Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Guildford Arms, Guildford Grove, south London

In a quiet residential area not far from Greenwich's tourist traps, the Guildford Arms is an elegant pub in a curvaceous Georgian building on a corner plot. It is flanked by a large leafy beer garden spread over multiple levels broken up with grasses and white birches. It is a peaceful spot late afternoon on a week day, but the renowned kitchen doesn't open until 6pm. Before then, it is crisps or nuts.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Mama Lan, the Pavement, Clapham, South London

Part of a small chain of Chinese restaurants specialising in Beijing street food, the Clapham branch of Mama Lan is a compact stripped-back establishment where you sit on benches around wooden tables. The menu features a variety of dumplings, spicy chicken wings, noodle soups and rice dishes, such as sweet chilli chicken and crispy ginger beef. Well presented and full of colour, the food doesn't tend to taste as good as it looks. The prawn crackers are a bit stingy for £2.50 and harder than you might like, while the dumplings (£5.50 for five) don't have enough flavour, and the chicken wings (£6.50) can be very bony. The beef noodle soup (£9.50) doesn't have enough meat, relaying heavily on the pak choi and chilli to maintain your interest. You can wash it all down with bottles of Chinese Tsing Tao beer (£4) or glasses of pinot grigio (£5), cocktails or fruit juices. There is also tap water, but it needs ice.  Mama Lan isn't expensive, but it isn't great. 6/10

Friday, 28 April 2017

Consent, The National Theatre, the South Bank, central London

A new contemporary drama, Consent is performed in the round in the National's Dorfman Theatre, ensuring most of the audience have an intimate and close-up view of proceedings. Written by Nina Raine, the play is cleverly-crafted, exploring the thorny issues of what constitutes consent and rape inside and outside marriage from multiple angles and viewpoints. The searing script effectively contrasts the rigid logic of the legal process with the emotional trauma caused by sexual abuse, highlighting the relativity of so-called justice.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Hyde Park, London

Following a downpour, the flatlands of Hyde Park are almost deserted.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Kapsaliana Village Hotel, Municipality of Rethymnon, Crete

Once a humble hamlet built around an olive press, Kapsaliana Village is now an upscale hotel in which most of the old stone houses now serve as guest rooms and apartments. Although the creamy stone buildings have been heavily restored and the rooms are well-equipped, comfortable and immaculate, the village still retains its rustic air.  Often overlooking well-tended gardens, many of the rooms have sun-trap terraces, as well as smart furniture and fixtures. The ancient olive press itself, together with a myriad of original metal artefacts and gnarled wooden equipment, is preserved in a couple of large rooms that serve as a small museum. In here, you can watch a video documentary on a large pull down screen in which former residents of Kapsaliana talk about how the population of the village dwindled over time. The hotel also boasts an outdoor pool with sweeping views down to the coastline, as well as a leafy terrace and posh dining rooms where you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner. The staff are very professional and efficient, but have time to chat. Only the flaky Wi-Fi disappoints.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Nuvel, Rethymno, Crete

A coffee bar that wants to be a night club, Nuvel has a bling interior, plays high volume music videos and is staffed by attractive young things. Still, it also has a good view of Rethymno's ancient harbour, fast WiFi and very comfortable sofas. In fact, for the price of an expensive coffee, you can linger in Nuvel  for as long as you like, people watching and enjoying the buzzy vibe. 7/10

Friday, 21 April 2017

Arkadi Monastery, Rethymnon, Crete

Dating from the 16th Century, the Arkadi Monastery is one of Crete's few impressive historic sites built during the last millennium. Its distinguished honey-coloured Venetian 
church is particularly striking.  On a plateau about 500 metres above sea-level,  the Monastery feels surprisingly remote, despite its proximity to Crete's package holiday north coast
and the frequent coach loads of visitors.

Road Circuit from Platanes via Arkadi Monastery, Crete

This fine road cycling circuit begins at the Olympic bike hire shop in Platanes on the north coast of Crete and heads in-land climbing steadily through the villages of Adele, Pigi and Loutra, before winding its way up the famous monastery at Arkadi. The road, which is fairly empty in April, continues to climb before peaking at about 600 metres amid sumptious mountainous scenery. The picturesque return route heads down through Charkia, which has a gleaming white church, and Ag. Triada, before returning to the coast. The last section involves a fun and fast descent on fresh tarmac, which veers steeply down towards the sea. Although the road surface can be dodgy in the hills above the monastery, this route would be doable on a road bike and is straightforward on a hybrid. It involves about 37km of riding, according to Strava, and 642 metres of climbing, nearly all of which comes in the first half.