Posts Tagged ‘London’

Review: Coffee at the Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

| Hotel and B&B Reviews


I popped into the Town Hall Hotel for a ‘posh coffee’, after being tipped-off about this destination hotel from a number of fashion brands hosting events here. You always know you’re in for a visual treat if the fashion set favour a place.

IMG_5309The boutique hotel is a triumph of restoration design, reviving Bethnal Green’s old council offices. It’s smothered in marble foyers, Art Deco panelled corridors – complete with jelly mould Bakelite light fixtures, imposing stone staircases and modern art that holds your attention and captures your imagination. The original Edwardian and Art Deco interiors of the 1910 building are enhanced further by artfully chosen hip stylised vintage furniture. I had a thoroughly enjoyable nose around.




The original council chamber is still in place, complete with its horseshoe of green leather chairs, fold down wooden desks and two entrances – one for the ayes, and one for the no’s. It would make a perfectly quirky setting for a private event.

Finding somewhere to actually have my coffee at 3.30pm on a Thursday (surely prime afternoon tea time?) proved comically hard. Each member of staff I spoke to was friendly and helpful, and yet it took four attempts and four different people questioned before I located the lounge on the first floor, and ascertained that, yes, a hot drink could be procured. Wandering through the old corridors and pushing through door after door, I did begin to feel like I was stuck in a bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare. Albeit a fabulously styled one. For the love of caffeine – I only want a hot chocolate! The hotel feels more geared up for residents, and lunch and dinner guests, but I’d still recommend popping in for tea just to see the building. A cappuccino costs £3,00, which is incredibly competitive when compared to hotels of a similar standing in the West End or North London.


The lounge itself (first photo), which led onto the council chamber, was all dark wood and lead windows, studded leather sofas and reclaimed furniture – like hanging out in a Mad Men Gentleman’s club. When I go back, I’m wearing my best fifties frock.






Ordering a snack again proved tricky. Cake wasn’t an option. Faced with a plate of meat and cheese (more suited to cocktails) I chose the only available alternative: spiced rice crackers. They came with a generous bowl of chicken mayo to dunk in. It all tasted delicious, though eating them was nibbles Russian Roulette: overloading the delicate crackers with dip risked them breaking en route to your mouth and splattering mayo over your legs like ‘cum’. I only managed to do this three times, which is fair testament to how delicious they were. Worth the risk, and the stain reminded me of an excellent afternoon.

IMG_5306 Decor: 5/5. Food & drinks 4/5 (when you could get some).


Further information on the Town Hall Hotel can be found here.

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Wharf column about butt monkeys who play misic loudly from their phone on public transport

| Journalism

logo“There I was, quietly erasing a day’s worth of work encounters from my mind on the DLR, when Satan’s ass trumpet shattered my reverie.

Since when did it become publicly acceptable to play your “music” out loud on the tinny speaker of your phone?”

For the whole column please click the link below:

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Review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

| Uncategorized

Spoiler alert: this review is written on the assumption the reader is already familiar with the plot.

The stage of Regent’s Park fairy light drenched open-air theatre has been concreted over.  There are caravans, the hustle and bustle of tracksuit-wearing men and body-con, body-baring neon clad girls with big hair.  There’s even a crane.  Workmen shout and jeer through the audience.  This is Shakespeare meets My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

It is an inspired contemporary setting.  The hierarchies of the traveller world, the marriages at a young age, the oxymoron of swaggering, foul mouthed underdressed girls who value their virginity, who won’t have sex before marriage, as documented in the channel 4 TV show, fit nicely into Shakespeare’s Athenian society.  Leaving aside questions over the TV show’s fair portrayal of a race of people, this is what the wider audience now recognises as Gypsy life: huge wedding dresses, massive diamante studded tiered cakes and a bumping and grinding dance routine to LMFAO’s, I’m Sexy And I Know It.  Puck rides through them, a hoodie on a BMX, his face covered with a bandana; as if he’s arrived straight from the London riots or a Banksy artwork.

The Director Matthew Dunster’s Big Fat Shakespeare world is funny.  Very funny.  I particularly enjoyed Rebecca Oldfield’s tottering performance of Helena, clicking after her Demetrius in a fine example of both comic timing and slapstick.  It was wet and cold on the night I went and I was wrapped in a ski jacket and a bin bag.  Each time Oldfield and her fellow actors plunged about the sodden and concrete floor I winced.  They didn’t even flinch.

George Bukhari excels as Bottom.  His performance was a delight from start to finish.  So much so that the darker side of the play took a while to sink in.  Referencing the case where a group of travellers were arrested for imprisoning migrant workers, homeless and other vulnerable men as ‘slaves’, Bottom and his cohort of disparate voiced workmates are kept locked in a white transit van.  They are prisoners.  When they speak of being hanged there is a genuine fission of fear.  This is a clever and bold move by Dunster.  Again it fits nicely into the original tensions and motives explored by the play.  But it does cast the traveller world in an archaic light, how easily their ways and community sit with a play written in the 1590s.

Or does it?  Oberon and Titania appear in magical, if somewhat Mad Max style, guises.  The unreality to balance the reality.  Peer closely at the advertising hoarding that dominates the stage backdrop and you will see something familiar about the glossy couple advertising Athenian Developments.  Puck famously reminds us to think of what we have seen as a dream at the end of the play.  Has Dunster created a nightmare where the audience finds itself laughing at an oppressed people?  When we giggle at the nylon tracksuits and gaudy jewellery, a ‘Chav’ uniform, we laugh at the lower class.  When we laugh at Bottom and his captive clowns, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Theseus, the man who has imprisoned them for entertainment.  An uncomfortable feeling settled like a layer of rain on my laughter.  This is a production that questions more than what is on the stage.  Go, watch, laugh, enjoy, but think about it afterwards.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is showing until 5th September at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.  Further details here:

Photo from Evening Standard website.

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