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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Holly & Ivan’s Christmas Adventure: A Seasonal Play for the Little Ones

An edited version of this review has appeared in MyVillage.com
The Lyric Hammersmith sums up many of the great things about London. The Lyric is consistently raising its game bringing accessible, inexpensive, talented theatre to the masses in a classy comfortable setting.  Running alongside the successful Aladdin Panto is a nostalgic Christmas play for smaller children; “Ivan and Holly Christmas Adventure”.

This lovely 3-hander tells the story of Ivan & Holly two dolls lost from Santa’s sleigh that embark on adventures en-route to their intended destination.

The homely-styled stage is soft and welcoming with fairlights, shadows and good will. The story is a simple yet physical affair with song and dance numbers, a snow ball fight amid the audience and multiple “locations”.   Particularly delightful is the underwater sequence with umbrella jelly fish and fans for gills.  My littlest friend was in awe of the jungle scene where Holly, Ivan and an amiable monkey swung to and fro across the set and she loved the “toys” brave gumption as they determinedly tracked their way “home”.

It’s a delightfully memorable play and a quality hour with any small companion.

Book a ticket for Thursday 22 Dec and one adult goes free!

Until 31 December 2011

Lyric Hammersmith
Lyric Square, King Street
London, UK, W6 0QL
http://www.Lyric.co.uk/

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Dim Sum Delicious

An edited version of this review has appeared in MyVillage.com
The cheerful Dim Sum Diner opened this month on the Queensway in Bayswater.  Just a hop from Hyde Park this venue offers typical Chinese specialties alongside a smattering of American standbys such as hotdogs, burgers, chips and breaded fish. The minimalist red and white interior includes lacquered wooden tables dressed with a selection of sauces and seasonings, benches and pretty birdcage lampshades.

A simple affair all dishes are priced at £3.80 (except for the £2.50 sides) and include a selection of “Steamed/Baked/Fried/Sweet dim sum” alongside “Small Plates” and “American-style” offerings.  Manager Dom was on hand to guide our choices and certainly didn’t steer us wrong.

A licensed restaurant they offer a small selection of wines in individual sized bottles and several beers including TsingTao, Tiger and Asahi alongside soft options, coffees and teas.

We started with the Chilli Salt Crispy Tofu.  Delightful bites that are warming and perfectly seasoned with the right balance of flavour to heat. I could snack endlessly on these and was sorely tempted to throw a second order in my handbag.

Three large Pan-Fried Peking Pork Dumplings were satisfyingly filling if slightly doughy to my tastes.  While of the two steamed dim sum we tried the XO Scallop won hands down over the still highly recommendable Pork & Prawn.  For scallop lovers these tantalizing morsels will not disappoint.

The Vietnamese Noodle Salad with spring rolls provides a refreshing contrast of tastes. Sweet cold noodles dressed with fish sauce, chilli, lime and garlic topped by two warm Vietnamese spring rolls create a lovely fragrant bowl.  I’d have preferred flavour enhancing herbs or even shredded carrot to the iceberg lettuce but, for the price, was more than satisfied.

The “small plates” turned out to be substantial sharing dishes. The Teriyaki Beef Flank Fried Rice came with two tender pieces of beef coated in a light tempura that were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.   The Baked Pork in Coconut with Turmeric Rice that we barely put a dent in was a warming if stodgy rice dish.  The latter would be a winner for a hungry appetite looking to fill their stomachs for next to nothing and was reminiscent of the dishes I’d seen young men with packs of Marlboro Reds hunkered over in Vietnamese diners back home.  The inclusion of American-diner options makes it a winning choice for eclectic palates saddled with finicky eaters.

A traditional yet contemporary Chinese diner specialising in dishes flavoured with international influences in a casual setting Dim Sum Diner is a very welcome and well-priced newcomer to London.

Venue: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 3.5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Dim Sum Diner
48 Queensway
Bayswater London, W2 3RY

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This Week’s Nibbles

Nomads Abound

As ever there is a lot to nibble on in London.  We checked out The Gate’s latest production Yerma and, with the London Jazz Festival strutting in to town, The Park Lane Intercontinental’s new evening of Gin and Jazz. Nice stylings and top-drawer cocktails on the 3rd Thursday of the month in the Wellington Lounge. Over in Bayswater the Lexi re-launched the Nomad pop-up cinema.  Speaking of Nomad how odd that this was the name of Thursday’s launch and the “secret” dinner party host on Saturday. Still hungry? Check out Granger & co the Westbourne Grove newbie in the site formerly occupied by Pix while we hotly anticipate this week’s opening of Colchis.

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Nomad @Whiteleys: Cinema Pops Up in Bayswater

The independent Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise re-launched its travelling pop-up cinema Nomad in the middle of Bayswater at the beautiful, if underused, Whiteley’s.

The pop-up operates 7 days a week until 21 December in what was formerly the book shop on the 2nd floor at the top of the marble swirly staircase.  The large space has a vast open “lobby” with a bar serving beer, wine and cocktails, some snack stands and, on launch night, a photo-shoot area.  To the back of this room is the actual cinema space.  The cinema, reminiscent of films projected in school assembly halls and community centres, has a truly adhoc feel. There are rows of plastic pull-down cinema style seats, Saab-sponsored director’s chairs and, on the  floor, “Wicked Wedge” mat-cum-blow-up-backrest cushions.  Finally, for the mad folk, there is also an inflatable pool with balls where you are welcome to dive in and enjoy the screening.

The Lexi, one of only a handful of independently-owned cinema houses in London, operates as a charity staffed by volunteers and donating 100% of its profits to “The Sustainability Institute”. So feel good as you enjoy a flick while contributing between 4£-8£ towards a better community.  Want a bit more? Dine at any Whiteley’s restaurant and get free pop-up cinema passes – how can you lose!

Until December 21, 2011

Whiteley’s on the Queensway
London, UK, W2
http://www.whereisthenomad.com /

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Yerma @ The Gate Theatre

Natalie Abrahami’s direction of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma is a simplified linear affair providing a riveting if rocky night at the theatre.

Spanish for “barren”, Yerma remains the grim tragedy of a deceitful childless marriage and Anthony Weigh’s version brings a starkness to the 1934 original that lends a compelling urgency.

The red brown set with corrugated siding, sand and a stark white mattress speaks of wilderness. A bitter wedding cake and a reluctant, choreography between newlyweds foreshadow the harshness that eventually strips Yerma raw.

Ty Glaser is so pale and slim, as unsubstantial as Yerma’s dovelike character, a protagonist without identity.  Whether intentional or not Glaser’s portrayal is naive to the point of mentally deficient especially countered by her calculating and distant husband Juan (Hasan Dixon) who prefers nights amongst the sheep to the marital bed.  This incongruous relationship heightened the sense that Yerma is a simpleton rather than a victim making it difficult to empathise with her circumstances.

Hasan Dixon (Juan) and Ty Glaser (Yerma)

Victor, the local butcher, so utterly masculine he leaves Yerma yearning brings some much needed passion.  She drinks from a glass touched by his lips and swoons over a remembered touch.  Even fetching meat from his abattoir is an opportunity for double-entendre as she declares “I’ll take my heart and go”.

Weigh’s homoerotic twist is at the heart of this adaptation; a suggestion giving depth, even a purpose, to Juan’s cruelty as he banishes Victor (Ross Anderson) as though eradicating sin.

Yerma’s friend Maria (Alison O’Donnell) provides welcome levity to these dismal proceedings as she champions motherhood for easing wifely duties “…carrying things, that’s what you have kids for.”  O’Donnell’s saucy portrayal from lascivious lass to worn out mother and superstitious villager revives the tempo with each appearance.

But no injection of humour can lighten this crushing tale as seasons pass in a fertile land while Yerma remains without her longed for child.  As her world closes in and truths become apparent we witness her despair and tenuous grasp on reality slipping away.

This version is however without Lorca’s sense of absolute exclusion from village life. The suffocating separateness of the original text creates a bell-jar removing any sense of Yerma’s identity leaving only an ephemeral ghost of her own imaginings. The cast is convincing and, with Abrahami’s skilful touch, the evening is entrancing but lacks the claustrophobic sense of isolation needed to deliver the full weight and power of the final tragedy.

Until December 17 2011

The Gate Theatre
11 Pembridge Road
London, UK, W11 3HQ

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This Week’s Nibbles

As Xmas lights were hung on Portobello and a cold front moved in we found some lovely events to warm and enliven anyone’s spirit. The fabulous launch of Absolutely Notting Hill saw fantastic frocks and a glittering crowd gather at Beach Blanket Babylon to welcome the new glossy.  It was a great night showcasing a wonderful magazine alongside a stylish and eclectic crowd.  If you’re looking for an art fix head to PayneShurvell for a smoking good show or the West-End offers some Hollywood glamour with Thandie Newton in Death and the Maiden.

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