West London has always maintained a certain sense of style which tends to filter down to its venues, eateries and even cinema houses. Whether eating out or keeping abreast of design trends, it pays to explore the areas around Bayswater, Kensington and Notting Hill. Inspiration is never far away.

100% Design – Kensington Olympia
Although this event is mainly trade focused, the last day is open to the public and anyone with an interest in interior design quality and innovation will find plenty to see and do. Moving to a new venue in Kensington Olympia has allowed the show to stretch out a bit and make some layout adjustments and exhibitors and visitors alike are sure to feel the benefits.

The event is divided into Interiors, Workplace, Kitchen & Bathrooms and Design & Build, with a special focus on new product launches. Specially commissioned editorial hubs will be strategically placed around each section in order to arm visitors with as much prior information as they need. A series of talks and interactive shows will also contribute to the ever expanding knowledge base that 100% Design – now in its 20th year – is in the process of building.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Electric Cinema
Electric Cinema
Guy Ritchie has skilfully put together this slick homage to the mid 60s spy series of the same name. Henry Cavill and Arnie Hammer play the parts of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, two spies from opposing sides of the Iron Curtain who must put their ideological differences aside in order to battle a greater evil. Ritchie is careful not to play up the retro kitsch angle too much and stays well away from Austin Powers territory.

Cavill and Hammer are suave, debonair – but not so much as to detract from the plot. The Man from U.N.C.L.E moves along at a smart pace and builds up the action with some very 21st Century set pieces. Alicia Vikander plays the part of a beautiful, but tough, East German mechanic whose family also happen to hold the key to global security. The retro elegance of the Electric film house is the ideal setting in which to view this most stylish of movies.


Galicia – Portobello Road
Named after the rugged Atlantic coastal region of Spain, Galicia specialises in tapas, the small plates that look easy to make but take years to master. Seafood presented in the traditional Spanish style is a speciality in this cosy two-roomed hideout. Positioned at the spot where Portobello Road meets Goldbourne Road, Galicia is full of Spanish expats, trendy Notting Hill hipsters and enthusiastic regulars

Pullpo a la Gallega (octopus), bacalao (salt cod) and merluza a la Gallega (hake) are ever present regulars on the menu. There all cooked simply and quickly and garnishes are kept to a minimum as just some quality oil, sea salt and paprika will usually suffice. There’s a good choice of Riojas and a smaller selection of Galician white wines available. Authenticity can be overrated, but this little slice of north west Spain is the next best thing to being over there.


Proms in the Park – Hyde Park
Proms 2015
As the Proms became increasingly successful, the BBC realised that the venerable Royal Albert Hall is a bit too small to contain all the classical music enthusiasts that may want to take part in the grand finale. Proms in the Park has been the solution and it seems to have taken a life of its own. Hosted in Hyde Park, the outdoor event has a more inclusive vibe than the main programme and is definitely more family oriented.

This year, the “People’s Tenor”, Russell Watson will lead the crowds in some rousing patriotic songs as well showcasing his latest material. Evergreen family favourites, The Jacksons will be recalling the days when brother Michael was a teenybop sensation and Beverly Knight will be on hand to sprinkle some West End stardust on proceedings with excerpts from the Memphis musical.


Sinatra: The Man And His Music – London Palladium
Frank Sinatra, more or less, invented the modern pop vocalist. He knew that interpretation and communication are the elements that can supersede technique and throughout his life, he was a master at phrasing his words in order to impart more meaning and weight. In this lavish production that coincides with what would have been his 100th birthday, Sinatra is resurrected via treated video footage while a talented orchestra expertly belt out lush Nelson Riddle inspired accompaniments.

Jazz dancers, period sets and voice overs from Sinatra himself are all added to the mix in order to tell the story of one of last century’s most influential personalities. Supreme stylist, talented actor, industry bigwig and political activist: Sinatra did it all and then some. As his finger snapping comrade, Dean Martin so succinctly put it: This is Frank’s world – we’re all just livin’ in it.


Roofnic – Marble Arch

The name of this venue is a very 2015 mashup of “roof” and “picnic”. It has the air of a secret club, being accessed via a nondescript entrance door at the west end of Oxford Street. From there, a staircase leads up to the top of Marriott Hotel, Park Lane which is a good thing as these are the guys who are involved in the catering. The roof is a blaze of colourful flowers and vintage bar furniture which give the place a kind of “Our Man In Havana” vibe and it’s certainly nice to look down at the controlled chaos of the West End while sipping a daiquiri.

Signature cocktails include the Roofnic Swizzle – a subtle, yet explosive combo that uses antipodean vodka and passion fruit. Health nuts will like the Big Bang which is made up of carrot, pear, turmeric, ginger, spinach and matcha root. Roofnic is a great pit stop for the weary shopper and a great weekend hideaway. AstroTurf flooring makes bopping along to the chilled out beats almost as effortless as holding your glass out for a refill.


Smith & Wollensky’s- Covent Garden

This is a chophouse that sticks to the tried and trusted New York ethos of “let the meat do the talking”. Locating the perfect steak is a quest that many gastronauts take very seriously. Providence of the beef, ageing techniques and cooking methods all get taken into account and most major cities are host to a handful of restaurants that satisfy just about these most stringent of criteria. Smith & Wollensky’s is the latest in a long line of venues that lay claim to being the home of the perfect steak, having built up an impeccable reputation in the Big Apple which is no small feat, considering the fact that New Yorkers are not known for giving anyone an easy ride.

In this case, the hype is well justified as the prime rib available here knocks every London rival out of the park. If magnificent meat, dry aged and cooked to perfection is what your after, then Smith & Wollensky’s are set to deliver. This the chain’s first restaurant to be opened outside the U.S. which means that there’s a certain amount of expectation in the air. Concessions have been made to the British location in the form of slightly smaller cuts, Lobsters being sourced from Scotland instead of Maine and a more European wine list.


Trailer Happiness – Portobello Road
Trailer Happiness
Theres definitely a fine line between cosy and claustrophobic and Trailer Happiness gets this delicate balance just right. Situated in a basement just off the Portobello Road, this cocktail bar harks back to the days before gentrification when the area was a cultural touchstone for Londoners of West Indian descent. As a result, rum, rum-based cocktails and spicy bar snacks feature quite heavily on the menu, although there are many items that go beyond the Caribbean theme.

The decor features a lot of neon and mirrors, effortlessly conjuring up a distinct 80s vibe, but that’s no bad thing as the music also draws heavily from that era. Bar staff are friendly, helpful and full of enthusiasm for all things rum so don’t be surprised if your roped in to an impromptu tasting session! The jerk chicken burger with cassava chips and banana ketchup comes highly recommended and is the ideal way to kick-start an evening of rum connoisseurship. Dr Fang, Yellow Belly and Dark ‘n’ Stormy may sound like comic book villains, but they are actually types of rum – each with their own characteristic flavour and kick.


Bubba Gump Shrimp Co – Piccadilly
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co
Themed restaurants can be a risk to both entrepreneur and customer as failure to enter the spirit of things on either leads to embarrassment on both sides, no matter how good the food. When the theme is based on a famous film, the line between inspiration and incoherence is even more indistinct, so it’s a relief to know that there are still places with the nerve to pull it off. Bubba Gump takes its theme from the fictional shrimp business formed by Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump. Seafood is fresh, plentiful and cooked with an American-style fervour which seems to be a big hit with hungry West End diners.

The word “shrimp” can be deceiving because in U.S. terminology, this indicates big, juicy prawns. These beauties are prepared with deft precision, laced with just the right amount of seasoning and fully deserve the title: “Shrimpers Net Catch”. Prawns pop up again in the excellent Jambalaya and once again the seasoning is spot on. Staff are bright, friendly and engaging, making Bubba Gump the ideal pre-club hangout.


Gypsy – Savoy Theatre
Gypsy is a musical loosely based on the early life of Gypsy Rose Lee, the (in)famous exotic dancer who once had ambitions to be a serious actress. The fact that she drifted into the seedier side of the trade was down to her mother, a template that all overbearing “show biz moms” seem to have followed ever since. Imelda Staunton plays, sings and dances the role of Mama Rose, revealing the barely suppressed mania that inhabits only the truly self-delusional.

To call Staunton a theatrical “Force of Nature” is to almost fall into show business cliche. Exuberant, focused and massively talented, she invests emotion and intelligence into every role given to her. Acclaimed lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, consented to this revival only on the condition that Staunton was available to star in it – she’s that good.


Wigmore Hall – Marylebone
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the makers of Bechstein pianos wanted to show off their instruments in the best way possible. With this in mind, they proceeded to build a concert venue that was in every way, as exquisite and as sonically rich as their best model. The fabulous acoustics achieved have ensured that Wigmore Hall continues to attract the brightest and the best practitioners of chamber, solo and early classical music.

This means that quality control is not a problem. Any lunchtime recital or evening concert is guaranteed to be richly rewarding and life-affirming. It’s not a place to take your smartphone as every rustle and creak can be heard. Musicians are instantly rewarded, however, as every arpeggio, chord and tonal variation is instantly reflected back to them, spurring them on to even more dazzling feats.


All Star Lanes – Bayswater
All Star Lanes seeks to reimagine the bowling experience by taking it back to its roots in 50s Americana. Gone is the over-reliance on digital technology, the indifferent food and the bored staff. Here, the emphasis is on vintage looks and an enthusiastic front-of-house team. There’s still plenty of computerised help with the score keeping should you need it but All Star Lanes hope that you’re having so much fun that you’ll forget whose winning.

There’s some modern touches to the menu as well with vegetarian options and up-to-date cocktails. Themed nights, guest DJs and children’s facilities are all indicative of the flexible, friendly approach that comes as a welcome change to a format that has, in recent times, become stale. Party bookings and private rooms are also available.


Royal China restaurant – Bayswater
The distinctive gold and black colour scheme of the Royal China is one of the informal landmarks of Bayswater. Pass through their doors and you’ll find yourself in a world of exceptional dim sum expertise. Special weekends are dedicated to this most addictive and communal of oriental delicacies and because of the no-bookings policy, it sometimes takes planning and a bit of persistence to get a seat.

Royal China get their dim sum just right and they have just the right combination of familiar presentation and surprise fillings. The stickiness of the rice and the delicacy of the seasonings are also spot on. Standout examples are: prawn and chive, pork and radish and fried mixed meat dumpling. Don’t forget your side dishes as too much indulgence could leave you queasy. Ho fun noodles and baked seafood rice come highly recommended.


Tangerine Cafe Bar – Knightsbridge
Millenium Hotels and Resorts

The Tangerine Cafe Bar is the ideal place to kick back and connect with loved ones in the heart of Knightsbridge. Located in the plush Millennium Hotel, this classy watering hole is where you’ll find serious shoppers catching their second wind over a cocktail or a coffee. Discerning tourists will find the light snacks and well thought out wine selection preferable to the mega-chains that populate the area and may want to use it as a cosy spot from which to plan their itineraries.

The modern European menu offers freshly made food, all made from locally sourced produce and is well priced and skilfully presented. Small plates, sandwiches and light desserts are all good options for those with neither the time or inclination for eating a three course lunch.


Searcys Champagne Bar – Westfield Shepherd’s Bush

If you’re spending the day purchasing luxury goods, then it stands to reason that any refreshment break should be as exclusively elegant as the items in your shopping bag. At Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, Gucci, Dior and Prada all come under one roof so the existence of a Searcys Champagne Bar right amongst them isn’t a surprise. There was a time when glamorous additions like these were tucked away in a discreet corner of the mall, but in these robustly confident times, drinking champagne cocktails in full view of other shoppers seems quite natural.

The open plan leather seating and ornate chandeliers provide an excellent environment from which to watch the world go by while enjoying a wide range of vintage fizz. Billecart-Salmon, Laurent Perrier and Piper Heidseick are among the prestigious brands sold here and can be bought by the glass or by the bottle. So if you need a few moments to reflect the wisdom of investing in that Louis Vuitton bag, spend those moments over a glass of bubbly at Searcys before taking the plunge.


Founders Arms – Bankside

A pub with a view is not an uncommon occurrence in London but a pub with one as a majestic as this is definitely worth a visit or two. Sited between Blackfriars Bridge and the Millennium foot crossing on the southern shore of the Thames, the Founders Arms is an ideal pit stop for those rambling along the South Bank. Visitors to the monolithic Tate Modern museum will also be able to obtain a welcome snack and a friendly pint before pressing on to the Globe theatre or the London Eye.

Those looking for more substantial fare will find a lot to choose from from the exhaustive lunch and brunch menus. Steak, fish & chips, and various pasta dishes are cooked and served with skill and efficiency leaving guests free to enjoy the unrivalled views of the City, St Paul’s and Tower Bridge. As the evenings close in, the atmosphere gets livelier as students, artists and City workers add to the social mingle.


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