Friday, 27 September 2013

Photos: Is This The Best Breakfast View In London?

Christian Rose-Day is scared of heights, so naturally we sent him up The Shard for breakfast. 

A meal with a view; London has a few, no doubt. The view across the Thames at The Bingham; of St Paul’s Cathedral from Madison; of The Gherkin from Duck and Waffle. Yet, besides this latter lofty restaurant, there aren’t any restaurants in London that offer a view of the Thames, of St Paul’s Cathedral AND of The Gherkin…

…except for the small cluster of recent openings in Europe’s tallest building, The Shard, where incredible views from the 9000th floor will cost you around £25, but where you can also see the same views from half way down for FREE. Save that 25 quid for breakfast, I say.

Aqua Shard - the latest restaurant from the Aqua Group, which specialises in vertiginous drinking and dining experiences like Aqua Nueva, Aqua Kyoto and Aqua Spirit in Soho – is 30-odd floors above London Bridge station; a remarkable place to enjoy breakfast, even if you’re like me: not so great with heights.

We recently enjoyed a romantic breakfast at the glass edge, right on top of the world, sneering down on London’s busy workforce as it trudged its way wearily to work. Cosy two-person tables sat on most sides of the restaurant, affording plenty of impressive business-schmoozing possibilities for clients and colleagues; as well as doe-eyed romance for lovers (I predict a fair number of proposals will occur in this restaurant).

The view looking west, with the sun at our back, across central London included highlights such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral and the river. To our right, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the City of London’s peculiarly shaped skyscraper obelisks of power.

The new breakfast menu at Aqua Shard is both impressively long - options, options, options – and surprisingly affordable. My gargantuan Shard Breakfast was only £14.50, and arrived on what I thought was a platter but was assured was merely a plate. It included two eggs, Staffordshire streaky bacon, Cumberland sausage, spinach, wine tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, toasted sourdough, Bermondsey salted ricotta, hash browns, smoked ham hock cannellini beans and a kitchen sink. Unusually for me, I was unable to finish.

I intend to return, once I’m hungry, for one of the many healthier options.

The restaurant’s 3-floor atrium space was a lovely place to start the working day and I recommend trying it for yourself sometime soon before everyone else catches on to the idea.

Friday, 20 September 2013

How To Dress For The Blitz Party In London

Off to a vintage night? Fresh from the Blitz Party, Abigail Smith takes you through a step-by-step guide to dressing for men and women in 1940s London. 

Time travel doesn’t have to be tricky. Sure, some of us love spending hours preparing for a vintage event, but to others it just sounds like hassle. If the thought of all that effort puts you off the Blitz Party at Village Underground, then comrade, you’re missing out.

Since I don’t have a time machine to give you a second chance at attending, here’s a simple guide to surviving the next Blitz Party in style.

Ladies of today have it easy on the outfit front, thanks to a zillion 1940s-inspired catwalk looks that have filtered down to the high street. Chances are you already own something that’ll pass for the past, whether it’s a flowing tea dress or a structured pencil skirt.

When it comes to the boys, I’m not going to lie, the overwhelming majority of Blitz Party attendees had clearly hired vintage uniforms (and again, full disclosure: the effect is swoon-inducing). However, if you don’t want to shell out, there really is no need; a shirt, tie and braces combo will see you through just fine.

Chaps, your armoury of beauty products is – as ever – much smaller than the ladies’. Shoreditch scruffs, sorry to say this, but one of the easiest ways to look authentic is to shave off that beard. Once your face is presented to army standards, it’s time to set your hair in a neat side parting if poss. If you really want to go that extra mile – and you’re already a smoker – join the aficionados puffing on pipes outside.

As for the chappettes.....

Rightio, nothing too scary here. Some kind of setting lotion or curl-memory gunk, some firm hairspray, styling tools, red lipstick and nail varnish and, ahhhh, Bisto. Here’s a tip that’ll save you some time: give the ‘gravy browning on the legs’ trick a miss. We tried this wartime substitute for silk stockings, and we failed.

For ladies, it’s your hair that’s really going to define your look so this bit is actually worth taking time over. Work some curl product through wet hair, then blow dry in sections around a barrel brush, fixing each round a roller while it’s still warm. If you’re going to attempt the classic Victory Roll style, then make sure you put the rollers in the location you want them, and roll hair in the direction you want the eventual swirl to go. Then take ‘em out, roll ‘em back up, then use grips and strong hairspray to hold in place.

Lips and nails were an iconic part of the vintage look, with available colours ranging from tangerine to vivid pink. But while factual accuracy is all well and good, what people first think of when you mention Blitz beauty is the classic red lip, so I say give the people what they want. I went for Revlon Colorstay Ultimate Suede, which goes on like a lipstick and stays there like a stain, meaning all you need to do is dot on some clear gloss at key points in the night. Trust me, with the loo queues the way they were at Village Underground, you won’t want to be popping in and out to reapply.

So here it is! The finished effect in oh-so-authentic black and white. Once inside, we were pleased that we’d followed the steps above because everyone looked so fantastic. With its brickwork railway arches, Village Underground has the feel of a mid-Blitz tube station, all set off by live music, best of Blighty snacks and cocktail lists disguised as Ration Books.

Unlike other vintage events, it’s not gaggles of girls with a few devoted boyfriends in tow. There’s a healthy mix of singles here, all getting into the ‘boys back on leave’ spirit. And if someone asks you to dance in the 1940s it’s a helluva lot easier to say yes, given the guarantee you won’t get twerked on. Awkward crotch-proximity removed, you’re more likely to give a new partner a go – at least around the dance floor. And if that’s not an incentive to make the effort, I don’t know what is.