Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall, East London

A historic riverside tavern, the Prospect of Whitby has a stone floor dating from the original inn built in 1520. Rebuilt in the early nineteenth century after a fire, today's hostelry retains its period charm despite some garish touches in the downstairs bar. Decorated in a nautical theme and with black and white prints of twentieth century celebrities, the upstairs rooms are particularly atmospheric and have far-reaching views across the Thames. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Texture, Portman Street, central London

Pollock with chorizo, tomatoes and avocado
A Michelin-starred restaurant with an Icelandic chef, Texture serves imaginative and exquisitely-presented food. Smart, but not stuffy, the stylish dining room has very high ceilings, plenty of natural light and a view of the prep area in front of the kitchens. The quirky crockery and modernist lighting add to the ambiance. The good value set lunch (three courses for £33.50 or two courses for £29) has a choice of two starters, two mains and two deserts, but you'll also be treated to several little tasters, such as an edgy gazpacho, mini poppadoms and chocolate truffles with your bill. To start, the yellow fin tuna tartare, served with ginger, coriander and bonito, is very fresh, but the flavours are pretty subtle. For a main, the precisely-cooked pollock, served with avocado, tomatoes and chorizo on a small bed of creamy mash potato, has more punch and is delicious. The dishes contain very little carbs, but the accompanying basket of warm sourdough and rustic brown bread, accompanied by a fine olive oil and rock salt, is a real treat in itself. For desert,  the Icelandic skyr (a kind of sweet, rich yoghurt) with blueberries and breadcrumbs, really hits the spot. The table service is a bit random, but the Slovenian maitre d' has charm and charisma. As you would expect, Texture's wine list is impressive, extensive and pricey, and you will certainly find something to your taste. Both the Saumur L’Insolite Thierry Germain and the M3 Chardonnay Shaw + Smith (a tenner a glass) are clean, crisp and go well with the seafood. A meal at Texture is a visual and a culinary treat. 8/10

Period Living, Highgate Village, North London

Monday, 29 August 2016

Barbu, the Southbank, Central London

A intense and intimate circus performance featuring a hefty cast of hirsute performers, Barbu is performed in the South Bank's atmospheric and vintage wooden Spiegeltent. Accompanied by a live three-piece band, which plays continually throughout the 80-minute performance, Barbu (bearded in French) features a heady mix of acrobatics, juggling, clowning, nudity, magic and feats of strength. Much of the comedy revolves around the bushy beards and the stiff upper lips of the four male acrobats, while the more elderly clown, who has a discrete grey goaty, relies on pair of high heels and a stone-faced puppet to raise a few laughs. One of the most impressive scenes sees a performer in what looks like a giant inflatable nappy twirling around inside a hoop at high speed, while another involves one of his colleagues lifting three men at once using his shoulders, his legs and his arms. In one cameo, a beefy man slings a metal beer cask around with surprising ease and then pierces it open to spray foam everywhere. A female acrobat also gets the blood racing by spinning manically inside a ring suspended from the ceiling while hanging on, one limb at a time. There is also a daredevil episode in which various members of the cast use a springboard to leap on to the shoulders of their colleagues. At times they look genuinely nervous, adding to the sense of risk.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Lokanda Peskarija, Ribarnica, Dubrovnik

A large and bustling fish restaurant overlooking Dubrovnik's old port, Lokanda Peskarija is staffed by a small army of waiters in distinctive sailor-style blue and white hooped t-shirts. The menu is dominated by seafood, even eschewing standard side dishes, such as chips or potatoes. You can get salads and olives, but no meat. The seafood dishes, such as cuttlefish risotto and seafood risotto (both 99 kuna), is served in generous portions in black metal cooking pots. The small squid (99 kuna) has a pretty subtle flavour and isn't that exciting.  In general, the food is fresh and competently cooked, but isn't spectacular, while the service can be a little frazzled and haphazard. Still, the buzz and the view compensate. 7/10

Lovrjenac Fortress, Dubrovnik

Included in a ticket for walking the city walls is a visit to Dubrovnik's 11th century fortress, built on a rocky outcrop more than 100 feet above sea level. The higher ramparts offer fine views of the terracotta roofs of the old city and the surrounding coastline. Inside, the fortress is pretty much an empty stone shell, but it does host some plays and concerts.