Search This Blog

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Whoopi's back in the habit: Sister Act the musical

The Sister Act box office has experienced soaring sales over the last few weeks... everyone is trying to get their hands on the precious tickets to see Whoopi Goldberg back in the habit. In 1992 Whoopi made the original film ‘Sister Act’ famous with her hilarious portrayal of Deloris Van Cartier. She returns to the show as Mother Superior, with these twenty-three exclusive performances marking Whoopi’s West End debut.

Whoopi Goldberg is among the best known performers in the world, and one of the very few to have been awarded an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy. She has had success in every dramatic field and interestingly, for me, was the producer of the original Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, the musical in 2002. She is also one of the producers of Sister Act the musical, making her completely involved in the show.

Sister Act opened in London’s West End last May, and has already been nominated for many prestigious awards. The principal cast includes Ako Mitchell as Eddie, Katie Rowley Jones as Sister Mary Robert, Claire Greenway as Sister Mary Patrick, Jacqueline Clarke as Sister Mary Lazarus, Nicholas Colicos as Bones, Thomas Goodridge as TJ and Ivan De Freitas as Dinero. Before Whoopi graced the London Palladium it was the wonderful Sheila Hancock who took on the role of Mother Superior.

It was amazing enough just to have Whoopi on stage in front of me, but her performance excelled all my expectations. Her interaction with the audience was so relaxed for a celebrity of her calibre. She was the first cast member onstage and had to gesture charmingly to the screaming audience to quieten down so she could begin the show.

Patina Miller was thrilling as the young Deloris. She bounced around with infectious energy and naturally played the part of rebel to role model perfectly. Understudy Julian Cannonier took on the role of baddie Shank for the night, his acting was good, singing mediocre, and I couldn’t help thinking his time on stage was not as exciting as the glorious group of singing nuns. In my opinion the vocal star of the night was Ako Mitchell as the young, awkward Eddie, whose voice I can best describe as melted chocolate – perfectly controlled with a delicious tone. I also really enjoyed Katie Rowley Jones’ performance as Sister Mary Robert.

This is a feel-good musical. The story is satisfying and the music (by Alan Menken) is very enjoyable. It has nothing spectacular about it, like some of the other current West End shows, and yet seems to appeal to audiences unlike any other. When the curtain call came I looked round from my front row seat to see the whole, massive auditorium on their feet, quite a sight. What is it, I wondered, that makes Sister Act so popular? Perhaps it is the likeable characters, or the fact that it is an adaptation of an already hugely successful film. I came to the conclusion that Sister Act is a show the standard audience member can relate too; it is not a fairytale, nor a tragedy, nor even a great love story. It portrays a world that is not perfect and is enjoyable because it is believable.

When I think of Sister Act, I think of Whoopi, so to see her on stage in the musical production was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 14

It is always a challenge to find a scent that suits you. When getting ready to go out with your friends it is easy to become attached to those popular perfumes that all girls wear: Daisy by Marc Jacobs or Chloe by Chloe perfume. These are beautiful fragrances, but it is much more fun to have your own special scent that is different from anyone else.

May I introduce you to Annick Goutal, an extraordinary Perfumery House from Paris. Yet again it seems I am attracted to someone who has a lot in common with me. As a young French girl, Annick Goutal was a keen musician, and rebelled against her almost inevitable career as a pianist. She came across a perfumer from Grasse, a renowned town near Nice in the South of France, and this is where she discovered her talent for creating fragrances. Sadly Annick Goutal passed away in 1999, but today her work is continued by her daughter, Camille.

I was first introduced to Annick Goutal four years ago when my mum gave me a bottle of the Petite Cherie for my 18th birthday. Fresh and carefree it is the ideal scent for a young girl. This scent was created by Annick specifically with Camille in mind. It is light-wearing and so natural that it could appeal to women of all ages. The scent smells primarily of a sweet, but not sickly pear, floral and fruity. Other delicate hints of peach, rose, vanilla and cut grass can also be discerned. Petite Cherie - Eau de Toilette is on sale in Space NK for £51 (100ml).

Eau de Camille is another beautiful perfume from Annick Goutal, a scent requested by her daughter who wanted to smell as good as the garden. This scent is innocent and playful with suggestions of ivy, honeysuckle and privet tree.

See Annick Goutal website here.

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies - Does the sequel succeed?

Phantom of the Opera premiered in London on 9 October 1986, and is now one of the world’s favourite musicals. The creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh originally conceived the idea as a tongue-in-cheek farce, and so the overwhelming success was quite unexpected. Nearly 35 years on and Lloyd Webber introduces us to ‘Love Never Dies’ the sequel production to Phantom. Earlier this week I went to see both shows on consecutive nights to see if they warrant all the hype and to decide if Love Never Dies lives up to the legend that is Phantom of the Opera.

As a music and drama graduate I will be honest that I am cynical about Lloyd Webber’s music, but none can deny the accessibility of this composer’s work bringing the musical to the masses. Phantom impressed me and definitely exceeded my expectations - a talented cast, grand set and costumes and exciting technical stunts make it visually magical. Phantom has many operatic qualities, including an orchestral power, a sense of luxury and a true classical style of singing from some of the lead roles. The huge success of the show is due to the hit songs that thread through the action. I recognised the numbers: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’, and this made me feel instantly involved in the narrative.

Love Never Dies is an epic show. The story is mostly coherent; the music is just about bearable at times. The only aspect that excels for me is the spectacular circus scenes and clever use of projectors and lighting. This show is set in America, and so loses all the classic European elegance that Phantom displays, and sadly the operatic idea is mostly gone too, replaced by a garish psychedelic circus show. If you go to the theatre to see a spectacle then I can recommend Love Never Dies but for me the plot and music are far fetched and uninspiring.

So it seems the sequel has failed again. Without its popular predecessor I doubt Love Never Dies would be attracting large audiences. However one thing is for certain; The Phantom of the Opera deserves its status and is truly a masterpiece of the musical theatre genre.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Wolfgang Tillmans at The Serpentine

The Serpentine Gallery, in Hyde Park is one of a kind, and has become one of London’s best loved galleries. Every year its diverse programme attracts 800,000 visitors, and with free entrance there is no reason not to go and check out this prestigious space.

Last week I took advantage of their late night Friday opening times and went to see the Wolfgang Tillmans photography exhibition. If only galleries stayed open till 10 pm every night, I’m sure they would get many, many more visitors. I for one love going to see something after work, and know that I have missed out on a lot of shows because I couldn’t get to them in time.

This show is the first major exhibition of Wolfgang Tillmans’ work since 2003, and was conceived by the artist specifically for the Serpentine Gallery. A collection of recent and existing work is presented, showing the artist’s interest in portraiture and still life. Photos are hung from the walls with bulldog clips or stuck directly onto the wall. There is huge variety in the work, with some gritty photographs of people and objects and some much gentler, subtle abstract images. I found the Silver Installation VII 2009 (picture above) oddly mesmerising and particularly liked the random nature of the display. Tillmans’ images capture a moment but space is left for the viewer to imagine and while looking round I greatly appreciated this freedom of thought. I’m undecided about my final verdict on Tillmans work, I think the Serpentine is a great space so would encourage anyone to visit it, but personally I found the current exhibition a bit bland.

Another reason to visit the Serpentine this summer is the spectacular new Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, designed by Jean Nouvel. The intriguing red structure is a strange presence within the picturesque park setting. With a large presentation space and cafe as well as seating areas, table tennis tables and other games, it is bohemian heaven. On Friday evenings throughout the summer the Pavilion will host events including music, theatre, film, discussions and performances.

The Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition continues until 19 September 2010.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Pineapple dance classes

It can be a real struggle getting into an exercise routine. Let’s be honest, if you had the choice between a cinema outing or going to the gym... the film is likely to win. In London, there are so many things to experience and explore, for me exercise always gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Every morning I have to be at work at 8.30 am so pre-work work-outs don’t ever happen.

Pineapple Dance Studios could change all that. I started going a while back with a friend who, like me, also felt she needed more exercise. Pineapple, located in the heart of Covent Garden is cheap and easy to get involved in. With classes all day, every day (seven days a week) you can go whenever. I usually go straight after work, as weekend classes can be overcrowded.

Pineapple cover every genre of dance and more and this is what initially interested me. Aside from all the standard classes: ballet, jazz and tap, Pineapple offer many others that combine styles, sometimes the teachers even invent their own. My friend and I vowed to try all the wackiest of classes from Bollywood to Breakdance and Salsa to Street. They even have a Michael Jackson dance class for those MJ fans.

I recently tried the Brazilian Zouk, hard work but hilarious. The class involved lots of bum shaking and hair swishing, neither of which I was very good at. I left the class feeling a bit dizzy, but massively exhilarated by the new experience. I have since tried Fusion Yoga which I would recommend to anyone – a fun class with a very motivational instructor.

Take a look at the timetable and prices here, and start your exercise routine today!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


I howl, you howl, we all howl for ice-cream... Well you will once you have visited Bocca di Lupo’s new Italian gelateria on Archer Street in Soho. GELUPO has been open just six weeks but already has some very keen, and greedy followers.

‘Bocca di Lupo’ is an Italian good luck phrase meaning ‘into the mouth of the wolf’, which is why the restaurant’s trademark image is the howling wolf. This restaurant is a favourite for foodies and just looking at the menu will make you hungry. Delicious regional treats from all over Italy, created by adventurous chef Jacob Kenedy. When dining at Bocca di Lupo it is best to share dishes, allowing one to taste as much as possible! There is a great atmosphere too, while sitting at a sleek wooden table you can watch the chefs at work.

When I went to Bocca di Lupo I found the desserts rather disappointing after the mouth-watering mains. And this is where Gelupo slots in: a lovely little deli just across the street from Bocca providing you with fresh gelato made that very same day. Open as late as 23:00 Sunday to Wednesday and 01:00 Thursday to Saturday.

My friend is the manager at Gelupo and he recommended I order the freshest flavours, which happened to be pistachio and strawberry. I narrowly missed the avocado & honey which sounds very intriguing... next time maybe. Every day the flavours vary, as they use only the freshest ingredients. Raspberry was apparently a winner, but they have had to stop making it due to the high cost of the fresh berries. For those of you watching your waistline, don’t fear, Gelupo’s gelato rarely uses cream or eggs in its recipes making it lighter and healthier.

Gelupo don’t just sell ice-cream, oh no. Amongst their beautifully stacked selves are all kinds of goodies to feast on. I spotted some yummy looking pasta, sausages and sauces.

Unfortunately Gelupo is rather hidden down yet another musky Soho street, but please when you’re next feeling peckish in Soho avoid Snog’s frozen yoghurts (just up the road) and wait to satisfy your cravings at Gelupo – I promise it will be worth it.

Check out the website here.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 13

Forget Breton stripes this season’s hottest new pattern is Bricks. This funky brick design can be seen in Olivia Rubin’s chic t-shirt.

Olivia Rubin is one of the most promising emerging female designers in London, most known for her graphic prints and her fun party frocks. This season she introduces some tempting tees too, with patterns quite unlike any other. After graduating from Central Saint Martins College in London, Olivia worked for Alexander McQueen and John Galliano before starting her own label six seasons ago.

This cotton t-shirt is £81, okay so it’s quite expensive, but I doubt you’ll see anyone else wearing such a fashion forward print. This is one of Olivia’s signature patterns and creates a refined but feminine look. It is a beautiful fit and made from top quality material. Great with skinny jeans or tucked into a high waisted skirt.

If you can’t stretch to this number, then watch out for Olivia’s more affordable diffusion collection for ASOS. She also did a range for popular e-tailer called ‘Oli Fusion by Olivia Rubin’.

Set to be the tee of the season - get yours online before they sell out.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Tanguera at Sadler's Wells

Sadler’s Wells in Islington is one of London’s most prestigious dance venues. I have always had enjoyable experiences at this theatre despite my limited knowledge of dance. Last year I was lucky enough to see their breathtaking production of West Side Story. A few days ago I went back for more and watched Tanguera.

The Argentinian show, Tanguera is showing at Sadler’s Wells for a limited run, after selling out all over the world. Sure enough on Tuesday night the auditorium was packed to the brim and the audience around me were enthralled, with several people on their feet joining in. I hope the rest of the run does as well because the full theatre makes the atmosphere electric.

The storyline of Tanguera is a bit lack-lustre, and often the narrative of what is essentially a dance production can be unnecessarily contrived. However as ‘tanguera’ translates to ‘tango musical’ some kind of story is inevitable. There is no doubt that this cast is very talented. Leticia Fallacara is enchanting as the innocent Giselle, dancing with speed and precision but also creating a seductive lead character. There are some impressive routines too from the men, all dancing together in playful sequences. Some soulful vocal accompaniment is provided by Marianella, who has triumphed in many productions including her critically acclaimed interpretation of the role of Grizabella in ‘Cats’.

The music is beautiful throughout Tanguera, I could have listened to it alone all night. The show begins with a short interlude from the six piece band, this is charming and illustrates the musician’s natural understanding of the music they are interpreting. The musical ensemble is made up of two bandoneons (a type of concertina instrument similar to an accordion), piano, double bass, guitar and violin, all parts interweaving to create a full and dramatic sound.

I enjoyed the encore most. A powerful 10 minutes of Tango dancing that was far more passionate than the narrative that had preceded it. An overwhelming surge of energy washed over the stage and it was here that I felt the power of the movement as well as the rich culture of Buenos Aires.

Tanguera continues at Sadler’s Wells until 22 August 2010.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Buying and Selling at Chiswick Community School Carboot Sale

Chuck out the old, bring in the (nearly) new, it’s what car boot sales are all about. It is a wonderful feeling gathering all those unused bits and bobs together and selling them off for a pocket full of cash, even if you do go and spend it immediately in jubilation after your hard work.

With a father keen on collecting junk, I have in my time been to a lot of car boot sales, Chiswick Community School is perhaps the best. This giant sale runs on the first Sunday of every month (except January), it has some regular sellers but you will always come across exciting new stalls as well.

Here are the facts for a seller at Chiswick car boot:

- - no sale is ever cancelled, whatever the weather

- - the queue for sellers starts at 5.00 am

- - entrance for sellers is £15 for cars, £30 for vans, and £10 for walk in sellers

- - tables can be hired for £5, with a deposit of £25

- - sellers are let in at 7 am

- - selling hours are from 8 am – 1 pm

For buyers it is a lot simpler, once you’re there, pay your 50p and you are free to roam the sale. Be warned if you are driving to the sale parking spaces are rare, so public transport may be a better idea. You can find everything at this car boot bonanza: antiques, designer clothes, electronic games, homemade cakes, and anything else you can imagine, you just have to be prepared to rummage.

Just round the corner from the Chiswick car boot is the Dukes Meadow Farmers Market, selling fresh, reasonably local produce. The best lamb burger I have ever had was bought (and cooked in front of me) at this market, with a delicious homemade tomato chutney to accompany it. After a slab of rich chocolate cake from another stall I am generally ready to go home and look over my mornings buys.

More info on Chiswick car boot sale here.

More info on Dukes Meadow Farmers Market here.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dirty Dancing cast change

I’ve been to see Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage twice in London’s West End. Once because my friend from university was singing in the show, and for a second time because I enjoyed my first visit so much.

The musical is based on the hit film with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It captures both the love story and the impressive dancing. My only complaint is the lack of live music within the musical, it uses mostly recorded tracks. This focuses attention on the dances.

The cast of Dirty Dancing has recently changed with Hannah Vassallo as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, Johnny Wright as Johnny Castle and Dancing on Ice star Ray Quinn as Billy Kostecki. I often find that going to a show just after a cast change is the best time – the performance has a fresh energy that seems to fade later in a cast’s run.

Dirty Dancing has been enormously popular with London audiences. The show sold out for the first six months of its run before it even arrived on the London stage. Audiences are going back for more, with The Observer newspaper calling it “the biggest live theatre sensation of all time”, now is a good time to get your dancing fix.

Book tickets here.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Gordon's Wine Bar

Gordon’s Wine Bar is the oldest wine bar in London, established in 1890. It is a quirky little venue perfect for a special glass of wine and catch up with a few friends.

The interior is unlike any other with wooden walls and faded newspaper cuttings and memorabilia, creating a lovely atmosphere. Down the rickety stairs you go and it is sure to be a bit of a squeeze because its always full. The wine cellar is so authentic that you do feel a bit like you are going back in time, and the close proximity makes everyone much more friendly and considerate.

It is a family business and this is shown through the character of the bar. They only sell wine and traditional, delicious (and well-priced) food to munch on with your drink. I usually go for a selection of cheeses, thoroughly yummy and perfect with wine. There are cosy tables inside but I usually prefer to sit in the outside seating area, where a long row of tables create a real buzz.

Gordon’s Wine Bar is located at 47 Villiers Street, just up from Embankment tube station. It was introduced to me by a good friend, and ever since we have continued to go together. Close to the city and the river, it is conveniently located.

If like me, you like places with masses of character, I’m sure you will warm to Gordon’s.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 12

It’s back to school time, and even if you are long out of the education system, take advantage of the upcoming preppy trends, they are cooler than you’d think.

The Cambridge Satchel Company is a British company, that make all their products in the UK. Grazia call them “one of the biggest success stories of the year” and they feature as one of Elle Magazine’s ‘spring picks’. If you have been one of the many combing the London markets for an authentic vintage satchel, your search stops here.

The Cambridge Satchel Company have a range of leather bags - aside from the standard satchel they also offer the on-trend ‘batchel’ (“a satchel with the addition of a top handle, to make it easier to move around.”) They also have traditional music bags and stylish trunks. All come in varying sizes and colours.

My favourite thing about this company is their embossing service. Each leather item that you buy can be embossed with your initials or name, making it that extra bit more special and unique.

The different satchels vary in price (according to size) from £66 to £76 and would look equally at home in the school corridors or on the catwalk. For a more vintage feel I would advise going for the more neutral colours; black, brown or dark blue.

Urban Outfitters has a limited selection of these satchels on their shop floor, but for the best prices buy them from the website here.

Friday, 13 August 2010

London's favourite Department store: LIBERTY

Which is your favourite London department store? After careful consideration I would have to award LIBERTY my first prize. The one-off store has a unique character unlike any other, and with such beautiful things inside, for me it is more like a museum.

Liberty can be found on Regent Street in central London. The business was started by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1874, after he worked at Messrs Farmer and Rogers also on Regents Street. He believed he could change the look of homewares and fashion. The shop opened in 1875 with only three members of staff, made possible because of a £2,000 loan from Arthur’s father in law. Initially he acquired only 218a Regents Street, but soon as the store became more successful he bought the other half of 218 and also the surrounding properties. Arthur was important to the Art Nouveau movement, and it is this style that makes the shop so appealing to me.

Liberty is most famous for its decorative floral prints. Delicately patterned and often brightly coloured these designs have been adopted by many designers. The Liberty design team re-work the classic prints every season, they say they are inspired by ‘nature, architecture, our heritage and the store itself.’

What I find most satisfying about this shop is the selection it offers. They seem to sift through all the designer’s collections to pick only the most desirable items. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything, Liberty is still worth a visit - a beautiful building with a treasure chest of goodies inside.

Shop here.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sandown Park Racecourse

Sandown Park Racecourse, on the outskirts of London, is a fun place to spend an evening. Just 25 minutes away from Waterloo, it is easy to get to and a nice break from the busy city.

I went on a work trip and was privileged to be in the comfort of one of the boxes. Lovely food and drink was provided all night and we had a spectacular view of the course. I kept my addictive personality at bay by placing all my bets at the start. The betting process is complicated for a first timer at the races and I required considerable help deciding!

Sandown Park Racecourse is one of the UK’s best loved horseracing venues. Whether you’re a regular or an intrigued visitor it is an exhilarating experience that definitely leaves you wanting more. Sandown caters for all, and throughout the year they also hold music nights and military themed race days.

Often musical entertainment follows the races; we were treated to the wonders of Westlife. I was one of the lucky few given a VIP pass to meet the four bandmembers, all clad in black studded outfits. I am told photos of us with the boys are to be put up online any day now, so look out for those!

Despite an unlucky start with my first horse Yasmeena, I went on to win money in four out of the six races! The horse Jet Away making a particularly impressive first place in Race 5. Meeting Westlife meant I was unable to pick up my winnings, but I have sent off my lucky tickets and now await my cheque.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Boris' Bikes

London has gone bonkers for bikes. It has been talked about for ages and now Boris Johnson (London mayor and clown) has introduced the scheme to the centre of London. He hopes to make London a greener and healthier place to live and work.

To start with 5,000 bikes have been put in place at 3000 docking stations around the city centre. It has been calculated that 6,000 journeys were made on the first day of the scheme. If the idea continues to be popular there will surely be talks to expand it further afield.

I have already spotted several stations around my work but unfortunately can’t spot any near my house in West London, making a journey home quite tricky. I am yet to try a bike, and although the idea excites me, I am a little apprehensive about the dangers of riding around in such a hectic city. For those inexperienced at dodging traffic on a bike it could be quite dangerous.

Other European cities have used bike schemes for a while now, the idea has working well in places such as Paris and Dublin. London’s bikes seem to be a little more pricey. Up to 30 minutes is free but then the tarifs steadily rise up to £50 for 24 hours, more expensive than hiring a car!

Check out the TFL website for more information, and let me know what you think of them...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bent at The Tabard Theatre

I studied Bent at University so was prepared for the gritty narrative and shocking script. I went to see Martin Sherman’s play at the dinky Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, a theatre I have always wanted to visit.

Bent was written in 1979 and offers an insight into the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. The word ‘bent’ was the slang term some Europeans used to refer to homosexuals at the time. The original West End production starred Ian McKellen, and Richard Gere was in the first Broadway show in 1980.

The tiny Tabard is a suitable venue for this gripping play, and being so close to the action makes it almost unbearable to watch at times. Russell Morton gives the performance of a lifetime as the moody Max, he seems completely engrossed in the role throughout. Previously in the year Morton won a best fringe actor nomination with the same production at the Landor Theatre. Steven Butler is endearing as Max’s needy partner Rudy, although I did find myself getting irritated by his whiney voice. David Flynn is striking as Horst and works beautifully on stage with Morton. Flynn adds subtle nuances to his character that makes the two men's relationship even more believable.

The cramped space and dark set makes the whole experience terrifyingly claustrophobic. Barbed wire walls trap the characters on stage and two large Nazis trap the audience in their seats. Despite knowing the play I found this rendition deeply disturbing at times, sometimes almost having to cover my eyes. Director Andrew Keates has done an expert job on Bent bringing out the best qualities of Sherman’s play and adding more. I found the whole production deeply moving and thought-provoking and left the theatre teary eyed.

Although the Tabard is small it houses large talent, with this production of Bent fetching many glowing 4* reviews. With a lovely pub downstairs the whole venue has a friendly atmosphere. Throughout August you can see brilliant comedians like Alex Zane and Al Murray performing at the venue.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 11

You may have already heard about Moroccan Oil... It is the hottest new hair product, and it really, really works.

I was introduced to it only recently by one of my most stylish friends, who incidentally also happens to have the most luscious locks. We were on holiday in Croatia, and out came this magical little bottle. I was sceptical, many a time have I been conned into buying a pointless hair product. However this oil made an enormous difference to my hair.

In summer hair can get dried out and tired from all the sun, sea and salt. Moroccan Oil should be applied after washing your hair and while it is still damp. Put a drop on the palm of each hand, rub together and smooth over hair. And it’s as simple as that.

Check out all the products on their website: A 100ml bottle costs £29.95, with free delivery from here. One bottle will probably last you a lifetime.

I promise it will transform your hair.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Camille Silvy at the National Portrait Gallery

I must admit I was initially drawn to the Camille Silvy exhibition because of our name share, my full name also being Camille.

Camille Silvy was a pioneer of early photography and established himself as one of the leading portrait photographers in London, to which he moved in 1859. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery displays many incredible images, some of which have not been shown since the 1860s.

Silvy spoke of his passion: ‘ when I realised the inadequacy of my talent in obtaining exact views of the places we travelled through, I dedicated myself to photography and ... concentrated especially on reproducing everything interesting – archaeologically or historically – that presented itself to me.’

The show begins with a collection of photographs taken in France. Quiet and serene these photos have a nostalgic feel, they capture the street life in the most natural way. The motif of horses recurs throughout the exhibition, a subject close to Silvy’s heart. He was a keen and knowledgeable horseman, as shown in the painting of him included in the collection. Later there is a series of very romantic photographs taken in London. These are intimate studies of delicate light and dark. My favourites were ‘Fog’ and ‘Twilight’, both taken in 1859. These hazy shots depict mysterious secrets in the shadows of London.

As the exhibition continued I realised Camille Silvy and I had more in common than I had originally thought. Like me, Silvy loved fashion and the theatre. His wife often modelled for him in the latest Parisian fashions; one of her more outrageous dresses is displayed. She was a useful part of the process, Camille could try out all his new ideas in the photographs he took of her. The final rooms show Silvy’s obsession with the magical opera stage. The main focus of his attention was the international operatic star Adelina Patti, and it has been said that as a model she brought out the best in his talent.

It’s sad to think that Camille Silvy has been left unnoticed for so long, he is a modern master worthy of rediscovery.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Gilgamesh Restaurant in Camden Town

Gilgamesh is one hell of an experience. As you approach it in edgy Camden Town it looks almost like a temple... glowing against a dark backdrop. After ascending a tall escalator you see that the interior is even more impressive.

Gilgamesh advertises itself as a restaurant, bar and Babylon lounge, although I would say it is almost a club as well. It is a glorious relief from the chaos of the Camden Town markets that surround it.

I have read mixed reviews about Gilgamesh, though few can deny its amazing presence. Many visitors complain that the service is poor; I found quite the opposite to be true and was treated like royalty. Our group visited the bar area first, and joined the buzzing crowds. Luckily the massive space is able to accommodate everyone and we managed to find a table easily. I was treated to a relaxing massage by wandering masseurs; it was so calming I almost fell asleep.

It was 11 o’clock when we dragged our weary bodies to our grand table and received complementary glasses of Champagne from the lovely Gilgamesh girls. The food is good, although pricey. It’s worth watching out for deals on the internet, we got a great set menu deal on Top Table. We shared a variety of veggie and meat dishes between us – the duck and watermelon salad was palate-intriguing but my favourite was the creamy Thai vegetable curry, even though it was a little too spicy for me. After a long and lively supper we were invited to the VIP area to dance and continue our night.

We exited by the awe inspiring staircase - as you descend you follow the intricate hand-carved ‘Tree of Life’, a magnificent work inspired by the friezes at The British Museum. Back on the streets of Camden I reflected on the glittering palace I had just visited.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Cocktails at Vanilla

Vanilla is a venue that offers an intimate environment with a carefree ambience, a rare combination for a bar in London’s West End.

Vanilla is hidden at the end of Great Titchfield Street in Marylebone and serves as both a restaurant and lounge. They offer a mouth-watering range of food and drinks. The kitchen, run by head chef Halim Merrir offers an exciting eclectic menu that promises to be both delicious and original in taste. I am yet to try Vanilla’s food but shall definitely be returning to do so soon – the photos on the website are too tempting.

The interior is slick and cool all in white. A clean and comfortable space with a touch of divine luxury, all very Sex and the City. I went on a Friday night with some good friends and was surprised to see it less than half full. Those who were enjoying Vanilla had a smug aura about them, as if they were in on one of London’s best kept secrets. As I sat sipping my drink I began to feel the same.

Cocktails are a must in Vanilla, made by expert mixer, Tristan Lobb. Not only were the classics supreme (my friends drank Mojitos and Cosmos) but Tristan even made us our own individual unique cocktails, invented from scratch after hearing my rather complicated preferences. If we had stayed longer I would have happily tried every cocktail on the menu.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

IDA Restaurant

making pasta

I want to recommend to you IDA, a tiny authentic Italian restaurant in London’s Queens Park.

The restaurant was set up by husband and wife, Simonetta and Avi who previously had little experience in the restaurant business but a great passion for food. Now they provide wholesome meals for locals and regulars and anyone else who is lucky enough to discover this little gem.

IDA makes fresh pasta everyday, an art that is dying out even in parts of Italy. Making pasta requires patience and know-how but makes the IDA dishes that much more delicious.

The menu changes regularly at IDA, focusing on different regions of Italy. Currently they are looking at Piemonte - Valle d’Aosta, the least populated area of Italy in the mountainous north-west of the country. The homemade gnocchi are delicious and I also love the tagliatelle al ragu’, a classic dish made exceptionally well.

Lovely food, lovely atmosphere. Well worth a try.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 10

Russell and Bromley are bringing the loafer back into fashion.

Simple, sensible and stylish they are the shoes for every occasion. Loafers can be worn with cropped trousers to create the androgynous look, or with a smart dress to replace heels. Cheap copies can be seen everywhere, and although Russell and Bromley is the top end of highstreet, I think its prices are mostly fair. These shoes are made from good quality materials and should wear well.

Every branch of Russell and Bromley seems to stock different colours, both patent and matt leather. I love them all and want them in every colour, but if forced to pick a favourite I think I’d go with a pair of the classic black patent leather ones. Regularly worn by our favourite fashion icon Alexa Chung.

I feel a little guilty for featuring footwear two weeks in a row but these loafers are just too cool to ignore. Treat your feet, £125 in Russell and Bromley stores now.