Friday, 31 July 2015

Bright Bourjois Nail Art

Good grief! It's over two years since I posted something about nail art! Well, I'm heading out to meet some local bloggers this evening so I thought it was a good idea to doll myself up a little in preparation and so I have done my nails for the first time in an absolute age!

Nothing fancy, I've kept it simple, but it matches my dress and I'm happy with the bright colours. The Bourjois Fashion Show a New York is quite an old set now, but you can still buy it

I love the colour ways and it goes on nice and thickly, drying quickly nonetheless. It's perfect for me as the colours have a bit of a vintage 70s feel to them, therefore it matches my wardrobe! 

Anyway, I just went for a straight contrast colour split - what do you think of the results?

And of course, this requires a super fancy, heavily manipulated arty shot. Why, you ask? Why not I say. After all, what you really want to know is how did I actually manage to take this photograph?

The best 5 things in Leicester this weekend

It's a big weekend for Leicester. The weather forecast isn't looking too shabby and as I patter away on the keyboard the sun is streaming in the window. There is a tonne of good stuff happening in the city to keep you entertained, so pick your favourites, get out there and embrace the summer with good friends, good food and great tunes!

Caribbean Carnival
Saturday 1st August
Victoria Park and city centre
£2 entry to Victoria Park, watch the parade for free!

Where could the top tips for this weekend begin but with the fine Leicester institution of Caribbean Carnival. Now in its 30th year, expect a fabulous, colourful parade, art, craft and food stalls and addictive rhythms on the main stage. 

There's also a children's village with lots of fun things to do and a funfair if that wasn't enough! It's one of the biggest multicultural events in the East Midlands and just another reason why Leicester is great!

Caribbean Weekender
31st July - 1st August
The Parcel Yard

Get your reggae on with the pre-Carnival warm up at the Parcel Yard with Old Skool beats from the King Clegg sound system at the outside bar.

You can also keep your vibe running late into the night after Carnival on Saturday with an extra special Latin American Caribbean Night with delicious food from the Empanada Social Club, an outdoor mojito bar and DJ set featuring Mexican, Columbian and Cuban soul and funk - I think this is the event that appeals to me most - transporting me back to South America!

I think I might even feel a bit of a dance coming on. Just can't resist those Latino rhythms!

Samaritans Beer, Cheese and Cider Festival
31st July - 2nd August
Anne Elizabeth Theatre Arts, Church Road, Aylestone, LE2 8LB
£2.50 entry + £2.50 refundable glass charge

Raising money for the Samaritans locally and starting at 12pm today, this small beer festival is well loved by regulars for its great atmosphere. They'll be featuring 16 beers (including Sweet Leaf Brewery), cider and perry as well as cheese pork pies and samosas. 

There is live music in the evenings too, including rock bands tonight - not to be missed!

The Baudoin Sessions
Saturday 1st August

Featuring live music from Stop that Train and French Leave and many more throughout the day.

There will be drinks offers throughout the day, fun stuff happening indoors and in the secret garden and an afterparty until 4am, this is the place to go for some top indie music this weekend.

Zombie Walk
Sunday 2nd August
Abbey Pumping Station

The sci-fi convention at the Space Centre has become infected!

Get your best warpaint on (literally) dress as your favourite vintage period zombie and join hordes of other shambling undead moaning and groaning their way to find the cure at Belgrave Hall. Quite frankly, if you've been partying until 4am the night before at Bruxelles then fancy dress may not be necessary, you may well look the part as it is!

So that's the very best picks in my book. You can also take it at a bit more of a relaxed pace by attending the free Meet the Curator talk and tour at Leicester Guildhall on Sunday at 2pm, pop along to the Saturday Art Club at Beaumont Leys Library at 10am tomorrow, or pop along to the Orange Tree on Sunday for the annual Glastontree festival - a snip at only £3 entry! 

Edit: I've also been made aware that you can take a gamble with the Mystery Film at the Phoenix this evening. Only £3 a ticket, and only the projectionist knows what the film will be! And of course I forget to mention that it is the launch weekend for Leicester's first Cat Cafe, Cats, Cake and Coffee. Really something for everyone!

Edit II: Now I notice there is Pay What You Like comedy at Exchange tonight also. Chuckle away and help raise money for Oxjam. Wicked.

Edit III: I never cease to be amazed by all the cool things going on in Leicester that I have no idea about. Another of those things is the Cank Street Market. This independent market has apparently being running weekly throughout the summer so far and I had no idea! 8am until 4.30pm on a Saturday it will be on again today and this time will feature the delicious culinary creations of Bitsy's Emporium. You can look on her website to see the menu of the delicious bakery treats that she has on offer today. Trust me, once you've had Bitsy's cakes you never go back! The Cookie Dough Brownie Layer Cake looks like a masterpiece, but gluten free and vegan options are also available.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tucking in the vines at Rothley Wines

We popped back to see our friends at Kingfisher's Pool Vineyard (Rothley Wines) last weekend and had a blast tucking down the new shoot growth of their vines. It was getting pretty unruly out there!

It was a lot of hard work, spending the whole day in what turned out to be blazing sunshine but it gave me a great feel for the different varietals and how their vines differ in shape, size. colour and growing habits as well as encouraging me to treat them like plants and not delicate porcelain snowflakes of wonder, which is how I started! By the end I was grabbing horizontal shoots by the armful and pushing them under the trellis wire. It also gave me a good taste of just how much hard work you have to put in to get them grapes growing!

It was really easy to get lost in yourself as you slowly paced down the leafy avenues of vines, looking carefully for the best direction in which to tuck a shoot so that it didn't snap. In my blissful, sunny solitude I was startled by a tiny rabbit, darting for cover amongst the leafy hedgerow canopy to the edge of the vineyard. It was hard, but satisfying work, particularly as I am of the short-arse persuasion so some of the errant vine tendrils required something of a hop, skip and a jump on my part to grab them and to pull them down to their proper place. We spent so much time out there that, despite my regular applications of suncream, I actually managed to get sunburnt lips, which were peeling for days after - lesson learned there!

Hard life as a vineyard labourer, no?

As a thank you to the small team of committed volunteers who gave up their sunny Saturday, Liz and Matthew fed us all like kings, with a wonderful selection of quiche and salad followed by the most beautiful cakes, all from the fantastic David North, not just picturesque in the extreme to look at, but ruddy delicious with it! Truly we were spoiled at the dinner table.

There we are! Picture courtesy of Rothley Wines

One of the really interesting things about Rothley Wines is that they are experimenting with their own pruning system. I know, if you don't like wine that is probably totally irrelevant and dull, but I enjoyed seeing the 'Kingfisher Curtain' in action, an adaptation of the double Sylvos trellis system, in action. I found it particularly interesting to see how vigorous and unwieldy the Siegerriebe had become and how the Regent grapevines were absolutely perfectly matched to the trellis system.

So a fabulous day was had by all. It was a pleasure to meet the other volunteers, to learn more about the workings of the vines and to meet the new chickens that are taking up residence in Chicken World, as well as getting re-aquainted with Ginger and Ebony, the latter of whom was so excited to see The Boy again that she decided to try (and nearly succeed) to fly out of Chicken World under her own steam for the first time ever! 

Obligatory chicken photo
I cannot wait to have more opportunities to visit Rothley Wine to lend and hand and learn more about the vines, but I think that we must discourage Liz from feeling like she must feed us each time - we would happily come along every week and work for absolutely nothing but the sheer pleasure of it, so beautiful is that little green corner of Rothley. 

I'm also amazed at this photo that Matthew took. I might use it on all my PR material from now on. It makes me look like a hugely engaging speaker who has captured the attention of the entire room with my witty anecdotes and scintillating conversation. Anyone who knows me in real life understands that this impression is simply a trick of the camera.

Photo courtesy of Rothley Wines

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday Lunch at The Bell Inn, East Langton

There are some fine places to go for Sunday Lunch in Leicester and Leicestershire. A couple of months ago I featured our experience of the roast at The Crown Inn in Anstey and now I thought you might like to hear about our experience at the Bell Inn in East Langton.

The Bell Inn has a beautiful beer garden, which you can read about in a previous post. In fact I ranked it my number one beer garden in the county of Leicestershire in my recent review of local beer gardens. So it is worth visiting for that alone. However, it is also a very pretty pub that puts on a great home cooked menu.

I love a bit of timber and a low ceiling.
The chef changes menu elements regularly to keep it seasonal and fresh, but on the whole it appears you have a choice of around four starters, a selection of meat roasts for the main with a couple of additional choices and a good array of desserts to finish things off. The menu costs £10.50 for one course, £14.50 for two or £17.50 for the full shebang. My party all agreed that this was good value for the quality of food on offer, but we all found two courses to be more than enough, so be warned!

To start, one of my party chose the Chef's Smokies - smoked haddock in a rich cheese sauce. Served with a chunk of crusty bread this was unanimously voted the best starter by our whole table after much deliberation and tasting. I would quite happily head down to the Bell just to have that dish as my meal to be honest, I enjoyed the fresh and smokey flavours so much. Total luxury.

I took on the chicken liver pate with toast points which was made onsite and came with a rich, viscous fruit sauce/jam/side which complemented the pate perfectly. Nice to see melba toast made the way I remember it from my childhood also - bread toasted with the crusts off and then cut in half and toasted again, the way it should be. 

The Boy went for the soup of the day, which was a tomato and spinach affair, again with a great homemade, fresh flavour. I find it very hard to get excited about soup, but there you go. For all you soup lovers I'm sure it would have hit the spot.

For mains, The Boy took the roast meal. He was a little disappointed, having opted for turkey, that it was a couple of thin slices - he was hoping for a little more meat than that. However the stuffing square was rich and dense and full of sausagemeat so this kind of made up for it. The Yorkshire pudding was a great size, but as you can see from the picture was a little too far over the cremated fence to be truly enjoyable. It probably would have made an excellent firelighter though.

Myself and our guest both opted for the Sunday Pie - the seasonal special when we visited in late Spring. This was steak and kidney at the time and a great hulking thing it was too - I could not finish it as it felt like there was about two tonnes of meat inside. It was well seasoned and had a lovely thick gravy which was massively enjoyable on what was quite a fresh day! 

I note from their website that they are currently doing Summer Salads as their changing dish on a Sunday and vegetarian options are available for all mains.

Along with our main courses came an absolute mountain of vegetables. Roast and new potatoes, carrots, broccoli and a piping hot cauliflower cheese - more than enough for the three of us. The roasties were good and crispy on the outside as you would hope and the carrots were al dente and full of flavour. My only criticism was that the new potatoes were so undercooked that it felt like they had barely seen boiling water at all, which was a shame because I'm not a big raw potato fan. Not sure many people are.

So I would heartily recommend dining at the Bell Inn, although there were certainly key areas for improvement of the food, overall we came away with a really good impression and I would be happy to go again if we were in the area. I guess that means a 7 out of 10, or maybe a 7.5.

Disclaimer: The Bell Inn were not aware of my visit, or that I write a blog and we paid for our meals in full.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Italian Job at Sapori, Anstey

We popped over to Anstey a few days ago as we were at a loose end and there wasn't a scrap of food in the house. We decided to drop by the Italian bar and restaurant, Sapori. We were glad we did, I have to say. Having never been there we didn't really know what to expect, but we had googled it and knew they did an early evening special for £10 and so decided it was worth a punt.

Happily other people arrived shortly after us so there was a bit more atmosphere!

When we arrived we were pleased to find a really nicely decorated and spotlessly clean restaurant and a bit surprised to find it totally empty! It was around 6pm on a weekday, but still, surely people in Anstey have to eat? Anyway, no problem getting a table, we thought and in we went.

Our introduction was not the best ever I have to say and was by far the low point of our visit - a waiter was stood chatting at the back of the restaurant, to the chefs in the kitchen. We stopped and cleared our throats etc. to try and get his attention and he eventually noticed us and decided to make his way over towards us. He greeted us politely and asked if we had a table booked. When we said no, much to my surprise he sort of harumphed and walked away! I was a bit baffled by this and The Boy and I exchanged confused looks. Luckily a waitress behind the bar had also noticed our arrival at this point and happily decided that not having a booking wasn't a problem in an empty restaurant and showed us to a table!

Our waitress was really friendly and knowledgable about the menu. She quickly took our drinks order and left us to peruse the menu. The menu is quite exciting, because it comes in a metal cover. I don't know why, must be an Italian thing. It was all I could do to resist the urge to hit things with it to see what noise it made. 

We took a glass of the white and red house wine each, as this was part of the £10 early bird special. The white was a Sicilian Inzolia which I really enjoyed - it was nicer (and cheaper) than the Inzolia I had been given in London at Cafe Concerto a couple of weeks ago. Floral, rounded and delicious.

The Boy had the house red which was a light, easy drinking Nero D'Avola. I had a little sip and found it to have quite a hefty balsamic tone which I don't think I would particularly have enjoyed on its own but I can see it would be a great match with food.

Our food also arrived quickly and by this point it was clear that the restaurant manager was taking special care to ensure that we had everything we needed in good order which was a nice personal touch that we were pleased with. We both plumped for the gnocchi, which was made with a mixture of regular and sweet potato, giving a pleasing orange colour to the gnocchi. It was dressed with lamb ragu and a sprinkling of grated ewe's cheese. The texture of the gnocchi was perfectly al dente and it was a good sized portion. The ragu was tender and flavourful and the whole thing was well seasoned - particularly with fresh grated parmesan added at the table and a twist of black pepper.

The ewe's cheese was a good addition to the flavour also - my only complaint was that it was all clumped together. I am not sure if this means that it was processed pre-grated cheese or had been grated on site and then kept grated in the fridge, but either way I can't see that a fresh sprinkle of cheese can be that much hassle. It did look a little like grated cheese you buy in a bag from the supermarket, but I could be way off here so I'll leave you to judge for yourselves when you try it!

The bar
Anyway, we were really impressed with the flavour of the dish and generally with the service so we will happily return to Sapori. Their main a la carte menu is around £8-£12 for a pasta or pizza dish and about £15-£20 for a meat/fish main so it is about the same price point as a chain. They also have a large bar available for you to pop along for a drink and maybe some bar snacks which looks like a lovely place to lounge around, if you're not especially hungry.

All in I'd say for the quality of food and service they're looking at a 7 or 8 out of 10 - but first impressions count and so I wouldn't go any higher based on our first visit. I'd definitely pick Sapori over Pizza Express any time though! I can see that other people have complained about the service also in the past, so I'll let you judge for yourself about how they respond to criticism! *Warning: potential social media disaster follows*

Oookkk...This is another present from tripadvisor!!!!This gentleman and calling him gentleman I have been far too good...
Posted by Sapori Restaurant & Bar on Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Disclaimer: Sapori didn't know I was going to visit or write for the blog about our experience (neither did I until I was eating my food) and we paid for our meals in full.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

All the food at Red Hot World Buffet, #Leicester

Edit 01/08/16 - The Red Hot World Buffet group has gone into administration and the Leicester branch closed last week as a consequence. Sorry!

Red Hot World Buffet has been open on the High Street in Leicester for a while now. We've been in before, but were invited back to review this week. It's a great option if you can't agree on where to eat as there is a little bit of everything and lots of chefs on site to cook things freshly for you. It is laid out like an airport with each 'gate' representing a different cuisine, in all you can eat buffet form. 

Why is it that every time I try to write 'buffet' I accidentally write 'bugget'? I don't know but this is taking me a long time to type as a consequence.

So, the amount of food on offer is literally quite staggering. We found that some of it suffered a little on the hotplate, mainly the least popular things as you would expect. During our visit this was the English carvery section, no doubt because it was a lovely day and the last thing you really want on a hot day is carvery, but it was a nice touch that there was a roast leg of lamb on offer as well as special desserts to mark the celebration of Eid.

I would definitely recommend that you visit a few times, instead of trying to cram everything in during a single visit. There's just too much to try and even splitting different things between us gave us quiet an overwhelming amount of stuff to try. But still, we persevered to try and give you a good idea of the variety of food that was on offer.
To start there are a good mixture of Asian and Indian inspired dishes. We went for the crispy duck pancakes and the steamed gyoza, which are two of my personal favourites and I have to say I was very impressed. The plum sauce was flavourful, the veg crisp and the duck was, well, crispy. It was an excellent rendition, given that it was not freshly prepared to order. The gyoza were also a highlight for me, although be warned the chicken ones are extremely popular and so you may have a bit of a wait for a fresh batch to be put out!

We also tried to make a compilation plate with Indian starters on one side and Asian on another. I'm not sure how successful it was photographically but it did taste nice. The lamb kofta style thing was particularly nicely spiced and the spicy chickpeas were also full of flavour. I enjoyed the chilli panner as well. There is plenty of curry available for main as well and you can go to town on poppadums, rice and nan, although of course the savvy buffet eater will keep it low on the carbs.

I really liked the sushi bar too, there was a nice mix of vegetable ones and fish sushi, and they had a really flavourful, authentic taste with all the sauces you would expect on offer. I was pleased to see edamame beans there as well, which I do enjoy, although these were one of the elements that did dry out a little in the hot plate.

After this we were already pretty satisfied, but we carried on regardless, trying hard to get small portions of everything so that we didn't waste any food. I went to the fresh to order pasta counter and got us a chicken carbonara. I did ask for a half portion, but they don't see very receptive to this, they just mainly make you what they are used to making. You can get a variety of ingredients in the sauce. We had chicken, garlic and herbs and although I felt it was a little underseasoned (and there is no salt and pepper on the table) it was still creamy and very enjoyable. We also took the opportunity to grab a couple of slivers of pizza whilst we were in Italy which were very nice. 

Of course the pizza is very popular and there are lots of other fast food bits around the place for you to enjoy including the ubiquitous chips, onion rings and also a kids section which was a little disappointingly full of chicken nuggets and the like. However the salad bar was fresh and vibrant and means there is ample opportunity to give your children a good quality healthy meal should you choose to take them along. With so much choice available I don't really see the point of a separate kids section really, but maybe that's just me.

Onwards and upwards, we wanted to try more of the cooked to order elements and so had to give the big fat juicy prawns a go. They were indeed juicy and delicious, and we saw another chap ordering a rare cooked steak which was just shown the grill and looked absolutely perfect. To be honest if you visited this section alone you could sort yourself out a brilliant surf and turf which would be worth the money you paid for the meal.

There were also sausages available here and burgers, with burger buns on the side for you to build up a nice burger, however you like it. There was also a cooked to order dosa stall which looked lush, but by this point it was quite clear that we might die if we ate much more.

And so what's a girl to do except try the dessert. They have a chocolate fountain, a range of tiny cakes (I do love a tiny cake) and a whole ice cream bar, as well as little bowls of sweets and all kinds of delicious treats. The ice cream display was particularly vibrant and pretty looking and they had blue flavour! BLUE! Well I guess it's bubble gum or something, but I always think of it as blue. The Boy was most complimentary about it.

The raspberry panna cotta and the pistachio and ginger slice (pictured above) were my personal favourites. I wasn't so fussed on the chocolate fountain though as there seems to be a lot of extra stuff in the milk chocolate to keep it flowing well, so it doesn't actually set on whatever you dip in there, so that would be something I'd swerve next time.
So thanks to Red Hot World Buffet for inviting us along. We had a lovely meal and were very full indeed afterwards. The staff looked after us very well and it was a pleasure to meet such an enthusiastic and welcoming General Manager in a chain restaurant, she really added a personal touch to our experience. I think I'll need about another five or ten visits before I can actually say I've tried everything. For Leicester it is extremely appropriate to be able to fit the world on one plate!!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Making cava big business at Freixenet

You can never write too many posts about Catalonia and cava right? Thought not, so here's another one for you. Freixenet is the big daddy of Cava producers. Most people in the UK are familiar with the brand, it is the juggernaut of Spanish fizz. However, biggest is not necessarily best, or perhaps I am a bigger supporter of the small producer, but judge for yourself from my tasting notes.

They do have a Freixenet scooter in the front yard of Cavas Freixenet which is an extremely fancy place indeed, but I did find it much more clinical and pristine compared to all of the rest of the cava producers we have visited. Even Pinord, which comes relatively close in size (although still tiny in comparison) was immediately comfortable, welcoming and relaxed, whereas I felt much more part of a tourist marketing machine when popping along to Freixenet to taste. We didn't bother with the tour, as we didn't have time on the day, but I think that's pretty exceptional - most people come for a tour and a taste as part of an all in train ticket deal from Barcelona.

The tasting room is as clean and sleek as you would expect, with servers in smart, well pressed uniforms and a uniform greeting for everyone. As we were not part of a tour, the tasting room was deserted, which meant that there was not a great atmosphere, which is normally not a problem as we'll just natter with whoever is serving the tastings, however at Freixenet it was made quite clear that we should seat ourselves down, away from the bar, so there was little opportunity for chit chat.

Nature Reserva left; Cuvee DS right
Brut Nature Reserva

Aged 36-48 months, this Reserve cava smells floral and sweet on the nose, with a hint of peach perfume the key note. It has very light bubbles which a relatively crisp on the palate with a hint of acidity of green apple, but still a very slight residual sweetness in the mouth. 

It is a faint, but very long finish that would perhaps be easy drinking on its own, but also complement something quite light, like a salad, maybe with a vinaigrette. I have to say I was not a massive fan. The bubbles were not very impressive and it went pretty much flat during the time we were drinking it. I scored it a 5 out of 10.

Cuvee DS

The Cuvee is more expensive, but all the better for it. It is very slightly more golden in colour and has a light, but yeasty barrel smell which is much more appealing and has the feel of a good champagne. The bubbles are barely there and caress the palate gently, but they persist throughout the whole glass. 

The taste is very dry and almost savoury with a tiny touch of sourness. I thought it was so smooth that it tastes almost like it has a kind of creaminess, a very soft texture so this would perhaps hold up to creamy pasta dishes or light, white meat foods. I gave it a 7 out of 10 - it was nice, totally drinkable, but I was not blown away.

Elyssia Rose

Pretty much the whole theme of our trip had become an exploration of rose cava by this point and so there seemed no reason to break the tradition at Freixenet. This particular example had a deep pink colour with a hint of peach. It was fresh, airy and promising on the nose with just the slightest hint of yeast. 

It had much livelier bubbles than the other two but was still soft and easy on the tongue. There was the merest hint of strawberry and other soft fruits. It faded away leaving a very light taste and has vague sour note with a little higher acidity in the mouth. I preferred it to the Reserva, but was still not a big fan. 

It was no match for the rose we tried at Canals & Munne for example, I gave it what I considered to be a generous, and relative 5.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Letts Basses (and Guitars) - handcrafted instruments

You all know by now that I am always on the look out for the best of the best that is being produced in Leicester. Well, I'm pretty proud of discovering this small business - a small enterprise with what is already a very big reputation. I think some people would be surprised to hear that some of the most beautiful guitars and basses around are being handcrafted using traditional methods here in our fair city. But it must certainly is going on at Letts Basses.

Already Letts have created a small army of satisfied customers across the globe who have paid a surprisingly reasonable price for a gorgeous instrument. And trust me, The Boy and I have tested them out and they sound as good as they look. These guitars are made from the finest quality materials, including wood being handpicked for each guitar (you can see all of their suppliers on the website.) The pick-ups on each guitar are also handmade, scatter wound affairs, which I know will get a lot of people out there quite excited in itself.

Happily you can also now buy their scatter wound pickups separately. They come in a range of specialist hard woods and bright acrylic finishes which bring a true uniqueness to your axe as well as preserving the high end and generally better dynamic range. Does anyone actually still refer to their guitar as an axe any more? I hope not. 

They will take out your old pickups and rewind them while you wait, if you want your tone and dynamics improved without replacing parts on your existing instrument. They have also been working on a unique range of FX units, so there's plenty of bespoke, unusual items for you to ogle on their website.

Happily they have both and UK and a US shop so hopefully you'll all be able to find something lovely. It is a very small business, so you'll have to keep your eye out for what is available, but at the moment in the UK the gorgeous Dielectric is only £450. I don't know how long that price will be available so snap it up if you want it. The Dielectric has its own webpage too at the moment.

So there you have it. Locally produced, superb craftsmanship, the best materials and a great sound. What else could you ask for?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Top 5 Fun New Things in Leicester this summer!

Leicester continues to surprise and amuse with new businesses and activities opening up all the time. Here's my round up of 5 of the newest things to arrive in the city this summer.

Cat's Cakes and Coffee
Coming to a Stoneygate near you at the beginning of August is our very own cat cafe. As a dedicated cat owner myself I am seriously looking forward to this. Cat Cafes are becoming popular across the country so I'm sure this one will do very well. I love a cake and a novelty environment.

Tickets are going fast though, so make sure you get yourself booked in to avoid disappointment! 

Market Harborough's finest purveyors of the meaty arts are finally opening in Leicester at the end of July. Look forward to juicy burgers and getting down and dirty with some truly sounding brunch offerings. This one is promising to become an immediate favourite.

Having tested Deliveroo in Leicester for myself, I can confirm that their delivery time is great and the range of restaurants they deliver from is excellent. Why have a greasy kebab when you can get a delicious gnocchi delivered to your door? They've just launched their app for iPhone as well, so now you can drop a pin and get your food delivered to you wherever you are. Panini in the park? Sushi at the station? Why not.

The new Jukebox at the top of St Nicholas Place has only been open for a couple of weeks but is already proving a big hit with locals. Live music every Friday, resident DJ and a simple but delicious sounding cocktail menu makes for a little venue with a big personality.

New Sculptures
The Arts Council have funded a new set of sculptures for the University of Leicester's Botanical Gardens. Always a beautiful place to check out at the best of times, the artist, Jacky Oliver has worked with learners from local special schools to create works inspired by the plants in the garden. They will be a really valuable new addition to the experience.

This is my #tubestrike

Well it was a beautiful day in London town on Thursday. I had an afternoon event at the V&A and as there was a tube strike, I had to consider a new way of getting there from St Pancras station. Upon arriving in London it was pretty clear that buses weren't a viable option and so I walked. I saw many interesting things, including finding a street full of music and guitar shops that I didn't know existed, which I will have to take The Boy to next time we are down there together. I also saw a nun, a 20 year old man dressed as a nana and a group of cyclists on Boris Bikes singing showtunes down The Mall.

In amongst all of these very special things I also took the opportunity to stop off at a few museums and galleries along the way. I started off at the British Library, where I was interested to take in David Normal's installation. This work was originally created for Burning Man, so it was nice that I was there on a sunny day to see it in its full glory in the piazza. The lightbox murals on Crossroads of Curiosity were inspired by old book illustrations taken from the BL's digitised collections. Although Normal's style isn't really my cup of tea, I did like the idea and the overall structural feel of the piece. The smaller details, like the sort of Persian-inspired tracery above the entrances was definitely my favourite element. It reminded me of the fantastic Ancient Persian exhibition that was on at the British Museum a few years ago.

After the British Library it was a short amble down the road to the British Museum. Being not a great fan of the Tube anyway, this is a walk that I make relatively regularly as it only takes 15-20 minutes which is about the same as navigating your way through King's Cross and then still having to walk over from Russell Square. On Russell Square I was given a cereal bar and a voucher for £3 off my next shop by a nice lady from the Co-op.

Just checking in
With such a long walk ahead of me I decided not to linger at the British Museum, which I do seem to visit quite regularly for work anyway. However, I couldn't resist popping into the Ancient Egyptian galleries, which hold particular relevance for me at the moment since Leicester's main museum, New Walk, has gone a bit Egypt mad this summer. 

The objects in the gallery were looking particularly beautiful as the late afternoon sunshine flooded in through the windows. This gave them a real extra dimension of beauty for me, even though they are such a familiar sight that they feel like old friends.

After the British Museum I was in unfamiliar walking territory, but I can find my way around a map and so off I headed, to see what was doing at the National Portrait Gallery. I don't know why, but I always really prefer the NPG to the National Gallery. Just my own taste I suppose. They had a small installation of four works by abstract portrait artist Jack Smith, which I found really interesting as his sitters were composers and dancers and his work aims to incorporate elements of the movement and vibrancy of their creations into their portrayal. Although I know not everyone will like this approach, I thought it made for some really interesting and fun results.

I also did the typically nerdy museum things of taking lots of photos of interesting, flexible hanging methods that the NPG were using but I won't bore you with those pictures! After the NPG that natural stopping point to people watch and take in a little drink of water was in Trafalgar Square.

This was the first time I had seen Hans Haacke's Gift Horse since it had been unveiled on the Fourth Plinth and I have to say I really liked it. The electronic ribbon displaying the London Stock Exchange data made me think about the technical failure in the New York Stock Exchange the day before. I wonder what would happen if the same happened in London - would Gift Horse's ribbon fall blank and silent? I suppose the artist used this live feed not only to comment on links between power and money, but also in the assumption that the stock exchange feed would be a perpetual feature during the time the installation was in place. That would say something even more were this not to be the case.

After Trafalgar Square, I headed off down The Mall and nipped into the Institute of Contemporary Arts where I purchased Day Membership for £1 to have a little shufty at Eloise Hawser's exhibition. The ICA have some great little exhibits of really interesting work on, but beware their interpretation - I find that they can over-intellectualise to a degree. Maybe just go and like what you like, regardless of what the institutional voice is. They do have a good bookshop though.

After that it was on past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park. The park was a lovely environment to walk through, although I suspect it was much busier than usual as by that point I was hitting the key evening commute time. Still, it was nice to get slightly further away from the roads and have a bit of greenery in view. 

Lots of people were enjoying post work picnics in the park and it was altogether very pleasant. I also started to realise by this point just how many statues and arches we have in Our Nation's Capital. It's loads. They're basically everywhere. I suppose that by having a little amble around the place instead of diving on the tube I was actual able to notice a little more of what was around me.

All the arches.
By the time I reached Knightsbridge I was starting to get a little hungry and so it was time for some tea. I found a nice little Italian restaurant which had some early evening specials and was able to grab myself some crispy squid and a nice glass of Inzolia. On looking at their website I see it is a bit of a London chain, but the staff were very friendly and it was nice to take the weight off for half an hour. I picked the wine before ordering the food so the match wasn't particularly well made, but the crispy squid was delicious - very nicely cooked and there were tentacles, which seem to be something of a rarity these days.

I do always get a bit annoyed that they add a service charge as standard in That London regardless of what you order. I'll decide if I think the service is tip-worthy or not, but I suppose in the capital they can rinse you for whatever they like. However the waiters were very pleasant and attentive so I didn't begrudge it in this instance. I was pretty surprised they didn't have wifi though.

I do get baffled by these deep fried crispy string things that are popping up as garnish though. They always seem to be completely unseasoned, totally pointless and just fling themselves everywhere if you try to break some off to actually eat it. Answers on a postcard please.

And then finally I was at my destination, the V&A to have a chat with lovely people from the Crafts Council and various other contemporary craft and art organisations. I still love the amazing glass chandelier in the entrance foyer which has been in place for some years now. It makes for a wonderful contrast with the traditional building, which I understand was founded as a consequence of the Great Exhibition.

Lots of very interesting people in the room.

So I got to have lots of interesting conversation, to try a savoury macaron canape (super fancy) and also to have a good look around the small, but thought provoking What is Luxury? exhibition, which I really enjoyed. A really lovely afternoon all in all though, although it was a bit of a stress trying to get back to get my train on time, despite leaving with an hour and 40 minutes in hand to do what should have been less than an hour on the bus. Thank you to the tube drivers for giving me an opportunity to see some new things and well done for exercising your right to strike to ensure your employers treat you fairly. If only more people would do the same instead of demonising strikers for causing disruption. A strike would be pretty pointless if withdrawal of service didn't cause disruption after all.

That was my tube strike. How was yours?

Here's a diamond studded monkey.

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