a quirky look at London Life

Taking a walk down Redchurch Street

Well, I didn’t see a church until later in my day but I did see red. As I walked down Redchurch, after exiting Shoreditch Overground on another inspiring day of London sun. I was heading for an early lunch at Tra Tra, part of Conran’s Boundary but with time to spare I just drifted down Graffiti Road.

Seeing red.

Seeing rad.

And goggling at doors

And hanging out with shoes

And drooling over shoes

And falling in love at first sight

With a house

and with pipeworks

and bicycles

And I got so excited discovering this little guy I nearly forgot about lunch.

To be continued …..


Dry Room @ Brighton Fringe 2018


A performance installation by Eldarin Yeong Studio in The Warren (The Hat) Brighton Fringe
Thurs 10th May2018  Sat 12th May 2018
This was narrative and interpretive dance of the highest quality directed by some powerful cello pieces from composers such as Carlo Alfredo Piatti, Johann Sebastian Bach and within the repertoire, a soul-searing piece Alone by Italian composer, Giovanni Sollima.
The cellist was the internationally renowned Carolina Bartumeu. 
The interpretive dance was based on sequences or scenes laid out by writer Eldarin Yeong which took us through the different and often heart-rending stages of trauma within three damaged young people, a journey through abuse, torment, self-discovery, bonding and finally redemption. Dancer, Jemma Gould was particularly outstanding in the grace and beauty of her movements and interpretations.
The piece lasted an hour and all of us in this famous fringe venue, were gripped and moved by the beauty and pace of the installation.
Photographer: James Bellorini

Launch Party for Italian Cuisine Week 2017

What a party at Bellavita Academy celebrating the launch of this year’s Italian Cuisine Week ; where perfect Prosecco and expert pizzaiolos – put the lively into lovely.

You see but one slice. I had several. Tomato. Mozzarella. So simple. So good. Down to practised skill and the quality of the ingredients.

But! It’s a tie for my cooked culinary affections!

These guys were fun! As well as good chefs!

The vegetarian ravioli was ! Satisfyingly spinach-y ….

This good!

And this! Pumpkin! They totally smashed it 😏

They even let us mere mortals have-a-go at pizza-making & the brave ones did rather well

While I tasted cheesy delights and sweet afters

Grape jam! Who knew! Healthy too, by all accounts. A firm favourite, though perhaps a bit too more-ish.

The adjoining shop stocks unusual and carefully selected products and I shall return for a proper browse before Christmas as they sell scrumptious-looking smaller edible items that would make perfect stocking fillers.

Thank you Bellavita. For a most enjoyable evening.

Meeting Ilaria Tachis

I was privileged recently to meet Ilaria Tachis at an event in Mayfair’s Novikov restaurant organised by Dolce Vita wines.
The occasion was to allow Ilaria to present two wines from her estate and also to speak about her relationship with her father – the legendary Giacomo Tachis, Italy’s (late) great innovative wine maker. Ilaria – scholar and oenophile – spoke movingly about her relationship with her father and how she did take over responsibility for wine-making when within her heart she wanted to follow a course of language and literature. She has done both; there is in Tuscany a substantial library founded by her father and perpetuated by Ilaria – then of course there is the wine!The photograph above is of Ilaria with that commemorative bottle of 100% Merlot, labelled Giacomo.
For the wine-pairing menu at Novitov, she brought two wines from her own vineyard and two others from friends in Sardinia.
With the first course, seabass carpaccio (almost invisible in its paleness) and with the tiniest taggiasca olives – a Sardinian Vermentino; with the young grouse and wild mushroom risotto her own 2013 Chianti Classico, much praised for its use of wood; Ilaria did mention her intention to seek a structure and strong body from the ancient culture of wheat and wine. With the braised whole beef shank came the sublime and pure 100% Merlot Giacomo – to be laid down in memory; with the pear and caramel mille-feuille, a digestive to proclaim and enshrine Sardinian hospitality and friendship.
My thanks for the invitation to Signore Ambro of Dolcevita wines and here is a photo of that great man presiding!

In her speech, Ilaria humanised the legend which is her father- she said that quite often when in a local restaurant he would order Lambrusco or a beer – he maintained that from ordinary sources, great things grow. I am reminded of Shakespeare:

Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.
Whereto the climber upward turns his face.
But when he once attains the utmost bound
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend ..
(Julius Caesar Act2 Scene1)

Not for Giacomo or Ilaria …



The swish Meridien hotel in London’s Piccadilly saw the launch of Signore Daniele Cernilli’s 2018 “ultimate” guide to Italian wine and wineries. What makes this wonderful compendium different? It is not – in the words of Signore Cernelli himself, (aka Doctor Wine) “encyclopedic” – rather it is “essential” in that a “rigorous selection process” has been in place. I would describe it as panoramic since it is “essentially” meticulously country wide and of course includes wines from Sicily and Sardinia. In all, the guide evaluates over 1,000 wineries and over 3,000 labels; over 500 of these fall inside the 15 euros bracket – there are of course expensive wines too! The wineries and their terroirs are described in some detail and the wines themselves conveniently graded along the lines of
A Inexpensive
B Reasonable
C Expensive
D Luxury
E Priceless
The good wine doctor’s guide has become essential pre-prandial reading.

The tasting in the Meridien Hotel suite encompassed many of the wines in Signore Cernilli’s guide and were set out on their winery tables: I started with a delightful mainly chardonnay blend called BEYOND THE CLOUDS from Elena Walch; a little short of heavenly perhaps, given its 2015 vintage.
PRICE B Imported by Bancroft Wines.

Then much joy from a decent 2015 Poggio al Lupo Morellino di Scansano from Tenuto Sette Ponte.
PRICE B Imported by Champagne and Chateau Boutinot.

Excellent wine too from Decugnana dei Barbi , my chosen one- the 2015 Il Rosso.
PRICE B Imported by Alivini.

Two tables then of island wines which interested me greatly; one from Sicily and the other from Sardinia; of the wines on display I very much preferred the Sardinian exhibits and especially the 2006 Alghero Anghelu Ruju Riserva, a really dark and lustrous red with wonderful herbs and spices and even a touch of liquorice. Ideal – I was told- with local wild boar.
PRICE B Imported by Matthew Clark/Alvini

The Tuscan wines on the Vignamaggio table were beautifully presented by a representative of the winery; I tasted two terrific Chianti Classico and a wonderful 2011 Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc was indeed a sleek wine which I will long remember for its sheer stand-out class and quality.
PRICE C Imported by

Corney and Barrow

To finish off I was privileged to taste the Zyme 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella La Mattonara Riserva. An experience never to be forgotten!

Shaun Traynor

@shauntraynor69 on Twitter

A Celebratory Lunch at Sager+Wilde

Another grey city day …. and what better prospect than a lunch to celebrate the pairing of Parmigiano cheese and Balsamic vinegar, hosted in a candlelit railway arch near Bethnal Green . A first visit to Sage+Wilde. They win me over immediately with their in-house fizzy water which sees me through a nosey-around this inviting bricked space and all through lunch … complimenting each course perfectly. But first we get to taste! A hard cheese rich in history, mature in flavour showing no sign of going out of fashion. It stands superior as a cheese that can be eaten without adornment or dipped into a pool of balsamic. We were fortunate to be able to taste 18 month old, 24 month old and 30 month old Parmigiano alongside 12 year and 25 year Balsamic…the older the cheese, the drier and more crystalline , the older the balsamic (let’s not call it vinegar)the sweeter, more intense….. And so to the lunch menu! Six courses , the first and final two courses devised and prepared by Chris Leach, Head Chef @ S+W, the remaining courses presented by Gianpaolo Raschi, a Michelin star chef from Modena. The first course, with a chewsome Burrata was delightfully crunchy-crisp from the nut soffritto. A beautifully presented, substantial dish. Personally, I found it a bit too robust, on the heavy side as an opener and would have preferred it to swap places with the bright, colourful, light and moreish prawn dish. Such a vivid vibrant dish, enriched by just the right hint of sweetness from the 24 month balsamic. The squid (which I had without the duck liver) did not benefit from being served cold but I loved the crunchy sing of the red onion pickled in balsamic .I am a lover of chickpeas and this soupy broth full of big fat chickpeas and plump clams was a heavenly bowl of comfort, based on a family recipe, faultless in its delivery. Hats off to chef Raschi (below, right).I can only rely on fellow guests with regard to the beef sausage and they evidently enjoyed it especially the fact that it was made in-house. Meanwhile, my hake was perfectly cooked, an excellent flavour and texture that worked really well with the burnt shallot. I’d imagine the beef stood up better as a robust companion to the 30 month cheese .And finally, dessert. A bit of a colour and shape theme going on here as we finish with a dish that looks similar to the first dish, both from Chef Chris Leach (below) Big on portion, big on flavour, absolutely loved the plump baked fig with the creamy vanilla icecream and again, a terrific balance of flavours, syrupy yet tangy, a perfect place for the glossy “younger” 12 year old balsamic to shine. A sweet ending to a skilfully prepared lunch that certainly did justice to its two key players .

🍒Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries🍒

London Life was delighted to attend a recent media event showcasing Jerte Picota cherries at Ibérica restaurant in Victoria . An intriguing tasting menu devised by César García and Luis Contreras in this roomy, attractive space soon lifted the spirits on what was an ugly wet evening. I dislike the term "fine dining" but the presented dishes were very fine indeed. Subtle, sophisticated, surprising.
But first, a taste of the cherry in all its naturalness, along with some specially selected Cava to add some sparkle to the evening.

I adore cherries, buying them by the bucketful while their short season lasts and until this evening, have always devoured them in their plump. sweet and juicy natural state. The Jerte Picota  variety, much prized in Spain, is a brighter red, not overly sweet, with a solid texture, making it versatile and an ideal ingredient in both sweet and savoury combinations. As for the Cava, I have it on good authority that it was utterly delicious and just look at that bottle! Gaudi inspired!

While my everyday life is just a bowl of cherries, on this enchanting evening, life perked up considerably when it came served up as a soup bowl of smooth cherry gazpacho with a kick of anchovy, a hint of mint and the welcome surprise tastebomb of a floating cheese icecream.

My favourite dish of the evening?

Let us continue!

I can't speak for the Croquetas de Jamón  but I can say that the asparagus was as lovely as it looks- vivid green chubbiness, crunchy charred ends, accompanied by grownup Manchego cheese. The remaining impression thanks to onion  relish is of a balanced sweetness.

It is so liberating to eat tapas-sized portions! That way you can taste a lot of different flavours in a number of dishes and leave the feast feeling satisfied but not uncomfortable after over-indulging!

This ever so slightly seared tuna was clearly sushi quality. I have never tasted better. I take it all back. I could easily have eaten much more of these meltingly moreish mouthfuls, completed by a pop sensation from the toasted pine nuts and that subtle underlying hint of sweetness from apple. Finished off by popping one of those pickled cherries into my mouth. There can never be too much of a good thing.

This was followed by a pork dish. Readers, this you will have to judge for yourselves. Other diners clearly enjoyed it!

Drum roll for a most interesting vegetarian option. Cauliflower and cherries with pak choi anyone? Me neither, until I tried it.

It was salty, sweet, creamy crunchy, very umami! With a smooth sauce textured with nut. Brave combinations but they worked. Cauliflower cheese, eat your heart out.

There is always room in everyone's stomach for dessert and I was keen to see what the chef would come up with, as I mostly associate cherries with sweet pastry pies.

Mercifully, this dessert was light and fluffy, managing to taste warm, fulfilling that sense of being cosseted from the cold outside world, just as you prepare to re-enter it. And then! The pleasant shock underneath, the refreshing surprise of cold sharper sorbet which is a neat reminder
of the surprise bomb in the gazpacho at the beginning of the meal.

An accomplished menu, with playful touches, like an ongoing amuse bouche, but with more substance,  showing respect for the ingredients, especially the honoured ingredient of the evening, the blushing Jerte Picota cherry
I loved it all but it's a tie between the gazpacho and the tuna for first place in my affection. A thoroughly Modern Spanish Food Experience! Which still respects and utilises the food traditions of Spain. Well done guys!

The Jerte Picota season is short and will end all too soon. Still available as I write at Sainsbury's , Morrison's  and Tesco .

For more on the provenance, quality and history



A random walk in Hyde Park on a blue Monday in July


Abruzzo Wine Showcase Tasting

by Wines of Abruzzo

abruzzo shaun

Tonight, wines from Abruzzo came to London to that marvellous event space (level2) OXO Tower with showcase wines (with snacks like those that accompany the aperitivo) and a view of theThames that only an oligarch could afford.

Wines from Abruzzo are traditionally quite uncomplicated-the red Montepulcianod’Abruzzo and the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo; Montepulciano is a grape native to Abruzzo, its dark spicy fruit and soft acidity make it attractive for everyday drinking, but it can also produce some powerful, deep and tannic-carrying red wine – only for the brave!

All such reds were on display at this public tasting – for example, the Retro 2012 (heavy number) from Societa’Agricola F.LLIBiagi – not available in UK – in any case, are we ready for it! More subtle: Ursonia Montepulciano 2013; I’m ready for this one – and indeed for the San Felice Montepulciano 2011 but neither available in UK!

The whites were more distinguished – or at least more elegant and presentable – the Carmine Festa Millesimato Metado Classico 2011with its stone fruit flavours and minerality was an excellent and welcoming choice as the number one of fifty wines; Ulisse Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2015 was young and fun and with honey-comb! And my favourite wine of the evening – Contessa Pecorino 2016 -plums, apricots and nuts- and this one is AVAILABLE IN UK! (from The Wine Society)

The Pecorino grape has always seemed to me to be “better” than the Trebbiano – but both whites – on tonight’s showing – immensely more pleasurable than any of the red and rustic Montepulciano.

Wine critics talk of terroir as of a place where vines grow and develop – if I were choosing an urban party location in London as a terroir de vue or di vista – OXO 2ndfloor Events would be it.


Guaranteed to give you Goosebumps! Southwark’s Crossbones Garden

crossbonesThe Crossbones Garden: Garden of Remembrance

“I’ll take you to the burial ground garden” She says. This is not a phrase I was expecting to hear from my work colleague as we leave our office building one sunny lunch time. My imagination piqued, I agree to come along. We walk through Southwark back streets, detour around the ever present road-work barricades and wait patiently at traffic lights while cars and cyclists blur across our vision. Eventually we stop before a sandwich board sign announcing entry to the Crossbones Garden (the garden’s official name) and, not knowing quite what to expect, I take my first glimpse of our lunch hour destination. The entryway is a large wooden sculpture, a giant bird’s wing set upon carved stilts, a cloistered tunnel designed to sweep visitors across the threshold from urban street to the concealed garden within. Following the curvature of this sheltered path we finally emerge into the walled garden and I stop, my mind attempting to take in this strange place. Rough patches of rubble are juxtaposed with soft natural plantings emerging from neat dry stone walls. Everywhere sculptures and symbols demand inspection: a bronze skull, a porcelain goose, a clay mask of the green man. Having been here before, my colleague sits down to eat her lunch but I feel compelled to look around, to try to make sense of this confusion.

Directly in front of me there is a bare, raw expanse of concrete ground.  Dull grey, cracked and blinding in the midday sun, it is uncompromisingly barren, a featureless desert from which the garden protrudes. Sweeping across this negative space my eyes land on the far wall where a mural depicts a stylised map of the local area, a crude outline of a skull marking the location of the Crossbones garden. I walk purposefully towards the map, but my attention snags along the way. To my right, wicker work hearts dangle and spin from a tree above a wildflower turf. Faded ribbons, woven through the wicker, drape down forlornly and then stream suddenly outwards with a momentary gust of wind. Words flicker along their lengths and I catch them in broken drifts: “who have none to remember them….”,  “leaving a young son…” “beloved…”. I step backwards and drop my eyes, not wanting to intrude as the ribbons continue their solemn dance of remembrance. 

Turning, I see a pyramidal mound, its base a crumbling mass of broken rubble, compacted earth and sweet pea shoots pushing upwards through the cracks. Midway along one side there is a row of oval faces. They have blank expressions, slits for eyes, scratches for mouths. They are no-one and everyone.They make me uneasy. Above these masks there is a rising mosaic of sharp edged oyster shells, pearlescent and reflective, jigsawing their way to the pyramid’s point. At the tip there is a weight of concrete and broken brick, a visual connection to the raw foundation of the structure that lies beneath. 

Finally I reach the mural which is presented as a triptych, the central panel being the map, while the outer panels are painted white with poetry written in large black print. The poems, excerpts from John Constable’s book The Southwark Mysteries, are replete with mysterious allusions to a goose persona: “I was born a Goose of Southwark”, “You can hear me honk..” And this ‘goose’ appears to hold some power to “unlock”, “unveil” and “reveal” a hidden “secret history”.

Bewildered, intrigued, my eyes fall on a friendly face. A woman has appeared beside me wearing a vest marked ‘volunteer’. She answers the question in my eyes and tells me to take an information booklet from beneath the wooden entryway. This text, titled Crossbones Garden, The strange but true storyperforms the role promised by the “Goose of Southwark” and reveals to me the mysteries of this unique place.

As I read the guide I continue to circuit the garden and I begin to see how Crossbones is choked with symbolism. Every nook and cranny is crammed with carvings, objects, text and plantings that denote deeper meanings connected to its fascinating pastThe goose’s wing entrancethe poetry on the mural, and the rosemary plants, symbolic of remembrance, all refer to thbeginnings of this place as the burial ground for the prostitutes of Bankside’s brothels. Working in the ‘stews’ from as early as the 12th century, these prostitutes were described as ‘Winchester’s Geese’ due to the protection accorded to them and their trade by the Bishop of WinchesterBarred from a Christian burial, these women are thought to have been buried at this site, referenced in John Stow’s 1598 Survey of London as the “Single Women’s Churchyard”. By Victorian times the Cross Bones burial site had extended to include not only the local prostitutes but also the general poor who lived and died in the crime and cholera infested area surrounding Redcross Street. The graveyard finally closed in 1853 due to its being ‘completely overcharged with dead’, with an archaeological dig in the 1990’s confirming this overcrowding (the archaeologists estimated up to 15,000 burials on the Cross Bones sitewith more than 60% being children).

The largest symbolic gesture within the garden is that of the red iron gate shrine, a dedication to the multitude of nameless dead buried beneath this site. Bedecked in countless ribbons, flowers, and scraps of embroidery, these gates are continuously replenished with mementos, layer upon layer building, blocking the gaps between the bars, shutting out the light. In the centre of the gates, a commemorative sign reads: “R.I.P The Outcast Dead” while facing the gates, a line of objects stand to attention: plump geese, benevolent angels, and, set upon a wooden pedestal, a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a white, orange beaked goose within her arms.Sometimes sinister, often poignant, the garden is a living poem with its visual rhythms and metaphorical displays holding you caught as in a spell, wanting to delve deeperto decipher the layers of meaning held within the walls of this truly bizarre space.

Kathy, one of the many regular volunteers who maintain the garden, explains to me that “everybody has a different take on this place”. She proposes that the garden has an ‘aura’ that draws all sorts of different people through its winged entry. This includes office workers, tourists, and those with a deeper connection – the Friends of Crossbones Group – some of whom perform monthly vigils at the shrine. These vigils, started by visionary writer, John Constable, author of the poems on the mural, are held on the 23rd of each month. They are ritualised acts of remembrance, a recognition of those ignored at the margins of society, from past to present.

There is, for me, a sense of macabre eeriness created through the repetitive reminders of human mortality that permeate the space. This disquiet, however, is softened by the garden that grows above the surface of this graveyard. Lime green euphorbia rise above feathered ferns. Purple sage, rosemary, thyme and lavender meander gently through the raised beds, punctuated dramatically by startling red poppies and pure white daisies. Nature, often perceived as a symbol of life and death in its seasonal changes, its cycles of fruitfulness and rot, growth and decay, becomes a salve – a calming tonic to the more confrontational momento mori of the skulls and statues within this remembrance garden/burial ground.

The garden was originally created in the 1990’s by Andy Hulmethe Invisible Gardener” who was a security guard on the site. In keeping with the mysterious ‘underbelly’ atmosphere of Crossbones, Andy Hulme secretly created a guerrilla garden hidden within the confines of the London brick wallsSince then, and through the work of John Constable and other Friends of Crossbones, the site has become an official garden of remembrance, the land leased from Transport for London for this purpose. Managed by Bankside Open Spaces Trust, designed by Helen John, the Crossbones Garden has had thousands of visitors since opening to the public in 2015.

Having completed my introductory tour of the garden, I take a moment to sit with my work friend and rest within this tranquil space. The wooden bench set within the dry stone wall feels warm from the sun. My fingers reach to gently crush a clump of thyme growing beside me. I raise my hand to my nose and breathdeeply, inhaling the fragrant aroma reminiscent of relaxed home cooking. Three other visitors sit on a bench not far from us, shaded by a hawthorn hedge. Eating their lunch, immersed in discussion, their voices murmur and blend with the vibrating hum of the bees collecting nectar from the abundant rosemary flowers. Just visible behind pine tree and burgeoning shrubs, a volunteer gardener kneels on the earth, scraping and pulling at unwanted growth. Then the sound of church bells pool into the garden, drowning out even the bustling trains that hurtle across the rail bridge behind the garden’s northern edge. The bells, announcing the 1pm mass in the local church, lend a moment of reverence to the garden in keeping with the shrine, the solemn poetry and the burial mound covered in blood red poppies. They also signify the end of our lunch break and the need to return to our office. The spell broken, we exit through the goose’s wing and return to the hurry of the London streets.




To find out more about the history and events surrounding the Crossbones Garden visit:

Helene Latey

Helene Latey writes a regular blog for Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn with a specific focus on gardening, sustainability and community. In 2012 Helene ran a guerrilla gardening arts project “The Blue Flower River Project” as part of local arts exhibition The Kilburn Grand Tour. When she’s not writing or gardening Helene can be found wandering the streets of London looking for new green spaces to explore. Read the TTKK blog here:
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