The Theatre

August 3rd, 2010

Shakespeare souvenir from The Theatre

Any history buffs or theatre buffs out there might already know that two years ago some of the ruins of the first ever theatre in London were uncovered during an archeological investigation by the Museum of London.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to join one of the last invite only tours of the ruins of The Theatre and an introduction to the plans of the new theatre that will be built in it’s place for the Tower Theatre Company; I got more than just a little wrapped up in the excitement of what they are doing and how poetic it is.

The Theatre was built in 1576 by James Burbage, located in Shoreditch which at the time was just north of the City of London and thus able to escape the persecution of the authorities who back then weren’t too fond of theatre players.

This was back in a time when people would go out for dinner or a drink and might happen upon some entertainment, not in a time when they would intentionally go out and pay for entertainment in advance.

A huge shift in how people thought about entertainment, and the venue that saw some of the first works of William Shakespeare both as an actor and as a playwright. It was not to last though as the landlord would not renew the lease and thus The Theatre was taken apart and transported where they then were used in the construction of the famous Globe Theatre.

One of life’s wonders then that the ruins of London’s first theatre should be found after being lost for so long, only to be found whilst the Tower Theatre Company were hunting for a new premises of their own having lost the lease on their existing premises.

The Tower Theatre Company were founded in 1932 and are a non-profit performing and acting group that not only present up to 18 productions on a yearly basis.

Unfortunately due to funding limitations the archeological dig at the ruins  of The Theatre close in two weeks time, but what has been found will be preserved in situ and the new theatre being built in it’s place will be gracefully showcasing the ruins.

The new theatre is will be the first permanent home for the Tower Theatre Company and will also house rehearsal spaces, costume storage, meeting rooms and already has big plans for community outreach in terms of education and theatre coaching.

The groups appeal to raise money for the construction of the theatre has made good progress but still has £3,100,000 to raise.

I’m really hoping that our company is going to get involved in the fund raising efforts, especially after the compelling introduction we received from Tower Theatre chairman Jeff Kelly and a chilling rendition of The Seven Ages of Man by Sir Ian McKellen.

If you’re interested in finding out more or contributing to the fund raising efforts:

Okonomiyaki at Abeno Too

July 10th, 2010

Okonomiyaki at Abeno Too

I’ve been bad, found a few drafts of restaurant reviews that I hadn’t gotten around to finishing or published lurking amongst the others, thought it was about time to start going through them and finishing them. It was made easier for Abeno Too because I went back there for the second time just this week!

I read about Abeno Too on Great Newport Street when I was looking for something similar to the kind of experience you get with Teppenyaki, something that’s fun to take a group of friends out too, so I went in not really knowing what to expect other than a “Japanese omelette”.

Okonomiyaki has a batter made with grated yam, eggs, shredded cabbage or spring onions, and can contain all sorts of other ingredients. Abeno Too have  a great selection of different ingredients selected for you. We chose the London mix, which contains salmon, pork and cheese with bacon layered on top.

It’s a wonder to watch, not quite the same as Teppenyaki where it’s all about the show, but there is definitely skill to it. From the way they bring the ingredients out and introduce them to you to the mixing, pouring, shaping, cooking, flipping, stomach growling, and finally the decorating before finally letting you dig in.

The smell whilst your okonomiyaki is cooking is tantalising and leaves you wishing you could just hit a fast forward button, but it’s really worth waiting for your server to dress it with a spiral of Japanese mayonnaise, a spiral of okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce),  seaweed flakes and bonito flakes (dried smoked tuna flakes). The bonito flakes wave and move in the heat which almost make them look alive, it gets people every time!

You can also get a variant of the dish with a layer of crispy noodles on top, I haven’t tried this or the noodles inside a rolled omelette (similar to a traditional phad thai) yet but there were frantic nomming sounds coming from people that did have those dishes.

It’s worth trying some of the smaller dishes too, the asparagus and goats cheese baked gyoza are a tasty vegetarian option, or you can have chicken gyoza fried freshly at your table. If you like tofu make sure you try the agedashi tofu, it’s some of the creamiest tasting tofu I’ve had other than at Haozhan.

Overall Abeno Too can come in a little more expensive than some other Japanese restaurants, but the quality of the food and the experience makes it well worth it.

Sushi Ga Ga

July 2nd, 2010

Sushi Ga Ga

What’s this you say, a sushi restaurant opened by Lady Gaga? A restaurant that serves Lady Gaga rolled in rice? No it’s not either of those as humorous as that concept might be, but they are definitely going gaga about sushi over at the just opened Sushi Ga Ga on Lisle Street.

As an incentive to draw people in, they currently have a fantastic deal offering 50% off of the food bill, I’ve tried to get a table three nights this week and been met with 30 minute or more queues of less than happy patrons, tonight though I was in luck and managed to get a table whilst the offer was still on!

The menu is mostly what you’d expect for a Japanese restaurant in town, there is a fair amount of high quality sushi, along with some “small dishes”, ramen, donburi and a list of house specials which are hard to tell if they should be ordered as a main or not.

We decided to play it safe and order some of our favourites, then some of the more adventurous sounding things on the menu which all feel a little bit like they’ve taken inspiration from the well established and ever popular Hakkasan  or Haozhan.

Our sushi arrived first all on one immaculately presented board. The soft shell crab wasn’t as good as you can get over at Kyoto but it was still pretty tasty, but the salmon rolls and the crispy duck rolled in rice and cucumber with plum sauce were lovely.

The folks sitting next to us were eyeing our sushi with that predatory food-envy look, when our next lot of dishes began to arrive.

Agedashi tofu – the two sided sneak, crispy on the outside and soft and squishy on the inside, followed by scallops in a wasabi sauce, prawns also in a wasabi sauce, and some vegetable gyoza.

The dishes in wasabi sauce definitely looked like they were taking a page out of Haozhan’s book, but didn’t quite hit the same level of flavour, but overall it was all pretty good.

Great value, good quality sushi with the current discount, but even without the discount it would have been under £20 a head, well worth a look if you’re a sushi addict like me.

Taiwanese at Leong’s Legend Continues

July 2nd, 2010

Leong's Legend Continues

It has been almost a year since I discovered Leong’s Legend perched on the edge of China Town and got my first introduction to Taiwanese food, I had a bit of a bad experience with what I believe was called Oyster Congee that ended with both my friend Chris and I being violently sick not long after we made it home from the restaurant.

In retrospect, it was a bloody stupid idea to order something so rotten sounding anyway, but that’s the price you pay for being adventurous with food, even if you do get to try some absolutely amazing dishes, every now and then there will be one that teaches you a lesson.

Usually when I have a bad experience at a restaurant I won’t go back, and technically I’ve stuck to that rule… by going to their sister restaurant, Leong’s Legend Continues which opened last year on Macclesfield Street.

This time we avoided the Oyster Congee, in fact to be safe we avoided all Congee, sticking to the nicer things we’d had last time and a couple of other choices from the dim sum menu. Also excluded from the list were the pearl teas, I know lot’s of people love them, however I simply cannot be doing with squishy black pearls at the bottom of an ice cold stale tea.

What we did have though, was absolutely lovely and we polished it off in somewhat record time, which turned our rather frumpy waitress into quite a happy waitress (though who can tell if that’s because we liked the food, or because “those darn English are leaving”…)

The braised pork belly is to die for at Leong’s Legend, you can get it in a broth, or as we did you can have it with sticky rice, I don’t have the balls to eat the fat (though my colleague Olive swears it’s the tastiest bit) but it’s still really full of flavour.

Shredded turnip parcels are addictive, they don’t sound like they should be, but it wasn’t long after the plate arrived that we were staring at crumbs and asking if we could have more.

Schezuan style wontons packed a punch, not for the faint hearted but I love the flavour you get from the roasted chilli in the chilli dressing, coupled with the charred onion and garlic.

The Siu Long Bao still baffle me, large nipple shaped dumplings that have pork in and a tasty lemon grass and ginger broth, I’ve seen people eat them in different ways, squeezing the broth out onto a spoon for example, but we just ate them whole. Messy but tasty.

So all in all, maybe it is worth giving restaurants a second chance, one item on the menu might be your worst enemy, but what’s it going to do if you eat all of it’s buddies?

Scribbles & Murmurs at The Rag Factory

June 23rd, 2010

Scribbles and Murmurs

If you’re working or wandering near Brick Lane it’s worth going to check out the new art event hosting a collection of art by students, first timers and professionals across the country at The Rag Factory on Heneage Street.

The concept is based around producing an atmosphere of a growing visual noise, composed of a mixture of literature and visual artwork with pieces ranging from poetry, performance art, film, sculpture, painting, illustration and creative writing.

Emma Bridgeman, Rokia Begum, Jack Coffin

My highlights at Scribbles and Murmurs would have to be Emma Bridgeman’s “Weight Of The Subconscious” (which unfortunately Emma can’t bring herself to part with), and work by Rokia Begum and Jack Coffin.

It’s great to see young talent making a name for themselves, if you want to see the work for yourself make sure you get down there on Friday 25th for the closing night.

Remember to chip in a small donation towards the artists, these events always involve a lot of time and effort on their part, and not forgetting The Rag Factory who are a non-profit organisation designed to support the creative fabric of London.