The Gallery, Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly, London

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This restaurant is quite modest in terms of décor, with its unvarnished tables and plain wooden floor, which in Fortnum and Mason terms is definitely understated. I have seen this listed as a low cost restaurant, but I couldn’t say that I agree with that description.  I suspect that you could get away with £25 per person if you were to choose the absolute cheapest starter and main course, but you couldn’t have a dessert or wine and you could certainly not drink tea.  I noticed that tea was £8 and while I have no doubt that it is lovely tea and will come in a pretty teapot, it is hardly economical.

However, the restaurant is attractive with a view over Jermyn Street out through the window and a view over the sweet displays when you look in towards the shop. Everything is very high quality, as you would expect; pretty menu, nice napkins, good cutlery and crockery. The service is excellent.

The food is lovely too, the ingredients are top notch and each dish is beautifully prepared and presented. The beef was perfectly cooked and the gravy was rich and indulgent. So, although this is not somewhere to go if you are on a tight budget, it does serve a great lunch and I recommend it if you feel like a treat.

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82 portraits and 1 still life, David Hockney, Royal Academy, 2016 London

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This exhibition is like a scientific experiment into the nature of portrait painting.

All the portraits are exactly the same size and shape. They are all full body portraits of a subject sitting in the same, yellow cushioned, wooden chair. They all have roughly the same, green and blue, background and each one was painted over the course of 3 days. They are all very recent – some only painted in February and March this year. There are 83 paintings crammed together in 3 small rooms, the walls painted in a matt magenta. A couple of people are pictured twice and one person three times over the course of the exhibition.

The individual portraits themselves are very good; Hockney is a fine portrait artist, but this is a single piece of work and it is seeing the whole exhibition as a unit that transforms this into an exceptional show. The uniformity of the portraits in terms of size, colour, and time, makes one notice the differences between them; the pose, the clothes, the gaze.

I don’t think of it as 83 individual pictures, I see it as one portrait of 83 individual sittings.

This is David Hockney at his best; confident, relaxed, colourful, witty and experimental.

I left very happy.

Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin) 2016

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Star Trek Beyond is a mixture of good and not so good.

Let’s get the worst out of the way first – the film is too long for the very flimsy story, 20 minutes could be cut, all of it from the battle near the start of the movie, which was predictable and repetitive. There are huge holes in the plot which are explained away by ridiculous technical gobbledygook, although some of this is done in a knowing, tongue-in-cheek way which at least makes it funny.

Humour is one of the good points of the film, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and it is the funniest of the franchise so far. The script is excellent, there are some really good lines and the resolution of the film is both clever and witty. The special effects and the acting are good. I really liked Sofia Boutella’s character.

We are now on the third film into the reboot series and we already know all the main crew members. This film develops and handles the relationships between these characters very well, and we really do care about them by the end of this movie. It is genuinely sad to think that Anton Yeltsin won’t be there if there is another in the franchise.

Even though this is not one of the best Star Trek films in terms of plot or storyline; it is one of the best for humour and character development, and I will certainly be coming back to see what happens to them in the next instalment.

The Hive, Kew Gardens, London, 2016

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The Hive is a work of art that has come to Kew Gardens for a visit form Milan. It is an interactive piece and it is unique in that it allows the visitor to interact with bees. These bees are in a hive somewhere else in the gardens and their activity alters the look and sound of the installation.

It is an impressive structure from the distance. As you approach, it looks a little like a huge rectangular swarm of bees hovering over the park. When you get closer, you can see and hear its vibrancy and as you walk inside, it hums, throbs and gently changes colour with 1000 LED lights flickering. The work also contains an area where you can put a lollipop like stick into your mouth in order to mimic the method of communication of bees.

The Hive is both informative and interesting. It is also strangely relaxing in the way it filters the light as you sit inside sheltering form the sun on a warm London day. I would recommend not to rush through the artwork, it repays time spent there. The summer wildflower meadow on the walk up is beautiful too.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate Modern, London, 2016

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Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate Modern is a very big exhibition. There are thirteen room filled with paintings from every period of her career and there are also some works by her friends and collaborators. It was a nice, unexpected bonus to see some Americana by Ansell Adams included in the show.

It is arranged mostly chronologically and with so many pieces on show, you can watch her style developing through the decades. The earliest pieces are from the 1910s and you can see a hint of the time in them. The 1920s pictures and the New York ones have the slightest art deco feel and her ability with colour is profound even from the earliest days.

The 1920s,1930s flower pictures are probably her most famous and they look so modern, vibrant and current even now that it is difficult to imagine how new they must have seemed 80 odd years ago.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s move to New Mexico brought another complete change of style. the only common factor being the inspired use of colour throughout. There are also series from the 1940s and 1950s where some are more minimalist in nature and others are figurative.

The latest pictures date from the 1960s and you can also see the times reflected here.

Initially, I thought that the entrance fee, around £16, was pretty steep for a single show. However, it is probably one of the largest shows that I have ever seen, you won’t really feel like seeing much else in the Tate Modern on the same day, and the quality of the paintings is such that, on balance, it is good value for money. There is also enough depth to the exhibition that you can really see the arc of her development as you walk round the show and it is very interesting to watch those changes over the course of such a long, talented career.

Into the Woods, Menier Chocolate Factory, London

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The Menier Chocolate Factory has a history of showing great productions of Sondheim musicals, so I went in with high expectations. This American troupe has transferred here, from off Broadway, having had runs in Princeton and San Diego before that.

They bring a stripped down, lo-fi interpretation of “Into the Woods” that is perfectly suited to the intimate surroundings of this theatre. The whole show, including music, is performed by 11 actors and musicians multitasking, with limited props and set changes. The resourcefulness of the company turn this into an asset and the simple setting allows one to notice new details in the lines and new depths in the characters. All of the players are great, but Andy Grotelueschen is fabulous as both the cow (!) and as Rapunzel’s prince. Patrick Mulrayn, who plays Jack, can belt out a tune too.

The set is quirky and funny, it looks like the inside of a piano reimagined as a Victorian dolls house. I particularly liked the piano keys surrounding the stage.

Shows from the Chocolate Factory often transfer to the West End, and this one surely deserves to, you don’t often see the whole audience stand to clap at the end of a show in London – but don’t wait until it does transfer before you go because this theatre is the  perfect setting for such a gem.

Jackson & Rye, Wardour Street, Soho, London

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This restaurant looks fantastic. When you step inside from the hectic lunchtime crowds on Wardour Street, it feels like you have walked into a vintage upscale diner in Midtown, New York. It has dark wood, leatherette banquettes, soft lighting and brass rails. The menu is high end American comfort food too – there is lots to choose from. The a-la-carte is relatively expensive, I guess we are right in the heart of Soho, but it has lunch and brunch special menus that look very good value.

The salt and pepper squid was great as a starter. We also had tomato soup which came lukewarm, but was delicious after we had it reheated. The hamburgers and fries were really good too – meaty and well cooked.

The cocktails were a bit more mixed in quality, the whiskey sour was not sour enough for me but the margarita was good and the martini excellent. It is a shame that they had no bottled beers that we had ever heard of on the menu and that the only draft beer was unfiltered.

The service was good and although we lingered over lunch, we were never rushed. All four of us enjoyed our lunch in Jackson & Rye and I would happily return.