Wednesday 30 July 2014

The Sun Sculpture, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, central London

Made up of more than 1,500 hand-blown glass elements, American artist Dale Chihuly's Sun sculpture is 5.5 metres tall, weighs 2,000 kgs and is illuminated each night.  The Sun has also been on display in New York Botanical Gardens and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Sunday 20 July 2014

Lambeth Country Show, Brockwell Park, south London

Simple Minds, Kew the Music, Kew Gardens, west London

One of the venerable acts in the Kew the Music series of concerts, Simple Minds draws a mostly middle class, middle aged crowd. But don't let that put you off.  With the help of Pinot Grigio, Jim Kerr can rabble-rouse even the most self-conscious forty somethings and fifty somethings into action.  But, when you arrive, it can be disarmingly serene. You walk past Kew's magnificent and curvaceous Victorian Palm House and a row of refined stalls and hawkers selling picnic rugs, wine, gastronomy and various picnic condiments. You might even be offered free teabags. There is plenty of sustenance on sale, but most people are already equipped with food, wine, picnic rugs and even fold-up chairs. The well-heeled punters settle down in front of the full-scale concert stage (appropriately sponsored by John Lewis) overlooking a picturesque lawn surrounded by towering trees. To get a good spot near the dance area in front of the stage, you probably need to be queuing before the doors open at 6.30pm. But you may still be able to secure a few square metres of space under the trees as late as 7pm.

Friday 18 July 2014

Temple of Agape, The Festival of Love, the Southbank, central London

The work of Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan, the Temple of Agape is made up of hundreds of  flag-like signs, hand-painted with words about love.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Monday 14 July 2014

ORA, Front Street, Tynemouth, Tyneside

Towards the seaward end of Front Street, ORA is one of a new generation of aspirational eateries  taking over Tynemouth. The large windows open out on to a handful of tables on the street, surrounded by pot plants, creating a pavement cafe vibe when the sun is out. The fairly funky interior features a stylish metallic spiral staircase leading up a private dining room. ORA's lengthy lunch menu features a broad selection of tapas, plus some imaginative sandwiches served in your choice of bread - ciabatta, wholemeal bloomer or wrap. They can also be toasted - the brie, bacon and mango chutney on ciabatta is heated to the point where it is melting before your eyes, but it tastes great. The meatball melt, in a tomato and basil sauce, with cheese is also very appetising. The sandwiches are served with some lacklustre crisps, which really need the accompanying garlic dip, and could do with at little salad. But they are still good value at less than five quid apiece. The coffee is mediocre, but but can get jugs of tap water: Just make sure the glasses are clean. The table service by the cosmopolitan staff is slow, but assured and friendly. 7/10

Sunday 13 July 2014

Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear

Tynemouth's distinguished Early Victorian Front Street decked out for the Mouth of the Tyne Festival

Saturday 12 July 2014

Allard's Lounge, Front Street, Tynemouth, Tyneside

An eclectic, exuberant cafe-bar on Tynemouth's Front Street, Allard's Lounge serves a decent selection of seafood, meat and vegetable tapas. There are a few tables outside, but head inside for some buzz and bling. With a very high ceiling, the lounge bar is decorated with skull and cross bones wallpaper, glittering chandeliers, back-lit, gold-framed mirrors and Arts and Crafts padded benches. Claim some seats and then order at the bar, where there is Moretti beer on tap. Among the tapas, the plump king prawns in a creamy chilli sauce (£5.95) pack flavour, as does the patatas bravas, which is served with a big dollop of alioli and tomato sauce. You can also get pots of tasty seafood or chicken paella (both £4.95), while the halloumi and chorizo (£3.95) is salty, but succulent. Be sure to order the chips, which are fat juicy wedges of potato: some of the best you'll find. And the olives in garlic (£2.95) are plump and moreish. But avoid the lamb on skewers, served with a creamy mint sauce, which can be disappointing - the meat may be tough and dry.  Order enough tapas and it might be accompanied by some passable bread and olives. Allard's can get very busy and the service brusque. Although the food can take a while, this cafe-bar has enough atmosphere to keep you well entertained. 8/10

Friday 4 July 2014

The Tramshed, Rivington Street, central London

With a spectacular and spacious dining room,  The Tramshed is a destination restaurant housed in a grade-II listed electricity generating facility built for the tramway system in 1905. The enormous vaulted ceiling, the thousands of tiles and the industrial ambiance is something special, but it is all overshadowed by a Damien Hirst installation consisting of a stuffed cockerel standing on top of a stuffed cow transfixed in an embalming tank on a plinth. Unsurprisingly then, the Tramshed's menu is dominated by meat. For a lightish lunch, the cock and bull is a decent option. It's a steak and chicken, salad and mayo, ciabatta, sandwich served with a dozen chips, for about a tenner.  It is moist and tasty, but not that generous. The (very) garlic mushrooms, which are delicious, make a great accompaniment. If you are ravenous, you can get a whole roast chicken (presumably to share) carved up at your table. In the men's loos, you are overlooked by a picture of a semi-naked woman, which, unnervingly, starts to move after a few seconds. You won't forget this place. 8/10