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Vault Festival 2017

celloVault Festival 2017 #Romanian #Theatre #London @VAULTFestival finishes 11 Feb tickets going fast! @RCILondon read review here




Tennessee Williams @ Pentameters Theatre Hampstead




Four 15 minute plays which give the most extraordinary insight into the developing genius of Tennessee Williams:


Show closing Sunday 20th Nov 2016 5pm

Box Office 02074353648


These four short plays formidably acted by actresses of the highest quality (with able support from the male actors) focus on Williams’ view of damaged women who begin life with loads of good looks, were sexy as hell and end up not so good-looking and alone in their heads and basically alcoholic.

The great characters are still to come but in three of these short plays we can see what’s in store for Blanche du Bois.

In At Liberty, Gloria La Green played by Ava Amande as the (still) good-looking thirty-something girl around a small town is confronted constantly by her truth-telling mother (Victoria Kempton) and is consistently told she is not what she wants to think she is. “Yes, you have lost your looks!”

In Hello from Bertha, Sarah Dorsett plays a has-been prostitute, ill and now taking up a room in a brothel wherethe room she lies in needs to be “really” for the working girls and since she is no longer a cash-cow – move on. Dorsett gave the most wonderful performance of mood change from pride, to rage, to coquetry, to begging.

The most moving and poetic piece was the final sequence: Talk to me Like the Rain and let me Listen.

In this, the actress Alice Ivor delivers the most moving soliloquy of how she imagines life might be away from the squalid, inner-city rented room in which she lives. She longs to be somewhere else and tragically to be someone else. She even invents a new name for herself and repeats it with awe.

Tennessee Williams described these plays as “a prayer for the wild at heart living in cages.”

I think also of Marina’s Carr’s fabled Portia Coughlan – a truly great play about (again) a beautiful young woman living in a village which couldn’t live up to her.

So, what of men? In Mr Paradise, we have a broken down old-guy poet; broken down and broke and (again) living in squalid habitation.

To him- or at least to his address – arrives a beautiful young woman – rich and privileged and enthralled by a book of his early poetry which she “found.”

She wants to resurrect him-make him famous again; his work deserves her efforts, she wants to rescue him from obscurity and neglect – she offers him readings at colleges and on the circuit. Dramatically, he declines, states unequivocally that whoever Mr Paradise is or was – he is an invented name. The old poet tells her his real name and says he wants to die with it; he doesn’t want anyone who reads the poems written by Mr Paradise to see the author/poet as he really is.

He wants the ordinary person to die and the work (through Mr Paradise) to live on. He wants no association between author and work. So here there is another wish for loss of identity. But this is theatre! And Pentameters is the place indeed for poetry and ideas. However, I reflect that in real life 2016, I don’t know many elderly and skint poets round Hampstead and its environs who would refuse a beautiful young woman’s ministrations on such noble grounds.

We know of course what a great genius Tennessee Williams is, so this review need not be about the writing – rather, how were these rare pieces (one newly discovered) presented?

The acting was of the highest standard, the direction (by Seamus Newham) immaculate and the production by Leonie Scott-Mathews (as always) spot on!

I am sorry I didn’t see the plays earlier in its run to alert you, but go now -DON’T MISS THIS VERY RARE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE SOMETHING HISTORIC.


Shaun Traynor






Spaghetti House Christmas Menu Tasting Event

As a long-term Londoner, I am sure I am not alone in having favourite haunts. Those city places that make you feel you are at home. You belong, in a physical and emotional sense. You eat, you drink where you feel comfortable, somewhere where the atmosphere consoles,  somewhere that satisfies not just your taste buds. Tall order. For me, that often means a return to once-debauched often-seedy-decadent Boho- Soho and its environs for a coffee at Bar Italia or a drink at The French Pub before buying something to rustle up at home from I Camisa or Lina Stores. Living History.  Other times when I want to be nourished and looked after,  I love heading to that historic anchor Spaghetti House, for a dish of reliably nourishing pasta , before the tube journey home.  Its history is part of my history. It’s been around for over sixty years and it’s not only surviving in the face of stiff competition in the ever-changing world of central London restaurants ..its positively thriving and often thronged. In spite of notoriously fickle diners who embrace new dining concepts quicker than a new moon has time to resurface ..going by my recent visit to the flagship Goodge Street restaurant on a recent Friday night ..this family-run Italian restaurant group will be going strong for years to come.

So what makes it stand out?

There is something incredibly appealing about being greeted with a big smile when you enter a restaurant. and if a glass of superior Prossecco swiftly follows, alongside some nifty nibbles, you immediately feel relaxed. It augurs well for an enjoyable evening ahead. And so it proved at a recent pre-Christmas food tasting  event hosted by Spaghetti House at their landmark Art Nouveau building in Goodge Street.



On arrival,  I knew there would be a lot of food on offer so I just went for these fresh green olives from Sicily. Addictive.



Followed by a demonstration from Executive Chef Achille Travaglini and his team



Two dishes were swiftly magicked up and to my delight they were both fish dishes.

Cocktail Di Gamberetti was followed by  Branzino allo Scalogno

Why does familiar food sound more enticing when it is written and spoken in Italian?

I will admit to being rather sceptical about the inclusion of the ubiquitous Prawn Cocktail and we all recognise sea bass, a fish  we regularly eat at home and one that haunts most restaurant menus these days. That was before I tasted it the Spaghetti House way … but I jump ahead. Here are some swiftly taken photos ..these guys don’t hang about ..of the dishes in the making ..alongside some cheffy tips ..

Is that brandy going into the sauce?!


It might be better known that tomato ketchup goes into the homemade mayo for the Marie Rose sauce ..

but did you know that orange zest adds the most incredible zing?sh-058

and that fresh lemon added to the chopped baby gem lettuce base really lifts the dish? Most refreshing! Also, thank goodness for the adherence to small sweet prawns which is traditional and for good reason ..some might smirk at the retro feel of this dish , but I’d hazard a guess that it has been on the SH menu, give or take a few modernising tweaks, since the beginning and for good reason. It’s justifiably popular because it tastes great!


Branzino or sea bass is often cooked whole on the bone but here it’s freshly filleted, which makes it easier to eat and there was no compromise on taste. crispy skin, fish finished off under the grill, well timed (I hate overcooked fish!).  I loved the sweet shallot dressing (shh there was some brown sugar added to enhance the sweetness .. and a glug of white wine) and the accompanying mash was made memorable by the addition of grain mustard. I was surprised by the subtlety, very smooth texture,

Next time I cook a fillet of fish I am going to go all geometric with the presentation and place the greens in between (here it’s quickly cooked spinach, perfect)

A drop of balsamic, job done. Quietly and assuredly. The love of food and the pride in its simple but careful  preparation really came across from Exec Chef Achille and his team. (Clearly not one of those shouty kitchens!)

We then got to sit down at a long communal table, dressed up in all its Christmas finery.


Look at the table mat! More geometrics … Triangles Rule!


and no Italian Christmas would be complete without Panettone …

And now!


A truly amazing soup! A first for this soup lover and one I will attempt to replicate at home. Crema Di Ceci E Castagne.  A delectable combination of chickpeas and chestnuts, made from chick peas cooked from scratch (but you can cheat and use tinned, with vacuum-packed pre-cooked chestnuts available in most supermarkets at Christmas time). Comfortingly rich and creamy but also with some remaining texture from the chestnuts to add to the interest and a spike of rosemary oil  contributing to the depth of the soup. Think umami! A winner! oh and I want those cute “saucepan” serving dishes!

Swiftly followed by Involtini Di Melanzane al Forno (baked aubergine, stuffed with basil and ricotta with Napoli sauce). Truly tasty, rib-warming ,certainly filling enough to be counted as a small main  and a good choice for Vegetarians.

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Just when I thought I had to save some room for dessert, along came a pasta dish. Hardly a surprise self-respecting Italian  restaurant could fail to include a festive take and here it was handmade  Tortelloni Al Funghi & Tartufo .. I feel hungry even writing the name! Clearly a substantial dish for colder weather but so much a heart-warming part of this joyful Menu Natalizio. So mushroomy and another great choice for Vegetarians. I loved the inclusion of black truffle oil alongside a creamy sauce and crispy sage. again with a judicious addition of fresh lemon zest. I’d have loved more lemon to cut through the richness, but that’s all down to personal taste and it is a magnificent celebratory dish.Was there a hint of nutmeg in there?sh-089

And finally .. to finish end a delicious meal such a venerable Italian culinary institution.. it has to be … eyes to the right.. oh what a Tiramisu! honestly, one of the lightest I have ever had and I do like to end a meal on a lighter note. that said ..eyes to the left, my second favourite dessert of the evening was the hot bramley apple crumble melting its way into the cold vanilla ice cream. actually there was a lot about the food this evening that was meltingly delicious. Celebratory twists lifting the bar of the comfortingly familiar.


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It only remains for me to thank Stefana,  our generous host and daughter of the co-founder and also to extend my appreciation to the hard-working chefs and  everyone involved in making the evening so special. Having enjoyed the food experience all the more because of the convivial company of other food writers, it’s time to mention that this Christmas Menu is only available for groups of eight upwards. For the quality on offer, the relaxed central London venues, it offers incredible value at £16:95 for two courses, £19:95 for three . For an extra £10 throw in half a Lt carafe of specially selected Friulano Bianco or Merlot IGT Veneto.  I’d say its ideal for a staff party or a family get together this festive season. The menu is rolled out on November 21st but if you book before 28th October, there’s a flute of that luscious Ca’del Console for each person, guaranteed to get your party off to a good start!

Dedicated Christmas Line: 020 7395 0390



Gatti’s Italian Restaurant & Bar

Gatti’s seems hidden away at Citypoint, Ropemaker Street but once you get your bearings, it is actually very close to Moorgate tube and The Barbican. It’s a restaurant that’s been long-established in the area but has recently moved to this new location. With its classic style and emphasis on quality and service, city workers are bound to love it, whether for a working lunch in the private dining room or for a welcoming place to unwind and relax with a glass of Veuve, an unrushed meal with friends before the trudge home.

Before hitting the basement, myself and other invited bloggers were treated to a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rich. I have reservations as to why such a famous and well-regarded champagne house would feel the need for novelty. This champagne can be purchased for £85 a bottle. It is deliberately sweet and designed to be used for cocktails, as well as allowing you to create your own “salad in a glass”. We got to choose from peppers and pineapple. Which was fun, actually and I can see why it’s a good “icebreaker” at the beginning of an evening out. Still prefer my champagne dry and unadorned.

Rather reluctant to leave the convivial bar area, but hunger is a great motivation, so down we went into the bowels of the building. Basements need the wow factor; in the absence of windows, natural light and views, good lighting is essential. Gatti’s has nailed it. Oh, how my husband would love this space! Lots of room between tables and white linen tablecloths! And rows of dazzling glassware and decent weight cutlery gleaming in the flattering light. I was so pleased to see us being seated at a round table for ten, situated in the middle of the room. Shades of King Arthur, suggestions of equality. First up, an amuse bouche (what is the Italian equivalent?) of summer truffle with raw egg. RAW egg. I can’t believe I’m writing that I ate it all, but I did, I ate it all! So dazzled was I by the sight and smell of truffle. I should have eaten it more slowly. It’s not like I have truffle every day.

We chose from the Tasting Menu (£68.99 for two people, including a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne)



I had Grilled Scallops (perfectly cooked, complete with griddle marks, gorgeous) served with asparagus, ginger, garlic and chili (food heaven for me, as these are all my favourite, go-to ingredients) (I was able to have it without the Parma ham, without being made to feel this was a hassle, although I was told and acknowledged that this would change the nature of the dish.) Good-sized portion for a starter. Fat, plump scallops with the roe left on.proper order. Generous. Delicious.


Before serving the mains, we had a refreshing palate cleanser: Prosecco and Lemon Sorbet

I loved it and I loved the glassware! I want.

A number of us opted for the Lobster Linguine. and when those plates arrived, boy did it become obvious that most of the regular diners here are city folk with big appetites. BIG generous platefuls! Lots of lobster in a tasty, brothy dish. If you love seafood as much as I do, please feel free to drool:

Follow that!

And to follow?

Trio of “mini” desserts, anyone?

Puts a stop to all that dithering, all that choosing:


Tiaramisu  (but of course! no self-respecting classic Italian restaurant etc ..)

Chocolate Mousse

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

Did I have a favourite? Yes. The Tiaramisu. love saying it. love writing it LOVED EATING IT!

And to finish off an evening of delicious food in delightful company? Why Mint Tea, but of course. More covetable glassware. If not a digestive (and yes there was one of those too, Limoncello, another classic that never disappoints) certainly a beloved aid to the digestion:

mint tea

which just leaves me to say thank you so much to our beautiful host, Jennifer Carpenter (right of picture) and to wish her a magical wedding in a few months time!

our host






The Solitary Vegan


VEGGIE WEEK W/C Sunday 15th May 2016


In respect to those whom I admire, but to whose principles I all too often fall short of, I dedicate this article – to vegetarians and vegans everywhere!

The thing about vegans is that they are right – theirs is the moral and the ethical high ground whilst we lesser beings slosh around in the troughs of milk and veal.

But pause to consider: a cow is artificially impregnated, she gets pregnant, produces milk to feed her calf; the calf is taken from her, the mother’s milk is piped and bottled, her baby slaughtered to re-appear as veal – small wonder a guiding principle of veganism is NO DAIRY!

And I mean what of baby octopus? It is not a high step to higher moral/ethical ground.

chateauneuf du pap


The wine I chose was a young Chateauneuf du Pape (from the Co-Op) but it did have some earthiness and priced at £15:99 is good value; the Co-op is to be praised for being among the first of the big boy supermarkets to show a wine’s contents on the label and presenting wines suitable for vegetarians and indeed sometimes vegans. As do other supermarkets. But whilst on the higher ground, it is again salutary to look at the hidden secrets of wine processing. Organic? Yes, not sprayed with insecticides, but containing preservative sulphites and in the fining process various agents are involved, from milk by-products to blood and bone marrow, fish oil and fish bladder membranes. So wine although made from grapes, often unsprayed by chemicals, still has animal parts contained therein.

So with this grace said, I begin my pilgrimage: to find a vegan wine to match a vegan meal.

Down a slippery slope I slurp!

So for the meal to complement the vegan wine?

I thought nut roast -WHOLEFOODS have a SUPER VEGAN one but then I thought -try harder! I finally came up with a lovingly cooked Moroccan tagine –date and chickpea: olive oil, cumin, garlic, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, crushed tomatoes and chickpeas; serve on a bed of couscous with lemon. All this I could have done (of course) but it is available as above from FOOD.

The meal did complement the wine hugely to my satisfaction, so I am now intrigued and look forward this week and indeed in weeks to come to making(and/or finding) vegetarian and vegan dishes that can match gracefully vegetarian and vegan wines. A mission!

But as I ate my beautiful Moroccan repast and drank the rich French wine, I re-read some apposite Irish poetry – this from The Hermit’s Song written in the C7th by (the hermit) Marbhan:


 All that one could ask for comfort

Round me grows,

There are hips and haws and strawberries,

Nuts and sloes…

And when the summer spreads its mantle

What a sight!

Margoram and leeks and pig-nuts,

Juicy, bright…


A clear well beside me offers

Best of drink …



The high ground indeed!





Saturday Music Choice: JOY from PAPER AEROPLANES

Taken from the album JOY

Sourced through from:


Rain a/gain!

May 2016


November 2015

Surviving a rainy start to a .. rainy, sunless day!

Go! #PaperAeroplanes!



June 2015

Celebrating a sunny start to a rainless morning! Go, London!





See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

Birdy – Skinny Love [One Take Music Video]

“Skinny Love” by Bon Iver performed by Birdy ‘Beautiful Lies’ The New Album – Out No

Sourced through from:

With thanks to Huey the busker outside Tate Modern last Saturday. She impressed with this Bon Iver song and I’ve been playing the Birdy cover all this week.

See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

Chiswick House

Created in the early 18th century by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, this masterpiece of Neo-Palladian architecture became a showcase for his art collection.

Sourced through from:

See on Scoop.itHistorical London

John Metcalfe – Wrapped

‘Wrapped’, featuring the vocals of Rosie Doonan, is taken from John Metcalfe’s brand new four-track ‘Wrapped EP’ available now on iTunes:…

Sourced through from:

What we are listening to! Rain Music For London!

See on Scoop.itMusic for a London Life

L’Anima Café (@LAnimacafe)

Sourced through from:

Apertivo Thursdays? Oh Yes!

See on Scoop.itItaly in London

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