Red Bull X Fighters in pictures

28 08 2009

Last weekend I had the privilege of hitting up the Red Bull X Fighters Finale at Battersea Power Station on Saturday night.
No idea who most of the riders were – but it was, in a word, AWESOME. The best summary of the night is a picture summary – Photos courtesy of MissDani – Enjoy!

Battersea Power Station - MissDani

Battersea Power Station - MissDani

Battersea Power Station - MissDani

Battersea Power Station - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters ramp views - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters ramp views - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters Finale - MissDani

Red Bull X Fighters Finale - MissDani

And one final Red Bull X-Fighters 2009 YouTube Battle!

Sweet!





Zimfest

27 08 2009

Notting Hill Carnival

It’s Bank Holiday Weekend time, and everyone is talking about Notting Hill Carnival – details on how to get there, when to go, and how to get the hell out of there and avoid the event as well. Like I mentioned in my Last Days of Summer post, I’ll definitely be there this year.

But once you’ve recovered from Carnival Bank Holiday debauchery, get down to SW20 the weekend after. SW20? you say…I didn’t even know there WAS an SW20!

It’s actually not far from Richmond Park or Wimbeldon. So no excuses – I think everyone should hit Zimfest 2009 this year in SW20 – Satruday September 5th from 12-10pm in Prince Georges Playing Fields, Raynes Park + Afterparty.

Zimfest2

Started by Zimbabweans living in Wandsworth in 2001, the festival has exploded, taking place in London AND in Perth, Australia on the 5th of September, Cape Town in November and in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in December. Zimfest began as a way of celebrating being Zimbabwean first, tribes and races second, in the fight to unite Zimbabweans in the face of the struggle and dearth of hope facing the country in recent years.

It’s a charity event, with funds raised supporting Zimbabwe in youth development, education, human rights delivery and the provision of basic support for the victims of the crisis in Zimbabwe, and to date Zimfest has raised £150 000.

This means, of course, that you’ll have pay £25 to get in. But for it you get the following:

Zimfest promises excellent food, beer, dancing and the music Lineup includes African, Hip-hop, Urban and Indie music – Check out the sounds of Zimfest here.



Massive international, intercultural festivities are just one of the reasons why I LOVE living in London. I can travel the world, without leaving the M25. Although, SW20 is pushing it for this SE8 girl!





Last Days of Summer

26 08 2009

Originally this post was to be a To-Do list – what I wanted to do and see in London before the end of summer.  After a super active last couple of weeks, I have decided to combine a to-do list with a have-done list into one Last Days of Summer post, a random sampling of all there is to do in the summer in London.

Notting Hill Carnival – Bank Holiday Weekend

Notting Hill Carnival 2

Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest Carnival celebration outside of Rio, and some of the craziest days London sees every year. I go every year, and this year will be no different. Some people don’t go because its really crowded, very noisy and supposedly a bit dangerous. That’s silly. It’s an amazing celebration of Carribbean/Latin culture, with Dance Hall, Rap, Reggae and Latin music blaring out around every corner, thousands of people dancing and celebrating and some of the most delicious food at any outdoor event in London.  I hope to see some visibility from the Rise Festival people. Rise was cancelled by good ‘ol Boris Johnson this year, and I would really like to see it come back in 2010.

Hyde Park – Rollerbladers

A few weeks ago, we took the train from New Cross, deborded at Charing Cross and walked to Queensway station. It wasnt as far as we thought at a little over an hour, and was some of the best sightseeing you can get in London, all for absolutely free.  Charing Cross to Trafalgar Square through past Buckingham Palace, through St James’ Park, through Hyde Park and then cut through Regents Park up to Queensway station in Bayswater. As we cut through Hyde Park we saw the rollerbladers who are absolutely amazing and reminded me of the two rollerbladers we saw outside Notre Dame in Paris in June. These guys and gals in Hyde Park are some super cool dudes and dudettes, and I’d like to just grab food, sit down, and try and absorb some of that coolness by osmosis!

Lay in Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

We did this a couple of weeks ago, and I’d like to do it everyday. Head first to Greenwich Market for some fresh bread, cheese, olives, maybe some West African, or Italian, and of course maybe some of that wonderful flavored coffee, and then maybe….stop stop, just the food is fine. Then walk on to the park and plop down and read the day away. It’s so easy… a ten minute walk from our house, or one stop on the DLR, and its such a fun park to be in. There are tourists galore on account of it being, oh, the beginning of time (Greenwich Mean Time), but the most relaxing of days, as I know that home is so close by! Nothing like staying local.

Bike ride- Anywhere far

Hackney Wicked Artscream

Hackney Wicked weekend was the perfect opportunity to cycle from the Southeast to Stratford – up through Greenwich, through the tunnel under the Thames (!!!), up and out through to Canary Wharf and then on paths through Victoria Park and continuing on to Hackney and Hackney Wick – eventually to the Fish Island open studios.  Just last weekend for a friend’s birthday we rode up to the White Hart in Stoke Newington – an excellent pub with a giant beer garden filled with Stoke trendies and Islington darlings. Both rides were a blast, but I’d like to go just a bit farther, just one more time before summer ends. Maybe this time from South East to South West…

Brompton CemetaryUPDATE: This Saturday, we rode from Deptford to Brompton Cemetery. One of the coolest cemeteries in London, though upon some consideration, our favourite is still the one in Stoke Newington. Time to Cemetery – 2 hours, though it took us 3 as we stopped at Borough Market, got some amazing breads and cheese, stop to eat a bit in the grass outside of the Tate Modern on the river and then rode through masses of tourists along the Southbank before heading over Battersea Bridge and over to West Brompton. Stay tuned for full Cemetaries of London post!

Sunday saw us get back on the bikes and ride all the way up past Hackney Marsh almost to the resevoirs and to Tottenham Hale and back home. Hackney Marsh was an amazing park, so relaxing that I even fell asleep before the ride home. Time from Deptford to Hackney Marsh – 2.5 hours, home from Tottenham Hale – 3!

Dinner at Benitos Hat

Scratched this off the list last Wednesday – good, fast food tex-mex in the heart of Fitzrovia. Very similar to Chilango. Great tortilla chips, excellent burrito and tacos, very veggie friendly. Stay tuned for Official Mexican Food in London Post.

Martin Luther King – The Mountain Top

Mountaintop

Was on my to-do list, but as  lastminute.com newsletter offered us £15 a ticket deals – went to see this on Monday! The story of Martin Luther King, named after his last public speech before being assassinated, and produced in the first year Obama’s presidency. Was essentially a two-person dialogue which came slowly but surely to the point that Obama is the Mountain Top of which Martin Luther King Jr. (apparently a heavy-smoking, but god-fearing adulterer)had spoken in that speech before he was assassinated.

Battersea Powerstation Red Bull X Fighters Championship

Red Bull X Fighters London

Saw this on Saturday night. Pretty awesome. Stay tuned for full review.

BFI Southbank

BFI

Unfortunately I won’t be able to get to  the onedotzero arts in motion festival on the 9-13th of September, but with free wi-fi in a very comfy space, Benugo, a mediateque and some of the coolest movies on in September (including Juice, Krush Groove and Clerks!), I would love to have a Saturday at the BFI Southbank. Maybe we’ll save this one for a rainy day.





Yo! I love Sushinho!

20 08 2009

Me: I love Sushi. I LOVE sushi. So much so, I could sing it from the rooftops, musical-style.

You: But Jessica, you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t even eat fish.

Me: Yes, that’s right.  And thank god, because I have no interest at all in eating fish, baked, boiled, breaded, fried, or raw.

That is the beauty of Sushi. Like my other favorite cuisine, Mexican, Sushi does not require me to be a meatatarian to enjoy it. You can enjoy all the best flavors, concoctions and atmosphere without feeling your missing out on something, like, say, how with French cuisine I pretty much am only eating bread and cheese in many different forms.

In my inexperienced-palate of an opinion, even bad sushi is good sushi. I’ll get the £1 veggie sushi snack from Tesco, or the same £2.50 version from Marks and Spencers and gobble them down. Yo! Sushi’s grab it off the conveyor belt, shovel it in and fill up on sushi for £15 or less – love that too.

That was, until, I had the pleasure of eating at Sushinho, on King’s Road, which offers fusion Brazilian/Japanese cuisine. I was slightly confused at first too, but apparently Sao Paolo has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so the fusion cuisine resulted organically in Brasil in much the same way as Americans have perfected Tex-Mex Cuisine.

Our table at Sushino

Our table at Sushinho

Sushinho is an amateur sushi-lovers dream. The sushi is absolutely the most appetizing I’ve had in ages – avocado rolls, veggie tempura, even mozzerella/sun-dried tomato/rocket Maki, but also Cassava chips and  a very lovely gazpacho puree soup to go along with the Brazilian theme.  All the plates are meant for sharing, and since my partner in crime is also a vegetarian, we did some serious Sushinho sharing, including the Vegetarian sushi sharing platter – and all sharing platters are  half price on Mondays.

Located where it is, just a few meters from the Blue Bird cafe right in the heart of Chelsea, you wouldn’t expect anything but the best in terms of atmosphere, and overall, your expectations are met. The only gripe I’ve got is the service. I’ve been there twice now, and both times, the service was slower and less attentive than one would expect. Though with customers like Robbie Williams frequenting the place, maybe this is because I am a low priority for them. To be honest, the place doesn’t seem as fit for celebrities as its King’s Road counterparts, as the food was way too affordable (we paid around £35 for two with one cocktail, soft drink and a bottle of sparkling water), and the (pap) views inside all too accessible.

Either way, it’s about all about the Sushi, and Sushinho has creative, delicious Maki, Nigiri and Futomaki for all, and where else can you eat a bowl of French Fries (okay, okay, Cassava chips) with your sushi and still be considered stylish?

Sushinho

312-314 Kings Rd
London, SW3 5UH





Thames River Adventures

19 08 2009
Thames River Adventures on Regents Canal

Thames River Adventures on Regents Canal

I imagine a  5am train arriving in the dark to the dimly-lit Deptford train station, opening its doors to reveal sleepy-eyed Essex folk dressed in holiday wear heading off to early morning vacation charter flights or city workers with extremely demanding schedules in already wrinkled suits and watch marks pressed deeply into their faces from sleeping all the way into London Bridge.

I’ll be wearing sturdy jeans, tennis shoes, a jacket, and part of me feels the need to wear a hat and I’ll be wide awake, smiling in anticipation of what lies ahead. See, I’ve been waiting ages to take part in an early morning Kayaking tour with Thames River Adventures, and when that day actually comes, the time of day won’t phase me.

Through my work on a press trip last year for a canadian journalist who was doing an in-depth piece on off-the-beaten-path and ethnic london, I came across Thames River Adventures and sent the journalist on an early morning on Regents Canal with them. She came back so utterly excited about what an excellent experience it had been!  Regents Canal is breathtaking any time of day – whether its the part where you are actually IN the zoo, scooting through some of the richest houses in London or day dreaming about what it would be like to live in a houseboat docked just minutes from Camden Lock, Regents Canal is one of the most magical places for me in London, and to experience it on the placid water during sunrise – heaven. I will do this soon, and I can not wait to tell you all about it!

The Thames River Adventures people are some of the easiest and nicest to work with inLondon, and their passion for their business is clear. Obviously with a name like Thames River Adventures, they began out on the Thames, and they continue to do top-notch Kayak tours on the Big Smoke’s main water source. In fact, they do loads of different tours – Sunrise and Sunset tours, Tower Bridge tours and new Hampton Court tours (I’m sticking to the Regents Canal tour, it’s just too perfect for my tastes).

One of the most interesting aspects of this London activity is that is completely environmentally friendly and leaves no carbon footprint. It’s using your energy and muscles to power your own tour through some of the top London tourist locations, and doing so at exciting hours of the day. The more I get into cycling in London, the more I have been paying attention to just this kind of responsible and eco-friendly tourism. Pedaling through the streets or kayaking through London’s fabulous canals and waterways makes me realise that London has so many ways to be appreciated, from bus windows (local of course, not Big Bus Tours), the Overground, the DLR, boats, walking, cycling and now, kayaking!





Exposed! (Not so well) Hidden eats and drinks in London

13 08 2009

TimeOut LogoA couple of months ago, I had to stifle a giggle while reading the TimeOut London review of Barts, a ‘top secret’ speakeasy in Chelsea. Why? Well, not the writing – the writing was impeccable, adopting perfect speakeasy terminology and creative commentary like only the most trendy and in-the-know of London Listings can. It wasn’t the actual subject matter either – Barts had gone to immense lengths to create just the scene they desired, underground, exclusive, prohibition-era speakeasy, with the added hook that it was completely hidden. What was it? Oh, the Google Map on the right hand side of the page which detailed exactly where Barts is located, and then the blurb right above it describing in words the exact coordinates for the members of the illiterate map-readers society.  Timeout London has a print circulation of 76,356 making it one of the largest weekly titles in the UK, and who knows what their online numbers are. Barts, you didn’t stand a chance. They’ve owned up to it now as their website admits its the ‘worst kept secret’.

barts_lego

This came after another quite disappointing discovery that the once-hidden but now clearly marked Lounge Bohemia in Great Eastern Street had also lost its secretive touch.

(see update)

Lounge Bohemia

When I first went, we were to stick our hand through the mail slot of a non-descript black door, and ring a hidden buzzer that would open the door through which we would pass and descend down into a comfy communist 1970s Czechoslovakian watering hole. Now, you can pretty much just walk on in and go downstairs, and with the sign on the door indicating opening times, it looks like either someone exposed the secret, or the secret gimmick didn’t fly.

UPDATE: Lounge Bohemia have been in touch – could be that we wanted this to more of an underground place than it was ever intended to be. It seems that Lounge Bohemia had intentions on maintaining an exclusive location, but not underground or hidden. They have written to say: “Lounge bohemia is a by appointment venue so the going “pretty much downstairs” might leave you disappointed when turned away for not calling ahead. We never intended to be a hidden bar – it just happened to be this way because we’re downstairs. At the end of the day we’d rather be known for our drinks then for the way you get in.”

Either way, it makes me wonder about the underground/hidden location scene in London. It’s a concept so cool that all the budding entertainment/lifestyle/travel journos want to be in on the trend of reporting it. So how do they stay secret? Sad news is, I think they don’t.  Good news is – there are many that don’t mind being found – but remain fairly well hidden still. Some even duck and weave, moving around so that even if you did find them, you’d have to find them again! I have gathered the latest on the underground restaurant/hidden kitchen scene here in London for your reading pleasure!

missmarmitelover

First, we’ve got Ms Marmite Lover – foodie blogger-cum-chef who has opened her Underground restaurant at an undisclosed location in Kilburn, where she cooks mainly vegetarian food sourced from Portobello Road market. All the way over the other side o’ London, Horton Jupiter’s Secret Ingredient in Hackney is booming, Both give you directions once you’ve booked.

How about the Islington speakeasy with no name which sits behind permanently drawn shades, seats 30 and focuses on modern-retro cocktails until the wee hours of the morning.

There is the  Rambling Restaurant on held on various locations on Sundays, and the Moveable Restaurant, is also located, well, anywhere, serving up a variety of dishes based on anything from inspiring fresh market ingredients or inspiring sojourns of the two guys who created the concept, Joe and Steve.

The Pale Blue Door

The Pale Blue Door in the Hackney house of set designer Tony Hornecker, which seems very sporadic but has had a speakeasy environment with tranny waitresses, tarot readings, and lip-synching performers.

The Saltoun Supper Club in Brixton takes place on Wednesdays and Thursdays, offering four courses (always has a veggie option) for a minimum contribution of £25. September is already completely booked. Also in Brixton is the Salad Club on the first Saturday of every month. These ladies love their salads and all ingredients are allowed – it is very meat-eater friendly.

The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient up in Stoke Newington takes bookings on Facebook only it appears and then there is Green Onions, whose organized dinners and ‘food raves’ across londontown book up in minutes after opening.

How do you like them underground apples!





In Defense of Deptford

7 08 2009

Deptford High StreetDeptford Market

The New York Times recently rated Deptford/New Cross as a hip, off the beaten track area of London, praising its chain free high street, trendy arts scene and cool clubs, urging interested tourists to check it out. thelondonpaper covered the fact that they had covered it. As did Deptford Dame, the Londonist, Property Press World, Jaunted and just about everyone else.

The Guardian jumped on the Deptford bandwagon as well – highlighting Deptford’s cool vibe and artist community, and then talking about talking about Deptford a lot on their blogs.

Then came the Telegraph’s response – ripping away the glory from Deptford, in what involved the negative energy of an active smear campaign.  They called it one of the roughest, most crime ridden, and dangerous parts of London, and  essentially scared off any tourist who may have even considered a trip down to Deptford.

If the Telegraph didn’t scare them off, then the Daily Mail did.

Now, admittedly, there are no strollers (prams) being pushed by Yummy Mummys. Not a single Starbucks. Not even a Tescos (although Deptford Dame said she heard from someone that they heard that Deptford High Street was getting a Tesco!)  But there is a local vibe down here that I find charming. You have people winking and waving to each other, stopping to chat at the market….oh the market is fantastic. Not in a Portobello Road type way, but with everything you need and tons that you don’t for really cheap. My fruits and veggies, flowers (a bunch for £2 stays fresh for 2-3 weeks, so nice), skin care products, breads, eggs, and anything else I’d pay double or triple for at Sainsburys.

Having just moved down to Deptford in March of this year, I’ve gotten to know the area quite well, and can see a bit of where the Telegraph and Daily Mail are coming from. It’s certainly not Chelsea. It’s not Notting Hill. It’s not even Hackney. But it’s Deptford. And there is so much going on in this area that is positive, I can’t understand why in the world anyone would go to such an effort to tear this place down.

And so, here’s me – putting in my two cents as an SE8 ‘local’ – I love living in Deptford, and I would like to see tourists down here, from as far as Japan, China, or America, to as near as Notting Hill-ites, Westbourne Grovers, and Stokeys.

Deptford highlights

LabanLaban is a world-class dance facility based in Creekside on the way to Greenwich – which is literally a 10 minute walk from Deptford, or one stop on the DLR. Laban has a new cafe that is eco-friendly, open to the public and they do some really cool theatre evenings with affordable ticket prices. In addition to this, Laban even offers an MA in Dance and is a very highly recognised academic center complete with library and research facilities. Plus, the design of the building is really cool and inspiring.

deptford project

Deptford Project Cafe is a cafe made out of train – they serve really good food and coffee, and the Project has  just opened up a market on Saturdays adjacent to excellent Deptford High Street Market.

There a shop on Deptford Broadway off Deptford High Street called Abstriaticus that  looks more like it belongs on Diagon Alley selling everything from antiques to mannequins to DVDs – and I am fairly certain they sell magic wands in the back!

The Amersham Arms literally across from New Cross station is a destination bar/pub/club where there is constantly a night out to be had! They do food, games, and have a DJ in the basement spinning electronica to deep house to hip hop beats and back again.

For a more relaxed pub vibe there is the Royal Albert just up the road towards Deptford. I just walked by on my way home two weeks ago and the sounds of a straight up Mariachi band pounded out from inside, while outside what must have been the entire Southeastern arts community pounded beers out front.

St Pauls Church, as opposed to St Pauls Cathedral in the City, is absolutely gorgeous and maintained to a very high standard and again is right off the high street.

the albanyThe Albany is a really cool cutting edge performing arts centre right in SE8, literally usurped by the market off the high street. They have everything from Spoken Word nights to Hip Hop Harmonica, to comedy straight off the Fringe festival circuit.

The artist’s community is really strong here, and after a weekend at the Hackney Wicked festival, I realised that Deptford has just as strong a scene as Hackney Wick – and the arts festival to go along with it – Deptford X.

In terms of location – City Airport is very close on the DLR, and a train from Gatwick to London Bridge with a change to Deptford or New Cross will get you door to door in 45 minutes easy.

Deptford has excellent transport links. We’re one stop from Greenwich on the DLR, and you can ride the DLR through Canary Wharf and all the way into Bank, or change to get over East London. Next year, the East London line will be up and running, which means you’ll get up into East London in minutes.

Both  Deptford and New Cross stations are no more than a 10 minute walk from wherever you are in the area. You can hop on a train and be in to London Bridge within 6-8 minutes, and both Charing Cross and Cannon Street directly within 15 minutes, no change.  A bit of perspective – You can get from Leicester Square to Deptford in a half hour.

And for all of you out there paying overpriced rent rates for no square footage – I’ve got a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat with 3 balconies and a shared rooftop terrace for less than what a one-bed costs in Chez Bu (ehm, Shepherds Bush).  I read an advert yesterday for one-bedroom flats with 24 hour porter with on-site swimming pool and gym going for £850 a month.

And this, my friends, is why I must defend my dear Deptford!