The Year in London

London through the eyes of an MA student new to the city


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Moments in Tate’s Members’ Rooms

As my year in London has gone on, Tate Britain has rapidly become one of my favourite art galleries. I love walking through the Duveen Galleries and and comparing the different types of artwork produced within both similar and different points in time. The Members’ Room has also been a favourite place to be in the city; it is a calm and engaging place to reflect on the art you have just seen.

Equally, looking out from Tate Modern’s Members’ Room towards St. Paul’s Cathedral has been another highlight of this year.

View from Tate Modern's Members' Room

View from Tate Modern's Members' Room

Both places do delicious – and healthy – lunches, as well as beautifully made and presented cakes. After going to see the Matisse exhibition for the second time and sitting down to eat lunch in Tate Modern’s Members’ Room, I remember thinking that my salad looked as colourful and uplifting as Matisse’s late collages!

 

 

 


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Wool-wrapped macarons from Fortnum & Mason

Never have I had anything so outrageously wrapped, packaged and posted as my latest birthday present from an old school friend. This is definitely one of the most exciting pieces of post I will receive all year! A huge Fortnum & Mason box arrived on my doorstep and when opening the lid in excitement, I realised there were several layers to unwrap to find out what was inside… The plump, shiny and beautiful macarons were kept cool by thick, heavy layers of wool, making the packaging four times the size of the gift.

I’ve decided that the wool can be recycled and made into felt, which I use to create handmade book covers and felt objects. See the Art page on my other blog – helencobby.wordpress.com – for examples of my felt work.

I’d not tried macarons before, and although most of the fun was in receiving and opening the parcel, I found them absolutely delicious (especially in their professionally wool-cooled state!) The chocolate and pistachio flavours are my favourites.

 

 

 

 


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Wild garden opposite Selfridges

After convincing myself that a quick stroll around Selfridges would be a good idea before meeting a friend in Soho, I soon realised why this was only my third visit to the store since moving to London last year.

I felt that I’d experienced a hectic obstacle course rather than having some time out window-shopping and so was in need of a break. Although not expecting to find a quiet place near Oxford Street I quickly stumbled upon Brown Hart Gardens on the opposite side of the road to Selfridges, off Duke Street.

The Gardens are raised above street level like an island or peaceful haven. There are wild flowers, colourful grasses, a water features, a dog sculpture and a clear, close-up view of Antony Gormley’s new hotel room ‘without a view’ for the Beaumont Hotel!

This makes Brown Hart Gardens the best place to relax, eat lunch and recover from a stint of (window) shopping.

 


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The Cornershop installation

Lucy Sparrow’s The Cornershop is neatly stacked with cans of baked beans, soup, noodles, toothpaste and newspapers. It has everything you would expect to find in a normal corner shop, and yet everything is made of felt. The vegetables even have eyes and are smiling merrily at the door, greeting the constant wave of visitors. Lucy is also there – she is part of the installation – and she chats to everyone who comes in.

It has taken her 7 months to make her felt items and she continues to make them in the shop as people put their names down for their favourites.

Each item is hand sewn with detailed writing and embellishments. You can even read whole articles on the front of the newspapers.

The Cornershop is just behind Columbia Road, making it a great location. It is open throughout the whole of August and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area!

 

 

 


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A treat in Clapham

I’ve walked past Brickwood cafe in Clapham several times now and it’s not just the fact that it’s the newest cafe on the street that made me want to go there. The back garden, which is as big as the inside area, is a peaceful and pretty haven from the hectic high-street. The menu maintains the cafe’s summery feel with its descriptions of light breakfasts and brunches along with relatively unusual ingredients such as avocados and truffles.

I chose the brunch option of corn fritters with roasted vegetable and halloumi salad, beetroot creme fraiche and a poached egg, which I would recommend as the top thing on the menu for vegetarians. It was beautifully presented and so colourful. The rich combinations of colours were enhanced by the amazingly vivid-orange yolk that ran out of the poached egg when I cut into it. This is definitely the best brunch I’ve ever had!

 


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Best cafe in Bloomsbury?

This blog has been quiet for almost a couple of months now whilst I’ve been preparing my dissertation and viva for an MA in the history of art. Recently, I’ve been thinking about where I work best and different places to go for short breaks from planning and writing. A favourite cafe of mine for meeting up with friends for coffee or lunch is Store Street Expresso Cafe. It’s near to UCL and so is a perfect place for a break from work.

The goat’s cheese and caramelised vegetable toasted sandwiches are delicious, and great with a creamy hot chocolate if you are having a particularly hectic day. Otherwise, the fresh mint tea is a more summery option and looks pretty in its clear glass cup (however, like many herbal teas, it seems quite expensive). There are also salad and tart options, as well as porridge in the winter! Everyone who works there is very friendly and cheerful, making this cafe a popular place in Bloomsbury.

 

 


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A taste of Beirut street food

Tucked away down a Soho side street, the restaurant ‘Yalla Yalla’ offering Beirut street food proved to be a perfect lunch spot this Bank Holiday weekend. The restaurant is small and cosy with a distinctly relaxed atmosphere  – which I feel is hard to find anywhere in central London.

Customers are encouraged to be creative by picking their own mezze combinations from a wide range of dishes, including some delicious spicy potatoes, tabboule and baba gannouj. My companion and I shared a vegetarian mezze platter, which contained hot savoury pastries along with green salad, tabboule, thick and creamy homous, and falafels. Although there is only one vegetarian main dish that is served with rice, the vegetarian mezze plates and platter definitely make up for this.

Yalla Yalla is a great place for a light, sweet desert – we shared fragrant rose and tahini ice cream in delicate pastel colours, with three contrasting backlawa.

Yalla Yalla is just off Brewer Street, which I am yet to explore properly and am already keen to go back to – the combination of ice cream parlours and vintage magazine and shoe shops brings this high up my ‘future outings’ list.