Choc Star

•20/06/2010 • Leave a Comment

I’d heard about Choc Star before I saw it in the book so was pleased to have an excuse to track down the chocolate van! When the book was written I think that the van was visiting London markets on a weekly basis and so was easy to track down. Now, however, the van is on tour around the country so when I spotted it was going to be at the Marylebone Summer Fair it went straight in my diary.

Having been to a party the night before and eaten too much cake I shied away from the cookies, brownies and muffins and opted for a mocha milkshake. Good choice – it was lovely with just the right balance of coffee and chocolate.

Choc Star

As an aside I think that the Marylebone Summer Fair would be a good addition to the book. Its a pretty big event taking over Marylebone High Street and many side roads for the day. I could have happily eaten my way around the stands and probably could have spent a couple of hours there without a problem. Unfortunately I was working so it was a case of drink up and back to work.


Challenge 585, 155/1000 complete


A few weekends in Brick Lane

•23/05/2010 • Leave a Comment

We’ve spent a bit of time on and around Brick Lane recently so here is some of what we’ve got up to there.

There are quite a few pubs on the list but so far the Golden Heart on Commercial Street will be remembered for having the most eccentric landlady we’ve come across.

The northern end of Brick Lane is occupied by a plethora of vintage clothes shops.  Although often overpriced I love a good rummage in shops like this and if I was on my own I could probably spend a good few hours there. With Chris in tow (however enthusiastic he might be for a few minutes!) this was not going to happen although he did find a few things to try on we both left empty handed.

One of the things on the list was to go and watch the Boat Race. We decided that an alternative race on the same day might be more fun and headed instead to the Goat Race at Spitalfields City Farm just off Brick Lane. There really were 100s of people there to watch 2 goats, one representing Oxford and the other Cambridge race from their paddock to their barn. Just like in the Boat Race it was to be Cambridge’s day. This was great fun and I’m sure was a good fundraiser for the farm (and ticked 2 off the list for us!)

Goat Race 2
Goat Race 3

Curry on Brick Lane is often regarded as a bit hit and miss but I have to say I’ve eaten at quite a few places there now and always been impressed by the food and the price. Today was the turn of Aladin which proudly has a photograph in its window from when Prince Charles visited. We both had good food and left feeling pleasantly well fed rather than stuffed which was also a relief.

After the curry we headed to Hawksmoor back on Commercial Street for a cocktail. Sitting at the bar we watched the staff putting final preparations together for the dinner service as we read the interesting cocktail menu (lots of interesting background on their cocktails), chatted to the barman and of course drank our cocktails. We recommend here for drinks.

We returned to the area with Chris’ brother Mark to show him a different side of London. First stop was one I’d been looking forward to – eating at Rootmaster which is a restaurant aboard an old Routmaster bus. Its a vegan restaurant and there was plenty of choice on the menu. I had falafel with a lovely salad, Chris had a burger and Mark had the Thai curry. Chris and I really enjoyed the food and would happily return – Mark seemed a bit perplexed at the quantity of vegetables on his plate but as the aim of the day for us was for us to show him something different, lunch on the upper deck of a red London bus fit the bill!


While we were over in the area we went to try out some chocolate at Montezuma’s at Spitalfields all in the name of research you understand! We bought some giant chocolate buttons which were enjoyed by all of us and some chilli dark chocolate for later which Chris wasn’t a huge fan of so I had to eat it all myself!

We went back to Brick Lane again this evening to see the Baishakhi Mela or Bengali New Year celebrations. We missed the parade as I was working but we did get there in time to buy some great food from a stall. We liked it so much we went back to get more! Potato and vegetable cakes, samosas, onion bhajis, spring rolls… yum :o)
Bengali New YearClaire

Challenges  173, 606, 321, 300, 316, 938, 437,  904,

149/1000 completed

Iranian New Year

•20/05/2010 • Leave a Comment

This week (yes it was a few weeks ago) was a complete mixed bag of old and new, exotic and entertaining, after a great week down in Devon spending time with my baby nephew, and walking on the moors and along the coast.

We started off our activities with the start of the Iranian New Year. I went alone (Claire was at work) Persian New Yearto the British Museum close by, where there were loads of stuff going on throughout the day. With singing and dancing in the main hall, talks and films, and more family activities than a primary school child could imagine. There was a great feel to the place, lots of energy, a great sense of pride and a very specific cultural feeling.

Obviously there were a large number of people who I assume were Iranians/Persians there, enjoying the activities giving a special sense of community. Based on the comments written next to a large visual display of Iranian life, and the almost complete lack of head scarves, this felt like a diasporic community with a deep love and longing for their homeland, but with a different outlook on life compared with the Islamic Republic currently in power. I assume that is why these presumably well educated and independent minded people are here and still longing for home. Having never been forced from home, or been away for more than 2 months, it is impossible I think to appreciate what these people may feel. Something well worth reminding those that attack so savagely those that have come here for whatever reason.

Challenge 907, 150/1000 complete

In the evening we continued the Persian theme, where Claire and I met up and went to a  restaurant near Marylebone, where I had some delicious fish with rice – traditional for their New Year. On the way home, we basically stumbled on one of the cocktail bars we needed to attend on Charlotte Street. Shochu Lounge really is something, and probably the most interesting and enigmatic of all the cocktail bars we have been to so far. We only had one cocktail (though would have happily had many), but would love to go back for food to, which looked quite amazing. I do not want to give too much away here – suffice to say this place is well worth a peek in, you won’t be disappointed.

Challenge 319, 151/1000 complete

Generally we have not done many of our challenges with friends, Mucky Pupso with my mate Keith up in London this week, I decided to treat to him to some quality entertainment (not that I knew it would be so good at the time), instead of the usual never-ending arguments that we engage in. So we headed over to Angel and the Fat Tuesday Comedy Night. This is not your run of the mill, commercial, money grabbing comedy night. Based in a small room, holding only about 50 people above the Compass pub, this weekly night was quite brilliant. 5 excellent acts, including to our surprise Alan Carr trying out some new material. Great as he was, he was eclipsed by the last act,  who was a side splitting funny New Zealander – who hit the nail of the head with his jokes about the difficulties foreigners have in London, and how Londoners treat their misfortunes. We are going again in June :). We ended the night by heading over to the Mucky Pup – and success, our first pub where we actually got the jukebox to work – hurray, hurray. Cool jukebox, good bear, worth a visit if you are in the area.

Challenge 9 and 250, 153/1000 complete

Finally we ended the week, the way we started, on the theme of Persia. We went off to the ICA to watch “No One Knows About Persian Cats” as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. Quality film, with sadly an obvious ending, that weirdly the audience found shocking – oh well. Still it was a great film, not because of its plot, but because it illustrated through music and friendship the diversity and pride for their nation in the Iranians portrayed. Not a blockbuster, but a thousand times more thought provoking and surely that is what we want – no?

Challenge 208, 154/1000 complete

Pretty Pictures

•08/05/2010 • 2 Comments

Claire is enjoying her new camera, and for this post suffice to say that pictures speak louder than words:

A trip over to Tavistock Square to see Gandhi and Virginia Wolf.

GandiWoolf 2

Browsed some 2nd hand books – get it?


Some yummy peas for dinner.

Peas 1Peas 2

And some naughtiness for afters

Cake 1Cake 2

The next day we started off with some Pie and Mash and Liquor.

Pie and Mash

We failed to go to Bermondsey antique market.

Missing Market

And enjoyed some fine prints, found some lost history, and enjoyed a good pint.

Fashion and Textiles MuseumOld London BridgeRoyal Oak

To finish us off – lets point at something you wont normally see on Blackfriars Bridge.

Blackfriars Bridge

Challenges 457, 456, 43, 510, 229, 113, 724, 970, 989 and 422 completed 141/1000

One of my last lieu days off

•28/04/2010 • Leave a Comment

With me starting my new job, a promotion if you like at Great Ormond Street Hospital, I can put behind me both the hindrance and boon that has been my on-call duties with associated lieu days. So taking the opportunity of one of my last lieu days, I headed over to meet up with Claire at lunchtime, and tick off a couple of things in the area.

We first headed over to Hanover Square, close to Oxford Street – a small but pleasant park, a delightful splash of green amongst all the hustle EisenhowerRooseveltand bustle of the surrounding area. We then wandered over to Grosvenor Square, stopping off on the way at Wally’s Cafe for some overfilled sandwiches (a popular place near Handel House which Claire recommends). Now Grosvenor Square is massive compared to the tiny Hanover Square, more in setting with the angular American Embassy that presides beside it. Here we were to see two statues of famous Americans (Eisenhower + Roosevelt) – and grand though they were, the park is the real treat here. A great place to relax, where it is quite quiet and unfussy.

Challenge 577, 858 & 859, 126 completed

In the evening, I again trekked over to meet Claire after work, and we headed over to Hyde Park. Its been great since the clocks have gone forward – the parks stay open that much later, and it feels like Spring has struck. So it was as we enjoyed our walk through Hyde Park, that we remembered that visiting the Albert Memorial was on our list. A small diversion and we there, at a huge golden monument. Massive, imposing, bright, imposing, exotic, fanciful – the adjectives could go on – it is certainly a sight, directly opposite the Albert Hall.  I had never seen it up close, and I was suitably agog – it gave me the impression of a country, of a monarch, once proud and powerful, and not afraid to show it – I only hope Claire’s picture does it justice (it is huge).


Challenge 790, 127 completed

From here we continued onto Kensington High Street and Whole Foods – an American organic supermarket chainWhole Foods, recently exported from the US. We were here to try out various samples of food and drinks – £5 each for 5 drinks (generous half measures of wines, cocktails and a bit of bubbly) and 5 small portions of various different foods – this week examples of Thai food. The food and drink was great, and the place a very interesting shopping layout – very open plan, with hot food (think canteen style) available and a complete mix of shops and bars on the 1st floor. Makes me think that Americans demand a very different type of supermarket – more of an experience and day out than the popular utilitarian UK versions. Definitely worth a look if you ever in the vicinity.

Challenge 721, 128 completed

Now we had planned to go home now, but emboldened byHolland Park our mixture of drinks, we looked up what else we could do from the book – and found some places to eat and drink over in Shepherd’s Bush. So we wandered on through the very pleasantly situated Holland Park, and its crazily noisy peacocks, to the fantastically tasty Indian restaurant Rajput and then after further down the road to the packed Anglesea Arms gastro pub , for a pint before we headed home. Would definitely head back to Rajput, food was so yummy, not too much sauce, and good value too. As for the Anglesea Arms, bit too busy for my liking – more gastro than local boozer. I am sure we will be heading back to Shepherd’s Bush again soon (though maybe not walking all the way this time), as there seems to be lots to do there, and we have quite a few challenges there too.

Challenge 383, 228 & 169, 131 completed


Friday fun

•10/04/2010 • 2 Comments

IMG_3058 There are quite a few theatre performances to go to in the book and we ventured to one of them last Friday lunchtime.  The Bridewell Theatre is just of Fleet Street and is a little theatre with lots of performances on. At lunchtime they have what they call Lunchbox Theatre where for £5 if you pre-book (or £6 on the door) you can watch a 45 minute play whilst eating your lunch. We watched a 80s style performance of the Restoration Comedy The Way of the World. With excellent acting and comic timing interspersed with classic 80s songs and scary shoulder pads. Really good fun.

Challenge 689, 117 completed

Afterwards we popped next door to St Bride’s Church to look at the Roman pavement in its undercroft. There is an interesting little display down there and its worth a visit if you want to know more about the history of the area. Good interpretation panels and quite a few archaeological finds on display as well as little gems of information such as a newspaper report about a man who was arrested for snoring too loudly in church!

Challenge 292, 118 completed

Next stop was a pint and a sandwich at the Viaduct Tavern which, although probably full of bankers in an evening, was nice for a late lunch. Originally a gin bar it was apparently the first public building in London to have electric lighting.

Challenge 875, 119 completed

Just up the road from the pub was Bart’s Hospital Museum. There are loads of medical museums in London and we’ve been to quite a lot of them now. Bart’s was a good one as it didn’t try to hard. Its a small museum and was realistic in the story it could tell which was the history of the hospital rather than trying to explain the whole history of medicine. A good little museum and worth a visit if you’re near by.

Challenge 167, 120 completed

In the evening we went to the Dana Centre. We’ve been meaning to go here for ages and because of this maybe we had too high expectations as we both left disappointed. Based at the Science Museum, this is how they desctibe things on their website “We take a fresh, no-holds-barred look at the biggest issues in science today in our stylish, purpose-built venue in London (UK). Our adults-only events offer you the chance to take part in exciting, informative and innovative nights connecting contemporary science, technology and culture.” Now, this sounds great, and we’re certainly willing to give it another chance, but the event we went to about the future of technology was not set up in a way to suit the “purpose built venue” as in order to see the screen that the speakers were using for their presentations we had to sit with out backs to the speaker – not ideal. I left the evening without learning anything which considering my limited knowledge of technology was pretty poor. However, I was definitely entertained by Rex Crowle and this was one of my favourite image of the evening:

Dana Centre - by rexbox

Challenge 595 & 925, 122 completed

To finish off, something we took a photo of on our City architecture walk because it looked cool without realising it was in the book!
Challenge 556, 123 completed


The World Food Café

•23/03/2010 • 1 Comment

World Food Cafe

Hidden away in the colourful Neal’s Yard, just off Neal Street near Covent Garden is the World Food Café. Don’t go there in an evening because it is shut but if you don’t mind lively chat and communal tables with your lunch then I recommend their healthy and tasty menu. It was really busy on the Monday we visited so I suspect that competition for tables at the weekend will be pretty fierce.

Challenge 514 completed, 116/1000.