemporary ceramics being what sculptors do in their down time. From amazing stonework to delicate glazed ceramic pieces, there seems to be as many ways to create these artefacts as there are colour and shape combinations. The Seventy-five entrants whose work goes on display here will definitely cover many of these categories.

Some of the items are functional while others are simply conversation pieces that are guaranteed to provoke amazed wonder and curiosity in equal measure. The standout feature of the exhibition, however is the way that the artists are able to boldly experiment with texture and colour in a truly innovative sense. Modern methods have given them the opportunity to really push the envelope and the line between pottery, sculpture and installation seems to be becoming more indistinct year by year.

London Marathon – Tower Bridge

London Marathon - Tower Bridge

The elite distance runners that bring their globe-trotting rivalry to the capital must get more and more confused by the year. Every April it seems that new landmarks and fresh thoroughfares are springing up in and around the Thames shoreline and if it were not for conscientious race stewards, some of them could end up half way to the airport looking for a flight back home. The London Marathon is huge in every way. A massive field of athletes will be cheered on by vast crowds and a global TV audience with the professional runners being joined by amateur enthusiasts, celebrity joggers and all manner of weird and wonderful oddballs.

It’s these quirky participants that seem to capture the public imagination. Not many people remember past winners but who can forget the rhino man or the guy in the diving suit (it took him weeks to complete the race). Katie Price famously fainted before revealing that she ran the race pregnant and you can rely on the fact that TV presenters up and down the circuit will be regularly upstaged by runners in crocodile onesies or Spider-Man outfits. Serious marathon aficionados will be keen to see how British Olympic hero, Mo Farah, fares against the cream of African talent. He beat them inside the stadium; let’s see him do it outside on the streets.

London Coffee Festival – Truman Brewery

London Coffee Festival - Truman Brewery

Coffee culture in the capital has weathered the twin storms of recession and citywide chains with a nonchalant ease that seems to reflect it’s laid back image. The London Coffee Festival effortlessly joins the dots between artisan coffee makers, street food vendors and world music DJs without even seeming to try too hard. The Truman Brewery, near Brick Lane is an uber-funky creative space that is the ideal venue for this week-long gathering of caffeine jockeys, enabling the festival to split itself up into several interconnected components without letting them lose touch with each other.

Top international baristas will be holding demonstrations every day and this will be of immense interest to those of us who have invested in the kit and yearn to make a professional cuppa in the comfort of our own kitchen. Having said that, it’s still interesting to see what the latest developments are in the making and marketing of the fuel that drives the Silicon Roundabout. Serious coffee nerds will be able to geek out over vintage espresso machines and will even get to assemble one themselves. So if you thought that drinking in a coffee shop was all about chatting up pretty Latvian students while being slumped over your MacBook, think again.

Vikings: Life and Legend – British Museum

Vikings: Life and Legend - British Museum

The influence of these intrepid Norse explorers in Britain goes far beyond the looting and pillaging stereotype. Our architecture, language and even legal codes have large Scandinavian components while the way the land itself is divided is down to the visits (temporary or permanent) of our northern neighbours. The Vikings have gone down in history as one of its greatest travellers. Britain was just the start of their thirst for adventure as they traded all along the North European seaboard and even traced the Volga River into Russia. They are justifiably famous for discovering the New World half a century before Columbus and no attempt to gentrify their history can avoid the fact that they tended to turn up in numbers without an invitation.

The most interesting aspect of this exhibition, which includes rare examples of pottery, weapons and fascinating religious artefacts, is an in-depth investigation into the Vikings shipbuilding technology and navigation methods. Crossing the North Atlantic Ocean in an open, single-sail rowing boat is an incredible feat and Life and Legend looks at how these skilled warrior/builders went about their task. Some of the attention to ergonomic detail in these thousand year old remains is truly inspiring.

Silent Disco at The View from The Shard – The Shard

Silent Disco at The View from The Shard - The Shard

Can there be anything more futuristic in London at the moment than throwing shapes at the top of the city’s tallest building. This is how it works: you take the scenic elevator to the top of the glass needle next to London Bridge. Then you don some trendy earphones while admiring the 360 degree view that let’s you see as far as your mates house in Watford. Next, using three separate stereo channels, a trio of DJs pump some seriously funky beats into your skull causing you to wig out without banging into your neighbour.

It’s all great fun. You can bring your friends along and battle it out on the dance floor or you can have a rib-tickling time trying to guess which track your rhythmically challenged mum is swaying to. There’s a top class restaurant and bar up there so you can nod along to your dub-step mega mix even while your waiting to be seated (the headphones are wireless).

Property Investor and Homebuyer Show 2014 – ExCel Centre

Property Investor and Homebuyer Show 2014 - ExCel Centre

The economic upswing in London has put a spring in the step of property investors both here and abroad and they seem more ready than ever to mingle and do business. The Property Investor and Homebuyer Show has been running in London for over a decade and has been a patient and steady voice through challenging times. This year it is set to be bigger and better than ever as it seeks to bring investors and property professionals together under one roof via a two day series of exhibitions, seminars and panel discussions.

All sectors of this diverse industry will be represented and include amongst others developers, property journalists, financial gurus and estate agents. They will be on hand to lend expert advice to the many investors who are feeling more confident about their future plans than at any time in the last five years.

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, it is the ideal snack for these windy March days as it comforts the stomach while looking forward to warmer times ahead.

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.

Lee “Scratch”Perry/Aswad – Jazz Cafe


The Jazz Cafe comes up trumps in March with two of the most influential reggae acts of the past thirty years appearing on its stage. Lee Perry is an artist, bandleader and producer yet he effortlessly transcends these roles. One of the pioneers of the futuristic Jamaican sound called dub, he was one of the first people to use the studio mixing console as an instrument in itself and unlike Phil Spector or the Beatles, he could recreate his sound on the live stage. Most of the ground-breaking reggae acts if the sixties and seventies passed through his self-built Black Ark studio and world music as a whole owes him an enormous debt.

In contrast to Perry’s shamanistic on-stage presence (many now see Perry as more of a performance artist), the British reggae institution known as Aswad present their music with a mixture of professional gloss and high octane audience participation. With a string of popular hits to their name such as “Don’t Turn Around”, “Roots Rockin’” and the mighty “Warrior Charge”, Brinsley Ford and Drummie Zeb are perennial favourites on the festival circuits in both Jamaica and the UK, yet the more intimate setting of Camden’s landmark jazz venue will undoubtedly give audiences a chance to hear some rarities and B-sides.

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 Chris Kitchen seems to be debunking on a daily basis. Kitch is no rabbit food merchant. He has worked for Gordon Ramsey 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.

The Full Monty – Noel Coward theatre

The Full Monty - Noel Coward theatre

The story of a group of plucky ex steelworkers who decide to strip for a living started life on stage before it became a global movie smash. It has now come full circle and has an extended run in the West End which will be good news for lovers of classic soul music….among other things! Joking aside, the music is actually where this production has been able to improve on the film. There is now more time and space to bring in additional material and the play benefits greatly.

Also there is more dramatic substance given to the lives of the individuals involved. The play seeks to put the view of the wives and girlfriends across instead of portraying them one dimensionally as saints or victims. The dancing is still wonderfully ropey though which is a good thing. One sure fire way to ruin this tale of working class male insecurity would have been to bring in a group of buffed up Chippendales. It may have drawn the hen parties, but they would have had to change the name to Dull Monty.

Matilda: The Musical – Cambridge Theatre

Matilda: The Musical - Cambridge Theatre

Firmly established as one of the top attractions in the West End, Matilda has gone on to conquer Broadway and is set to gain a lasting worldwide audience. Children’s author, Roald Dahl has always provided rich material for theatre directors. There’s plenty of fun and fantasy mixed with a large dollop of attitude with Matilda benefitting from having a lead part that every precocious little girl in the land would crawl over broken hair slides to play. Dahl wrote about the challenges of childhood but also about what happens when childhood gives way to a disappointing adult life. The secret to staging these stories is to make sure that the supporting cast is as strong as the star turn.

This is where Matilda excels. Mrs Trunchbull is a mad mixture of megalomania and insecurity while Miss Honey radiates subliminal goodness wherever she goes. Matilda’s parents turn pig ignorance into a comic tour-de-force. In the middle of all this stands Matilda: a cutely subversive ten year-old genius. Spitting complicated lyrics and bouncing around to the infectious music, she effortlessly wins over the audience with a mixture of vulnerability and bravery which we wish we possessed now, let alone when we were ten.

Trip Kitchen – Haggerston

Trip Kitchen - Haggerston

Nowadays, when a restaurant wants to signify to would-be hipsters that it is indeed on-trend, it can approach it’s choice of decor in two ways. Approach number one is to opt for the Nordic wood-ceiling look so beloved of modern art galleries. Secondly, it can expose every single brick and ventilation pipe in a fifty metre radius. Presto! Instant “Industrial Chic”. Trip Kitchen goes for the latter route and it’s location under the railway arches of E8 gives it a head start. Haggerston forms a handy link between the silly prices of Shoreditch and the experimental pop-ups of Dalston. The area is a happy hunting ground for foodies in search of the next big ethnic gastrocraze.

Trip gets its inspiration from the Turkish Cypriot background of Head chef Selin Kiazim who avoids the overly carnivorousness of some of his compatriots, opting for a well balanced menu of small plates. These include lamb with pomegranate and grilled sardines with a sort of Turkish tapenade. A variety of spiced rice puddings feature on the dessert menu which along with the mains and starters is as well priced as it is delicious. Trip Kitchen is a welcome addition to an already thriving East London dining scene.

Stephen Ward – Aldwych Theatre

Stephen Ward - Aldwych Theatre

Andrew Lloyd Webber has downsized a bit for his latest foray into the West End. Known usually for his towering ballads and historical sweep, he has in Stephen Ward focused on a small, yet important footnote in Britain’s journey towards social transformation. Stephen Ward tells the tale of the eponymous doctor who moonlighted as a social fixer in the early sixties London. His friendship with politicians, call girls and spies lead to the Profumo scandal in which a government minister and Russian spy were alleged to have shared a mistress.

In the resulting fallout, the government fell and the press lost their fear of the upper class. Ward was denounced as a pimp and took his own life. Christine Keeler gained life-long notoriety. Lloyd Webber’s production uses wit and catchy songs as weapons in a battle to resurrect the doctor’s reputation. The fact that it partially succeeds in this mission is down to the period charm of the compositions and the strong singing of the entire cast. A wry, entertaining look at class snobbery and government hypocrisy.

From Here To Eternity – Shaftesbury Theatre

From Here To Eternity - Shaftesbury Theatre

The 1953 film starred some of Hollywood’s biggest names but the story stands up by itself even without the star wattage of Sinatra and co. Eminent lyricist Tim Rice returns to West End production duties after a decade away and teams up with composer Stuart Brayson and director Tamara Harvey in a bold attempt to uncover the true story behind the glitzy movie.

The musical tells the story of a group of American soldiers stationed on the beautiful island of Hawaii. War with Japan is imminent but the troops seem to be fighting personal battles of their own. Illicit love affairs and professional tensions split the men apart at the very time that unity is needed the most. The blues based score sets the tone for moody introspection and explosive confrontations.

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 also launched Zuma and Roka,

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