Category Archives: london

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Jak’s, Chelsea

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Jak’s is a sprawling underground club.  Having replaced the vast space that was ‘Public’ on Lots Road, that’s exactly what I assumed. Described by my sister as a ‘must-see, chilled underground bar’, I felt obliged to see for myself. The reality didn’t disappoint.

A completely unique concept, Jak’s is a treasure-trove of character.  Walking in is like stealing a peek into the Parisienne bohemia of the Moulin Rouge. Like peering down the kaleidoscope of an eclectic mind, one thing Jak’s is not is mainstream Kings Road chic. Second to the Walton Street branch in South Kensington, the Chelsea hideaway is much larger, more magical and feels like a well-kept secret known to few. Dim lighting illuminates earthy woods and rich leathers, vintage rocking horses and other circus-like trinkets – most un-yah.  

A jaw-dropping delicatessen runs the length of the main sitting area with gastronomical delights a-plenty. Whether you’re after a scrumptious array of pitta, humous and feta or zingy prawn kebabs, this is a feast fit for a prince. With a cocktail menu as long as your arm and old-school sofas in every direction, Jak’s is an escapist paradise you can really sink into.

One of its USPs is the juxtaposition of space and cosiness. Spanning the full breadth of the old club, you can choose from sitting in the vast lounge area, the candle-lit bar or the adjoining lounge with cosy seating hubs perfect for intimate catch-ups.

Despite its distinctively eclectic vibe, Jak’s maintains a refreshingly civilised ambience – something of a contrast to its more raucous predecessor. A wonderfully relaxed setting, it combines a sense of occasion with understated wow-factor. Big enough to dodge a wrong-un and intimate enough to woo a good-un, this would be a great venue for a first date – the visual extravaganza providing ice-breakers aplenty.

Open from 8am until late, with feasts for every palate, I really couldn’t rave more. The only note of caution would be to avoid eating here on a Saturday night. The club vibe awakens proper at the weekend and it’s fair to say that skimpy dresses, high heels and full-frontal cleavage merge less than seamlessly with a low-key evening meal… The knock-on effect is delayed service and slightly cool food.

That said, if you’d like a trip to the magical French capital but can’t quite stretch that far, this would be a pretty good second prize.


Address: 533B King’s Rd, London SW10 0TZ

Nearest tube: Parson Green/Fulham


Tel: 0207 751 4400

Capacity: 400 people

Free rental and wifi

El Pirate, Mayfair

This is a gem of a tapas restaurant not to be missed.  Located in the quiet back water of Down Street a stone’s throw from Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, the quintessentially English location belies this Spanish experience extraordinaire.

The buzzy restaurant and bar are full of character befitting the name (‘The Pirate’).  From the easy charm of the native waiters to the Mediterranean white wash walls and mouth-watering tapas, this is a slice of Spain you won’t forget.  Informal, inexpensive and above all authentic, El Pirate combines exquisite tapas and fine wine in a relaxed atmosphere.  The classics are there for the picking, providing a feast for the senses which is second to none – deep-fried squid, juicy chorizo, paella and tortilla to name but a few.  And with a set menu of 10 tapas dishes for £20.95,  El Pirate offers surprisingly good prices for such a swanky area.

There is a bespoke party room for up to 60 people with an offering of live music and two party menus (one is vegetarian) – ideal for larger parties and a great way to enjoy tapas.  With a whole raft of treats from meatballs and calamares to patatas bravas and pan-fried chicken for just £18.75 per person, this really is cracking value.

Reviews confirm the obvious with Nobu’s celebrity chef and restaurateur, Nobu Matsuhisa calling El Pirata “my favourite restaurant” and Brian May of Queen stating “El Pirata rocks!”

In the words of Gervaise Odell: “El Pirata offers me everything I look for in a restaurant. Fine food, excellent choice, comfortable surroundings, marvellous service and a bill at the end that doesn’t give me indigestion!”  I couldn’t agree more.

5-6 Down St, London W1J 7AQ
020 7491 3810

Review of ‘London’s Lost Jewels’

The Cheapside Hoard is a must-see for jewellery lovers and historians. The collection comprises the world’s largest cache of Elizabethan and early Stuart jewellery including rings, brooches and earrings in bright coloured gemstones and enamelled gold settings.  Read my review here.

The Winter’s Tale, The Royal Opera House

This is one for Shakespeare and ballet lovers.  Based on the well-known tragicomedy, The Winter’s Tale, the world premiere of the new full-length ballet by The Royal Opera House is a striking exposition of emotion.  Co-produced with the National Ballet of Canada, The Royal Opera House’s Artistic Associate, Christopher Wheeldon, captures the powerful themes of love, loss and reconciliation in dramatic fashion.  Classical tutus and traditional ballet are replaced with minimalist dress and modern choreography as a sterling cast of Royal Ballet Principals including Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson, Steven McRae and Sarah Lamb dance their magic.

The austerity of the opening Act sets the scene of forboding turmoil, with dancers silhouetted in black huddling against a background of sombre grey clouds.  Darkness and light are hinted at by the joviality of the next scene as Leontes and Pelixenes’ friendship from childhood to adulthood is neatly charted through compressed display – the two little boys who dance innocently together in red and green shirts shift seamlessly into grown men in more sophisticated pas de deux, wearing the crowns of their respective Kingdoms, Behomia and Sicilia.  Their closeness is cemented by the introduction of Leontes’ wife, Hermione with whom they both dance happily – lifting her with gaiety, their happiness is captured though carefree pirouettes and beautiful port de bras.

The shift in mood is dramatically evoked through aural and visual deviation, with playful musical tones giving way to the discordant as the lush tree-lined backdrop sheds its leaves in decay.  Leontes’ estrangement from Hermione and Pelixenes is cleverly portrayed through his withdrawal from the triangular symmetry of both men standing astride her, their hands placed tenderly on her pregnant belly.  His mental anguish is dramatically captured by his jerked balletic movements which see him bent-double against dissonant pluckings of the violin.  His fit-like spasms are all the more pointed against the softly lit Pelixenes and Hermione who remain bound in still visual closeness.  In contrast to Shakespeare’s text which evokes the irrationality of Leontes’ suspicion that Hermoine has committed adultery with Pelixenes, Hermione and Pelixenes’ physical proximity evokes sympathy for the fraught Leontes.

The play goes on to nimbly chart key events from the text – Pelixenes’ hushed departure, Hermione’s imprisonment and death, the birth and disposal of Perdita, her love affair with Florizel and their eventual union.  Notwithstanding its general originality, the final scene in which Paulina presents Leontes with the statue of his late wife could be more dramatic.  While the pale blue and white staging provides an ethereal backdrop to Hermione’s animation from statue to life form, the consequent pas de deux between Leontes and Hermione could be more glorious given the remarkable revelation that his wife, some 16 years dead, is in fact, alive.  That aside, Wheeldon’s ballet is a refreshing display of intense emotion, made all the more striking for its simplicity and modernity.

10 April – 8 May 2014
Tickets are still available – £9 to £81