Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Brixton Road, south London

Running from Kennington Park down to Brixton, Brixton Road is still endowed with rows of handsome Regency terraces. Most of them retain their tall sash windows and cast iron railings. Many of the side roads, such as Lorn Road and Groveway, are also lined with well-preserved period properties dating from the early nineteenth century.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, Worcestershire

An unspoilt period pub in a peaceful village in the Vale of Evesham on the fringes of the Cotswolds, the Fleece is a museum piece owned by The National Trust. Dating from the seventeenth century, the timbered frame building was badly damaged by a fire a decade ago. But it appears to have been painstakingly restored and the interior takes you back in time. The low ceiling is held up by blackened timbers, while the flagstone floor is heavily worn and uneven. The windows are lead-paned, the fireplaces are ancient, the walls are lined with antique crockery and pewter, and the wooden furniture is a pleasing mismatch of benches, chairs and snugs. With the fires roaring on a cold winter's day, The Fleece is one of the cosiest pubs you can hope to visit.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Circular Walk from Stanton Village, Worcestershire

Stanway House's impressive gatehouse
From the postcard-pretty village of Stanton, follow the Cotswold Way across the fields south west towards Stanway House - a handsome and extensive Jacobean manor house built from golden Cotswold stone. After you round the corner, you are confronted by the extraordinary three-storey gatehouse with its lead-paned windows and towering gables. When you hit the road, follow it east, taking care until you join a bridleway heading north east that climbs steadily up through Lidcombe Wood, overlooking PaperMill Farm. In the woods, you might hear the churning of a pump, which uses gravity to power a 300-foot fountain in the grounds of Stanway House. At the top of the lengthy climb, you will emerge from the woods and onto an exposed hill top at an altitude of about 300 metres - the top of the Cotswold escarpment. A track north west enables you to rejoin the Cotswold Way and descend steadily back through the fields down into Stanton. It is a short climb through the village up to the Mount Inn. After this satisfying and stimulating five mile round trip, you'll deserve a drink. 8/10

Friday, 19 December 2014

Southwark Bridge, central London

The view north west from Southwark Bridge, which dates from 1913. It was restored and repainted in 2011 using 13,000 litres of green and gold paint.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill, Boundary Street, East London

On the top floor of a converted Victorian warehouse, the Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill has an open terrace with views over Shoreditch, outdoor heaters and an pergola enclosed in glass. Surrounded by pot plants, creeper plants and cool, contemporary lighting, you can sit on canvas chairs at a wooden garden-style table. The Mediterranean menu up here is fairly limited, but it is difficult to go wrong. The starters and hors d'oeuvres can be very good, perhaps featuring dressed yellow beetroot, salami with rocket and bruschetta topped with vegetables, parmesan and olive oil. The latter is particularly delicious. Among the main courses, the rib-eye steak (£24), served with béarnaise and anaemic chips, is juicy and enjoyable. You can get various side orders at about £4 a pop. The wine list, starting at £20 a bottle, is short and French. Although the wine is served in tumblers, it is decent stuff. Among the deserts (£6), neither the creme brûlée nor the chocolate mousse, topped with fresh fruit and cream, really make their mark. Although it is not the ideal winter venue, the Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill must be a atmospheric place to eat on a sunny evening. 7/10

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Jamie's Italian, Piccadilly, Denman Street, central London

A multi-storey, mega-restaurant, this branch of Jamie's Italian tries to bring an edgy east-end feel to the touristy and more salubrious west end.  With brick walls, distressed wooden furniture, exposed vents, wooden floors and metallic tables, Jamie's Italian has the well-honed hallmarks of a Shoreditch eatery. But the clientele is more Highgate than Hoxton. In crisp white shirts, the young waiting staff are cooler-than-thou, but seem a little world weary.  On the menu, the bread basket (£3.95), which contains rosemary focaccia, ciabatta, seeded crackerbread, sourdough and grissini sticks and comes with an addictive olive tapenade, is tempting and tasty. But you might only get a mouthful of each variety. Among the main courses, the sausage pappardelle (£11.95) is pleasant and satisfying, but nothing special.  The prawn linguine (£13.50) gets better reviews, while the beef burger (£13.95 with chips)  contains a large and filling slab of meat topped with smoked mozzarella. The side dishes are nicely-done, but modest for the price tags. The rocket salad with parmesan (£3.55) is delicious, but sparse, while the market vegetables may just be a plate of finely-sliced courgette doused in garlic. For desert, the chocolate brownie (£5.45) is best avoided. Although the brownie is warm, soft and sweet, it may be served with a jarring frozen yoghurt and topped with sickly caramelised popcorn. To drink, the Crystal beer - a cool, flavoursome lager - is excellent. 7/10

Angler Restaurant, South Place Hotel, Moorgate, central London

Images from Angler's web site

A refined Michelen-starred fish restaurant on the top floor of the stylish South Place Hotel, Angler is a fine choice for seafood-lovers looking for a special meal. While the architecture is both high-end and high-tech, the crisp white tablecloths, smart waiting staff and gleaming cutlery are just high-end. At Christmas, you can either plumb for the three-course festive menu (£48) or go a la carte. Either way, you will eat well and be treated to several free appetisers - the mushroom mousse is very, very good, while the sourdough bread is seductively warm and soft. The very extensive wine list starts at £21 a bottle, but if you aren't an aficionado, you can get a bottle of clean Chilean white for £25 that goes well with seafood.