Archive for london

If Rachel wakes up, will I disappear?

At the weekend I went to see Glee Live at the O2 – the live show of the TV series Glee, essentially a concert by the cast with bits of dialogue in between songs, and some pre-recorded dialogue on a TV screen from adult characters Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).

The idea of a TV drama doing a live tour is a fairly new one, so far as I know. Though I hope it catches on: I for one would go and see True Blood Live or Being Human Live – being stalked round the O2 arena by Eric or Mitchell sounds like a night out I would be willing to pay for. But vampire fantasies aside, there is obviously a reason why Glee is the one doing the tour. It’s a musical. It could have been designed for this very purpose.

glee food menu


And it’s great. I mean, I have no idea what it would be like if you weren’t a fan of Glee, but I’m not sure what non-fans would be doing there anyway, apart from critics. From my point of view, it was simply enormous fun.

And weird. Because essentially I was watching fictional characters put on a real show. And on TV, all of these characters spend their time performing to empty auditoriums or to each other, dreaming of being famous and performing to full auditoriums and thousands of fans. And here they were, their ambition realised, imaginary people with a real audience. I realised, sitting there, that I was part of a fictional fantasy dreamed by fictional characters. It was a sensation I rather enjoyed.

And of course the actors had the same dream as their characters – it’s just that they’ve achieved theirs, whereas their creations haven’t. So I was also part of a real dream come true. It all felt very meta. And luckily, I didn’t disappear at the end of the show.

A handful of random notes:

- We ended up spending quite a lot of our weekend at the O2,because we turned up on the Saturday only to find out, as we tried to enter the arena, that our tickets were for the Sunday. So we were at the O2 for two evenings in a row, which was good in that I quite like it there (although it makes me feel very small, like a doll trapped in a giant aircraft hanger full of restaurants) but bad in that it’s not very close to our house. I would like some way of folding London up so as to get between places faster.

- Audience! I know you’re excited, but if you scream over pre-recorded dialogue, nobody will be able to hear what the dialogue is. Why did this not occur to most of you at the time?

- Getting a boat from Waterloo to Greenwich/Greenwich to Waterloo is the best way possible to start and to finish an evening.

- I like the London Eye. It’s basically turned London into an upside-down unicycle.



Last weekend I went for dinner, with Choler, at a restaurant called Abracadabra. It was an Internet discovery. I’d googled for interesting London restaurants and found several I already knew about, such as Inamo (where you press bits of your table to order food, decorate your surroundings and play Battleships with your dining companion – lots of fun) and Dans le Noir (where you eat in the dark – cool idea but cheaper just to stay at home and blindfold myself). Abracadabra was one I hadn’t heard of before. It was a Russian restaurant and when I looked at the photos on the website I knew I had to go there.

restaurant booth

Those who know me will understand why this appealed.

Abracadabra is in Jermyn Street, which as Choler observed, is possibly the only street in London entirely devoted to men’s shopping. You can buy endless variations on the theme of ‘expensive tasteful shirt’, but there’s also a cigar store (which Choler wanted to move into) and a shop where you can buy cheeses large enough to club peasants with. Which, if you can afford to shop in Jermyn Street, may well be what you want them for.

Anyway, in the middle of all this expansive upper-class masculinity is an unassuming door leading to a basement which is the Abracadabra restaurant. And it’s a whole different world to the street above. There’s a lot of dark red. There’s a lot of gold – carved gold chairs, elaborate gold fittings. There’s a gigantic inverted chandelier. There are booths themed around pin-up girls, or Lenin. Or, in our case, rock and roll in various incarnations – there were Elvis and Sinatra records on the walls, and behind me, oddly, an original platinum single of Mull of Kintyre. Why? No idea. To add to it all, halfway through the evening a small central TV screen started showing us Russian music television complete with writhing Russian girls asking us to call them. Possibly in order to buy them some extra clothes, as the ones they had on didn’t seem to be covering very much.


View from our booth

Amid all this, the food was a secondary consideration, although it was a positive experience overall. Choler had the smoked fish for a starter and made very appreciative noises. I had the Grenki: “a spicy combination of grated mozzarella and cheddar mixed with egg, garlic and mayonnaise served on toasted bread with cherry tomatoes”. Basically, garlicky cheesy scrambled egg on toast. I expected it to be hot and it was served cold, which didn’t work quite as well for me, but it did taste good.

Main courses were Cossack Lamb Casserole for Choler and Russian meatballs for me. Unfortunately due to recent illness I couldn’t manage my giant mushroom-covered meatballs with new potatoes, though I could tell they were excellent; happily, Choler wasn’t that keen on his casserole (too oily, lamb too fatty, he reported) and ate my food instead, which he much preferred.

The meal was particularly notable to me because I had some of Choler’s bottle of sweet Georgian red wine, and was startled to discovered I liked it – the first glass of red wine I’ve ever finished.


Everything was very red.

The other thing about the evening was the toilets. They were downstairs (which, incidentally, turned out to be a whole new and unoccupied section of the restaurant with the bordello theme turned up 200%, and I want to have my next birthday there). The women’s toilets featured a heart-shaped gold basin, mirrored cubicles, a toilet seat that appeared to have some kind of whale tusk as a handle, and most disconcertingly, a little screen on the inside of the cubicle which linked to the bar, so you could see what was going on upstairs. I presume the connection was not two-way.

I later sent Choler off to investigate the men’s, as I’d glimped that the walls were decorated with giant red 3D hearts, and he came back looking somewhat scared and gibbering slightly. I managed to catch the phrases “gold plated floor!” and “giant statue of naked woman around the toilet seat!”, and we decided not to even go into the issue of the what the urinals were shaped as.

We weren’t offered a dessert menu, although I noticed there was one, so we paid up and decamped to a nearby pub to assess our evening and try to decide if we’d simply hallucinated the whole thing. Maybe we did. If any of the above description has appealed, you should go and see for yourselves.

Bill total: £82.52 for two, including 12.5% service charge and £30 wine


Oh dear

I picked up a flyer in a London cafe yesterday. It was for a club night – I won’t reveal which one – and it was a perfectly reasonable flyer in every respect except one. There was a website listed on the back. This is what it looked like.


I just don't know what to say about this

I say this in sorrow more than anger: who made a design decision to do that? Did they fully understand that you can’t click a link on a printed piece of paper? Do they imagine fervent fans carefully typing in every last random number and symbol? We will never know.


The Candlelight Club

I like my sleep. I find it healthful, life-giving and full of interesting dreams about tiny rainbow-coloured Nazi ponies (don’t ask). Therefore, given that I am currently woken up between 6.30 and 7am every morning by the sound of a baby going ‘blah blah blah MILK NOW PLEASE blah blah gurgle’, I have started going to bed at about ten thirty.

Among other things, this means that my days of clubbing till 3am are over, not that they were ever very extensive. However, the idea of going out on a Saturday night still appeals, and I am on the mailing list for a number of events happening around London. Mostly I don’t get to go to them, but they serve to remind me that in London, if you want to do something, you probably can (if you have the money and the time).

One of the things I’d always wanted to do was go to a 1920s speakeasy and drink cocktails while surrounded by women in bobs and flapper dresses. And recently this opportunity came to me in the form of The Candlelight Club, a “clandestine pop-up cocktail bar in a secret London venue, a stunning, tucked-away den with a 1920s speakeasy flavour, completely lit by candles”. It all sounded very civilised, and handily, it ran from 7.30pm to midnight, perfect timing for booking babysitters.

So last night I went there, accompanied by my old friends Mr and Mrs Brown and Choler and Harpy, and my partner S (who has unaccountably failed to get himself a blog) and it was indeed very civilised. We were informed of the location a couple of days beforehand and duly presented ourselves at an anonymous street door at the time appointed. (The anonymous door in question was next to a notorious goth club, which brought back a couple of memories for a couple of us.) S wore a fedora and looked, I thought thuggish in a suave way, which he took as a compliment, more or less.

candlelight club

Just before the custard pie fight started

We proceeded down a corridor and into a large white room full of white-tableclothed tables. At first glance it didn’t quite resemble the dark undergound cellar I’d been picturing, but it was lit – as advertised – by candles, everyone was in (roughly) 1920s gear, and ragtime was playing, so I quickly decided I was happy. S started in on the free sandwiches (very nice, apparently, especially the crab ones) and I perused the menu of Victorian-inspired cocktails. The absinthe was tempting, but I ended up spending my night drinking a sour cherry and gin cocktail that I found surprisingly delicious given that I don’t like sourness, gin or cherries. I still don’t know how they did that.

The evening was spent ordering and swapping cocktails (everyone found something that suited them), listening to the live band (not bad, and I loved that people were dancing), admiring Choler and Harpy’s colourful retro cigarettes, and trying to decide if the man who looked like Johnny Depp was actually Johnny Depp (presumably not, but Mrs Brown and I decided to believe he was). After a couple of the gin cocktails I stood up and found I was pleasantly tipsy, a sensation I haven’t experienced for some time and had rather missed.

All in all then, a successful and satisfyingly themed night out. I would have liked a line of dancing girls, waitresses who asked if you wanted a glass of ‘milk’, and a comically bungled police raid towards the end of the evening, but for £15 a ticket I think that’s probably asking a bit too much. Three cheers for vintage evenings out. Next time I’m going to try the absinthe.