Ahhhh! If only more sundays could be like the one just gone. A beautiful start, jewel blue skies rich with that crisp autumn light, the perfect morning for a family visit to Regents park. Lucky for us that the Frieze Art Fair’s Sculpture park was in full swing. The thirteen works on display ranged from quirky to funny and humorous. Some thought provoking, some lovely and others that didn’t even seem to be art, at least in my eyes.
Gavin Turk’s Goose and Guinea fowl Eggs seemed to draw everyone in with their soft and luminous beauty. An installation with a series of speed bumps by Ceal Floyer called ‘Slow’ had mixed reactions in our group and it was quite funny when I overheard one of the curators talking about in artspeak. Apparently, it had a great title, and they felt that it just had to be included in the show, not as something precious but to ‘just be there’ and see how it alters the world around it. Just as well because this exhibit was easily the kids favourite and they spent ages jumping up and down on it.
Gavin Turk’s ‘Le bikes de Bois Rond’ involved a selection of stripy painted bikes which visitors had special permission to ride round the inner circle of the park. At the end of the ride they were to be presented with a certificate from the artist for having been part of the artistic experiment.
Franz West’s ‘Untitled’ beautiful blue elliptical piece made out of joined up bell like shapes brightened up it’s spot in the park and really looked as if it should have stayed there forever.
My favorite by far was Wolfgang Gartner and Kaj Aune’s ‘Trash’ complete with half a body sticking out of a wheelie bin.
This week has brought some exciting culinary revelations which is fitting as it’s the week of the London Restaurant Festival. The nice thing about it is that the most satisfying discoveries came from the least expected of sources. Firstly, we found ‘Sipsmith’s’ gin in Mark’s bar (Mark Hix’s Brewer Street speakeasy). To find a bottle of gin in a bar is not in itself unusual, but the big revelation for me is just how much I liked it. Distilled in a tin roofed garage/brewery in Hammersmith, the spirits are brewed in a small copper pot still called ‘Prudence’ and condensed through a ‘swan’s neck’ in the old fashioned way. This is handcrafted, artisanal gin made in small batches, and boy can you taste it. The spirit is wonderfully intense, smooth and aromatic with all the botanicals (including liquorice root, juniper berries and seville oranges) which turn the vodka base into a ‘gin’ really perfuming it through and through. One of our companion friends who is virtually a teetotaller had a small sip to taste and found it hard to stop three gin and tonics later, it was that good.
The Gin based cocktail that I am most familiar with is a lime and syrup colonial concoction called ‘Gimlet’, but I have to say that a G & T made with Fever Tree tonic water and Sipsmith’s Gin is a real cracker. Check out this range of quality mixers, the Fever Tree Ginger Beer and Bourbon combo also goes down far too easily in our house.
Finally, a good reason to make your way down to Covent Garden, until Friday the shiny Street Kitchen truck is parked up in the North Piazza and serving up great British classics. A collaboration between Pearl Chef Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel for London restaurant week, the project aims to showcase a simple and delicious menu created from quality British ingredients sourced directly from manufacturers and growers. A tiny kitchen in the Airstream van is making such a good job of it, I do have to wonder why restaurants with proper kitchens cant deliver at least the same quality. So maybe having the Chefs actually present on site does really make all the difference (celebrity chefs please take note), at least they were when we came by at 4 pm last Saturday. The Piazza was heaving as usual so it was a bit of an obstacle course to get there with our pushchair and two children. Lucky for us the Street Kitchen itself was quiet and we got chatting with Mark (Jun was sitting at a nearby table with his girlfriend) who was very entusiastic and informed us that the featherblade braised beef had been slow cooked for 17 hours. And that the Salmon was super fresh having arrived straight from the Loch Duart farm in Scotland 24 hours after being fished, all music to our ears. We ordered a portion of the beef dish which came with carrots and celeriac puree, the hot smoked salmon with beetroot and horseradish sauce as well as some carrot soup spiked with rosemary which came with a lovely brioche bun from the Artisan Bakery in North London. We took it all home in really nice takeaway boxes stamped with their lovely logo to share with the kids. The meal was a big success, honest and delicious, the kids loved it so did we and it was and all very quickly mopped up and polished off including the veg, all without breaking the bank. The Street Kitchen is moving to Old Spitalfields Market on Friday and Sunday is it’s last day, but the good news is that it’s actually a launch pad for Mark Jankel’s restaurant venture. Even though we cannot possibly hope that his future restaurant will deliver at the same prices we can at least look forward to the same culinary philosophy!
Also present at the Piazza for the festival are food and ingredient stalls by small producers and growers. Don’t miss the lovely display of gorgeous handmade chocolates by DarkSugars.
nb : Sipsmith pictures are from their gallery and not my own!
Round 1 : The V and A and the Brompton Design district
Even though the London Design Festival has just started my head is already spinning from all the events and I have got my knickers in a bit of a twist over how to fit it all in. There’s too much to do and so little time! I’m very excited about all the pop up restaurants, Cafe’s and Bars for the festival, a great incentive for folks like me who enjoy good design and love food even more. Not surprising then that some of these events were the first to be crossed off my list and both the Hel Yes! and Bramble Cafe did not disappoint.
The V and A is the hub for the London Design Festival and has pulled it out of the bag again. I loved Oskar Zieta’s Blow and Roll in the Majedski Garden. 3D Elliptical overlapping forms made out of 10 m long spans of inflated steel using a technique developed by the artist are mirrored in the pond.
Stuart Haygarth’s ‘Framed’ installation made out of 30 different types of bespoke mouldings in conjunction with frame makers John Jones cascades dramatically down the grand marble stairs.
Michael Anastassiades’ Kinetic light, a glowing murano glass pendulum in a pared down elegant walnut frame makes a stark contrast to the ornate Norfolk House music room.
Make your own stuffed London pigeon, one of the drop in design workshops in held in collaboration with Selvedge. The attendees industriously following the instructions and enjoying the experience. Apparently there aren’t enough pigeons in london already, not the well dressed kind anyway.
Cappellini has a display area in the V and A with iconic designs by british designers.
Mint has an exhibition called ‘Homework’ on at the moment showcasing products by many upcoming as well as established designers with a handcrafted appeal. There are many one off’s and limited edition pieces which give this design destination even more of a gallery feel than usual.
Get a lesson in bookbinding at Few and Far with its show London Biblio- geography / A personal A-Z by Rachel Hazell ‘The travelling bookbinder’.
Next round to come soon!
Bramble Cafe at The Garage between Few and Far and Mint on North Terrace off Brompton Road
Take an innovative display by an exciting designer, stir in some prized edible ingredients, preferably foraged and cook them up simply in a great setting, the result is a many layered trifle of sensory pleasure. For the London Design Festival, La Fromagerie have teamed up with Italian food experience designers Arabeschi di Latte to create a pop up Cafe in a garage off the Brompton Road. Studio toogood is displaying Assemblage 1 its first collection of furniture in the space dubbed ‘Supernatural’, dedicated to foraging, collecting and observing in the English countryside. The entrance hosts a mushroom installation with Mrs. Tee a new Forest forager and leading mushroom authority.
The mushroom installation is like a precious coral garden on market stands with wheels and old fashioned lamps which enhance the feeling of being in a forbidden blackmarket out of hours. There are magnifying glasses with which to further examine the specimens and the knowledgeable and passionate Mrs. Tee, who has the professorial air of a scientist is at hand to answer any questions. I overheard her extolling the virtues of the beef steak mushroom which actually bleeds when cut to another couple who seemed well informed. I didn’t dare to ask myself in case I got told off for my complete ignorance of the subject inspite of living right on the edge of Epping Forest. To add to the sensory experience the environment is infused with a scent specially created by Francis Kurkdijan for the event, sadly I failed to notice this.
Walk through the hessian curtain and into the Cafe which is warm and welcoming, with large glass topped tables scattered with chestnuts and conkers and giant displays of autumn leaves in galvanised containers. We sat on roomy hessian covered benches and ate delicious food simply prepared and creatively presented from a short menu. The mushrooms on bread were blissfully hearty and even my three year old polished off a plateful. You can buy some of the varieties to take home from Mrs. Tee.
A great pit stop, definitely worth a visit! On until the 28 September 10 am to 6 pm and there are some evening events and workshops. Sorry, I forgot to mention the lovely pieces of furniture, binocular cases reworked as handbags and the collection of wall hooks and door knobs made by Ize’, I guess there’s only so much you can take in at once!
The Finnish Institute has offered up a dining Space in a disused warehouse in Islington as a treat to the London Design Festival and Hell Yes! I am glad that we made it to this pop up before it disappears for good.
The warehouse is mostly used for big clearance sales, so we didn’t really know what to expect and when we arrived it looked completely deserted and desolate. Apart from the image of the upside down hare on the entrance there was absolutely no clue to the surprise that lay ahead.
At the entrance we were greeted by an innocent looking transvestite fairy in white while evocative black and white images played on two screens on either side the door. And then our pulses quickened as through the open door we caught a glimpse of the new and exciting world beyond.
An ephemeral creature, a mixture of bat and fish presides over the space. There’s a magical feel to the space, it’s intimate and so beautiful, I had goosebumps just being there. Some of the round tables had gazebo like canopies made out small trees, and there were candles everywhere in the daytime. It’s all done with such flair and attention to detail that it seems a complete travesty that this place will be taken apart in a matter of weeks.
The food came from a large blond wood food station in one corner of the space and the other corner had tent like lounging areas and I even spotted a DJ station for evening events. There was only one three course menu option with two choices for each course and the food was simple, delicious and tasted very authentic, albeit service was a bit slow. The waiting staff were helpful and managed to accommodate us even though we arrived without reservations. They looked chic and comfortable in their especially designed uniforms which were tunics of either black or a gorgeous shade of off white worn over skinnies with Finnish folk dancing shoes.
To add another layer to the story of Hel Yes!, all the Ittala china used has been accumulated by a plate swap scheme run in Helsinki in which people were invited to trade their plates for a complimentary dinner.
No stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of a rich, multi dimensional experience here, it is a feast for all the senses and I am sure that this is going to be one of the big triumphs of this year’s festival. I left with great admiration for Finnish design, food and culture and of course the desire to return which will now probably remain unfulfilled. Even the little publication that accompanies the installation is beautifully put together with great images, graphics and recipes for some of the dishes we ate. If only we could put this much thought and effort into the more permanent things we create, the world would be a much better place.
Hel Yes! at the London Newcastle Depot on Wenlock Road