Tuesday 27 June 2017

Palais Royal de Bruxelles, Place des Palais, Brussels

Once the home of the Belgian Royal family, the imposing Palais de Bruxelles is now open to the public every summer. Built on the site of the Palace of the Dukes of Brabant, which was destroyed by fire in 1731, the main body of the current building dates from 1820. However, the facade was rebuilt in 1904 by Leopold II in the Louis XVI style, while the side wings date from the 18th century.  The Palace is separated from the Parc de Bruxelles by a wide cobbled street with no road markings, which provides a bumpy ride for cyclists.

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