Latest Posts

Members’ Club Dining at Century, Shaftesbury Avenue

What
Dinner at Century Club, Shaftesbury Avenue

Where
61-63 Shaftesbury Ave
London
W1D 6LQ

Experience
Until a couple of weeks ago, if you asked me to name more than five members’ clubs in London I would have struggled. It wasn’t until I was invited to dine at one I had never heard of that I did a bit of digging. And the results were surprising. I didn’t find out the exact number, but I can guarantee you that if you regularly walk the streets of London, you’ll pass a fair few lurking behind inconspicuous doorways, without even knowing what is behind them.

Enter Century Club. Situated on Shaftesbury Avenue, right in the heart of London’s theatreland and media district, the discreet and hidden four storey members club sits proud and unassuming.

Soho on a Friday night these days can be a pretty treacherous experience, with after work drinkers spilling out onto pavements in their droves, so the knowledge of dining in a members club, away from the unwanted hustle and bustle, was a comforting thought.

At 7pm, I headed to Soho’s largest roof terrace with lunch.money. Over the last few weeks, both of us have made it our mission to visit some of London’s best restaurants and have enjoyed some pretty spectacular meals in the process. But more on those another time.

I have been in this game a long time now, so even though I genuinely didn’t know anything about Century Club, I had a feeling that it would be exactly what I was expecting. And you know what? It was.

Century’s entrance on Shaftesbury Avenue is quite easy to miss, especially after a large G&T, but we finally caught sight of the unassuming door, buzzed and were greeted with classic piano music a big smile in the foyer.

We were directed to the fourth floor roof terrace and seated at our table. lunch.money sat down opposite me and I had to giggle. He felt further away than usual and looked like a child sat at a grown up’s table. I then realised that my arms, as long as they are, were also reaching higher than I’m used to at a dinner table. I looked down and saw that the summer style wicker chairs were not the right height for the tables. But it didn’t matter – it was a very minor issue and it meant that I got to silently giggle at lunch.money all night.

First up, we looked at the extensive cocktail menu. I didn’t make it past the first page, as my eyes caught glimpse of ‘The Journalist’, a mix of Flor de Caña, liquorice syrup, lime juice, sugar syrup & mint. lunch.money opted for something a little more intense in the form of Il Padrino, a bitter mix of Disaronno, Campari, orange juice & lemon juice.

The menu is made up of sandwiches, salads, pasta and steak. It was interesting to see a Josper Grill section for the first time in a few years, prompting flashbacks to a time in London where if your slab of meat wasn’t cooked on a Josper grill, it was considered inedible.

To start I ordered the Duck Breast & Foie Gras with Celeriac, Onion Petals, Shimeji, Radishes & Pomegranate Molasses. Josper lured me in with his fiery charm and I opted for the fillet steak with a side of broccoli for main. lunch.money chose wisely with the octopus starter and also bowed down to Josper’s charms by ordering a fillet steak for main.

Our starters were presented well, although both were not as hot as we might have expected. lunch.money’s octopus was cooked well, without a hint of chewiness, but my duck was slightly overcooked and on its way to tough town. I wasn’t deterred from clearing my plate however, as the pomegranate molasses helped to redeem the dish.

The star of the show for both of us was the steak. Cooked just how I like it, pink and tender in the middle, seasoned and charred on the outside. We also both had a glass of Malbec, which arrived at the perfect, and I mean perfect temperature. Very impressive wine, considering it was selling by the glass.

Service at Century is friendly. The little attentive touches were slightly lacking, but the manager seemed to be keeping as tight a ship as he could, right at the helm of the restaurant. Would I recommend it? For a quiet guaranteed table in an interesting Central London setting? Yes, I would. You may have to be a member to dine there, but Century has competitive membership options – see below for more details. Be assured though that this is not fine dining, so if you don’t go in expecting that, you’re guaranteed to have a pleasant experience.

The thought of dessert before a mini Friday night bar crawl didn’t appeal, so we finished our wine and headed back and into the Soho madness.

For more information and membership options, click here.

Advertisements

Was 24 Hours at Bestival Long Enough?

You might think that 24 hours isn’t enough to enjoy the offering of a four day festival. But let me tell you, a couple of weekends ago, me and my friend Pippa played the Bestival game and I’m pretty sure we won. You see, what we have come to learn over our year of friendship is that neither of us do things by halves; so as soon as we arrived on site, we popped up the tent, put on our most colourful ensemble and quickly slopped our way through the ever growing mud slides to the festival arena.

flags

© Photo by Pippa Bayston

Taking place for the first time at it’s new Lulworth Castle home, the undulating festival site, also home to Camp Bestival, is smaller than the Isle of White site I came to know so well over the last eleven years. Featuring a colourfully lit National Trust castle backdrop, numerous mini stages and the obligatory exploratory tents that literally turned frowns upside down, I think Bestival fit in just nicely.

tents

To me, Bestival is as much about the experience as the line up, so not seeing main stage acts such as The XX, Soulwax and the Pet Shop Boys didn’t really bother me that much. Instead, we set ourselves loose on Shangri Las inspired Club DaDa, enjoyed copious amounts of funk and soul at Stacey’s, danced on a make shift taxi whilst watching Oh My God! It’s The Church at Caravanserai, and set sail during a 90’s garage set at HMS Bestival. My personal favourite though was the tiny and very exclusive Sunday Best Record shop, where not only could you pick up a bargain for 50p, but also catch special impromptu performances across the weekend. I’ll caveat this by saying that my favourite half hour of the festival was here, but I would have no idea what to tell you I was listening to.

In fact, the only act we caught on the Main Stage was Dizzee Rascal, who lost his proverbial shit in front of thousands of revellers who pogoed to his undeniably catchy hits. But after his set, we made a pact to spend the rest of the time floating around the festival, not planning, but instead exploring and discovering. And it worked.

The next 24 hours were spent as follows:

Line stomachs with food – in our case chips & dips and a pork roll

Quick march to the first bar in sight

Down beer

Head to JägerHaus and neck a cocktail

Set ourselves loose for the next 12 hours, talking and dancing to anyone or anything that came our way

IMG_0030

© Photo by Pippa Bayston

Top 5 moments:

  1. Garage favourite ‘Heartbroken’ blasting out of the HMS Bestival, blue skies and sunset in the background, thousands of revellers dancing in the mud with heavy feet but light hearts

2. Dancing with giant robots, an inflatable Kanye face and the world’s biggest disco ball

3. Bonkers festival goers lining up to slide down a mud soaked hill on the inflatable giraffe flamingo that became a top theme of our 24 hour debauchery

4. Fulfilling our dreams of singing hip hop karaoke to hundreds of mud soaked revellers

hiphop

© Photo by Pippa Bayston

5. Finding a 2017 festival friend who I met at Electric Castle in Romania and spending hours in the Caravanserai backstage dressing rooms, meeting bonkers characters and dancing until sunrise

dance

© Photo by Pippa Bayston

Most devastating moment:

Having listened to the Mercury nominated Loyle Carner album what felt like 20 times in the week leading up to the festival, anticipation was high to see him perform. Waking up on Sunday and feeling like I wanted the tent to cave in on me, the only thing that made me crawl to the nearest food stall to refuel was the thought of listening to Loyle’s melodic poetry. After a quick dalliance with the hip hop karaoke boys, we wandered over to get our spot. But as we approached the main stage, an army of stewards approached and informed us that the whole arena was closing due to bad weather. I had to rub my eyes, cartoon school girl style, in disbelief. It was over.

Once we had been ushered back into the campsite, we took another look at the weather and decided it was time to retreat back to London. We left the site at 4.30pm and I was tucked up in bed, head spinning and recalling countless moments from the previous 24 hours and looking forward to Bestival’s 2018 instalment.

Festival Review – Electric Castle, Romania

“What are you going to write about?” asked Alex. I thought about it for a second and when I responded, he looked surprised. “I don’t know, because it hasn’t happened yet”, I smiled as I melted into my seat. Lucy and I had just stopped the wrong bus in its tracks and bundled ourselves on, not so elegantly pulling our suitcase and bumping into poor unsuspecting passengers on the way to a couple of empty seats at the back. The boiling hot bus, which seemed to have rolled straight out of the 70’s, was full of subdued festival goers on the way to one of Romania’s biggest festivals, Electric Castle. And Alex? He was my new Romanian friend from Romania’s non-official second capital, Cluj-Napoca.

It was the truth. I could have guessed and said that I was going to interview a few bands, or that I was there to review specific bands, but no. I was there to review the experience – and if my previous festival experiences are anything to go by, I knew deep down that anything could happen. And despite having not done the ‘proper’ festival experience, camping and all, for the best part of a decade (where has the time gone?), I can’t see this being any different.

For five nights, me, Lucy and our friend Joe retreated to a camping hotel site, armed with a booking confirmation for a very comfortable bell tent, complete with blow up beds, bed sheets, a table and a bean bag. And for those five nights we sort of managed to gloss over the fact that we were camping right next to what was an almost 24 hour techno stage (the bass was earth shattering). Despite raging hangovers and non glorious sauna like temperatures firmly in place, we all felt glad that we didn’t have to trek back to a hotel in Cluj each night.

I had literally no idea what to expect from Electric Castle. But I just hoped that it wouldn’t be similar to a festival that Lucy and I went to twelve years ago in a Belgium. Dour festival, we thought, was enough to put us off going to a festival abroad for life, as it was the worst run event with ridiculously bad facilities.

So it was like both of our birthdays and Christmas had come at once when we started mooching. Proper showers and toilets, a (free!) laundromat, a charging station, lockers, a fancy coffee bar and… wait for it… the best bit, a fully functioning Lidl, complete with bakery and everything you could ever wish for during a 5 day festival. The supermarket even came with a BBQ area and if you couldn’t be arsed to BBQ your own stuff, all you needed to do was buy the meat and they would cook it for you. What was EVEN better, was that it was dirt cheap.

The festival site itself was a similar size to Lovebox and featured a good range of stages, some on show, others hidden in the trees and bushes, willing you to go and find them. The main stage had more screens attached to it than I could count and one of the best festival sound systems I have come across. One of my favourite areas, the Silent Disco, was situated in the trees and there wasn’t a day I didn’t retreat to it to play music channel roulette. To top it all off, the festival, which incorporated music, technology, art installations and performing arts, was situated within the grounds of the beautiful semi derelict 15th century Banffy Castle.

In terms of the music offering, I wouldn’t say there is something for everyone, but alternative music fans, especially techno / dance music fans, were seen to be having a field day. DJs Maceo Plex, Claptone and Dimension rubbed line up shoulders with bands such as Slaves, Counterfeit, Younger and Architects. And not one of the headliners disappointed on the main stage. Moderat’s light show, spine tingling electronic sounds and effortlessly cool silhouettes drew me in so much that I only caught the last song by Slaves who sadly played at the same time, while later in the night Paul Van Dyke’s light show drew me like a moth to a flame from the other side of the festival site. Alt-J, well I’m not much of a fan so their set definitely wasn’t a highlight, but I hear on good authority from fans that they played a belter. And Franz Ferdinand… well, you may have already read about that in another post.


Photo Credit: www.gigwise.com

The festival, which over the course of the weekend sees 130,000 punters pass through the gates, felt comfortable every step of the way. It helped that we seemed to be incredibly lucky with the weather – apparently the last two years had been a complete wash out, but the only time I had to don a poncho that volunteers eagerly handed out for free one morning, was when I was inside at an Alt-J press conference. Yes, I did ask a question, and no, there are no plans to write a book / make a film / put on an art exhibition as a collective band.


For those who wanted a little bit of extra luxury, the Mastercard VIP tent sat looking pretty on the right hand side of the main stage and featured table seating, proper cocktails, an amazing view of the main stage and a heated pool, which of course we ended up in one night, emerging from 20 minutes later with very soggy clothes.


Another band that deserves a mention is Slamboree. I have been off the festival circuit for a long time, so admit I had never heard this name before. But it became very apparent who they were on our second day, as the energy exuded out of their bones to create a fun loving party atmosphere like no other, both on and off stage. If you haven’t seen them yet, I urge you to do so immediately. Also keep your eye out for a post coming soon, where I talk to the band’s originator, Mike Freear.

Have I mentioned the prices yet? This festival is cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean it costs around £2 for a beer, and around £4 for a slap up feast. And if £4 is a little expensive, you can always go to Lidl and get a 20p pastry, or a 60p slice of pizza. We all know my favourite things in life are music, food, dancing, meeting new legends and hanging out with friends, so I was happy as a pig in shite. Thanks, Electric Castle.

Until next time.

All photos taken by Editor, Sarah Kemp (unless stated otherwise)

For more information, head to the Electric Castle website

 

Recipe: Za’atar Baked Cauliflower with Harissa Garlic Yoghurt

It has been a bloody long time since I posted a recipe. Why? Honestly, I have been very lazy at trying new things. It isn’t that I haven’t been cooking – I still take a weekly trip to the market on Saturday mornings, but for the last few months I have been cooking the exact same thing every week. Boring, I know, but I haven’t had the head space to think about other options. Until now.

This dish is inspired by one of the most delicious things I tasted when I lived in Melbourne. I worked as a waitress in a cute little neighbourhood restaurant called Huxtable, which sadly closed down not long after I left. This cauliflower with harissa yoghurt had been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2012. And remained one of the favourites until they closed their doors. Try it and you’ll see why.

The only real difference between their version and my version is that they deep fried it. I’m not nutty enough to buy a deep frier for my house, or even attempt to do it in a pan, so I oven roasted it for ages in olive oil instead.

Ingredients

1 large cauliflower – chopped into florets
100ml extra virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves – peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tsbp za’atar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coriander (as much or as little as you like)

For the yoghurt
100ml Greek yoghurt
2 tsp harissa paste
1 small garlic clove, grated

Method

Pre heat oven to 475 degrees F, 245 C, Gas 8

1. Place cauliflower into large roasting tray with the garlic. Drizzle over olive oil and cover tightly with foil
2. Place in oven and bake for 15 mins
3. Take out, toss and place back in the oven uncovered for another 15 minutes
4. Take out, sprinkle with za’atar, toss and place back in the oven uncovered for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown
5. Meanwhile, mix yoghurt, garlic and harissa paste in a small bowl
6. When ready, take out of the oven, assmemble on plate, place a dollop of yoghurt on top and sprinkle with torn coriander

Electric Castle review: Have Franz Ferdinand still got it?

If any of you saw this post three months ago, you’ll know that I have just arrived back in the UK following a five night extravaganza at one of Romania’s biggest and best festivals, Electric Castle. You may also know that as well as being treated to a massive amount of world class DJs and acts, the band I was most looking forward to seeing was, you guessed it, Franz Ferdinand.

Although I’m going to make you wait a few days to hear ALL about the festival and just how incredible it was (it really did surpass any expectation that I had) I’m going to tell you about Franz Ferdinand and the first show I had seen them play in four years.

Sadly, I wasn’t as fresh as I would have hoped, having spent the previous four days and nights partying and sleeping in a tent that had earth shattering bass streaming through it 24 hours a day. But there was no way I was going to let this deter me and before I knew it, I was being ushered into the photo pit in front of the main stage, along with fellow photo pass holders, each brandishing enviable equipment. The stage lit up, a colourful Franz Ferdinand logo adorned with shooting stars, the band energetically ran on stage and as the music began, us photographers danced around each other, moving up and down, side to side, effortlessly managing not to bump into each other.

After the three-song limit, we were thrust back into the crowd, and I spent the rest of the set dancing to songs I have been singing along to in front of the band for the last thirteen years. Earlier in the week I dismissed new members Dino Bardot (guitar) and Julian Corrie (keys, vocals and guitar) without even giving them a chance. To me, Nick McCarthy was an integral member in the band, his unmistakable high tones and jagged rhythm guitar enjoyable every step of the way.

Questioning my stubbornness (is it because I don’t like change, perhaps?) I realised that I can’t deny that Bardot and Corrie really did prove to be a good replacement for McCarthy. And looking at the outfits and lighting during the show, I wondered whether the fact that Bob Hardy, dressed in all black, hiding away in the shadows, whilst Bardot and Corrie wore loud shirts and danced around in the spotlight, was a deliberate attempt to show that this band is not about to give up and that they really are just as good without one of their founding members.

Franz Ferdinand clearly has longevity. Since forming in 2002, the band has recorded four studio albums; the first two released in consecutive years, but with four year breaks between the third and fourth. The fact that ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ was released in 2013 makes me excited at what is potentially to come this year. Not many other bands that I obsessed over as an excitable teen are still around today and none are still able to headline festivals all across the world.

But despite enjoying a sing along with thousands of other revellers, my negative mind just wouldn’t pipe down. As Kapranos drawled the lyrics “let it go” in his soft Scottish lilt during new song ‘Always Ascending’, I thought to myself that maybe I should finally let this band go. Since I first saw them opening the NME tour when I was a fresh-eyed seventeen year old, they have been firmly in the number 1 spot on my favourite band list. But despite enjoying the show, I just didn’t feel the same. Was it that they didn’t have the same presence on a big festival stage as they did in the small intimate venues I’m used to seeing them in? Or could it be that the band isn’t as accessible to me as they once were? I don’t know, but as these thoughts travelled through my head, the song changed pace, becoming more like one of my ultimate favourite Franz songs ‘Van Tango’ with each chord and drum smash. It was almost brilliant and I thought perhaps they could draw me back in again. I’m unsure, but I’ll await their new album with open-minded patience.

As is usual with every time I have seen Franz Ferdinand play over the last few years, they ended with crescendo building ‘This Fire’ and before we knew it, they were gone. Months of waiting for a solitary hour. And an hour that left me questioning what is next for me musically. Will I ever feel that way about a band again? Are the feelings you feel for the first band you ever truly obsess over, the same as that of a first love? Who the heck knows, but it has made me determined to watch more and listen to more new music, as I’m sure that diamond in the rough is out there somewhere.

Head to the Electric Castle website for more info on the festival

All photos taken by Sarah Kemp, Editor, Life’s Loves

 

Brixton Beach

What
Brixton Beach Summer Pop-Up

© Photography by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals)

© Photography by Jake Davis (fb.com/hungryvisuals)

Where
Brixton Beach Rooftop Pope’s Road,
Brixton London,
SW9 8JH

Experience
Brixton Beach is back, and just in time for the heat wave! In the words of our favourite Wham boys ‘all that’s missing in the sea, but don’t worry you can suntan’! Or sit in the shaded huts, whatever.
On a roof in the heart of Brixton Market, Brixton Beach hosts some cracking food stalls. Among them are my favourite New Yorkers from Del74 serving up tacos and margaritas to liven up your beach trip. Del74 has a permanent restaurant on my road in Clapton which I rave about SO much I was given two ‘vouchers’ from my pals for my birthday (but shhh…it’s my little secret!)
I arrived before my friend, but took the opportunity to begin my wander around the rooftop. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. The DJ was playing Cuban beats, the sun was shining and the cocktail list was tropical. I ordered two beers from the bar, grabbed my friend from the entrance and sat in a wooden open booth to bond with some other newbies to the beach. The four of us shared some delights from Mac to the Future (mac ‘n’ cheese with tata tots) and sliders from STAKEhaus which were jaw-droolingly good. We followed the sun to the other side of the roof to end our evening conveniently next to the Chandon Bubbles bar.
If you like beats, sun, sand and street food then look no further. There is too much going on this summer at Brixton Beach to talk about – check out the diary here.

Cost
£10 will get you grub
£5 will get you beer

Good Luck from Bill Nighy – Vitality 10,000


There are some moments in life that leave me speechless with their perfection. This morning I had of those moments. I woke up, had a shower and made myself some toast with peanut butter and banana. Afterwards I pulled on my running gear, grabbed my backpack and headed to the tube.

I was on my way to the Vitality 10,000 race in Central London. And in all honesty I wasn’t exactly in the mood to run. I arrived at Green Park and, along with 100’s of other runners, queued to exit the station. As I shuffled towards the escalator, I saw a lone man walking down the escalator on the other side. As he edged closer, I recognised the face as the one and only Bill Nighy. Being alone I had no one to tell and no one around me seemed to notice.

My face lit up and as I opened my mouth to tell anyone that would listen, he caught my eye, nodded, winked, blew me a kiss, mouthed ‘good luck’ at me and carried on walking. It was as if he was secretly saying, “I know you know who I am, but I don’t want anyone else to notice, so I’m going to acknowledge it secretly.”

What I loved most about this little encounter was that, based on what I had read about Bill Nighy’s brush with fans in the past, this was 100% his style. I seriously hope he walked away in the knowledge that he made my day, if not my year. And boy did that help kick me into gear for my race.

I arrived around an hour early, which gave me time to meander around the grounds, before joining a long snaking toilet queue and finally dropping off my bag. The whole event was very organised and I made it to the start line with a couple of minutes to spare. I had given my time as a sub 50-minute 10k, so I was at the front of the pack and as a result there was limited congestion once we set off.

I don’t think I have ever run in such hot and humid weather and this made me nervous. It’s no secret that heat and me do not go well together and literally as soon as I set off I was thirsty and counting the steps to the first water station at 3km. It came quickly and I was soon sipping and pouring the contents of the bottle over my head.

Every time I run a 10k race, I groan and grunt all the way around. If anyone who has experienced this happens to be reading, I’m sorry. I have tried all distances and find 10k the hardest. I would even go so far as saying that I found the London Marathon easier. Why? Because I haven’t learnt to pace myself for a 10k yet and always run off much faster than I should. By the time I get half way, I’m cursing myself, wishing I’d have set off slower. Today was no different.

The route however was perfect for sightseeing. I live and work in Central London, but even I get tingles when I see sights such as Admiralty Arch, Nelson’s Column, St Paul’s Cathedral, Mansion House, the Bank of England, the Old Bailey, Somerset House, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. I have to admit though – I didn’t see all of the above sights because, and if any of you have ever experienced a race like this, you’ll know what I’m talking about – my mind is usually concentrating on how horrible my body feels, rather than how lovely the sights are.

Having struggled with injuries during my Marathon training, I was slightly nervous that my IT band, or shin splints would rear their ugly head, but no. The only pain I had to endure was a mental one – counting each km, as each one seemed to be longer than the last.

I always find km’s 6 and 7 to be the hardest, and once I passed the 8km mark I sped up, leaving only a small amount of energy for my last km. And as I approached the last 100m, I looked at my watch and felt a pang of terror, similar to how I felt at the London Marathon when I saw the seconds ticking by towards the 4 hour mark (I came in at 3:59:57). Today I wanted to get sub 49 minutes and kept glancing at my watch as it edged closer, each second ticking by quicker than I hoped. At the last minute I found a little bit of much needed energy in the tank and sprinted, as fast as I could, to cross the line at 48:55. I did it. And after picking up my medal and race t-shirt, was off to be pampered with a free massage, hosted by Urban Massage.

I want to thank Magdalena for giving me 20 minutes of pure massage bliss and a few exercise tips to strengthen my legs ready for my next race. Once done, I wandered out of Green Park, down into the tube and smiled as I retraced the steps where my magical Bill Nighy moment had happened earlier in the day.