The Royal Opera House makes its first transition into the West End in the form of this classic tale of friendship and English country life. Tony Robinson, who famously played Baldrick in the TV hit series Blackadder, narrates the timeless story of Toad and his put upon friends. Toad is irrepressible and reckless, so it takes up all his friends energies just to keep him out of trouble. Trouble, however, is Toad's middle name and despite the best efforts of Mole, Ratty and Badger, he ends up in all sorts of scrapes.
The action, conveyed through dance, puppetry and music, is inventive and charming. The narration, however, is essential as Wind In The Willows is famous for its rich language and poetic structure. The character of the nation can be tracked throughout the story. Pastoral pursuits, class obsession and a love/hate relationship with progress are all mapped out in this delightful tale.
This classic story is as part if the Christmas experience as turkey and tinsel. The magical tale of a snowman coming to life and befriending a young boy is told through music, movement and dance, set to a haunting score. Boy and snowman fly over the wintry landscape on their way to fun and adventure at the very top of the world. Their they meet other jolly snowmen as they explore the land of Santa Claus and reindeer. Returning home and waking up next day, our hero finds that his new friend has disappeared along with the melting snow.
The Snowman is completely wordless and this enables the expressive dancers to use the full range of their interpretive abilities. The music is quietly evocative of the hush that deep snow seems to bring to the English countryside where all that can be heard are crisp footfalls and the cry of a lone owl.
The riotous Arts theatre posse are experts at giving sacred literary cows a good kicking and this Christmas it's the turn of another great Briton. After Shakespeare and the Bible, it's Charles Dickens that's next in their subversive sights. With great skill and panache, this micro-sized cast run through most of the iconic writer's famous works in just the time it takes to play a soccer match.
As always with these productions, it's the interesting overlaps caused by the constraints of time and space that provide the most entertainment. Oliver Twist can end up marrying Miss Faversham in one evening while swindling Ebenezer Scrooge out of his fortune the next.
Just under a thousand snapshots of the worlds foremost practioners of Rock'n'Roll are to exhibited at the ATLAS Gallery. They may be something of a heritage industry nowadays but there was a time when the Rolling Stones where the young and beautiful faces of Swinging London. Most of the photos depict the era between 1965 and 1975. It's fascinating to look through the lens of Gered Mankowitz as the fresh faced blues purists change into moody rockers.
Early pictures featuring the late Brian Jones seem particularly poignant. Even in their first flush of fame, he seems cast adrift from his band mates, his shock of blond hair only adding to his estrangement. Early seventies see Keith Richards busy cultivating his outlaw image with a variety of dangerous looking props (guns, horses and motorcycles), while Mick Jagger is busy establishing the lead singer as sex symbol template that so many were to follow.
Sam Mendes left Theatreland temporarily in a successful expedition into Hollywood blockbuster territory. A record-breaking episode of the James Bond franchise followed and made him a national hero. Musicals were the next genre to be conquered with the triumphant reworking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory production. Mendes has deep roots in classical drama, however, and it was only a matter of time before he returned to Shakespeare.
King Lear has been called the "Actors Everest" owing to the sheer amount of time that the title role takes up on stage. Whoever plays the role must have gravitas, pathos and stamina and Mendes choice of leading man has all these and more. Simon Russell Beale is the latest in a long line of thespians who have graduated from the edgy youth of Hamlet into the harrowing tale of a man unravelled by circumstance and inner demons. Mendes supports Beale with stark lighting and deft changes in scenery, showing that he has lost none of his famed theatrical panache.
The legal eagles that work in and around High Holborn like to get together with their City-based contemporaries around this time of the year. Many a grand strategy is hatched over a bottle of vintage French Red and Brasserie Blanc Chancery Lane is the ideal venue for such an undertaking. Many upmarket eateries bow to the seasonal pressure of providing customers with some form of traditional Christmas stodge in order to come across as festive, here that temptation is elegantly resisted.
There's a duck or cod alternative to the turkey option and all come with slow roasted seasonal vegetables. Before that, pumpkin and kirsch soup is a perfectly wintry starter but the dessert option is where things get interesting. Along side the traditional puddings is the fruit explosion of guava sabayon with passion fruit sorbet.
Tom Hanks unviels the latest in a line of strong silent heroes in peril. Captain Phillips tells the harrowingly true story of a container ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Persian Gulf in 2009. Director, Peter Greengrass, avoids the one-dimensional feel of many such similar action movies by starting his story from the pirates view. Driven by war and poverty from their fishing villages, they see the massive container vessels, full of Chinese made consumer goods pass their shores on the way to the affluent nations of the west and it's not long before they're regarded as an easy meal ticket.
Phillips, on the other hand, does not see himself as a fearless sea adventurer but rather as an ordinary man just doing his job in difficult circumstances. When he and the pirate leader, Musa - played superbly by Barkhad Abdi - come face to face, it seems that a kind of warped globalization is being played out. Africans using Russian weapons to steal an American ship laden with Asian goods. The rest of the film tracks the rescue mission as US Navy seals swing into action and bring the situation to an action packed climax. A thoughtful, yet gripping tale: well directed and superbly acted.
Perhaps more than any meal, the success of Christmas dinner is largely dependent on planning rather than inspiration. With so many items needed on the table all at the same time, a certain ruthlessness may be required on the day. However, there is always room for ingenuity and this Taste of Christmas event is just the ticket if you're searching for that spark of artistry in order to transform a mundane roast into a triumphant talking point. Restaurants taking part will include Hix, Barbecoa and the Cinnamon Club. There will be bakery spaces, taste theatres and all kinds of festive foodie talks.
Celebrity chefs are bound to be the focal point, though. They make everything look so easy that even the clumsiest of us comes away inspired. This year, Michel Roux jr, Mark Hix and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall will show all the tips and tricks that separate them from mere mortals. After that, a browse through the boutique food market, seems like the only logical option. Suitably furnished with artisan ingredients, it then remains for us to take advantage of the Mixology theatre for that much needed Spirit of Christmas.
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.
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
Roast chicken is set to replace the burger this year as middle class types seek to enhance their street cred by lifting ghetto cuisine out of the council estates of London and placing it on the trendy West End stage. Viewed as a superior Nando's, Clockjack Oven take their name from the spring driven technology used to rotate meat and aim to re-invent the rotisserie chicken concept in London.
In this bustling eatery near Piccadilly, service is brisk and friendly and portions generous. The chickens are on display and are roasted vertically after being marinated with a secret sauce. A whole bird can be cut up French-style so that every piece contains breast meat and this is ideal for those wishing to share. Chicken salads and sandwiches are delicious alternatives to whole roasts and the wine list is short but good. There seems to be an indistinct line in London between street food for cool people and stuff that only street folk will tolerate but Clockjack with their free range Breton chickens, cooked to crispy, moist perfection are firmly in the former camp.
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,
A shining example of high-style Indian cuisine even before its rebirth 12 years ago after being destroyed by fire, what was once a classic has reinvented itself with an even greater commitment to contemporary dining, style and service. The recent reincarnation pays homage to the original Red Fort built in Dehli by Shah Jahan who also constructed the Taj Mahal, by incorporating the same materials but updated to modern demands in a lush and sultry setting.
The chefs come from a 300 year old line royal cooks and have mastered the art of "dum pukht", a form of steam cooking which imbues regional biryanis with an added edge. A wide selection of refined dishes includes dum ka lobster, which is steamed in cumin-infused broth and murgh mussalam, poussin with Kashmiri chillies and browned onions.
When you set up a brasserie in deepest Mayfair, you can't just fill it with any old tat. To attract your hedge fund Henrys and trust fund Tamaras, you need an inventive menu coupled with sumptuous decor. Chef Eric Chavot realizes this instinctively and has thus spent a lot of money on making the main dining room a stunning visual treat. Floors of marble mosaic and highly polished chandeliers are designed to cosset and cocoon the wealthy clientele as they munch their way through a selection of French classics.
Steak tartare, soft shell crab and sardine escabeche are all expertly cooked and presented by Chavot and his team as they bring the know-how that earned two Michelin stars at The Capital to the competitive culinary scene that thrives in this corner of London.
Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes is the brains behind this highly-anticipated musical which is set to be a must-see for families visiting the capital. Based on the evergreen children's story by Roald Dahl, the production features brand new songs and music, along with jaw-dropping set and costume creations recreating the crazy world of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Douglas Hodge stars as weird and wonderful factory supremo Willy Wonka, while the cast also includes former Young Ones star Nigel Planer as Grandpa Joe, and young newcomer Jack Costello as Charlie Bucket.
The story charts the adventures of Charlie as he becomes one of the few fortunate children who through finding a Golden Ticket, win a tour of the top secret sweet factory, run by the Oompa-Loompas. Greedy boy Augustus Gloop, spoiled brat Veruca Salt, endless gum chewer Violet Beauregarde, and gaming addict Mike Teavee are his fellow winners and companions, who all get their just desserts at the hands of Wonka's mad contraptions.
Short let and serviced apartments are fully furnished in modern style for your comfort. Kitchens are well equipped with the latest appliances. In most cases, the following facilities are usually available:
Please contact me with more information