Joanna's, Crystal Palace, London

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This is a great place for a smart leisurely brunch.
Joanna’s is an institution in Crystal Palace. Since the 1970s, everyone local knows that it  is good for an evening meal, but fewer people realise that it opens at 10am to serve brunch. The full English is high quality and their smoked salmon and scrambled eggs are lovely, my personal favourite is the poached egg and Canadian bacon served on an English muffin. The tables near the window have a beautiful view over the city of London, which looks particularly good on a cold sunny morning.
It isn’t quite caff prices – but it has lots of papers, great coffee and you are never rushed.
A lovely weekend treat.

The Suicide, National Theatre, London

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This is an update of a play for which, Nikolai Erdman, the original author spent time in Siberia, in the 1930s. This version is set in current UK with social media, local politics and hip-hop slam rap being lampooned.
On the day I saw it Adrian Richards, the understudy, played Sam and was excellent.
It is funny and the characters are well written and recognisable. There are bits that could go, I’m not sure what seeing Maggie Thatcher in the afterlife added to the proceedings. I will look out for Suhayla El-Bushra’s writing in the future. The set was great too, it cleverly moved back and forth between the inside and outside of an authentic looking tower block flat.
While the state here is not going to feel threatened by this play, it was entertaining, interesting and showed promise.
Recommended.

Tuttons, Covent Garden, London

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Tuttons is not cheap, the hamburger is £18 and the steaks in the high twenties.
As starters, the chicken liver pate was indulgent, the scallops had great texture and the oysters were very good. The hamburger was nice. The corned beef hash was light on the corned beef. The chips were delicious, not healthy (cooked in real fat, I’d guess) but who orders chips to be healthy?
We also had desserts and these were good, the raspberry cheesecake was unlike any cheesecake I’ve ever had but was great nonetheless.
Its position on the corner of Russell Street and Covent Garden Piazza could not be better, it is straight across from the Royal Opera House and close to many theatres.
The décor is classic, it has a pleasant atmosphere in which to eat. It even has seats outside for those hardy enough to brave the weather and the crowds!
The service was fine. The wine list had lots of choice, even by the glass.
I recommend it, especially if you have a tastecard, which gives 50% off food and makes it good value.

Show Boat – New London Theatre

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A real piece of musical history! It is said that Showboat was the first musical in the style that we know today. It is easy to see why it was such a huge success when it was written in 1927. The characters and the songs are great and it has some wonderful dance numbers.
I like the fact that it has the feel of a period piece; it has an ensemble rather than two star roles and it also predates the big finale.
The quality of this production is high, the singers are very good and dancers are exceptional. I loved Show Boat and I highly recommend it.
Don’t go expecting “Hairspray”, “Miss Saigon” or “Legally Blonde” but do remember that they have their origins here!

Undressed at the V&A

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In a city that is packed with great museums, the V&A is my favourite. I particularly like their fashion exhibitions.
Undressed is the history of underwear. It is a telling fact that the most interesting piece in the show is not an item of underwear, but a 3D painting by Julian Opie. I found the exhibition less good than many of their shows about clothes. It felt haphazardly laid out and the displays and the information were uninspiring.
So go the V&A –  but save yourself the £13 (with donation) entry fee on this occasion, but enjoy the brilliant free exhibits, the beautiful café and the lovely courtyard instead.

Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley 2015)

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This is a beautifully realised cinema adaptation of a great book. The combination of Colm Toibin and Nick Hornby is wonderful. I enjoyed the changes between the book and the film, each suiting its medium perfectly.
The story is relatively simple but the characters are well rounded. I love the way the attitudes of 50s Ireland and 50s Brooklyn are captured and their differences highlighted. There are some great performances, Domhnall Gleeson was remarkable and there are nice cameos by Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent. The sets and costumes are lovely. This is costume drama and nostalgia at its best.

The Wolf of Wall Street.

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This film is based on fact – the autobiography of the self proclaimed best salesman in the world about the decade he spent off his face on any drugs he could get his hands on. Perhaps not cold hard fact, then.
This is a funny, fast action romp with great performances, brilliant set pieces, and masterful direction. It is long for a film these days, but there is no let up in the action.
It is subversive. There is objectification of women – it is in the book and is central to the story. It does glamorise fraudulent drug fuelled excesses. It says that greed is bad but it depicts the opposite.
I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed the ride too much to worry about the morals of the person driving the car.

Les Deux Salons, William IV Street

lds_top_home6We ate in the Bistro. The décor is authentically French. It is perfectly positioned for eating before the theatre as there are many within a 3 minute walk. We ordered 4 different dishes. The steak was not great and we sent it back, they accepted this with good grace and replaced it with our choice of chicken liver parfait – which was delicious. The nicoise salad, not having lettuce, anchovy or green beans, was unlike any that I have had before – but it was very nice. The salmon was good. The wine list is good and the quality of the wines by the glass is very good.
I loved the chandelier!

The Painkiller at The Garrick

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This is physical comedy and farce. These are not usually my favourite types of theatre.
On this occasion is it so well done that I have finally realised why it was so successful in the last century – once you begin to laugh, you are carried along on a wave of slapstick and ridiculousness that is quite exhilarating. The whole cast were brilliant, Rob Brydon and Kenneth Branagh looked to be enjoying themselves enormously which added to the entertainment. The whole audience laughed out loud and I recommend this show even to those who do not normally like dropped trousers and double entendres.
Now, who can help me get tickets to the final performance of this show because I think it will be even more amazing!

Brasserie Vacherin, Croydon

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A table for two with crisp white linen. An aperitif while reading the menu. A flavourful starter. A main course and side made with good quality ingredients accompanied by a nice bottle of wine. An indulgent dessert. A digestif with coffee. An attentive but unobtrusive waiter. Good conversation with sophisticated soul and jazz playing gently in the background.
A complete night out.