a quirky look at London Life

Archive for the month “June, 2014”

South London’s Severndroog Castle to reopen to the public

After decades of closure, South London’s very own castle is to be opened to the public again.


Opening on 20 July

12:30 – 4:30

A #London afternoon: Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright #BobDylan 1962

This video – © Vintage Entertainment Limited 2012. All rights reserved. Vintage TV is a music channel on Sky (369), Virgin (343) and Freesat (515).…


Music For A Rainy Saturday

Strawberry Fields Forever

“I have two vivid memories of eating strawberries, when I was a child growing up in Northern Ireland….”


Strawberry Fields Forever

I have two vivid memories of eating strawberries, when I was a child growing up in Northern Ireland. The first is when I made the startling discovery that strawberries can be found growing wild in hedges. I found these tiny succulent berries, sweet and red, in the hedgerow just a hop and a skip from my home in Co Tyrone. The second memory was equally exciting. My uncle and I walked together through the apple trees on his fruit farm, until we reached his strawberry field. There, as far as my tiny eyes could see, was a strawberry field that went on forever, stretching as far as my childhood horizon. My first proper prolonged taste sensation! No pictures except for those in my mind’s eye. Here’s a sound track instead:
John Lennon Strawberry Fields Forever live acoustic
1m 24s in

So yes, strawberries spell romance and sentiment and I cannot be the only one who awaits the arrival of the strawberry season with high hopes, only to have them dashed by the bruised, over-ripened, tasteless, watery offerings found in most supermarkets at this time of year. I’m growing my own alpine variety this year but the crop is small and the first tiny fruit tasted okay, but not earth shattering. So off I went round the local supermarkets and I was pleasantly surprised to find some very appealing Elsanta strawberries in Aldi a few weeks ago. The colour was good, the texture was good and the price was right! £1:99 for 600g and not a bad strawberry to be found. The size was good too, not too large, which usually means plumped up with water and a poor flavour. Definitely my supermarket strawberry choice of the season so far!!


These were great with Total 0% Yoghurt, which is not a cheap option at £2:70 for 500g in my local Sainsbury’s, but boy it’s good!


I hate shopping for clothes and I hate shopping for clothes in Oxford Street, but occasionally a madness grips me and I decide to give it another go. Several frustrating hours among the teeming hordes and my body is crying out for sustenance. It’s mid afternoon, my friend and I have lunched at my house. What to do? It’s not long before we know that we need to find a safe haven near Bond Street, somewhere that’s welcoming, that offers peace and quiet, prosecco and sweet treats.Spaghetti House in Duke Street fitted the bill perfectly. We shared the three June specials, which showcase, yes you’ve guessed it, the strawberry. These strawberries have been carefully selected from a farm in Norfolk and can be from field to sharing spoons in the city within 36 hours.

We started with the Frappe alla Fragola, an Italian smoothie which we both agreed had a velvety, luxurious texture. It was smooth and rich and at first it felt that there was perhaps too much banana, masking the strawberry taste. The further down we went, the more obvious it became that this had perfect balance, somewhere between sweet and sour (from the yoghurt). The strawberry really kicked in at the end. Refreshing and reviving!

Next up, served in a tall glass the Coppa di Fragole
At £6:95, this is not cheap and yes it’s calorific but what a treat. The Spaghetti House take on the Knickerbocker Glory, housing a treasure trove of contrasting tastes and textures that delighted the taste buds. There’s a lot more to this than mere strawberries!


Finally, Fragole con Marscapone.
I licked my plate no okay, it was a sharing dish so I merely and unashamedly scraped up the last suggestion of marscapone and double cream, the perfect companions for these strawberries. If I had to choose just one dessert for strawberry perfection, this would be it! Even the mint was delicious! It’s the attention to detail and the quality of ingredients that matter.

Ah yes the strawberries. How did they fare in the taste test? They looked and tasted like strawberries which had been grown with care. Did they evoke that childhood memory we all cherish? Remarkably, yes they did. They were the real deal not the cynical watery version.

Oh, a small shout out for the Prosecco. My friend likened it to Nicholas Feuillatte champagne, light fresh and fruity, great with these strawberry delights.

The espresso was good too.


I am glad to have discovered Spaghetti House and I like their central locations. It’s a great place for female friends to meet and relax, away from the hurly burly of the city streets. Nothing seemed like too much trouble for the staff and Gabrieli the assistant manager was welcoming and attentive. Next month, the specials feature the native lobster. Another favourite of mine. There might still be some strawberries, subject to availability. Go on, you know you want to! Grab a girlfriend, desist from the exhausting, often futile,clothes’ shopping expedition and indulge yourself!


Ursula O’ Reilly Traynor



30th July – 4 August

 More Details to follow! 

Jesca Hoop: City Bird –

as featured in Uncut magazine – Tom Waits’ Juke Box


Alela Diane – About Farewell – (Les Bouffes Du Nord, Paris)

Alela Diane – About Farewell (Les Bouffes du Nord, Paris) About Farewell (Deluxe Edition) already available on iTunes : Real…


This Sunday @ The Rio Cinema: HARVEY’S SOHO

20 min | Dir. HAZUAN HASHIM & PHIL MAXWELL | UK 2014 World Premiere, East End Film Festival Sunday 22 June 2014, 12.30 pm. Rio Cinema


Check out Hazuan Hashim’s evocative photographs of East London skies

MFLL Tuesday Music: Wild Child




Evening All

❤️Great New Discovery

All the way from Austin, for your listening pleasure.

They’ve certainly put a mad skip to my step on this dull start to the city day.

Maybe  they’ll come over sometime  and play live in London?

C’mon guys! You know you want to!

Ambasciatori del Gusto: A celebratory lunch @ Fratelli La Bufala

June 12, 2014

I was delighted to be invited to a lunch hosted by Ambasciatori del Gusto, to celebrate the birthday of Mr Leonardo Simonelli Santi, President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce UK. What made this lunch so special was that it was made and served (at Fratelli La Bufala in Shaftesbury Avenue) by students from Gasparrini High School, Melfi.


Where is Melfi, you might ask? Located in the southernmost part of Italy, the high instep to be precise, is the remote and little known region of Basilicata.

It’s a region famed for its meat products,especially cured meats, well represented on the menu and well liked by those who sampled them.


As a non meat-eater, my favourite aperitivo was the Pecorino di Filiano when partnered with the most beautiful honeys, lemon, mandarin, fruits of the forest, intensely fruity flavours providing the perfect foil for the mature, crumbly cheese. There was cheese in the truffle cream too, but I thought it overpowered the truffle, which was a shame.


On to the starters. What a plate. It looked innocent enough, but there was a controlled explosion of punchy tastes and contrasting textures. I loved the shy, tiny wild asparagus tips that curled round themselves,then there was the rich,chunky sundried tomato stuffed with salty anchovy, the spicy pepper with tuna, the small shiny unpitted black olives, some more truffle paste on bread. There was only one problem. This was filling, after the aperitivo and there was lots more food on the way!

Next up, First course. There was “Zuppa del brigante con pezzente” with spelt and beans and chicken, which looked rustic and hearty.

My dish of field mushrooms with crunchy chickpeas was delicious.


The meat pasta course had three types of pasta ..interesting ..with ragu made with pork and beef.


I got chickpeas with pasta, a dish I make at home often; to be honest, the chick peas were a bit too soft and overcooked for my liking, as was the pasta, but I liked the fact that they were the larger chickpeas.


For main, there was beef. I saw cleared plates all around me, which speaks for the quality of the produce and the cooking. I was presented with a beautiful platter of pecorino cheese and chutney, but I could not do it justice, having already had quite a sampling earlier. I did enjoy the rosemary potatoes that accompanied the beef, though.


Dessert. A highlight. Something absolutely new to me and therefore a taste sensation. Described on the menu as “Apostles’ fingers stuffed with sweet beans and fruits of the forest honey”, it was light, not too sweet, almondy food good enough for angels. I don’t want to know everything about this dish, I want it to keep some of its secrets. Beans in a dessert! Say no more.

In his speech of welcome, the President mentioned the courage of the young people who looked after us so beautifully over lunch. This was their first visit to London and they proved to be charming and hospitable young ambassadors for their region, especially for the food that region has to offer. The teachers that accompanied them have every reason to feel proud.
Italian hospitality at its best and it was a real pleasure to enjoy good food, good wine – I sampled the Il Preliminare, an impressive dry white from Cantine Del Notaio – in good company.






Ursula O’Reilly Traynor
London Food and Drink

Post Navigation