Last night myself and a few colleagues were treated to the stage version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It was an enjoyable romp all the more so since both of our hosts were Australian and therefore had the loudest laughs in the house ! It was an extreme contrast with the stage show a mile or so down Charing Cross Road and Whitehall in Parliament where the Chancellor had delivered more bad news during the Budget Speech. Maybe if he had worn drag the newspapers this morning would have been a bit kinder.
But back to the West End. I often find during these sort of evenings that the complete change in scene – music, lights etc allows your mind to wander and mine did a bit of reflection on the number of people I know who have had some form of career disruption over the last 6 months. Well into double digits. Everyone a good person, working hard, delivering results, committed to their role and the company where they worked but this downturn has been like a tidal wave. Sweeping people away.
On the plus side everyone of them are fighters who have bounced back quickly. Some are in new roles already and many are taking this opportunity to change direction and emphasis. They will emerge in a much better place.
On this stage and the wider one the desert is survivable and that horay old maxim is a true one – what does not kill you, makes you stronger.
Since coming to London my favourite bar for both an after work drink in town and a place for meeting friends has been The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair.
It’s one of those venues for me which ‘ticks all of the boxes’. First and foremost great service and mixology – although I tend not to stray from my familiar friends the Aviation and the Gibson.
Secondly, it has an inner sanctum feel to it. You have to wind your way through the hotel lobby, the Tea Room (which serves an excellent afternoon tea) and then into the cool confines of the bar.
Thirdly, like other hotel bars it attracts a great combination of resident, visitor, business type, tourist, young, old. So the vibe is always balanced.
The only downside is you have to negotiate the iconic boutiques of Mayfair without spending on the way to and from the Bar !
….it’s sordid, exhausting and is being conducted in coffee shops. It leaves me feeling overstimulated and with no time for anything else.
And who are the other parties in this reprehensible activity ? Apostrophe and Le Pain Quotidien. It was inevitable really. A love of coffee and free wi-fi and an environment to digest the dailies, the weeklies, the monthlies and now since this new Belgian mistress arrived on the scene I have a choice.
So how am I conducting this affair. Well I now have to get up earlier on a Saturday so I can have 2 large lattes (still getting used to having it in a bowl bigger than most New York apartment bath tubs !), a boiled egg and toast in Le Pain. Then I sneak into Apostrophe (a little later than usual) for another large latte but with no food. The lack of food ordering is raising suspicions – I know it is.
So why keep going back to Apostrophe ? Well the servers have warmer smiles, the coffee is excellent and they have newspapers aplenty. But it’s also a sense of good old fashioned loyalty AND I get my card stamped for a free coffee every 10 visits.
When I finish this I am going to lie down. My pulse is racing through too much caffeine. Who knew conducting an affair could be quite so exhausting or so rewarding ?
It’s the Oxford v Cambridge bost race on The Thames this Sunday so it was apt that I got the chance to lunch again at my favourite London Resturant – River Cafe, which sits at Thames Wharf Studios, close to Hammersmith.
This resturant never fails to deliver. It’s calming hues of blue throughout, natural light and an amazing woodburning over and very open kitchen match the fresh Italian themed menu perfectly. Nothing remains constant on the menu from one visit to the next – other than the high standards and the staff; they seem to do a great job fostering as much loyalty from their staff as their customer base.
It’s one of those places that attracts a very diverse crowd and that makes for some great people watching, if you can tear yourself away from the food in front of you and the people at your table – I’ve always been lucky to be dining with a stimulating group !
So after much hoopla Starbucks Via Ready Brew has arrived on British shores. I posted about this a few weeks ago. Quite an effective launch. Howard Schultz touring the tv studios, an out of home advertising campaign in West London and strong signage in Starbucks stores.
I bought the two offerings: Italian Roast and Columbia (anything to delay making my netbook decision) and settled down at home to try them.
I was impressed with both and certainly the way they are packaged means that a half decent cup of coffee is now always within reach. I’m just not sure that’s enough for Howard and the gang at Pike Place.
Via remains a relatively expensive way to have a cup of instant coffee – that’s what it boils down to and my original comments stand.
On the way home this evening I noticed a new branch of Le Pain Quotidien is opening tomorrow on Notting Hill Gate. It did not look very close to opening at 7.56pm but they have 11 hours to go and I remember a summer spent opening car and bike accessory superstores around Scotland and we always made it – just !
Anyway I digress.
I always laugh inwardly when I see one of these outlets following a much anticipated visit to see an old friend in Brussels. He is an old hand when it comes to welcoming visitors and he raved about this “quaint little bakery where everyone sits at communinal wooden tables”. When we arrived I did not have the heart to tell him that I knew this “little bakery” well from the branch at 17th and 7th in Manhattan !!
My act must have been very convincing because my host bought me a branded mug and plate since I had enjoyed my breakfast there so much.
Some call it oppressive globalization – I just like to think that my lingering Saturday coffee routine just got another option.
The French have some great expressions and the one which covers the great British pursuit of window shopping translates as “window licking”. This afternoon I paid my second visit to Westfield Shopping Mall (it opened just before Christmas). It’s the biggest indoor shopping centre in a city centre in Europe and to be fair is tastefully done – well as tasteful as a shopping mall can be !
ON OPENING DAY
As you would expect on a Saturday afternoon it was fairly busy. Not neccessairly with people buying although the jewelley stores were all doing some business in anticpation of Valentine’s day. But most retail staff looked anxious as people milled around not looking at anything in particular.
There was one exception. The Champagne bar opposite the, yet to open, Louis Vuitton store, it was crowded – every stool taken and people standing. I suppose licking windows is thirsty work.