Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Vogue 100 - A Century of Style

Just a quick blog today, as this is the last week of the Vogue 100: A Century of  Style exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and I thought you might like to grab a ticket before it closes.

This exhibition concentrates on the photography rather than the fashion itself and there are some stunning portraits in here. As you might expect, there are several designers featured - my favourites were these wonderful shots of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. 

Kate's meteoric rise is charted, from dewy-skinned teenage discovery to London Look icon, and there are of course the stalwarts of the supermodel generation - Claudia, Linda, Naomi, Cindy et al. 

My visit was last weekend, when shots of the other famous Kate had been hung (visible here through the arch) and which for me have a slightly retro, almost seventies feel. In the previous room, I particularly liked the striking intensity of this black and white portrait of a boxer.

The exhibition is set up in straightforward fashion, if you'll pardon the pun: it's in reverse chronological order by decade, so you go from current day back to the magazine's birth. There are plenty of the shots I associate with classic Vogue - impossibly beautiful women in impossibly glamorous clothes and/ or surroundings. To address the point raised in other reviews, do these offend my feminist sensibilities? Absolutely not. I might not have Christy Turlington's killer cheekbones or Linda Evangelista's endless legs, and my life largely does not involve standing semi-naked on deserted palm-fringed islands or hanging off the arm of a chiselled, tuxedo-clad man by a private pool with champagne glass in hand - but for me these images provide a harmless fantasy, a girls' version of a James Bond movie. They are escapist, not genuinely aspirational, and surely we all need to dream?

As you move onwards into the exhibition, and back into Vogue's history, you can see how the images reflect the mood of the eras; there is a wonderful portrait of Charlie Chaplin and some languid shots of intellectual and literary greats, as well as the post-war backdrops providing a visual summary of the age. 
In summary, Vogue 100 won't change your life, but it is an enjoyable and gently indulgent way to spend an hour or so, looking back at the cultural phenomenon that is Vogue. And FYI ladies, the gift shop is selling the fabulously long-lasting Lipstick Queen lipsticks, including the bizarre and wonderful green Frog Prince lipstick that changes colour on your lips, and some fab hair bands that this summer I'm wearing as festival type wristbands. 

Thanks for being there, Vogue - here's to the next 100 years. 

 Yours, fashionably late, 

Girl About Town xx

Monday, 2 May 2016

Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare

 The last time I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream, I was a groundling at the Globe; it was wonderful, an experience about as close to the original Shakespeare as you can get. Except, perhaps, for the version currently showing at the Leicester Square Theatre where one member of the cast - along with a sizeable proportion of the audience - is totally hammered. (There are two bars and you can take your drinks to your seats, so you can catch up before the show).

 The night we went, it was Lysander's turn. Inevitably my companion and I were wondering if he was genuinely drunk - the programme assures us that he was - but actually it is genius either way. The play is cropped to the scene in the woods with the four lovers - two eloping, two in pursuit, one in love with the wrong person, you remember Shakespeare - and mischievous spirit Puck, who thinks that what this situation really needs is a magic potion that will make them fall in love with the first person they see upon waking . . . what could possibly go wrong? Oh yes - half a bottle of rum and three cans of Special Brew.

 This isn't highbrow, sophisticated or sensible, but it is boozy, bawdy and boisterous, a cross between serious Shakespeare, panto, and a student house party at 2am. The ad-libs are fabulous, be it from the intoxicated actor or his fellow thesps trying to keep the play going in a vaguely recognisable direction. Audience interaction is encouraged (although I'm glad I wasn't the one with the bucket!). On the evening we were there, Lysander decided that it would be much more fun if they ditched the score for the fight scene and got the audience to sing the Game of Thrones theme tune instead. He was right, it was. 

The play runs until 11th June so grab yourself a ticket, support the production, have fun and be prepared to laugh - a lot - but as the t-shirt says, Always Enjoy Shakespeare Responsibly.

 Yours, with the teensiest of crushes on Puck,

Girl About Town xx


 The sure-footed Sethi siblings have done it again - in fact, this might just be my favourite so far.

 Hoppers brings Sri Lankan street food to Soho, serving a mix and match menu of snacks, curries, mains and desserts on the site of the much-missed Koya on Frith Street. The tiny venue has been unfussily kitted out with exposed wood and brickwork, casual groups of framed movie prints and carved masks, and a mixture of table and bar-style seating which helps create a relaxed but buzzy atmosphere.

The menu is varied, with a glossary of terms to help you identify the options and knowledgeable staff happy to guide your choices. The biggest problem is what to leave out; the food is affordable and filling, and so good that you keep picking for the sheer pleasure of it long after you are full (or is that just me?). 

Hoppers, like all the hot places in London at the moment, has a no-reservations policy; this means that you are going to get seated more quickly if you need a table for two than if you are in a larger group. The good news is that they have now introduced a wait system where you turn up, leave your name and mobile number and get put on the waiting list. You can then pootle off and wait in seated comfort in one of the many bars nearby (we whiled away the time over a pisco sour in Chotto Matte over the road, but feel free to differ) and track your progress on a site link they text to you. You also get a text when your table is available, and ten minutes to get back before they give it to the next in line - a perfect compromise.

Once you're in, staff will explain the menu if you're a newbie. For me, the don't-miss items from the short eats are the mutton rolls and the hot butter devilled shrimps; for a mere £4.50 you get two sizeable mutton rolls per portion, like chunkier spring rolls, and they are packed with full-flavoured spiced mutton, so maybe share with a friend to save room. The devilled shrimps can vary in size but are tender and in a wonderfully more-ish sauce. Mop this up with a podi dosa, a spiced, folded lentil pancake - and get a set of three fresh sambols or chutneys (£1.25 a set), just because you can. 

Next, the eponymous hopper - a bowl-shaped pancake made from fermented rice and coconut milk that is thin, delicate and wafer-crisp at the top, and softer, almost spongy at the base - particularly if you opt for the version with a lightly-cooked egg in it, which I heartily recommend that you do. Match this with one or two of the karis (or curries), one of which just has to be the black pork; for me this is probably their stand-out dish, with complex, balanced flavours and just the right amount of bite. It really is ridiculously good. 

From the larger dishes, I have only tried the spit chicken and, guess what? It was fabulous - like everything on the menu, singularly fresh and full of flavour. I am ashamed to say that I haven't yet made it to the dessert stage as I just can't resist the rest of the menu, but apparently they are also good. 

To drink, I would probably stick with the Sri Lankan lager; the wine comes in half bottles and is the only thing I have had here that I thought was less than fabulous - although to be fair, I'm not a big fan of wine with this kind of spice - but they will bring you some to taste if you're not sure. The Hoppers lemongrass-infused G&T is recommended, and I also want to try the black pepper cream soda at some point. . . oh dear, looks like I'll just have to go back. . . 

 Yours, seriously converted to Sri Lankan street eats,

Girl About Town xx