Bottomless Brunch with Cocktails – Dirty Bones, Kensington High Street


A touch of NYC in the heart of KHS!

A retro neon sign tells you you’ve arrived, otherwise, it would be easy to walk past the narrow doorway to Dirty Bones’ Kensington High Street. Take the steep staircase down to this basement restaurant and you could be miles away from the frenetic shopping taking place on the streets above.

Dirty Bones has recently launched a Bottomless Brunch with cocktails menu and it’s a fun way to start your weekend. For a good value £22.00 per person, you can enjoy one and a half hours of unlimited cocktails from the Brunch menu (normally priced at around £9.00 per glass) while tucking into NYC-inspired comfort food. 

Cocktails at Dirty Bones diner

You can mix and match your cocktails, or stick with your favourite.  The Dirty Mary is a refreshing mix of vodka tomato, lemon and pickle juices, hot sauce, signature spices served with a quirky sour cream and onion pringle rim.  The Hip Monkey combines white rum, martini rosso, fresh lime, bitters with grapefruit soda to provide an interesting take on your morning fruit juice.  The most popular choice appears to be the Lexy, a strong take on a Bucks Fizz with vodka being teamed with amaretto, strawberry, lemon and prosecco.

Brunch at Dirty Bones

When choosing food, don’t bother looking for the lighter option – here we are talking serious indulgence.  Whether you’re contemplating Caramelised Banana Waffles (caramelised banana, Toblerone chocolate sauce, blueberry jam, salted peanut butter gelato and crushed nuts on a freshly baked waffle) or Avocado Crumpet (avocado and garlic guacamole, poached eggs, hollandaise and siracha hot sauce on two toasted crumpets) – brunch here does not follow a Californian diet (unless your version includes tacos).  You could easily spend an hour and a half, simply choosing what to eat given that all the dishes have that wonderful American knack of combining sweet and savoury.   Having sought advice from our friendly waitress, we opted for Brunch Chicken & Waffles with a side of Roasted Chilli-Mint Squash and a more traditional Salmon Crumpet.

Beetroot salmon muffin

The Chicken and waffle came with fried eggs and maple syrup which contrasted with and were complemented by the sweet roasted squash and tangy crème fraiche mix of pomegranate mollasses, mint, red chilli and roasted almonds (which I’ll be making at home!). The serving of delicate flavoured beetroot-cured salmon lox was generous and sat on a crumpet base with poached eggs and a hollandaise sauce, a very regal take on Eggs Royale.

Dirty Bones interior

Anyone who has visited New York and managed to find one of the old-style breakfast cafes will enjoy the atmosphere here.  The décor has a nod to European art-cafes, but the clever use of tiling evokes the back streets of Manhattan.  Background music of laid-back hip-hop, funk and soul creates a sense of timelessness and the brunch crowd of young women catching up, couples chatting and families celebrating a birthday were all chilling nicely on the Saturday morning I joined in.  If you can’t make brunch enjoy the cocktails or your favourite tipple whilst listening to the resident DJ on Friday and Saturday or a live band on Thursdays.  This is a venue to drop in on any day of the week.

Dirty Bones
20 Kensington Church St,
London W8 4EP

Available on Saturday and Sunday unlimited brunch cocktails are offered per party for up to 1.5 hours. The whole table must go bottomless to qualify and each guest must purchase a main course.  The last bottomless seating is at 1530.  

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The Mayflower – approaching a 400 year anniversary


The Mayflower Discovery Trail:

The year 2020 marks the 400 year anniversary of the Mayflower’s journey from England to America.  It was in 1620 that an intrepid group of dissenters set sail across the Atlantic on what was then an incredibly dangerous journey.  Underlying their journey was a belief that the reformation of English churches by Henry VIII  and the creation of the Protestant Church of England was half-hearted and had resulted in something far too close to the original Catholic church, albeit with rules that suited the King and allowed him to divorce his wife in order to remarry.  More about the resulting Separatist movement will be covered in later features – this piece is simply to provide an outline of the events which lead to the Mayflower, the travellers who are sometimes known as ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ or ‘Mayflower Pilgrims’ and subsequent journeys to America.

The Mayflower By William Halsall (Pilgrim Hall Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There were pockets of Separatists across England and even in Leiden in the Netherlands, where some from Scrooby, Southwark and Gainsborough had escaped.  But, at that time the attraction of a new world, one where they could settle and establish communities with their own values, was overwhelming and so, despite the danger, they decided to emigrate.

Commercial sponsorship from the Virginia Trading Company was set up to help raise the funds needed to hire ships.  The Mayflower, built in Harwich and docked in Rotherhithe, was hired by the congregation still back in England, along with the Master and part owner Captain Christopher Jones and his crew of around 30 men.  The Speedwell was bought by the Separatists who had escaped to Leiden – and both ships met up in Southampton, with the aim of travelling together.  Sadly, The Speedwell leaked badly and before the pilgrims had travelled more than 300 miles from Land’s End, they were forced to return to Plymouth.  Ultimately the Speedwell was declared unfit – and while some of the Pilgrims dropped out, others crowded onto The Mayflower.

Southampton Tudor House Museum 630x630

The ship, with around 102 passengers, set sail on 16th September from Plymouth.  Just under half of those on board were separatists, the remainder were skilled tradespeople who had been sent by the investors to help build the new colony.

Bayards Cove, Dartmouth, Landscape 7

With the onset of winter, it’s perhaps not surprising that the ship eventually landed, well off course, in Cape Harbour on 21st November 1620.  There they wrote and signed what is known as the Mayflower Compact, an agreement on the way the colony would be run, with constitutional law and majority rule (although women neither signed the Compact nor had an entitlement to vote).  Cape Harbour (now known as Provincetown, Cape Cod) proved to be particularly challenging and the colonists moved further around the coast to Plymouth Bay Massachusetts, where they settled.

Although over half of the crew and passengers died in the first winter, the next year was more successful – partly at least due to the support of the Wampanoag Indians who helped the colony learn how to hunt and grow crops.  Their first successful harvest, in the Autumn of 1621 was marked with three days of prayers – and is known as the first Thanksgiving.

Rotherhithe St Marys Church

What seems remarkable to me is that the original separatists came from across England.  Yet, there were enough of them to fill a sailing ship converged at Plymouth – and there were subsequent migrations in the 1630’s.  These people were often educated and challenging – unwilling to accept the status quo.  Their impact on the early history of America includes the establishment of what became Harvard University and the Mayflower Compact is regarded as a significant precursor of the American Constitution, the idea of laws made by the people that lies at the heart of democracy.

The Mayflower Pub

So, over the next months, we will be exploring more of the places in England where the original separatists came from and trying to understand the drivers behind their hearts and minds.  And, we will share the journey with you so that, as the 400 year anniversary approaches you can travel around the Country yourself and see for yourself.

mayflower 400, Mayflower anniversary, Mayflower in England, Separatist, Pilgrim Fathers

Meanwhile, if you’d like to find out more about Mayflower400 do check the website

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Hamlet Hackney RSC Shakespeare’s Hamlet at The Hackney Empire


Hamlet in Hackney:

Hamlet comes in a re-energised form to Hackney Empire after a short UK tour before heading overseas to Washington in the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s latest production, directed by Simon Godwin. What makes this production stand out is its leading man Paapa Essiedu who at the age of 27 is the first black man ever to play Hamlet at the RSC, he has a commanding presence and beautifully encompasses a gawky post-adolescent, rebellious young man full of passion, angst and ultimate revenge with a sprinkling of humour thrown in. Essiedu’s fresh and impressive performance as a recent graduate from Wittenberg University, arriving home to Denmark proves he is undoubtedly a star in the making.

Hamlet is the most modern of Shakespeare’s plays. Eschewing the predictable uncoiling of the plot that characterises classic Revenge Tragedies, Shakespeare presents a modern and highly conflicted hero, half-adolescent, half-man, driven by doubts and dark fantasies whose real tragedy is his inability to act. With his mother having been stolen by his uncle who has also killed his father, Hamlet has been robbed of ownership of his Freudian Oedipal desires rendering him castrated, impotent and indecisive.

Hamlet Photo by Manuel Harlan (C) RSC. Mimi Ndiweni & Joseph Mydell

Godwin’s exciting production and Paul Will’s set takes us into the wider world reimagined in a West African kingdom, swathed in Day-Glo colour and vivid imagery of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti art, which along the African drumming and vibrant brightly coloured costumes transports the audience to another world, which is propelled by percussionist Sola Akingbola’s (from Jamiroquai) dynamic score and Christopher Shutt’s sound design. On-stage drummers mark the unfolding drama with volleys of riffs that are simultaneously tribal and militaristic adding rhythm and energy.

Hamlet tour Photo by Manuel Harlan (C) RSC.

Hamlet is often set in a sombre court, however, this production oscillates from an atmosphere of solemnity to one of an anarchic carnival, which gives it a unique charm. The resplendent costumes embrace both traditional and modern designer attire, which adds to the rich visuals.

Hamlet’s rebellion and youthfulness is demonstrated by his willing hand with a spray can, which he uses to graffiti the canvass with mutinous pleasure.

Hamlet Photo by Manuel Harlan (C) RSC. Mimi Ndiweni & Paapa Essiedu

The production particularly focuses on the human relationships with added humorous appeal. Notably Hamlet’s deep-seated friendship with Horatio (James Cooney) and his old somewhat naive old school friends Rosencrantz (Romayne Andrew) and Eleanor Wyld’s wonderfully kooky Guildenstern.

Joseph Mydell gives a strong performance as an amusing Polonius, and Mimi Ndiweni plays Orphelia with a sparky charm which she imbues with madness and grief. I really enjoyed Buon Tihngang as Laertes, plus Clarence Smith’s Claudius, made a powerful impact.

Hamlet - Photo by Manuel Harlan (C) RSC. Paapa Essiedu

The RSC’s production is brave, vivid and expansive and is filled with equal amounts of charm, comedy and tragedy. Get to see it if you can, and be sure to keep an eye out for Paapa Essiedu as he is definitely one to watch.

Hamlet is playing at the Hackney Empire until March 31

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Mayfair Japanese Restaurant Sake no Hana celebrates Sakura


Sakura installation at Sake no Hana:

In a dramatic reinvention of Sakura this year, Sake no Hana, in collaboration with Perrier-Jouët Champagne, has commissioned leading paper artist Lydia Kasumi Shirreff to create a Sakura inspired art installation at their Mayfair Japanese restaurant.

Spring is the perfect time to visit Japan. The Japanese cherry tree comes into blossom covering the country with a delicate pink canopy and Sakura is the traditional Japanese celebration of the cherry blossom.   If you can’t visit Japan, the next best option is to find a good Japanese restaurant which is celebrating Sakura.  I was delighted to be invited along to Sake no Hana, the contemporary Japanese restaurant by internationally acclaimed Hakkasan Group, for the launch of their new Sakura menu a celebration that signifies the start of Spring and the Japanese blossom season. They have created a limited edition menu and are collaborating with Perrier-Jouët Champagne, famous for their iconic Japanese anemone adorned bottles, to celebrate a marriage of art and food.

Perrier-Jouët Champagne

The Mayfair Japanese restaurant has commissioned acclaimed artist Lydia Kasumi Shirreff to transform the space, following the success of her recent Chinese lantern installation at sister restaurant Yauatcha City. With a background in fine art, Lydia has been dubbed ‘the queen of paper sculpture’ and has created a beautiful installation in which large paper blossom sculptures float in cloud-like formations from the ceilings. Lydia’s interpretation of the Sakura theme has been inspired by hana fubuki, a Japanese phrase that directly translates as ‘flower snowstorm’ or ‘cherry blossom blizzard’.

We were welcomed with a perfectly chilled glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne and offered some mouth-watering canapés, which were based on dishes from the new menu, which has been created in tribute to the season, by Sake no Hana’s esteemed Head Chef Hideki Hiwatashi.

Mayfair Japanese Restaurant Sake no Hana - chefs

He has created a special four-course Sakura Supreme menu to pair with the fresh, citrus character of the recently launched Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

Guests will begin with akadashi hirousu, a red miso soup with tofu cake, seaweed and chilli yuzu, followed by a selection of signature sushi. A bento box will comprise nigiri; maguro tuna, salmon, ama ebi and suzuki sasazushi, and maki rolls; spicy maguro, aburi salmon, crunchy kani maki and inari tofu. Diners will be offered a choice of main courses such as sakura salmon with yuzu miso and Angus beef sumiyaki with a chilli ponzu. To finish, guests will enjoy the delicate orange blossom pannacotta.

We’ve reviewed the Sakura menu at Sake no Hana in previous years and it is always an immaculate and stunning presentation of delicious Japanese food.  But this year, it is particularly special – so do make sure you book and go along to this Mayfair Japanese restaurant while it is so beautifully decorated.

Hanami is the centuries-old Japanese tradition of celebrating the annual Sakura season by eating sushi and drinking sake beneath the cherry blossom trees. You may not be able to enjoy springtime in Japan but instead, you could experience a wonderful taste of Hanami in London’s Mayfair at Sake no Hana.

The menu will be priced £38 per person including a signature Sakura cocktail, or £52 including a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

From Monday 19th March to Monday 18th June 2018. Open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday.

Sake no Hana,
23 St James’s Street,
London, SW1A 1HA

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Rodrigues Island – Top things to do in Rodrigues, near Mauritius


From Cooking to Kite Surfing – Top things to do on the Island of Rodrigues:

There were blank faces all round when I started to tell friends I was planning to visit Rodrigues Island.   About the same size as Jersey CI at just 108 km sq, I was promised a tropical island set in the Indian Ocean with sandy beaches, coral reefs and crystal blue seas.  It’s 560 kilometres east of its nearest neighbour, Mauritius and has much in common with its better-known cousin.  It is part of the Mascarene Islands which include Mauritius Island and Réunion –  formed from underwater volcanic eruptions some eight million years ago. And, although it is part of the Republic of Mauritius, it gained autonomous status in 2002, and it is governed by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.   Yet, there was little to read about Rodrigues – no resort reviews and just 6 hotels and 43 bed and breakfasts listed on Trip Advisor.  Would there be a catch I wondered, to what sounded like the ultimate island paradise?

After a long journey via Mauritius, I arrived at Plaine Corail airport in Rodrigues in the early evening to large signs reminding me that plastic bags were banned on the island.

Deserted beaches Eastern Crics

Driving across the island in the half-light we learnt a little more.  Rodrigues Island is self-sustaining, the people grow everything from spices to coffee and from vegetables to small green lemons which are unique to the island and which are widely used in cooking, to make a non-alcoholic lemonade and, I quickly discovered, to make a delicious rum punch called Ti’Punch – made on the island with lemons, not lime.

Ti Punch, Rodrigues, Cotton Bay Hotel

Rodrigues even exports meat to Mauritius.  And, the island is very eco-conscious – the plastic bag ban will be followed by plastic bottles and straws.  There are signs reminding everyone that the island can suffer from water shortages too – large concrete storage tanks outside the houses are used to hold water when necessary and most public venues ask you to be careful when bathing.

Cotton Bay Beach 2 Rodrigues

But, when we visited there had been plenty of rain and the island was green and verdant.  On the first morning, I woke to discover the crystal clear seas that surround the island.  My hotel was, literally, on the beach and morning alarm call for me was hungry and noisy sea birds exploring my balcony and interrupting the gentle lapping of the waves some 200 yards from the window.

Rodrigues View

Unlike sister island Mauritius,  hospitality in Rodrigues is predominately home-grown.  There are no large resorts and no chain hotels and there is a wealth of accommodation categorised as Bed and Breakfast or Self Catering.   What’s more, restaurants are generally small, intimate affairs or if you really want to get under the skin of Rodrigues, an option for Table D’Hote dining, where you can eat in the homes of local families.  WiFi works intermittently, it’s dependent on a satellite service and anyone aiming to stream movies or play online games may be disappointed.  In short, this is somewhere to come and detox from 21st Century living.  If you prefer, doing nothing in particular is an attractive option here.  It’s the kind of island paradise where time stops still and you could just sit on the beach with a book, undisturbed for a few days.

Washing - Rodrigues Island, Mauritius

But, despite the digital detox if you want to explore you really will struggle to get bored here.  The island has a wealth of activities – whether you want to relax or have a more active stay.  And, there’s an endearing honesty about the people of Rodrigues that makes it hard to miss the wifi or complain about the lack of flat screen TVs.

Rodrigues - Baking lesson

What would you like to try?  For those of a gentle disposition, you can learn to cook and bake Rodrigues style.  The women of the island have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and you’ll find people like Mrs Manan who will take you into their home kitchens and show you how they bake the island’s signature pain d’epices (a kind of gingerbread) and various pastries which are sold in the airport and across the island.

Beach and Birds Ile aux cocos, Rodrigues, Mauritius

Interested in ornithology zoology or botany?  Take a trip out to Ile aux Cocos or to the southern islets for a wealth of plant species and, on Ile Aux Cocos a remarkable insight into the life of the four birds species who ‘own’ this island and are protected by human guardians who stay in a beach chalet to make sure no-one disturbs the habitat of the birds.

Rodrigues - Giant Tortoises

Or visit the Francois Leguat giant tortoise reserve.  I’ll be writing more about our own experiences and the background to these and more places to explore in detail in a later post.

Eastern Crics Rodrigues Island Beaches

There are also some great hikes around the island – we all enjoyed walking around the crics (creeks surrounded by craggy cliffs and sandy beaches) at Trou d’Argent but had there been more time, I’d have gone exploring the honey cultivation as part of the treck from Baie Topaze to Cascade Jean Louis and Piment. There are hikes from 5k up to 14k, taking you right across the island

Zipline Rodrigues tyrodrig

For those looking for an adrenaline buzz, you can zip line on the 4th longest zipline in the world – 400 metres across three lush green valleys at Tyrodrig Montagne Charlot.  Or take a dive from the rope bridge at Cascade Pistache where, if you think walking across the rope bridge is a piece of cake and want more, you can literally jump straight down.

Rope Bridge Rodrigues

Want to learn to kite surf, snorkel or scuba dive?  there are dive centres and watersports schools across Rodrigues – and the quiet lagoon and coral reef surrounding the island provide the perfect place for beginners through to more experienced divers to explore.   For those snorkelling, the reefs are a shallow haven for fish and living corals, while divers can head for the deeper waters of the lagoon.

Snorkelling in Rodrigues Island

The waters are generally warm falling no lower than 22c in August and rising to 29 or 30c in March.  Whether you just want to paddle along the shoreline or go in search of some of the plentiful marine life and corals, it’s hard to avoid some kind of sea adventure when you visit Rodrigues.  You may initially wonder why the hotel pools are so empty.  But after a day or two, it’s easy enough to understand – the sea is clean and safe for swimming and the sandy beaches are generally deserted.  Nature’s own swimming pool seems a lot more pleasant when it is not overpopulated by humans  or polluted by their plastics.

Kitesurfing ile aux chats

Tempted?  I’ll be telling you more about our unique experiences on Rodrigues in later posts – and giving you ideas about where to stay and how to reach this secret paradise.

Fishing Rodrigues Island, Mauritius

Right now, I’m focussing on how I can possibly find an excuse to go back because Rodrigues is somewhere I’d like to get to know a lot, lot better and I am sure will feature on one of our top places to visit for 2018

Thinking of visiting yourself? Why not pin this post for later

Rodrigues Island, Rodrigues Republic of Mauritius, Rodrigues Mauritius

Fact Box

I was a guest of Tourism Rodrigues on this trip.

I flew to Rodrigues Island via Mauritius with Air Mauritius.  There are direct flights from London to Mauritius with Air Mauritius four times a week and further daily flights from London via Paris or Amsterdam.  Connecting flights from Mauritius to Rodrigues depart three times a day.

I stayed at Cotton Bay Resort and Spa and at Villa Evasion

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The 4 Clowns of the Apocalypse


Absolute Theatre and Teatro do Montemuro co-production comes to London

Absolute Theatre and Teatro do Montemuro announce their first co-production of The 4 Clowns of the Apocalypse.  The new production of  the 4 clowns of the apocalypse has been touring Portugal and the West Midlands before reaching London

The 4 Clowns of The ApocalypseOn

On Saturday 17th February 2018, UK’s Absolute Theatre and Portugal’s Teatro do Montemuro opened their first co-production, The 4 Clowns of The Apocalypse to a full house at Auditório do Municipal in Cinfães, Portugal.  The audience gave the show a standing ovation.

They embarked on a tour of Portugal, before bringing  the show to theatres and community venues in the West Midlands and then on to London in March ’18.

Last year Absolute Theatre, who are based in North London approached Teatro do Montemuro with the idea for the show and both companies set about making it happen.

The 4 Clowns of The Apocalypse

Teatro do Montemuro is located in a small village in Central Portugal, which does not have a shop, cafe or post office, but has a full working theatre that holds an international theatre festival, runs workshops and has produced shows for over 25 years.

Absolute Theatre and Teatro do Montemuro have been admirers of each other’s work since the late 90’s and are very happy to have together created The 4 Clowns of The Apocalypse, which is both companies first ever clown show and appeals to audiences of all ages.

It is set on the beach at the end of time, where it turns out that bringing about the finale of everything is not all it’s cracked up to be.  With ever-increasing incompetence, they grapple with universal destruction and deck-chairs.

A show that doesn’t rely on words, but uses the universal language of clowning to create a charming, witty production which will appeal to adults and children alike.

The 4 Clowns of The Apocalypse

It sounds wonderful, so catch it if you can!

The show opened in the UK in Walsall on Friday 16th March and finishes in Islington, in North London on Wednesday 28th March.

London dates:

Fri 23rd March – 7:30pm Canada Water Theatre

Sat 24th March – 3pm and 7:30pm Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre 

Mon 26th March – 8pm OSO Arts Centre, Barnes 

Tues 27th and Wednesday 28th March – Young Actors Theatre, Islington

The 4 Clowns of the Apocalypse

Created by Peter Cann, Eduardo Correia, Abel Duarte, Paulo Duarte, Simon Fraser and Andrew Harries.
Directed by Andrew Harries, Artistic Director of Absolute Theatre.
Music composed by Simon Fraser

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Ishtar – traditional Turkish restaurant in London


Dinner at Ishtar – a Glimpse of Traditional Turkish Cuisine in London:

A year or so ago I was asked to visit Istanbul on a world foods trip.  Although it was only a whistlestop 24-hour trip, it gave me a real insight into Turkish cuisine and a real appetite for more.  So I was delighted to be invited back to Ishtar, a Turkish restaurant that is so good it’s a favourite for the team working at the Turkish Tourist Board!  In fact, the last time I was at Ishtar it was because I’d won a competition run by the Tourist Board to try a Turkish meal in London.  Of the list of possible Turkish restaurants, when I said I wanted to try authentic Turkish food, Ishtar was the clear recommendation.

I was delighted to be invited back to review.  Located just off Marylebone High Street at the Baker Street end, Ishtar has an open kitchen over two floors and seating over both levels.  The ground floor is cosy, with jewel-coloured velvet chairs and an intimate feel while downstairs there’s space for parties of all sizes.

Mixed Meze Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London

We settled down to pick our food but were quickly guided ‘off menu’ with the offer of a mixed cold meze platter.  I’m a big fan of this style of eating – you get the opportunity to try lots of things from the menu without having to pick a favourite and without overeating.    We learnt that although this isn’t on the menu, if a guest is keen to try a mixture it’s quickly offered.  We enjoyed a lovely grainy and soft Hummus, Kisir made with finely chopped mixed bell peppers, spring onion and cracked wheat, Patlican Soslu – sauteed aubergine in tomato sauce, Patlican Ezmesi – a smokey aubergine dip made by charring aubergines before cooking them and pureeing the mixture with garlic, yoghurt and tahini and Cacik (Turkish Tzatziki).  All delicious, my favourite was the Patlican Ezmesi – I love that silky, smokey aubergine mixture and haven’t yet managed to get anywhere close to it at home!

Mixed Meze Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London

We also had a large bowl of Tabbouleh, a dish which isn’t strictly Turkish but which I really enjoy and have managed to convince myself is healthy enough to offset any dietary travesties!  I’d recommend this mix of bulgar, mint, parsley, olive oil and lemon for anyone who needs a quick pick me up.  It’s classic Mediterranean and Lev.ntine dining – and very refreshing

Borek - Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London

Hot mezze came in the form of some pretty borek fingers filled with spinach and feta wrapped in the lightest crispest filo served with a sweet chilli dip

Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London - halloumi and sausage

And a dish of halloumi and Turkish sausage, Sukuk and Hellim.  Although this purports to be grilled and is part of a Mediterranean cuisine, it’s a somewhat decadent dish of melting cheese and tasty beef sausages.  Delicious.

It was over the main courses that things started to fall apart.  I think we may just have over ordered.

Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London - Lamb with Fruit

My companion picked the Meyveli Kuzu – Poached lamb cubes with prunes and apricots cooked in their own juice served with bulgar.  A pretty, fragrant and aromatic dish that made us both want to dive in!

Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London - mixed grill

Meanwhile, rather ambitiously, having seen the open charcoal grill,  I’d ordered Karisik Izgara – a kind of mixture of charcoal grilled meats served with rice.  Everything was delicious, especially the spicy kofta.  But there was no way I could eat even half of what was on the plate.

Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London - dessert

In the interests of research, we shared a delicious warm dessert, Kunefe which is made from spun filo pastry strands filled with mozzarella cheese, syrup and cracked pistachio and topped with vanilla ice cream.  OK, something of an indulgence, but a good cup of coffee did help!

Ishtar is one of those places I’d happily go back to with friends.  With starters and meze around £5 a serving and with main courses ranging from just over £10 up to just over £20 if you want a steak, it’s reasonably priced for food that will leave you feeling sated and content.  The atmosphere in this classy Turkish restaurant is relaxed and the service is excellent.

Ishtar chefs

For me it’s still a toss-up between the slow-cooked melting stews and casseroles and the smokey grills from the charcoal barbecue – so do go along with friends so you can share.  And enjoy the atmosphere in this Marylebone eatery, where, as the countertop sign says – they are all stars.

Ishtar Turkish Restaurant London - decor

10-12 Crawford Street,
Marylebone, London W1U 6AZ

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Dreamgirls – at London’s Savoy Theatre


Dreamgirls Review:

If you’re looking for a dazzling rollercoaster of a musical look no further.   Dreamgirls, directed by Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin and The Book of Mormon) is showing at London’s beautiful Savoy Theatre.  It ticks all the right boxes from its classic showbiz storyline to its star-spangled outfits and the impassioned soulful voices of this talented cast.

Dreamgirls is loosely based on the aspirations and rise of American R&B acts such as The Supremes and The Shirelles. Tom Eyen’s book and a sung through score by Henry Krieger, doesn’t quite hit the same chord as the old soul classics we know and love but makes up for it in bucket loads with its raw energy and some catchy numbers.

Dreamgirls first premiered on Broadway in 1981, coming to the London stage in February 2016. The widely known 2006 film version starred amongst others Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.

The story, set in 1962 follows a young female singing trio from Chicago called ‘The Dreamettes’ who enter into a talent competition at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem New York which launches their road to success. They go on to become ‘The Dreams’, which by 1972 is the most successful girl group in the country. However the tough rigours of the music industry take them through their paces and their powerful lead vocalist Effie White gets the elbow, as she isn’t quite as glamorous as her counterparts.

Effie is played by three different vocalists and was performed on my visit with a raw honesty and extraordinary power and energy by gifted singer Marisha Wallace. Producer Sonia Friedman said: “The thrill of Dreamgirls is to experience the brilliance of the human voice. Effie White is arguably the biggest sing in musical theatre history, which is why we have cast three extraordinary vocalists to play this iconic role.”

Dreamgirls, London West End

Effie is a tough cookie in an uncompromising profession, whose only weakness is to fall in love with puppet master Curtis Taylor Jr portrayed exceptionally well by Joe Aaron Reid, whose suave presence and compelling vocals make him standout. Curtis has his eye on fellow Dreamette Deana Jones (perfectly pitched by Brennyn Lark), only to leave Effie broken hearted.

The show gains momentum as their showbiz journey goes from rags to riches and relationships are put to the test.

Greg Barnes’s magnificent costumes make their impact notably opening with some girls in some wonderfully sparkly fishtail dresses, which set the scene superbly, along with Michael Bennett’s glitzy set which has a slick filmic feel to it.

Dreamgirls London West End

Asmereet Ghebremichael plays the sassy, yet the insecure baby of the group Lorrell, who falls for swivel-hipped superstar Jimmy Early (with a great performance from Tosh Wanogho-Maud) who she is forever trying to tie down.

Director Casey Nicholaw has created a slick and visual treat, it lacks a strong narrative, but its gutsy performances and soul-stirring vocals makes it an overwhelming crowd pleaser.

So whether you are a musical lover or just fancy a great night out in London’s West End Dreamgirls could be just the ticket.

Want to go along?  well, you can book tickets here for this and other West-End theatre productions

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D C Super Heroes at the 02 exhibition centre


Super Heroes at the O2:

The DC Super Heroes exhibition offers us a glimpse into a fantasy world where impregnable but often flawed do-gooders take on the forces of evil and win! With 80 years of history, characters such as Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman have become mythological figures embedded in our popular culture and reinvented for each generation.Following a successful run in Paris ‘DC Exhibition: Dawn of Super Heroes’ has recently opened in London at the O2. It’s an exhibition presented by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products in collaboration with French comic book museum Art Ludique-Le Musée.The exhibition celebrates DC’s rich history, mythologies and iconic Super Heroes and Super Villains such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Joker. I’ve been invited to review and am taking my 16-year-old son along who assures me that he is something of an expert on the DC universe.Like lots of people, I grew up reading DC comics so it was amazing to see more than 200 original comic pages from world-renowned artists including Jim Lee, Bob Kane, Neal Adams, Frank Miller and Alex Ross. For my son, it’s mostly been about the movies and there are 300 preparatory sketches and concept artworks together with 45 original costumes, models and props used in the films. For me it was thrilling to see Christopher Reeve’s Superman cape and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman costume from the 1970s but my son was more into artefacts from the 1989 to 1999 Batman franchise directed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, the acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan, as well as The Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and the recent Justice League by Zack Snyder. DC CatwomanBut let’s face it who wouldn’t get excited by the Bat Bike or an original Catwoman costume!DC SUICIDE SQUADBut for the youngsters the DC story comes up to date with the Suicide Club.DC THE JOKER 2Alongside all the drawings, costumes and props there are fascinating insights to be gained into the production process of the latest blockbusters with interviews with production and costume designers as well as the films’ directors. DC BAT LOGOIf you are at all into pop culture this exhibition is a must see that will appeal to all the family. Just remember to bring your cape!DC ARTWORK

Closes: 9 September 2018

Tickets: Adult £22/Child £11/Concession £19.80/Family of 3 £39.60/Family of 4 £55/Family of 5 £60.50.

All tickets are subject to a booking fee

To book please visit this link

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I always love the idea of sitting around a big steaming dish of food, into which we can all dive, elbows out and forks in – and if it involves melted cheese, then so much the better. And now that the temperatures are dipping below freezing, and many of us are snow bound, what better meal to make than one that acts as internal central heating?

Queso fundido (meaning ‘melted cheese’) is the Mexican cousin of Swiss fondue. Although you don’t dip anything in the cheese, it does make sense to keep it warming over a lamp or tea light as you would a fondue if you are going to leave it on the table for people to help themselves, rather than dishing it up, so that the cheese doesn’t seize and separate. (This happens very quickly so you can’t make this in advance.)

Traditionally it is served with fried, crumbled chorizo which can either be layered with the raw grated cheese, or, as I like to serve it, piled up on top after the cheese has melted.  For vegetarians I use fried mushrooms which go perfectly with the melted cheese.

If you can order your cheese from one of the great specialist suppliers online, it’s worth trying to track down some of the delicious Mexican traditional cheeses that are used to make this dish, including Oaxaca and Chihuahua. However, the rest of us can get by just fine using a mixture of mozzarella and Cheddar. I’ve had the best results using those bags of pre-grated mozzarella, as they melt evenly, and occasionally I’ve been lucky enough to find a grated mix also containing Monterey Jack, an American cheese that melts perfectly and would always be my first choice.

I always use a cast iron frying pan that can go in the oven, but there’s no reason why you can’t melt the cheese in Pyrex or, if you are going down the stovetop route, a standard frying pan.

Most recipes call for the cheese to be baked so the mixture remains wholly liquid. I like to cook it in cast iron on the stove top so that the bottom goes crispy and brown, but that’s just my preference.

queso fundido hongos mushrooms - 1

SERVES 4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer

200g chorizo, crumbled out of its casing (it may need to be finely chopped)
I medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes


400g small white mushrooms, halved and then cut into thirds
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to season

500g grated cheese (my basic mix is 250g grated mozzarella cheese plus 250g grated Cheddar cheese, or Monterey Jack, if you can find it. If I have some Manchego left over from a party, then I sub that in too. Mmm.)
handful coriander leaves
corn tortilla chips or large tortillas, to serve
large ovenproof frying pan, preferably cast-iron

Queso Fundido mushrooms chorizo 3


Place a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Crumble in the chorizo. (Do not add any extra oil: it gives off plenty.) Cook for about five minutes, until it starts to give off its characteristic red oil. Then remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon to a plate, leaving the oil in the pan.

Whilst the chorizo is cooking,  core and chop the tomatoes into small pieces.

Keep the pan over the heat but turn it down to medium. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent. This will take at least 15 minutes. When the onion is done, tip the chorizo back in the pan, make sure everything is mixed together and keep warm over a very low heat.


Place a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil, and when it is hot, tip in the chopped mushrooms and cook until soft. Put to one side.

Meanwhile, if baking, turn the oven on to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

queso fundido hongos mushrooms - 1

Mix the cheeses together and add to the cast-iron frying pan. Either tick in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or heat on medium  on the stove top with a lid over the frying pan to hasten the melting process.

Keep a beady eye on the cheese: you don’t want it starting to separate. (The aim is a pan of molten deliciousness.)

Remove the pan from the heat and spoon either the mushrooms or the warm chorizo-onion mixture and chopped tomatoes in the middle.

Scatter lots of coriander over everything. Either dip tortilla chips into the melted cheese, or spoon the cheese onto large corn or wheat tortillas. I like to serve it with sliced avocado, greek yogurt or sour cream, crumbled chillies and lots of hot sauce (Cholula Chipotle for preference).

This recipe is adapted from my cookbook Friends, Food, Family: Recipes and Secrets from LibertyLondonGirl

queso fundido hongos mushrooms - 1

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