Museum of Childhood

Where: Museum of Childhood, E2
When: 19/02/2012 (everyday 10:00 – 17:45)
Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/
Price: Free
Rating:

Being a grown up can be a tough business. If you’ve ever pined for the good-old days of a world without jobs, mortgages and bank statements, then it’s well worth spending an hour or two at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

A small museum, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, you’ll find many memories on display. Sega Megadrives, Amstrad computers and tamagotchis were just some of the exhibits that had me reminiscing about my youth. You’ll also find an impressive assortment of dolls, action figures, puppets and rocking horses. Not to mention their very own working model train set housed in a large glass case.

They even have toys dating back as far as the 1600s.

Verdict: Well worth a trip to spend a lazy or wet afternoon having a look around – an hour should be enough to see everything. They also have a small shop with a great collection of kids’ books and toys. Ruth picked up a couple of cool birthday presents for her niece and nephew.

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Vapiano Pizza Restaurant

Where: Great Portland Street, W1
When: 22/02/12 (open everyday)
Website: http://www.vapiano.de/frame.php?lang=uk
Price: £6 – £9 for a pizza.
Rating:

As you enter Vapiano it’s a busy, noisy, bustling space, not unlike nearby Oxford Street , and very befitting of its location. For confused newcomers a member of staff will quickly spot you and explain the unusual ordering process. You are given a card which you use to order your drinks and food and then pay for everything at the end on your way out. On placing your order at either the pasta or pizza bar, your meal is prepared fresh. You can either stay and wait or return to your table to be buzzed when the food is ready for you to collect. The lack of at table service may be off-putting for some, and those looking for a formal dining experience are unlikely to be wowed. However, the informality creates a fun atmosphere and rather than feeling like a gimmick it actually helps speed up the ordering process, leaving you to enjoy your meal.

The menu has a variety of interesting dishes, including my favourite- the parma ham, honey and fig pizza, with a thin, crisp base and high quality fresh ingredients. Each table has a middle section with chilli oil and basil and rosemary plants so you can customise your dish to your liking. These little touches are great, and contribute to a far superior experience than other generic pizza places. In fact, the pizzas are the best I’ve had in London, and so despite having visited a couple of times I’m still to try the pasta. The desserts are also delicious with rich chocolate cake, tiramisu and cheesecake to temp you. The house wine, at just £11.95 is surprisingly good.

Verdict:

If you are looking for an informal place to meet friends for lunch or dinner, after shopping or at the start of the night, Vapiano is perfect. Great food, a relaxed atmosphere and fantastic value for money; what’s not to like?

Hide Bar

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
When: 14/02/12
Website: http://www.thehidebar.com/
Price: £7 – £8 a cocktail
Rating:

Hide by name, hide by nature – at least that’s what our drinks did for nearly half an hour at this Bermondsey Street cocktail bar. Having just moved into the area, Ruth and I were keen to explore “The Street” and took the opportunity to pop round the corner for a cocktail after our Valentine’s meal in.

Upon arrival we were shown to a table towards the butterfly wallpapered back area of the bar. After a few minutes of deliberation, I went up to the bar to order our cocktails. I was asked where I was sitting and told that the drinks would be brought over. Almost fifteen drinkless minutes later, we grabbed a waiter and said our drinks hadn’t arrived yet. He went to look into it. Ten minutes later, still no drinks (or waiter). Ruth went to see what was happening and a few minutes later a third waiter returned to our table to inform us our drink order had been lost and we were asked to order again. No apology – just a matter-of-fact sense of ambivalence towards us.

When the drinks finally arrived, around half an hour after we’d initially ordered them, they came without any kind of regret or apology for the wait. I’d love to say that it was because it was Valentine’s and they were heaving, but the bar wasn’t overly crowded – they must see more people on a Friday night.

The sorry state of the service was a shame because the belated drinks were actually pretty good. I had the Eagle Sling – Eagle Rare single barrel Kentucky Bourbon, Galliano Authentico, orange and lemon zests, stirred and topped with Canada Dry ginger ale. Ruth plumped for the Passionate Englishman – Hendrick’s Gin stirred with passion fruit purée, lemon and sugar. But by that time the shine had been taken off the experience and, rather than try something else from the extensive menu, we went home. On asking for the bill at the bar it came back with someone else’s drinks on, just to compound our sense of their incompetence. We got them removed, settled the bill and left.

Verdict:

Nice drinks, shocking service. Perhaps they were having an off night. We were really excited about having such an extensive menu of cocktails – some of which are Hide originals – a five minute walk from our new front door. With it being so close, we’ll probably try it again and report back. But don’t hold your breath.

Cantina del Ponte Restaurant

Where: Shad Thames SE1
When: Every day
Website: http://www.cantinadelponte.co.uk
Price: £35 per person (2 courses and wine)
Rating:

The thought of relaxing with a glass (or three) of crisp Italian wine and the promise of delectable culinary delights helped us through the horror that is… moving house. After exhausting our ability to negotiate with flat pack furniture, and London traffic, we treated Colin’s parents to a meal at Cantina del Ponte – an Italian restaurant overlooking the River (and a 10 minute walk from our new flat). Having eaten here in the outdoor area last Summer, we knew the food was great, but on this visit I was particularly impressed with the indoor ambience. It feels special and the staff are professional, without being stuffy or overbearing. It also avoids the tourist trappings one might expect from the area, being reasonably priced with an interesting range of dishes (those looking for pizzas and associated standard fare will be disappointed).

We made life very easy for the kitchen, with three of us choosing Goats Cheese for starter and Seafood Spaghetti for main. The Goats Cheese was served with focaccia bread and chilli jam; I could have happily eaten this twice. However the cheese would have benefited from being slightly warmer. For seafood lovers the spaghetti is a real treat: a large metal dish delivering sweet prawns and mussels, tender squid and baby octopus in a velvety tomato sauce. It was exactly what was needed to revive our weary bodies. To accompany our meal we drank a Madergale Bianco which perfectly complimented our food. This is also served in carafes – a nice touch.

Verdict
Cantina del Ponte is a great choice if you are looking for delicious Italian food on the river, and a visit is highly recommended. It’s also great in the Summer, when you can sit outside and watch the world go by.