Events, treatments, activities all get featured here, in the lifestyle section.

Kronos at 40, at the Barbican

For Mr. A’s birthday I got him tickets to see the Kronos Quartet at the Barbican Centre. Despite having lived in London for quite some time, I hadn’t ever been, and I really loved it. While the Barbican might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I absolutely love the brutalist architecture. The combination of the concrete, greenery, the water fixtures (and the weather  on tuesday wasn’t half bad either) makes it feel like you are in an alternate version of the future that people once dreamt of (like in the 1985 film Brazil).

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The inside of the Barbican bizarrely reminds me of a Japanese department store, but I can’t really put my finger on why. The architecture within isn’t as inspiring, but high ceilings and a good bar is all I need, really.

BarbicanBarbicanBarbicanBarbicanBarbicanBarbicanI was also ridiculously excited to go see the Kronos Quartet, particularly as this concert was a 40th anniversary celebration. It’s astonishing to see how much they’ve done over the years – and that evening’s performance was a collaboration between them, as well as the UK premiere of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No.6.

Barbican

Jarvis Cocker and Bryce Dessner from the National also contributed and performed their pieces for the evening, which was all very exciting. Before I get into a bit more detail about the performance, I’d just like to declare that I like all the cheesy, cinematic stuff that real music buffs would sneer at me for, but I frankly don’t care. If a piece of music can stir up a memory, or give me goosebumps I’m into it. If I need a whole lot of context to make me understand I can usually take it or leave it, and I have a similar attitude towards modern art. Such a philistine, I know.

Erica Jeal, from the Guardian wrote this article about the evening, and I think on the whole (from his reaction immediately after the show) Mr A. agreed with her on most points. I got something completely different out of the evening, but I enjoyed myself so much that I’m not sure I mind! The Riley piece which they started with was too technical for my liking, but I was completely covered in goosebumps for the Philip Glass. It just reinforced my wish that if my life ever gets made into a film (like in Jiro Dreams of Sushi) that Glass is used as part of the soundtrack. Although not executed faultlessly by the quartet, I absolutely loved it.

I found the Dessner piece enjoyable, but not particularly memorable and the Jarvis one (which included playing a musical saw) sounded like how I imagine an alien abduction might. I didn’t care for the Mariana Sadovska, which got my hopes up considerably when they opened it, describing the significance of Chernobyl and ethomusicology – to me, it sounded like a call to prayer, mixed with the Moulin Rouge-version of Roxanne overlaid with the heavy breathing and babbling of a lunatic (sorry). I just wasn’t that into it, I guess.

As an encore, the Kronos Quartet played a 1920s tune called Last Kind Words, which was lovely, and my favourite – Death is the Road to Awe, from the film The Fountain. Mr. A shared the same enthusiasm for the last piece as Jeal did, but I, like an idiot was grinning and nodding along – I was delighted.

All in all I had an amazing time, and will definitely be heading to the Barbican for more as there’s so much going on! I only wish the Kronos Quartet could have indulged me and played the soundtrack from Requiem for a Dream, which might be one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. For now, I’ll just have to make do with this:

Cocktails in the Shard

On Sunday evening, a few of us went down to the Aqua Shard bar on the 31st floor of the Shard to celebrate a birthday.

The Shard

I’m not the most confident with heights, but even I couldn’t resist going up and having a look for myself! As you can’t book ahead at the bar, we were taking a massive gamble by arriving with a group of 11. When I told my friend later on about the evening, he pictured the scene just like this:

Which was fairly accurate.

Luckily they were able to accommodate us all, (without queueing!) and we put a few little tables together. The floor to ceiling glass in the Aqua Shard bar reminded me of an apartment I used to live in when I was in New York.

photo 2 photo 3 Aqua shard

Still longing for Cambodia, I ordered a passionfruit filled drink, but they were out!  I ended up settling  for ‘No Money for Butter’, a champagne cocktail with lavender syrup. It was really lovely, and each cocktail cost around £12 a pop (London prices!). They also give you a little pot of salty, truffle-oil popcorn. It was delicious.

cocktails in the shard

The view really was breathtaking, and by ordering a cocktail you get to miss most of the tourists going up to see the View. By opting for the Aqua Bar over the View, you save around £17 (if you get one cocktail) as the tickets to go up to the view are £29. Definitely my kind of deal.

We were a bit awkwardly placed for food, and unfortunately the some of the reviews aren’t great so we headed further down river for the rest of our evening.

London

I’m definitely coming back for the Afternoon Tea though – it looks amazing!

Holiday haul

Holiday haul
My mind has been somewhere else entirely this week. I’ve been counting down the days til my holiday for so long that I now can’t believe I’ve got one week until I’m on my way! There is so much for me to look forward to – seeing family, going to cook classes, fresh coconut and completely immersing myself in the history and culture of Cambodia. I can’t wait.

In my excitement I may have purchased a few items to get my holiday off to a good start.

I bought a few bikinis off of asos. I love this Oasis one – the cut is so flattering and the print is so summery!

Whistles Clutch

I couldn’t resist this blue clutch from Whistles. It will be perfect to take out with me for lunch and I love the colour! I usually wear neutrals so this will inject a bit of excitement into my holiday wardrobe.
Tilly London Jelly Shoes
As a child of the 90’s I LOVE jelly shoes. When I spotted these heeled ones on Amazon I really couldn’t resist. It’ll be perfect to walk around in when I’m down by the coast – I used to love stepping into the sea and feel the waves going through my shoes as a kid and this will take me back to those days, I’m sure.

Review: Once, Po-Cha and a Royal Sighting

It’s funny how as siblings get older, they can get closer, too. My sister and I used to fight like cats and dogs, but recently we seem to be getting along. She’s midway through a performing arts course in Kent, so we’ve made it a monthly tradition to meet up and go for dinner and a show. I’m personally not the biggest fan of musicals but they are her absolute favourite – and I get a kick out of how excited she gets!

She was born in South Korea, and as kids we spent a few years living in Seoul. We both love Korean cuisine so we headed for the little strip of Korean restaurants just under Centrepoint, on Saint Giles High Street. Po-Cha seemed to be full of Korean customers, which is always a good sign! It gives off a good vibe – a pretty bare, fuss-free decor with the promise of delicious authenticity.

We settled in and ordered a pot of jasmine tea as we scoured the menu. My sister is the kind of person that immediately gets food envy so we decided on splitting everything, and ordered a pajeon, which is a savoury Korean seafood pancake for our starter.

Po-Cha Pajeon

Pajeon in sauceFor our main we chose a kimchi, tofu and beef hotpot. Hotpot, in my opinion, is the perfect winter meal – what can be better than gathered around a delicious warming stew? It’s also extremely healthy, and doesn’t require any oil. Kimchi is a traditional korean staple made of spicy, fermented cabbage. Not the most appealing description, I know, but it is absolutely divine, trust me! My sister was pretty much bottle-fed the stuff.

Kimchi beef hotpotThe hotpot was delicious but slightly too much for the two of us to handle – it would’ve been perfect for a group of three. Our meal came to a total of £38 which I felt really reasonable for the quality of the food. For an authentic Korean dining experience I would really recommend Po-Cha.

photo 1Bellies full, we settled the bill and walked 5 minutes to the Phoenix theatre, where we were going to see the musical Once. I want to start my review by being upfront, and  re-iterate that I am not a fan of musicals as I don’t want to put anyone off from going to see it! As we walked into the theatre some of the members of the cast were up on the stage, which was set up like a bar, and were strumming along and singing songs with some members of the audience up there too. It was a really lovely atmosphere and you felt like you were in some kind of alternate-universe pub where people spontaneously burst into song. I loved the set design – although throughout the performance you could feel the tube running under you which I found slightly distracting.

What I loved about the performance: really excellent acting, the amazing set and execution. The actors were all so talented – there isn’t an orchestra in Once, so every member of the cast is playing an instrument (often cello, violin or guitar) and more often than not are dancing around the stage with it. As a former cellist myself this is no mean feat! However, I personally didn’t find that the songs stuck with me – it just wasn’t my cup of tea. My main issue with musicals is that I often find the music takes away from the plot. But I was accompanied by two musical theatre geeks and they absolutely loved the show, so what do I know?!

The one naughty photo I managed to take before I got yelled at by a grumpy usher.

The one naughty photo I managed to take before I got yelled at by a grumpy usher.

My personal highlight of the evening though, was not the show, but a member of the audience! As we were leaving the theatre we got a good look at Prince Harry who was also there to see Once. I wonder how he found it?

Night at the Natural History Museum

What could be better than a gin and tonic on a Friday night? Gin and tonic with dinosaurs, of course!

Natural History Museum, London

On Friday night Mr A. and I popped down to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington to one of their lates, which happens on the last Friday of each month. I arrived pretty late (an hour late…. oh dear) but I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a queue – I was expecting to be waiting in line for hours! I swiftly got behind the crowd at the bar and soaked in the atmosphere. On the main steps there were several musical acts, mostly singer-songwriter types I ended up feeling sorry for – it’s pretty hard to compete with a diplodocus.

Once I was armed with a G&T we wandered through the museum. My favourite part about the museum late was how you could walk around and look at the exhibits at your leisure. As much as I love children it’s quite nice being able to see the exhibitions without sticky fingers on the glass and being able to get to the front for a change! I didn’t end up sampling the food but Mr. A had coq au vin.

Natural history museum, London Birds- Natural HIstory Museum London Birds - natural history museum, London

It was such a nice way to spend an evening – definitely one I’ll remember. As I left I also noticed that they do ‘Dino-Snores’ for grown-ups, where you can stay over and sleep in the museum. It sounds exactly like something out of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and I’d LOVE to do it! However with a holiday coming up I’m not so sure I can splash out the £175 for the evening…