Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘London’

It’s been at least a month since I last left the country.

My feet are getting itchy. Here are another ten of my favourite travel quotes…

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux

 “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson  

 

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”  Lao Tzu      

“The journey, not the arrival matters.” TS Eliot

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than in miles.” Tim Cahill

 

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Mark Twain

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

 

 

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” Paul Theroux

A wise traveller never despises his own country.” Carlo Goldoni

Photos ©Ianthe Butt 2012

Read Full Post »

The last few weeks

have seen a multitude of giant eggs

popping up in the streets

of London.

Each intricately designed and created by artists

from around the globe,

the eggs have been pEpPeRed across the city,

and seen 

Londoners hunting HiGh and low across the capital

on this art installation-meets- Easter Egg hunt adventure created by Fabergé…

Nowfor a final hurrah before the eggs are auctioned off for charity you no longer have to search for them.

Till the end of Monday 9th April (tomorrow!)  they have been gathered together in Covent Garden Piazza for The Grand Eggstavaganza…

Please note, the title was Faberge’s choice not mine,  I’ve received enough ‘eggsciting’ Easter press releases in the last few weeks to near on make me crack.
Wander, hunt,
enjoy and marvel at these beautiful pieces while you can.


Pick a favourite, it’s tough to choose just one..

Pictured are a few which I felt summed up British quirkiness and fun,

and others which were just so downright beautiful I couldn’t help but

include them…


Pop down and take a look for yourself,

 

and if you see one you like bid for it here.

Proceeds go to Elephant Family & Action for Children.

©Ianthe Butt 2012

words/photos

Read more and view all the eggs at The Big Egg Hunt Website.

Read Full Post »

Chubby is the new chic. Rounded tummies are in. Toned is so last season. 

Sadly it’s unlikely these headlines will be gracing the front pages anytime soon. Now in my mid-to-late twenties I’ve kissed goodbye to having a flat stomach , if I’m brutally honest I’m not sure I ever had one. When faced with the hungry vs vanity conundrum my appetite  always triumphs.

I like cake. And I don’t like sit ups. 

Instead of beating said midriff into submission it was high time to indulge in an activity which embraces, pays homage even, to the belly.

Down a rabbit warren of shabby corridors a crowd of sLeNdEr-lEgGed girls with BalLet BuNs, trendy students and a handful of older women in bAgGy t-shirts and tracksuits are congregated outside one of Dance Attic’s studio rooms.

Three sparse walls plus one lined ceiling to floor with mirrors, this room is all about you.

Until, that is, instructor Isa Randle sashays into the room and puts on a CD of Arabian music.

With hips in sync to the rapid drum beat, undulating as her arms spiral upwards, she is captivating.

The atmosphere feeling more like a heady Moroccan market than faded Fulham, the warm up begins.  Gentle head rolling and toe touches are followed by floor exercises where backs are aRcHed in cobra-like positions.

Feeling suitably stretched first come hip drops, which involve placing one foot on tiptoe and bending the leg before moving the hip up and down. Fluidity of movement is important as otherwise it can look  jErkY and uNnaTuRal. 

One of the skills necessary to master belly dancing is the art of subtlety.

“Less is sometimes more” says Isa, “you can make a big impact with just a small measured movement.”

Accessories also help: if you are wearing a coin belt or tassled skirt it follows your body creating the illusion of a bigger sway.

Whilst staring intently at my reflection in the mirror a twentysomething year old Australian who is here with a friend smiles reassuringly.

“Don’t worry,” she says, “this is only our third week. Even if you can’t do it properly it’s great for a giggle.”

Isa moves on to arm placement making sure they are held in a y-shaped candelabra position away from the body (think Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast). Faces must not be blocked as “visible sultry glances and a confident smile are as alluring to your audience as the body.”

Seen by most people in the West as a purely seductive dance, belly dancing in fact started out as a fertility dance in praise of Mother Earth. 

Thousands of years ago across the Middle East women used to dance to each other in the hope of increasing their childbearing abilities, hence the revered status of the rounded tummy. Some of the gyrations are said to mimic having sex, and others childbirth contractions.

In spite of never having been pregnant Isa  tells me to feign morning sickness.

“Imagine you’re vomiting, really vomiting. You’re hunched over and a wave of sickness goes through the top half of your chest and then let it fall down.”

Apparently this bizarre instruction allowed a previous student to understand the next move: a roll and drop. Flummoxed, I tuck my bum in and attempt to send a wave of nausea through my upper torso. Clearly I don’t vomit elegantly and about thirty tries later with aching chest muscles I accept cannot master this move.

Piecing together the sultry hip drops with footsteps across the room, followed by a twirl and the roll and drop a mini-routine takes shape. Praise is poured on us if we get things right and Isa gives individual attention to those who are struggling. While feeling I monopolise her time, the other girls say she always focuses on new starters to make sure they don’t get left behind.

Personal touches such as winking are recommended and we’re shown extra details like cupping a hand round an ear before extending the arm out and repeating on the opposite side

Apparently in ancient times, before amplifiers existed, this gesture signified that the dancers were enjoying the song and wanted it played louder.

One by one we demonstrate the short sequence in front of the mirrors.

Despite not getting the moves exactly right, the atmosphere is relaxed enough for it not to be awkward and I feel I’ve done a fair amount of exercise when the hour is up.

The fact that 50 per cent of any muscle toning achieved has definitely occurred thanks to giggling at the back with the Australian girls doesn’t bother me a bit.

A laughter workout with people who want to grab a slice of cake with you afterwards suits me just fine, after all, chubby is the new chic…

 

Article ©Ianthe Butt 2012

Get involved: Beginners’ belly dance classes with Isa Randle run on Monday nights 7.30-8.30 pm at Dance Attic Studios SW6 1LY 
Cost: £6 class fee + £2 extra to Dance Attic for non-members
Contact: 020 7610 2055 / Dance Attic Website

Read Full Post »

“It’s really best if you come and experience the house first hand,”

I was told when I tried to find out more about what happened behind the door at 18 Folgate Street.

CuRiOsItY got the better of me. Before I knew it I was waiting outside a black door, red shuttered windows and burning lamp in London’s East End, wondering what would happen next…

The premise of the house, still life art created by Dennis Severs (1948-1999), is that when you enter the house you disturb a family of Huguenot silk weavers.

Always just in earshot but just out of sight,

the ten rooms in this house all reflect certain periods and accompanying feelings between 1724-1914 and are designed to capture your imagination and transport you back in time.

The motto of the house is either you see it or you don’t.

CuRiOuSeR and cUrIoUsEr.

As the door opens I’m half expecting to topple down the rabbit hole once I get inside. We’re told which rooms to head to first – downstairs, darkened, lit with flickering candles, cake is left cut on the table and a clock ticks in the corner – or did I imagine it?

The air smells of spices. I feel like an awkward intruder, and don’t quite know where to look.

We’ve been told the house is best experienced in silence, unfortunately most people ignore this and the atmosphere is bRoKeN every time a loud cHoRtLe and mobile phones persistently trill into the air. It is a shame.

On to the eating parlour, the walls adorned with portraits whose eyes seem to follow you no matter where you stand.

The air is thick with spices.

I’m not sure if I feel something OR nothing.

In the midst of looking at perfume bottles, ornate furniture and hearing voices in the distance, the rooms are peppered with notes, which tell you perhaps you aren’t ‘seeing’, but still ‘looking’.

I found this a disconcerting – being told to do or feel a certain thing  almost universally forces me to feel the opposite of the intended reaction. Makes me  feel I’m ‘looking’ rather than ‘seeing’ more than ever.

As you ascend up the floors the decor becomes a little simpler, the atmosphere a little lighter.

It’s worth making the effort to hold back and try to experience each room when only one or two other people are in there, or even better alone. #

In one room you step into the scene of the painting which hangs on the wall.

There’s been a fight – a toppled chair and wine glass left mid spill. Bizarrely in this room, more than any other,

I feel entirely and inexplicably moved.

The top floor speaks of harder times…

An uNmAde bed, less lavish surroundings.

Nightgowns billow on a washing line.

It feels alive but not eerie.

Wending my way back to street level, past Baroque furniture, faded calligraphy on tea-stained paper and the

tick-tick-tick of an antique clock

I leave.

Have I understood Severs’ game or missed the point entirely?

Probably a bit of both.

Whether you see and feel something or nothing, this is a special experience that will certainly leave you wondering…

Tip: Try to go when it’s not too busy and wait for the chatterboxes to leave the room before taking it in.

A visit costs £7-14 dependent on day/time and usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour (18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London, E16BX). For more details see the Dennis Severs’ House website/ phone 0207 247 4013

Disclosure: visit courtesy of DSH

©Ianthe Butt 2012

photos/Roelof Bakker

Read Full Post »

Who is Lisa Hannigan?

I found myself asking when offered a last minute ticket. The PR spiel described her as ‘the next Adele, and ‘one to watch in 2012.’

When you receive circa 200 emails daily which  wAx LyRiCaL about the next big product/star/band, you take  descriptions with a pInCh of SaLt (read: bowlful).

A quick Google  tells me Hannigan is  behind that haunting female voice on many of Damien Rice‘s tracks including the album O, which I love and 9 Crimes, the standout song on 9.

I’m sold.

Turns out Rice and Hannigan parted ways  in 2007, with Rice stating that their professional relationship had ‘run its creative course’ and it later emerging the two had been RoMaNtIcALLy involved and that was in fact the relationship which had broken down.

Fingers are pointed at both parties,some pieces stating Rice sacked her half an hour before  a gig in Munich others saying she walked out.

Luckily for Hannigan the number of  articles praising her vocals eclipse those about her personal life.

With a Mercury nomination for  2008’s Sea Sew, and a recent performance on Jay Leno under her belt, Hannigan is touring in wake of the release of this October’s Passenger, her second solo effort.

“I’m quite glad they’ve gone”

she says, after a couple of songs when the front row photographers are ushered away

“they had quite a gynacological view from there.”

In a bright red dress, her awkward but energetic dance movements and nervous energy jar curiously with the voice which tangles its way from her mouth.

JoLtEd FeEt-StAmPiNg contrasts with soft, lilting melodies, 

violent-hair tossing versus songbird warbling, which has more than a twang of Joanna Newsom to it.

In under two hours she manages to plays EIGHT (I think but couldn’t swear by it) different instruments.

Accordion, banjo, even (a somewhat token) glockenspiel and thoroughly seduces the audience with her singing.  

Firmly under the thumb, they are stunned into silence when songs command it, and spontaneously break into applause at points when they can’t contain their appreciation.

She is talented without arrogance, she has a qUiRkY-girlish air about her which is innocent and endearing.

Past the rolling folky Jewel-like notes and  hints of Kate Nash what strikes me is how much of a wordsmith Hannigan is: fun words like kettle,stumble and balloon roll off her tongue with an infectious childish enthusiasm.

She compares a relationship to a Venn Diagram. 

That’s not to say that her music is flippant.  Although some tracks are lighthearted – the night ended with a bizarre rendition of  a song of which the main refrain was…

‘Safe travels, don’t die’,

and the crowd were practically on their feet chanting  during I Don’t Know – but many are haunting with her saccharine voice  coating sharp words, poignantly delivered…

” When the time comes, and rights have been read, I think of you often but for once I meant what I said.”

Who is Lisa Hannigan?

I’ll tell you:  A folksy, awkward bundle of energy, full of suprises.

Her music will make you… crack a smile, send you into a soporific daze, maybe even make you cry.

Adele – absolutely not. One to watch? Definitely…

©Ianthe Butt 2011

photo/Helena Lee

photo/Helena Lee

Read Full Post »

After losing my vegetarian restaurant virginity at Vanilla Black a few weeks back, it appears I’m embracing veggie dining.

So too is high-end Malaysian restaurant Awana, in Sloane Avenue:  ordinarily it serves a  huge range of Malay delights including meaty stir-fries, street-food style noodles and chunky peanut laden satay sticks to keep a committed carnivore, vegetarian or even vegan  happy.

For two weeks’ this month , AWANA is running a vegetarian festival and offering a special selection of dishes for the vegetable-inclined among us.

We perch on low leather stools and indulge in Awana’s signature cocktail

the Hibiscus.

DeCaDeNt,sweet champagne tinged pink by an edible hibiscus flower 

which unfurls in the gentle bubbles

at the bottom of the glass…

Our table is in the corner, giving us a good view of the open satay bar where roti is kneaded and stretched into thin pancakes. Low lit, with wooden slatted partition walls, pink and yellow ceiling lights give Awana a radiant glow and a touch of funkiness to the atmosphere.

First to arrive are Popiah Tohu dan Cendawan, a twist on traditional spring rolls served with vinaigrette sauce.

Lightly battered, stuffed with tofu, enoki mushrooms and  a sugar snap in the middle. This made for a refreshing and satisfying crunch tempered well by the slightly acidic dipping sauce. Having spent a fair amount of time in South-East Asia There is no doubt I am somewhat of a roti snob.

It can’t be too greasy, or overcooked. Whatever the roti is flavoured with shouldn’t be overpowering and must compliment the dipping sauce it’s served with. 

Torn between GaRLiC stuffed and rosemary & sage rotis, invevitably  both were ordered.

Sweet red curry sauce. Crispy crunchy squares of goodness.

There is nothing more to say:  I’ve not tasted roti this delicious since I was in the Cameron Highlands

The roti was always going to be a tough act to follow, so the Tohu Bakar was already at a disadvantage when it arrived.

I’m not a massive tofu fan, but was pleasantly susprised by this dish –

tofu wrapped  tenderly in a bAnAnA leaf

served with a tomato-y, shitake-y and button mushroom sauce.

A wee bit heavy on the tofu and not quite enough sauce for my liking,

but not bad at all.Three mains are on offer, the first is Cedawan Goreng – a mushroom and vegetable stir fry with kung po sauce

 Fungi-phobes should steer well clear of this one as

combining button, shitake and oYsTer mushrooms with a kick of chilli,

this has an intense, rather than subtle mushroom flavour.

 For a lighter option choose the Sup Sayaran

broth packed with glass noodles, tofu, pak choi and lots of healthy vegetables,

Great for cleansing the  palate after such a smorgasbord of  flavours.

It’s a case of ‘third time’s the charm’ on the mains, when the Kari Terong arrives. 

Blended pumpkin and aubergine curry

scattered with chickpeas

and lashings of coconut cream…

DiViNe. 

If you can only choose one main – it HAS to be this.

My tastebuds thus far have been tantalised

Through nice and spicy to dreamy and creamy

I can’t even think about dessert.

Manager Andy recommends us a roti tissue. I have no idea what this is, but it sounds less than appetising.

If I came away from Awana learning only one thing it would be:

NEVER,

EVER

judge a dessert

by its name…

A huge bowl shaped roti appears before us.

dusted with cinammon and vanilla sugar

it smells like Christmas,or heaven,or both.

There’s a hole cut in the bottom and the roti is suspended over several scoops of cinammon ice cream.

Andy pours rivers of chocolate sauce over the roti,

it spirals down the inside, causing a Willy-Wonka esque waterfall of chocolate to flow over the ice cream.

A fabulous flourish to end a delicious meal. 

The vegetarian festival runs until October 16th, the to-die-for roti (both savoury and sweet) however – are available year round!

©Ianthe Butt 2011

Awana  85 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea SW3 3DX

020 7584 8880


Read Full Post »

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’ve been veggie for 21 years and recently came to the realisation that in those 21 years I’ve eaten at restaurants across the globe,  attempted to eat at a Steak House (don’t ask) but OnE thing I’ve never done is visit a VeGeTaRiAn ReStAuRaNt.

To say a veggie-friendly menu was overdue would be an understatement.

Vegephiles flock to unassuming Vanilla Black near Chancery Lane. Tucked away in quiet  Tooks Court you could miss it if you didn’t know you were looking for it. The decor is similarly understated, simple with occasional vintage touches like an old phone perched on a shelf.

Taking a seat at a table in my first vegetarian restaurant how did I feel? Honestly? Overwhelmed… usually I don’t have much choice on the menu. I’ve eaten more mushroom risottos than  bears thinking about. The first thing to arrive, was a curious looking dish which turned out to be a tomato and strawberry shot with toasted black pepper Turkish delight. The shot was bursting with flavour and a real contrast to the grainy and savoury Turkish Delight.      

One thing I love about my friends is that they are little-bit’o-this sharey type diners – with very different tastes meaning I get to try LOTS of dishes.

The brie ice cream and rhubarb chutney with baked gingerbread and toasted hazelnut

sounds like it might be found at a culinary confusion party –BUT

bizarrely  it works …deliciously creamy savoury ice cream sprinkled with crunchy sweetness.

Cheese disguised as a dessert?

Winner.

Also on offer to start was a chilled two-hour poached duck egg nestled on a bed  of whipped spinach

with CrIsPy bread and greens –  a bit like a posh Eggs Florentine…

An interesting and tasty take on a real classic.

Ever heard of Salt’n’Vinegar Gel…? That’s what I thought.

Said gel is served in another starter option with feta, shaved vegetable and lemon oil. Looking like a posy of flowers, bright purple and green vegetables are tossed with feta while dabs of the gel are placed round the edge. The crispiness of the vegetables against the sharper Salt’n’Vinegar gel, citrus flavours and tangy feta is a triumph.

Little Miss Muffet would be impressed by this pimped version of her favourite breakfast treat:beetroot, curds, whey and baked porridge oats.

Fruity, herby – another sweet meets savoury success.

Every starter was exciting and I’d happily eat them all again – the brie ice cream and the poached egg being my personal favourites.

The mains and some reasonably priced red wine arrived: a poached organic hen egg with Ribbesdale Pudding (a cheesey pudding a little bit like a souffle),  a hickory smoked potato and pineapple pickle. I loved the thought behind this dish but wasn’t a massive fan of the fruity-smoky combo – the egg however was poached to perfection.

Other delights were the fried mushroom mousse with tarragon waffles.

Avoid the fennel if you aren’t a fan of strong flavours – but do give it a go –

this dish was loved by a friend who doesn’t even usually touch vegetables.

Also on offer were

a tomato and marjoram tart

with frozen sweetcorn,

MiNt & YoGhUrT curd,

foraged sea aster

&

Heritage potatoes


A goats’ cheese chantilly

with wilted spinach

cAuLiFlOwEr,

potato,

a block of

peanut nougat

& 

refreshing apple coleslaw.

Despite  a Yorkshire Gouda and ale bread with salted caramel powder and raisins and a Valrhona chocolate tart with whipped cherry beer  on offer for dessert, we couldn’t fit them in. Despite the small portions  they are perfectly filling – leaving you pleasantly full rather than over-stuffed.

Vanilla Black was a breath of fresh air for me, challenging  the sterotype of boring vegetarian food.

Their experimental dishes are innovative yet don’t put cleverness before taste.

One friend, a dedicated carnivore with a passionate dislike of vegetables  told me she would come back.

With such delicious food I was suprised it wasn’t busier – the only criticism (tiny) I have is that it’s almost as though Vanilla Black could  create a slightly warmer atmosphere  as the minimalist interior feels at

odds with the bright, forward-thinking food.

That said, when the food tastes this good, they can get away with it.

Overall a fun and fabulous evening with not a mushroom risotto in sight.
 
 


 

©Ianthe Butt 2011


Vanilla Black 17- 18 Tooks Court, London, EC4A 1LB  020 7242  2622

Available for Lunch and Dinner: Monday to Friday, 12:00 to 2:30pm & 6:00 to 10:00pm (excluding bank holidays) Saturday, 6:00 to 10:00pm Two Courses      £24.50 Three Courses   £32.50

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »