As Clear as the Air we Breathe – Run London Run

 

Mara countdownThe countdown clock at the official London Marathon Shop in Covent Garden continues to mark off time to this Sunday’s run. The Met confirmed that 40% more police will be called in to watch over the event but quite rightly it will go ahead.

As in the wake of the 7/7 bombing London and the international sporting community will demonstrate that terror does not rule our lives. In solidarity the streets of the picturesque 26 mile course will be lined from Blackheath through Canary Wharf all the way down The Mall to the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace.

Run Bindi Run

Run Bindi Run

Veteran London Marathoner, Canadian and London resident of almost two decades Bindi Karia perfectly represents so many that have made one of the world’s most multicultural cities their home.  Karia confirmed despite initial trepidation when the Boston news broke she’ll indeed take her place along the finish line to cheer on friends amongst the almost 38 000 participants so many of which will be raising money for charities.  Wearing a black ribbon her presence alongside runners and supporters is a defiant stance against those who would disrupt the beautiful spectacle of endurance, sporting excellence and shatter our ability to come together.

London maraA 30-second silence will be held before each on the three starts and all are encouraged to wear tribute ribbons in support of Boston. In an iconic city of almost 10million residents fear is, as it has always been, a choice so this Sunday London will remember those affected and squarely stare down any attempt to paralyse its residents and visitors.  From WW2 bombs through terrorist attacks to everyday life people will continue amass at events, on tubes, in markets, parks, the City, galleries and shopping arcades. Now as before people will come together choosing not to be cowed or stifled in their enjoyment. This Sunday expats, immigrants, tourists and Londoners will run, volunteer and cheer as one and the message will be clear: we are legion and we are not afraid.

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Slice & Co. No-go on Elgin

When a new restaurant opens I’m prepared to be delighted and thrilled. I’m always on the lookout for impressive service – after all they’ve just opened– and innovative cooking in a fresh setting.

Slice and co wineUnfortunately the latest pizza venue on Elgin wasn’t up to meeting my starry-eyed expectations. The small venue dominated by a front service counter and open kitchen has the look of an upmarket take away & eat in joint. There is a small bar area, high stool seating and a handful of booths nestled in the corners. The rich red walls paired with glossy polished- wood and dangling Edison bulbs is stylishly on-trend and wine comes in stemless glassware while cocktails are served in jam jars. Had the menu and service followed suite to the décor we’d have been on to a winning laid-back local.

But here’s the disconnect; if “Slice” is in the name you’d do well to offer that option. Our misguided idea of grabbing slices with sides for a menu sampling was shot down leaving us slightly befuddled but innocently confident we’d solve this conundrum.  Let’s simply choose two small pizzas: one meat and one veg.  Well that wasn’t going to work as specific pizzas come in specific sizes and no they can’t be swapped out. That’s right you can’t choose what you want in the size that you want.  Wanting a small veg and a small pepperoni is not an option. Naively we thought we’d circumvent this problem by adding ingredients but this too failed.  A simple add-on of pepperoni to one of the small vegetable pizza was also disallowed as there are no substitutes.

Slice and co PizzaIf we’d not ordered drinks we’d have fled as this amount of inflexibility didn’t bode well.  After all these are pizzas not Heston Blumenthal creations so it’s worrisome that an ingredient might throw off the kitchen.  Properly admonished we did as told and had a medium pepperoni prepared to the chef’s preference. The 24$ medium was adequate though the thin crust slightly undercooked even soggy at its centre and the sauce needs, at a minimum, greater lashings of garlic and some oregano. The cheese was generous as was the pepperoni but there was nothing that lifted our pie above the ordinary.

Finally, though the service was satisfactory, “uniform” outfits really have no place outside of chains. Prescribed black shorts and black deck shoes remove the individuality of any server and are out-dated in an urban-casual interior design.

Despite my disappointing visit I’d like to see this eatery do well – ideally a slice-only take away window, a pared-down eat in menu making room for greater flexibility in their signature pizza offering, and a firm farewell to the outfits. I’ll stay alert to changes and any improvements will be duly noted as they bed in to the local neighbourhood.

399 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1M9

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Edmond – The Chamber Theatre @ The Carleton Tavern

A Night of Vicious Entertainment

The Chamber Theatre takes its audience through a labyrinth of alienation and immorality in their production of  David Mamet’s “Edmond” at the Carleton Tavern.  Bored with his wife anti-hero Edmond rejects convention soon finding himself mired in a world of depravity. Throughout his descent he argues and cries plaintively that the price is too high and the transaction misunderstood. Via seedy bars, peep shows and massage parlours, he is outplayed by card sharks and hustlers alike as slowly, deftly, the rage within this everyman is awakened.

Edmond’s struggle to take control of his destiny, unmute his life, get laid, gain the upper-hand leaves him exposed, exploited and further unbalanced. A pawn-shop transaction arms him, an ingeniously-staged subway ride infuriates him while a pimp pushes a con too far and an encounter with a hapless waitress leaves Edmond maniacally transformed shedding his meek veneer in a cascade of bigoted temper with murderous intent.

Director Donnie Laflamme in the role of Edmond Burke maintains the powerhouse performance necessary for this work. His urgent frustration, rage, and fear of foul play are never forced.  The racist, misogynistic vitriol he spouts is genuinely unhinged as he unwittingly spirals further out of control.

The production works on many level; it’s well cast, evenly paced and exploits the miniscule set to intensify the claustrophobic drama within Edmond’s mind.  Players file to the stage in a robotic automaton trance echoing detachment before revealing vibrant underworld characters.  Facing the audience rather than one another to deliver lines resolves the problems of potential blocking while augmenting the sense of isolation.   The outward facing delivery mirrors the self-conscious, self-serving nature within each character.  Minimal props are effective and suggestive in particular chain links pounded against the floor for dreadful effect.

Cast members take on multiple characters.  Bob Reynolds stands out in a series of pivotal roles; the business man steering Edmond to vice, the owner of the pawnshop that arms the protagonist, the Irish cop that sees plainly through plaintive excuses. Jennifer Vallance and Leslie Cserepy inject the play with much-needed respite clearly relishing turns as a peep show dancer, card shark and fever-pitched preacher. Only Burke’s wife (Manon Dumas) lacks clarity of character causing the piece to falter dangerously towards its conclusion. Despite this lull Edmond’s descent in to his prison hell continues apace with a captivating performance by Karl Claude alongside Laflamme drawing the production to a strikingly visceral conclusion as the virtual curtain falls.

The rather ramshackle Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg doesn’t detract from the experience as small threadbare joints seem to be where theatrical gems reside. In the spirit of theatre found Off-Broadway and away from London’s West End this is an off-kilter playhouse production that takes risks and delivers gratifyingly talented results.

223 Armstrong St, Ottawa, ON K1Y 2W5
http://www.chambertheatrehintonburg.ca

3-6 and 11-13 April 2013

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El Pirata de Tapas – A Notting Hill Gem 4.5*

An edited version of this review has appeared in MyVillage.com
It’s the little things that make a restaurant memorable. Food is critical but gifted staff and a superior ambience are equally important as many a satisfactory meal is ruined by inept service and poor attention to detail.  El Pirata de Tapas on Westbourne Grove delivers on all fronts marrying quality ingredients to the impecabble talents of Head Chef Omar Allibhoy and his team. The elegant décontracté style alongside efficient yet upretentious professional service create a relaxed setting in which to fully savour your meal. If you’re looking for a complete dining experience read no further; simply book a table and enjoy.

The dark wood decor is warm and, without trying too hard, accessories hint at the kitchen’s modern take on traditional tapas fare. Service from the outset is accomplished and comfortable; we find ourselves ensconced amongst decently spaced tables and are welcomed with water served with mint and lime – again it’s the finer points. Nestled next to the wine rack wall we sampled the house wines, red and white, a test of overall wine standards and, without raving, both are perfectly serviceable and a snip at £15/bottle.

We started with a sample from the Christmas menu: a tender salmon carpaccio dressed in light vinaigrette with sea salt and salad.  It was a flavoursome and refreshing starter that spoke well of the Yule offering.

At our server’s suggestion we ordered the gut busting £25 Degustation Chef’s Menu which is a cut-rate culinary delight.  Legendary El Bulli protegé Executive Chef Omar Allibhoy has set the bar high and the kitchen, run by Head Chef Esperanza Mateos Jimenez, doesn’t disappoint.  Eight dishes and a trio of desserts we fairly rolled away from our table.

The octopus carpaccio, cylinder pressed overnight, is unimaginably smooth, tender even velvety in texture. This delicately flavoured dish is gently pleasing though I prefer the stronger signature of chilli to paprika.  Any shyness detected in the octopus was surmounted by the bold Blue Cheese dish.  The Valdeón foam topped with grated walnut and served with endive spears is a sensation.  I’m not one for blue cheese but intense flavour without aftertaste is a truly memorable dining experience.

Next up were scallops, cod and black risotto.  The seared scallops, beautifully presented and skilfully prepared, are wonderfully smooth. The tasty mollusc is perfectly balanced and complimented by the cauliflower puree while rehydrated chorizo provides crispness with lashings of salty goodness. The cod, served on a tiny bed of stewed potatoes, cabbage and pancetta and topped with a beautiful pepper sauce was perfectly cooked, warming, fragrant and homely.  Squid Ink risotto with aioli, a Basque country favourite, though filling lacked full-on seasoning and could definitely use more garlic to raise its game.

The three mains were pork cheeks, croquettes and wood pigeon. The glistening glazed pork cheeks are marinated in red wine for 12 hours and unbelievably tender; a pungent dish down to the carrot puree.  The croquettes –often a maltreated and poorly prepared tapas– are light, delicately crisp giving way to a rich hammy bechemal core – satisfying and flavourful.  The decadent pigeon served on fig puree blended sweet, salt and savoury to perfection.  So pleasurable was that pigeon that even full as we were we’d have managed another portion.

The trio of desserts provide a cocoa oasis for chocolate lovers. The luxurious chocolate mousse is heavenly while the dense truffle is intoxicatingly rich.  The painted scrape of saffron toffee provides a complementary taste of “burnt” sugar to lighten the dark chocolate.

This is a serious restaurant that ticks all the boxes in terms, of quality, skill, service and price even offering a 9.95 lunch budgeted for any foodies’ pocket.

A trendy local Notting Hill gem El Pirata deTapas provides outstanding food, accomplished service and unbeatable value for money.

Venue: 3.5/5 Service: 4.5/5  Food: 4.5/5 Value for Money: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

115 Westbourne Grove
London, W2 4UP
www.elpiratadetapas.co.uk

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Black Roses Bloom in Notting Hil

For the last month striking Gothic black roses have popped up in and around Notting Hill taped to street lamps, parking ticket machines and random bollards around the neighbourhood.

No one can tell me what the beautiful yet sombre street art represents and I’m hopeful it won’t be a pseudo-viral marketing plug.  For now we’re enjoying these curious if slightly macabre –often vandalised – blooms and would love to know the back story. Get in touch if you’ve information or additional pictures to share.

Black Rose by Colville School as seen by DVK

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Happy New Year London

An edited version of this review has appeared in London24
Here comes 2012, year of the London Olympics, and to help you kick it off in style we’ve compiled a list of the best of what’s on in London for New Years.  So take your pick and don’t miss out on any good times as you ring in the upcoming year.

NYE Fireworks Display: South Bank/London Eye, Saturday 21 December SE1 7PB 10pm-Midnight Free
The Mayor’s Fireworks display on the Thames is always a spectacular event. As it attracts almost 250 000 and the viewing area fills up 2-3hours in advance so it is recommended to arrive around 8pm.  DJ set starts at 10 pm with Fireworks at midnight.  More info here  http://www.london.gov.uk/nye

New Year’s Day Parade: Central London: Piccadilly (by Green Park), Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent St, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Big Ben: 11:45am Free
London’s 26th annual New Year’s Day parade features 15 bands, Pearly Queens and Kings, floats, acrobats, performers and more. For further details see: http://www.londonparade.co.uk/

NYE Parties

Stompin’ at The Savoy The Savoy Hotel, Champagne reception + 4 course dinner and entertainment £500-995
Possibly the most glamorous New Year’s eve party in town “Stompin’ at The Savoy” will feature performances from Paloma Faith, Beverly Knight and Tony Christie amongst others all accompanied by The Guy Barker Orchestra.  The soiree will be broadcast live on BBC 2 so get ready to jingle your finest jewellery while the champagne flows. http://www.stompinatthesavoy.co.uk/


The Golden Vault NYE Celebration
The Royal Opera Arcade5b Pall Mall, SW14UY 8pm-5am £55
Promises to be a “Glitzy” affair – or so says the dress code – with a champagne and canapé reception, midnight countdown and live DJs til 5am. http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/org/1757949103

Burlesque Cabaret at The Peacock 148 Falcon Road, Clapham Junction, SW112LW 7pm-6am £10-35
The Peacock Bar is hosting a NYE Hollywood Stars party that includes DJs, Burlesque, Cabaret and more. Tailor your night with just drinks tickets or pay only £35 for dinner, drinks and reserved seating all night – a great option for resting those sky-high heels between trips to the dance floor. bookings@the-peacock-bar.co.uk

NYE with DJ Seb Fontaine & guests at Westbourne Studios  Westbourne Studios, 242 Ackam Road W10 5JJ 9pm-4am includes a complimentary year membership £20
Westbourne Studios is to reopen as Industry Member Club in the New Year so be the last and first to cross the iconic threshold for this changeover and receive a complimentary year’s membership along with your NYE party. info@industrymembersclub.com

NYE @ Broadway House 474-476 Fulham Broadway SW6 1BY advanced tickets £10
West London’s newest members club is opening its doors to all for NYE and tickets are a bargain. With DJ and 3 stories of a beautifully interior designed building this promises to be a relaxed, fun and stylish evening.  Start the evening with a champagne reception followed by dinner for £55. www.broadway-house.co.uk

NYE The Last Party On Earth @ The Cuckoo Club Swallow St, Mayfair Drinks reception from 10:30-11:30 followed by party £50-75
The newly refurbished Cuckoo Club redesigned by Biba-founder and interiors designer Barbara Hulanicki, looks fabulous just in time for a prestigious ringing in of the new year. Prepare for the evening ahead by dinning in the clubs restaurant which offers a 4 –course gourmet European cuisine experience with champagne for £150. claire@thecuckooclub.com

NYE at Jam Tree 541 Kings Road SW6 2EB £20 +10£ for Hog roast
Enjoy the Jam-boree party on Kings Road to ring the New Year in with style.  This celebration promises dj sets, trays of drinks throughout the night and for an extra £10 enjoy a hog roast – yum!  The heated patio will be open to allow open-air fun til 2am. www.jamtree.com

NYE with Difference
Looking for an alternative to the standard ringing in of Auld Lang Syne?  Here are a couple of strange and wonderful events taking place in the capital that are sure to make the arrival of 2012 a night to remember.

The Last Tuesday Society presents: 2 parties – http://www.thelasttuesdaysociety.org/
The New Year’s Eve Eve Masked Ball – St Matthew’s Church Brixton 10pm-4am 15-25£
Beat the taxi queues and drunks to celebrate the new year one night early on January 30th.  Masks are obligatory and the dress code is decadence and drama with clothes optional. The evening promises bizarre treats, tricks, feast and festivities.

The Animal Party – Hackney E2, 25£
The dress code is animals and it’s “no costume no entry” so prepare yourself for an evening with a myriad of furry creatures. It’s pretty much a drop down the proverbial rabbit hole.  Fun for all with an appetite for the alternative.

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This Week’s Nibbles

Happy almost Xmas!  London is settling in to the holiday season. The mad rush is on but soon we’ll get that peaceful lull that the seasonal exodus brings. If you’re at loose ends catch the last screening at Nomad Pop-up tonight. Or book a ticket to either of the delightful plays at The Lyric – Holly & Ivan is great for under 6’s while the Aladdin production is threatening Hackney for title of best panto as adventures in Ham-Mah-Smit  prove a riotous good time.

Still hungry, drop in to El Pirata de Tapas for some excellent tapas or Dim Sum Diner for no nonsense fare.

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