Eating at Smith’s in Wapping

In London for my birthday, we decided to eat locally, and since we were staying in Shad Thames, the choice was lots of nice but a bit run-of-the-mill-and-not-special-occasion-y places.

Or Smith’s.

Smith’s it was.

We walked across Tower Bridge and strolled along the river to Smith’s, a large, rather green, glass confection with great views.

Sadly, even though we’d called in person the previous day to book, and mentioned it was my birthday, we didn’t get a table with a view of the river as requested, but never mind.  Can’t win ’em all.  That’s what you get for having a birthday on a Saturday in London.

The restaurant was packed, and as an avid people-watcher, it was a fascinating crowd.  (I don’t live in the UK, just for the record, and haven’t for 40 years, just in case I sound weird in my people judgement).  But basically, I felt as though I’d time-travelled back to the days of City FX traders with lashings of money and very blonde girlfriends.  There was lots of champagne-drinking, girls in dizzying high heels & plunging necklines, and the people next to us ordered stonking great lobsters and caviar (but were both glued to their mobiles, which was totally 2017).

All quite fun.

Now, I must mention that we are not an easy combo to feed.

I don’t eat meat, and hubby is allergic to anything fishy or sea-foody…but it was my birthday, remember, so I was indulged and he had a côte de boeuf which he pronounced excellent.  He also drank white with his beef, because it was my birthday.  Nice man.

I had oysters to start.  Divine.

Then scallops.  Equally divine.

All very nice, and I guess it was childish of me to feel a twinge of jealousy when the lady at the table opposite us got the whole “happy-birthday-to-you” routine.  I went over to wish her, as a fellow-birthday-girl, but she smiled and told me it wasn’t actually her birthday till the following week…ah well, you can’t win ’em all Mark II.

We paid our bill, & I didn’t say that I blog or review.

Good.

Recommended.

Want a good running shop in London?

I live in India, where I haven’t yet been able to track down the gels that I am told are vital for running a marathon.

So on a recent trip to London I was thrilled to find a specialised running shop in East Sheen, just a few minutes drive away from Barnes, where I was based.

Aptly called ‘Up & running”, the shop has a quiet, unpushy air of professionalism about it.

Up & Running_9238

When I explained that not only was I new to running, but was also thinking about transiting from half to full marathon, the young woman in the shop could not have been more helpful.  A marathoner herself, she answered all my questions in great detail, explained about gels, gave me several (free) to take home and try, and was totally charming.  No hard sell, nothing but relaxed friendly service.

Just wished I’d needed more stuff…would happily have spent hours in Up & Running.

I paid my bill (a very snazzy belt to hold said gels) and did not tell them that I blog and write reviews.

Recommended, from one very pleasant interaction.

upand running

Hurry ! Hurry ! Last few days of the Pre-Raphaelites at Tate Britain

The utterly magical Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at  London’s Tate Britain closes on 13 January 2013, and if you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and go now.

 

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I am a hopeless Pre-Raphaelite junkie.  Have been since my Oxford days, but even for an addict like me, this exhibition is utterly breath-taking.

Every single luminous painting you have seen is here, and the combined effect of so much beauty is, well, almost overwhelming.

Used to seeing these masterpieces in an isolated collection here, and another gallery there, to see them all together, grouped thematically (see below), makes perfect artistic sense.

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 You have 12 days left.

Do not miss this extraordinary exhibition.

Tate Britain.

10.00-18.00 daily with late night opening until 22.00 on Fridays.

Valentino frocks at Somerset House

The exhibition VALENTINO at London’s Somerset House is simultaneously wonderful and also quite frustrating.

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There are utterly beautiful, fabulous dresses on display, and a very nice layout – it was done like a catwalk – but possibly the worst exhibition information leaflet ever.

The exhibition lighting was so dim, and the print in the guide was so small, that we had to struggle to read helpful captions like “White wool cape and dress.”

That was it.

Or “Ivory crepe georgette evening gown.”

Admittedly a couple of captions did tell us that Audrey Hepburn or Julia Roberts had worn a particular dress (yes, THAT Oscar dress is on display). But we wanted much more information, and we were not alone, as was apparent from the good-natured grumbles we heard from the other women struggling to read.

Never mind, we said, we’ll splurge on the catalogue and get the full low-down on all these gorgeous confections.
No catalogue.
Not even a postcard.
Such revenue potential wasted.

But the clothes were lovely. Absolutely gorgeous.

So go and drool and sigh over frocks of total gorgeousness.

The exhibition runs until 3 March 2013.

Highly recommended.

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MUGHAL INDIA exhibition at the British Library

For anyone with an interest in India, then the blockbuster “Mughal India” exhibition at the fabulous British Library in London is not to be missed.

As in absolutely not to be missed.

Let me rephrase that first sentence somewhat.  For anyone with an interest in India and/or history…this exhibition is a must-see.

There are beauties and treasures there that are dazzling, and even for Indian residents such as us, there were fabulous things we had never seen before.

The exhibition is – as one would expect from the British Library –  extremely detailed and you leave with a sense of perspective and – though I rather dislike the word –  an overview of a dynasty that had such a huge impact on the Indian subcontinent.

One word of advice : allow yourself time.

There are so many utterly fabulous, brightly coloured, jewel-like miniatures, all deserving of detailed examination.  It is a crime to skip any of them.  There are coins, armour, artefacts, photographs, books – so much to see and absorb, so , as I sadi, you need time.

Personal favourites were the rather OTT crown of the last Moghul emperor, which Queen Victoria bought, of all things; and a breathtaking 5 metre long painting that consists of a 360 degree view over Old Delhi.

Highly recommended.

We just walked in and bought tickets on the spot, despite being warned by friends that we should have booked online for a timed entry.  But doing the latter can only be a good idea.

The exhibition is on until 2 April 2013.

 

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A surpisingly good, old-fashioned find in central London

So there we were, sauntering up St. Martin’s Lane in central London – as one does – on a beautiful summer evening.  We were on the lookout for a restaurant to eat dinner, but without anything particular in mind.  A pretty, absolutely charming young woman standing in the street asked us if we wanted a free bottle of wine.  My guess is she was Italian.

The deal was as follows –  eat at the restaurant and get a free bottle of wine.

Which wine, we asked ?

It’s a good one, she smiled back.

And if we don’t like it, can we add on a little to that free voucher and buy a better wine ?

Of course, came the answer, with a big, charming smile.

So, basically for want of a better idea, we gave it a whirl.

The food was reassuringly old fashioned –  no, wait, let me rephrase that.  A steak is a steak is a steak, but since I don’t eat meat, I decided to go for the divinely old fashioned Whitby scampi. (You can take the girl out of Yorkshire etc etc)

I chose the scampi almost for a laugh, as a deliberate nostalgia thing, but they were absolutely delicious.  Perfectly cooked.

 

 

My husband’s steak came on a hot stone, to allow personalised cooking, which he proclaimed to be a good idea.

 

And the free wine was a perfectly respectable French Merlot.

All in all, not a bad meal at all, and reasonable for central London.

Steak & Co would seem to be part of the Angus Steakhouse group, since that was the name that came up on our credit card account.

Personally recommended, and we paid our own bill.

Where to eat good Polish food in London ?

Our London based friends were already great fans of GESSLER AT DAQUISE, a Polish restaurant in South Ken, and so at their suggestion,  off we headed, the 4 of us, on a lovely summer evening.

The restaurant has been in London since the 1940s, and the slightly faded, old-fashioned decor pays hommage to that fact – in the nicest possible way.  There is what one imagines to be an authentic whiff of old Warsaw what with the bistro setting, the large wooden table for serving, the mirrors – I loved the ambience.

The service was attentive and kind, and actually rather stylish, which is not a word one uses much these days for waiters, is it?  Again, a a slightly old-fashioned feel to it, which is very welcoming.

The young Indian sous-chef who served our food at the table was thrilled to talk about India and speak Hindi with us, and couldn’t have been more charming.

And now to the food, where I have to say up front that I wasn’t as thrilled by the food as my 3 carnivorous companions, simply because I am not a carnivore.  I am essentially a vegetarian although I do eat fish, which left me with Hobson’s choice on the solidly meat-based menu.  There was one cold fish starter, one warm fish starter and one main dish.  Not one single vegetarian offering.

As I said, Hobson’s choice.

I had the cod (below), because there was nothing else, and though the accompaniments were delicious the fish was very cod-y.  Rather heavy and rather dull and I left most of it. (And no-one asked me why, which was a little odd, given the otherwise attentive service)

I did try the herring (below) from my friend Eden’s tasting menu (and the staff kindly gave me an extra piece) and that  – on the contrary –  was absolutely delicious.  Thick and tasty and served with all kinds of lovely stuff on the side – fab thick cream, for example.

The duck was declared delicious, and it looked pretty good, even to a non meat-eater.

The tasting menu and the beef were both also declared to be a triumph.

I also had a taste of Eden’s beetroot & dumpling soup, (above) from the tasting menu : very good, and such a new, interesting taste.  And such a fab colour.

Moral of the story ?

Head to GESSLER AT DAQUISE if you love meat, and what I can only call authentic-looking food, served in generous portions.

I found £150 for 4 a tad pricey, but I am way out of touch with London prices, so who knows ?

 

 

 

gessleratdaquise.co.uk

DAVID HOCKNEY A BIGGER PICTURE at the ROYAL ACADEMY

The  timing of my visit to the Hockney exhibition could not have been better. An early weekday morning, and the weather was grey, windy, piercingly cold, with a hint of snow. London at her most miserably winterish.

The contrast between the freezing grey outside and the explosion of colour inside the Royal Academy was electric. Just walking into the first gallery was like a dose of warmth and sunshine.

Today was my Road to Damascus moment as far as David Hockney is concerned.

I knew a little of his work – “A Bigger Splash”, obviously, and some of those extraordinary photo collages of the Grand Canyon, but, to my shame, not much else.

To my eternal shame, I didn’t even know know Mr. Hockney is a fellow Tyke.

But this morning, if a fairy godmother had waved her magic wand and given me enough money (and ginormous walls) I would have bought every single painting there, so bowled over was I by the work of this wonderful talent.

Wandering round the galleries full of colour and happiness made me feel happy. I know I had a daft, dippy expression, smiling at people –  but then again, everyone else looked happy too, and smiled back, and chatted, so obviously I was not alone, in the feel-good stakes.

I have frequently been moved by seeing a particular masterpiece – the Madonna of the Rocks last week, for example at the Leonardo Exhibition at the National Gallery –  but never have I felt so incredibly happy at an exhibition.

And never have I felt so ridiculously proud of being a Yorkshire(wo)man.  There, I’ve said it.  True, I have never actually seen my native west Yorkshire looking as riotously colourful and vibrant as Mr. Hockney’s landscapes, but I have seen the hedgerows full of meadow sweet and hawthorn bushes that he so eloquently paints, in the countryside I remember as a child.

Favourites from amongst these amazing pictures ?

The effect of all those canvases in “The arrival of spring in Woldgate East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)” was amazing – an array of fabulous little details of grass and flowers and shadows and leaves, all contributing to a stupendous whole.

And as for those films (digital video) –  utterly glorious and I laughed out loud during the dancing, as did my neighbours in the projection room, and when Mr. Hockney appeared, brandishing a mug, lots of people applauded.

The exhibition is a delight.  An utterly delightful treat for the senses and the soul.

I am cross with myself that I have wasted so many years of my life not knowing enough about David Hockney : today I became a total and utter adoring fan.

Mr. Hockney’s talent and exuberance and mastery of so many media is impressive.  Damn it, why can’t I do such amazing things with my iPad ?

Entry to the exhibition costs £14, and you really do need to book.  I was incredibly lucky, walking by yesterday afternoon and being told I could go straight in, or choose whatever time I wanted, but I understand that booking online isn’t quite as easy.

I opted for the first time slot, 10am, when the Royal Academy opens, and by the time I left, it was getting quite crowded, so I would advise the earlier the better.

There is more merchandise in the shop than you can shake a stick at, but if you buy only one thing, let it be the catalogue.  It’s heavy, and at £29.95 it’s expensive, but it is well, well worth it.