Merry Christmas Everyone!

Have a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family! We’ll be back in the New Year with more interesting things to do and see in London.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Love Ruth & Colin

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Zucca

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15 per person
Website: http://www.zuccalondon.com
Twitter: @ZuccaSam
Rating:

Walking along the foodie’s paradise that is Bermondsey street, its hard to know where to start. Behind almost every door is a tempting restaurant, gastro pub or cafe seeking to tempt the passerby. Not that you can usually just wander in – the growing reputation of the street means its increasingly hard to get a table without a reservation.

Zucca, a modern Italian restaurant, is one place well worth making an advance booking. The decor is minimalist and fresh, while the food offers some of the finest Italian cuisine around. Perfectly cooked fish sits alongside rich ragu on the ever-changing seasonal menu – not a pizza in in sight.

The highlight of our meal (just) was the starter of crisp ‘Zucca’ fritti (deep fried winter squash)- unusual and incredibly moorish. Get a bowl for the table to share and watch them disappear!

Verdict:
Delicious Italian food, friendly service and reasonable prices (for the area). It’s a great place to go for a special occasion, or just a low key lunch if you want to sample delectable treats on offer.

Feeling Gloomy

Posted by Ruth

Where: The Phoenix, Oxford Circus, W1G
When: 2nd Friday of the month
Cost: £5 entry
Website: http://feelinggloomy.com
Twitter: @FeelingGloomy
Rating:

Going to the basement of a London pub to spend the night listening to sad songs about lost love and misery might not immediately appeal, especially in this time of Christmas cheer. However, Feeling Gloomy – a monthly club night held at the Phoenix – defies its name to be one of the most enjoyable nights out in London.

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The ‘club that brings a tear to your eye’ has recently relocated from its original home in Islington, and has lost none of the magic. Created by the infamous Leonard and Cliff, the night celebrates angst ridden indies tunes, and has established a cult following of regulars.

Far from being morose, Feeling Gloomy, is a fantastic place to dance stupidly to great music, from Belle and Sebastian and Pulp, to Wuthering Heights and Bright Eyes.

Not only is the music great, there’s also a really friendly atmosphere and complete lack of pretension.

By the end of the night you’re guaranteed to be dancing with a big group of strangers to ‘There is a light that never goes out’, singing at the top of your voice. If it’s your birthday you’ll even be treated to a chorus of ‘unhappy birthday’ and a slice of Tesco Value cake.

Verdict:
Feeling gloomy is completely unique and has a wonderfully nostalgic feel. Whether happy or sad, if you like indie music, you’re guaranteed to leave with a big smile on your smile (and slightly sore feet!).

Pizza in a Big Red London Bus

Posted by Colin

Where: Big Red Pizza, 30 Deptford Church Street, SE8
Cost: Pizzas between £6.50 and £10 per person, cocktails £6
Website: www.bigredpizza.co.uk
Twitter: @thebigredpizza
Rating:

Pizzerias are so ubiquitous these days that you’d think it would be hard to do it a little differently. Fortunately, the folks behind The Big Red in Deptford have managed just that – they’ve set themselves up in a old red London bus. The inside has been converted to provide tables around the retro brown and orange seating. The bus itself is surrounded by a modern and comfy looking terrace.

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On arrival we were shown to the front of the upstairs of the bus to seats gazing out the front window.

In a nice touch from the friendly staff, they double checked whether we were OK with these forward facing seats. We decided to start our meal off with a cocktail and plumped for a mojito each. Whilst they were tasty, they seemed to have been watered down a little to fill the glass and so ended up being a bit thin. Serving them in a smaller glass and not adding the water would have been a better move – a minor point though.

Our starter of garlic pizza bread was absolutely lovely. The pizza dough tasted fresh and perfectly cooked with a good hit of garlic. For mains we had the Flemenco (tomato, mozzarella, morcilla and chorizo) and Classic Marinara (tiger prawns, mussels, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, rocket and cherry tomatoes).

Despite loving seafood, I don’t normally go for it on a pizza – but then I don’t normally have dinner in a old London bus. I was warned by the waitress that the seafood toppings would be cold, but what I hadn’t counted on was that this would quickly cause the base and cheese to lose heat. But that was my fault and other than that the pizza was top notch.

Verdict:

Perhaps the quirkiest and most unique pizzeria in London. Delicious pizza dough that tasted wonderful and avoided the criminal offence of making the cheese on top too greasy. The staff were friendly and informative and the atmosphere inside the bus was really fun. It would be a great place to take a group of mates for either pre or post night out food. You can even hire the whole bus and it would make a cracking location for birthday celebrations.

Cutty Sark Tavern

Posted by Colin

Where: 4-6 Ballast Quay, SE10
Cost: Mains approx £10 per person
Website: www.cuttysarkse10.co.uk
Twitter: @CuttySarkPub
Rating:

I miss Summer. With the weather getting ever colder I long for the longer days when you can stroll down by the Thames without wearing countless layers. On such balmy occasions there is hardly a finer place in London to sit and watch the world go by than at the Cutty Sark Tavern slightly downstream from Greenwich.

A firm favourite of ours, we had never actually been along during the dark months of winter. So when the pub suggested via Twitter that we should come along and try their new venison pie, how could we resist?

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Whilst we normally sit outside in the summer, winter brings a chance to soak in the beautiful dark wood interior.

Sitting upstairs also allows you to gaze out of the window across the water in the same way you can from the benches outside.

We decided to go for two starters to split between us: salt & pepper squid, coriander, chilli & lime along with Gressingham smoked duck, heritage beetroot, walnuts and watercress. The starters were nice enough, but didn’t set the world on fire.

However, our mains of venison pie were divine. They came out in their own individuals pots complete with lids. Lifting the lid revealed a gorgeous shepherd’s pie but with venison mince instead of lamb. The potato was creamy and smooth and the venison the perfect hearty antedote to the winter blues.

I am pretty sure there were even little bits of dark chocolate hidden amongst the filling. My only criticism was that it was a little over seasoned, with the pepper taste a tad too strong.

Verdict:

A pub for all seasons. In summer make sure you’re there to sip a cool glass of wine as the sun sets behind Canary Wharf. In the winter move inside to take advantage of the beautiful Georgian interior and their hearty selection of beautifully cooked fare.

The Deptford Murals – Part 2

Posted by Ruth

Earlier in the week Colin posted Part One of our Deptford Mural tour, after coming across the London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), an organisation seeking to protect London’s fantastic murals. Here I’ll tell you about two more of the murals we came across in Deptford.

Partially hidden by a row of council bins, the third mural we saw looked a little shabby to begin with. However, on closer inspection the ‘Pink Palace’ mural has a wealth of interesting detail.

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Created in 1983 by a group of artists and local residents, the mural is the pink facade of a house, with images of cherubs framing the top of the building.

It is these cherubs that provide the intrigue. Far from angelic, these creatures are pictured as swigging gin, another reading the Beano, and a third posing as ‘Mr Universe’. For this reason this mural was absolutely my favourite.

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The final, and largest mural, named ‘Love Over Gold’, was painted in 1989. It was commissioned by Dire Straits (who grew up in the area).

The creation of the mural, led by Gary Drostle, involved local primary school children. It depicts issues relating to wealth, disability and equality, and includes an especially moving poem written by a 9 year old child, depicting the “tall tower blocks, cold and grey” in the area.

These murals are important, not only because they add vibrancy to the area, both also because they distil messages of struggle, warmth and humour into the streets of Deptford.

Candlelit vigil at Cross Bones Burial Ground

Posted by Ruth

Where: Redcross Way, SE1
Website: www.crossbones.org.uk

Many of us are keen to be remembered after we’ve gone – regardless of the life we’ve led, whether we were rich or poor, achieved great things or not. Sadly, most of us (in a few generations time) will not be, and there are many that were forgotten even in their own time. A candlelit vigil held at Cross Bones cemetery on the 23rd of every month seeks to redress this.

The gates of Crossbones taken by us during a daytime visit

The gates of Cross Bones taken by us during a daytime visit

Cross Bones is a disused burial ground, originally established as an unconsecrated graveyard for “single women” – the prostitutes licensed by the Church to work in Bankside, but not permitted a Christian burial.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, but the site was written about by John Stow in 1598.

Later it became a pauper’s cemetery, eventually housing approximately 15,000 burials, before closing in 1853 due to public health risk.

The land was subsequently sold, and was all but forgotten until numerous skeletons were unearthed during the extension of the Jubilee Line in the 1990s.

The gates of Cross Bones are now adorned with flowers, ribbons and trinkets, creating a beautiful and meaningful memorial. Led by local writer John Constable, the Friends of Cross Bones hold this monthly vigil, for people from all walks of life to gather and remember society’s outcast dead.

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Far from being a macabre affair, the vigil was inspiring and moving, with strangers huddled together listening to local performers sing and recite poetry (including two odes penned by a young girl).

John Constable recounted a poem gifted to him 16 years ago by the spirit of the ‘Winchester Goose’ (one of the prostitutes allegedly buried at Cross Bones). The vigil ended with a collective non-denominational prayer, and an offering of gin – likely to be one of the few comforts to the Cross Bones residents in their lifetime.

The site is now owned by Transport for London and the Friends of Cross Bones are currently campaigning for there to be a permanent memorial garden to mark the site. Given the level of development in London Bridge that is no easy task, but an imperative one. For Cross Bones is as important a place as any of London’s gilded Victorian cemeteries, and an important place to remember those on the periphery of society – both in the past and present.

You can find a link to the Friends of Cross Bones’s petition to protect the site here

The First Couple of London Bridge

Posted by Colin

Couple1 Living in London Bridge, I’ve often seen this sculpture of a man standing on his plinth, surveying the scene of tourists and office workers hurrying around the shops and cafes of More London.

But often being one of those hurrying past I’ve never stopped to look at the plaque on the floor which reveals the name of this work: Couple. Now obviously that implies more than one person, but I’d only ever seen a man.

Intrigued, I actually took the time to have a bit of a look around and his partner had been there all along, I was just in too much of a rush to notice.

Unromantically she stands on the top of the public toilets. Despite her unglamourous footing, she has an amazing view of the Shard in front of her and, having been put there in 2003, she must have had a front row seat to watch London’s tallest building increasingly tower over her. If only she could turn round she’d also be able see Tower Bridge in the distance.

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This enchanting couple are carved out of wood and are the work of Stephan Balkenhol and the more I look at them the more I like them. If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hello.

The Deptford Murals – Part 1

Posted by Colin

Over the past few weeks we have been digging around on Twitter in an attempt to unearth some more unheralded parts of the Capital. In doing so we came across London Mural Preservation Society (@L_MPS), whose aim it is to protect and celebrate these large works of art.

The handy map on their website showed us that four were to be found all within walking distance of each other in Deptford, South East London. Wanting to go Christmas shopping in Greenwich Market anyway, we took the opportunity for a quick tour. I’ll mention two of them here and Ruth will wrap things up in a later post.

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We first came across one of the newest additions to London’s mural scene – the Deptford Marbles at 494 New Cross Road.

At 9 metres x 4 metres, it covers an entire wall at the end of a small row of shops.

What is particularly clever about the piece is that it incorporates three large beams that were already attached to wall, seamlessly making them look a deliberate addition to the work. Painted in 2007 by Patricio Forrester, the mural envelops passers by making them seem part of the scene.

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A short walk along the always vibrant Deptford High Street, with its market stalls, fishmongers and butchers, brought us to another Forrester artwork – His and Hers on Giffin Square.

A surreal effort, he has transformed two chimneys into a couple with a necklace and tie hanging from a pair of chimneys. With a shocking pink background it is an unmistakable part of the bustling retail precinct.

According to the LMPS website, the necklace and tie took just one day to paint – at cost of £150 – thanks to donations from local businesses.

Ruth will pick up the story soon, but we’ll definitely be searching out a few more of these pieces of street art from the LMPS’s wonderful map.

Read Part Two

St Ethelburga’s Church

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bishopsgate, EC2
Website: http://stethelburgas.org
Twitter: @StEthelburgas

A calming atmosphere and sense of tranquility is not something one expects to find in the City of London. More typical is the rush of the business ecosystem, keeping the area pumping with suits and wealth. However, if you search them out there are hidden gems dotted about the Square Mile, offering a different experience in this infamous area.

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St Ethelburga’s is one such place. With the Gherkin towering in the near-distance, the City of London’s smallest church stands proudly within this concrete landscape. Built in approximately 1250, this little church has experienced its fair share of difficulty. Having just survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, this plucky church was hit again in the 1993 IRA Bishopgate bombing, suffering significant damage.

The church was subsequently rebuilt, and has reinvented itself as a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, aiming to unite people of different faiths, and build relationships across conflict lines and cultural divides. It houses an interfaith tent – a place to pray and reflect on the commonality of our humanity – something which seems particularly appropriate in this spot.