Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Cutty Sark pub, Ballast Quay, south east London

A charming Georgian riverside pub, the Cutty Sark is in an idyllic spot on a cobbled street overlooking a big bend in the Thames. The elegant flat facade is punctuated by a beautiful double-storey bay window. Inside, tasteful wooden panelling, leather sofas, vintage lanterns and Victorian posters contrive to conjure up a historic ambiance. But the most impressive feature is a grand and curvaceous wooden staircase leading up to the first floor. Outside, there are a dozen or so wooden tables across the road, but many drinkers like to dangle their feet over the brick wall lining the river. With views of the mecanno-like Millennium Dome and shining towers of Canary Wharf, the Cutty Sark is an ideal pit-stop for anyone cycling or walking the Thames Path. 8/10

Lambeth Country Show, Brockwell Park, South London

Friday, 10 July 2015

Maunsel Street, central London

Leading off Vincent Square, Maunsel Street boasts elegant period architecture and views of the Palace of Westminster

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Soho Square, central London

Dating from the seventeenth century, Soho Square is home to a bunch of media organisations occupying a diverse set of elegant buildings overlooking a half-timbered hut in the middle of a small park shaded by towering plane trees. Tucked behind Oxford Street, the square has a relatively laid-back vibe and provides much-needed greenery in the heart of London's West End.

Nude Expresso, Soho Square, central London

A pricey and pretentious coffee bar, Nude Expresso serves fashionable punters working in the vicinity of Soho Square. There is no WiFi (you are asked to talk to each other), it is a tad cramped (with a few tables downstairs and a few more on a mezzanine level) and even the long black coffee is small - you'll finish it in a couple of mouthfuls.  Still, the decor is undeniably cool and the food is fairly imaginative and looks appealing. Nude Expresso ticks all the style boxes, but it doesn't feel like a place to linger. 6/10

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Mama Lan restaurant, Brixton Village, south London

Spicy beef noodle soup

One of the many quirky eateries competing for business in buzzing Brixton Village, Mama Lan has a short, simple Chinese menu, apparently harking from Beijing. You can sit at one of the handful of coarse wooden tables in the covered market alley or you might be able to get a cosier table inside.  The hefty king prawn and Chinese water chestnut dumplings (5 pieces for £6.50) are tasty enough, but the prawns are overpowered by the water chestnut. Better is the spicy beef noodle soup (£9). A real assault on the taste buds, this dish is strong, sensuous and substantial with plenty of meat and carbs. The spicy chicken ban mien (£9), on the other hand, is a little stodgy and doesn't win great reviews.  With the fiery food, you'll probably want a couple of bottles of Tsing Tao beer (330ml for £3.50), but there are also large glasses of mediocre wine for about a fiver and free tap water. You eat with chopsticks from large china bowls on wooden tables. The service is a little gruff and the staff may even ask you to move tables half way through your meal to accommodate other diners.  Still, Mama Lan is good value, if you choose your dishes carefully. 7/10

Friday, 26 June 2015

Inner Temple Gardens, central London

A lush riverside oasis within striking distance of the City, the Inner Temple Gardens contain three acres of well-tended lawns, flower beds and a variety of mature trees. The gardens, which were home to the forerunner to the Chelsea Flower Show at the start of the twentieth century, are normally open to the public from 12.30 to 3pm each weekday. On sunny days, they are peppered with office workers from the nearby Inns of Court and City firms west of Blackfriars, but rarely feel crowded.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Silk Road Restaurant, Camberwell Church St, South London

A simple, but very popular, eatery, the Silk Road specialises in the spicy cuisine originating from China's north-west frontier province of Xinjiang. The decor and furnishing are simple and not that comfortable - wooden benches line cramped wooden tables, but it is overshadowed by the enthralling and authentic food, which you eat with chopsticks and with plenty of napkins. Helpfully, the many noodle dishes and stews on the menu are marked with chill-peppers, signalling how strong their kick on a scale of one to three. The signature dish - the medium plate chicken (about £16 for enough for two) - is excellent. It is a huge broth containing a dozen or more pieces of chicken on the bone, chillies, potatoes, anise and garlic swimming in the juice. Once you have waded your way through the meat, the staff may add piles of chunky, tasty noodles to soak up the liquid.