Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Tipsy Tea at Mr Foggs

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Mr Fogg's tipsy afternoon tea in Mayfair. Unfortunately for me, one of the perils of a full time job is that I can't just pop out for a few hours to drink cocktails and nibble on sandwiches on Friday afternoons, as much as I'd like to. Therefore, instead, I sent the first lady of our family- my mother. Here's what she had to say about it...

"In the winding backs of Bruton Lane, Mayfair, lay the doorway to Mr Fogg's quirky victoriana experience. The long bell is wrung, the door slowly opens outwards, careful not to knock the unaware off the step. Visitors are greeted by a tall, red waistcoated server who waves us inside with a friendly "welcome to Mr Fogg's." Inside, music drifts towards us, setting the scene. (For those who have timed their evening bar visit right, there's apparently live music later on, but we were on the recorded variety.) The walls are cluttered with travel memorabilia- conversation pieces, stuffed animals, hanging bicycles and hot air balloons. (Even the restrooms, I later discovered, echoed with story time of Mr Fogg's adventures!) Seating is of the low level leather buttoned variety with afternoon tea served on battered travel chests, although a few traditional table and chairs were scattered about. 

Then came the afternoon tea. Three gin cocktails, presented in teapots, were offered with names like '1840', 'Woburn Abbey' and 'Catherine of Braganza' (with a quality base of Tanqueray No TEN). The champagne offered, Ruinart, is an offering from the first champagne house established in 1729, perhaps a little less known than some of the more heavily marketed brands. Four novelty champagnes with names like 'Belvoir Castle'  were also available as cocktail bases. Mixers were presented in iced teapots with separate milk jugs containing either gin or champagne. The cocktail is taken in teacups poured according to taste. My favourite had to be the '5th Duke of Rutland', a concoction of Tatratea, cognac and angostura bitters, plus a kick of absinthe!

 A tired cake stand was full of sweet offerings and finger sandwiches, although the experience is less about the food and more about whimsy and drink. After all, the mirrored bar which stretched the whole length of the room was stuffed with quality boutique brands of alcoholic beverages. I could tell that sitting at the bar on an evening would be a whole new vibe!

This is a Friday/Saturday afternoon venture with a lively, quirky vibe and the odd unexpected surprise- keep an eye out roaming magician, Mr Singh!"

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Disney’s Cinderella: The Exhibition

Last night saw me fleeing work on the stroke of 6 like Cinderella running from the ball. The only difference was I was rushing to get somewhere, whilst she was running away. Well, and I was minus one charming prince, two glass slippers and a ball gown to die for, but that was all about to change- I was off to the free Cinderella exhibition in Leicester Square Gardens!

I’d first seen the exhibition advertised in Time Out and at that point excitement struck. Like many girls, I’m a big fan of ball dresses and anything sparkly so a chance to see the costumes used in the new Disney movie couldn’t be passed up! It probably took me all of 30 seconds to reach for my computer and book my time slot to go see the exhibition!

 Now, I guess it’s at this point I have to admit I haven’t actually seen the movie yet. I mean, of course I’ve seen the cartoon, but I haven’t got as far as the local cinema to see how they’ve transformed it into a production using real people (and mice?). But this didn’t stop me being any less enthusiastic about the whole thing.
 When I arrived, I was whisked  swiftly through a marquee entrance into a small room filled with beautiful illustrations, posters and memorabilia. It turned out that these illustrations were from the Disney archive, used in the production of the old cartoon and had never been seen by the public before! I thought they were really beautiful and it was interesting to recognise scenes from the cartoon.

 We were then introduced to Cinder’s evil step mother and step sister (or their dresses at least!) before walking through to Cinderella’s cellar home and her everyday work dress. The detail on all the dresses was beautiful. We were told how the step sisters’ dresses were covered in hand painted flowers and the step-mother’s was green to represent the jealousy she had for Cinders.

 The next room was dedicated to the Fairy Godmother. Her dresses were nestled in a pumpkin patch, all centred around a particularly large pumpkin encased in a glass house... Her dresses were also amazing- one (the one she wears when she’s disguised as an old crone) had a much more earthy feel to it whereas the other was a sparkling affair, suitable for the most regal of fairies!  The attention to detail was just stunning and the dress practically glowed it was covered in so many Swarovski crystals! 

I walked through the pumpkin and turned to see it had transformed into a magnificent golden carriage. Suddenly, it looked like I would be going to the ball!

The penultimate room held the dress I couldn’t wait to see- Cinderella’s iconic blue ball gown! It sparkled as she danced with the prince, surrounded by dresses inspired by countries from around the world (all equally beautiful, if not as show stopping). Cinders’ dress really was stunning and I just wish I could have tried it on!

Then, something caught my eye- a real life glass slipper! Well, Swarovski crystal slipper to be exact. All £20,000 pounds worth of sparkly shoe sparkled and glittered as it rotated inside its case, throwing beams of colourful light around the room. It was just stunning, although I imagine really rather hard to wear! But who cares- with shoes like that, I’m sure I’d demand someone carried me everywhere anyway!

In the final room of the exhibition, I got a chance to try on the shoe. Well okay, not the real one but a virtual one. Better than nothing though!

The whole exhibition, although quick to get around, was beautifully put together and totally magical. It thoroughly brought the fairy tale to life and definitely fulfilled its duty at stirring up excitement about the new film. If I had previously planned on missing it, I can assure you I won’t now!

If you’re interested in visiting the exhibition, book yourself some tickets on Ticketmaster. They’re free but just give you a time slot to visit. Don’t worry thought if they’re sold out etc- I saw people queuing outside and being allowed in and I also turned up before my slot and was allowed in early, although admittedly this may have been because it was a rainy weeknight! Worth a shot though!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Cocktails at Kingly Court's Cahoots!

We clattered down the narrow staircase, following the sign to the ticket office. A smartly dressed ticket officer in a double breasted blue coat and flat cap greeted us. “The train tonight is full Madam, unless of course, you were looking for something else..?” We were handed our tickets and buzzed through a door, where we were directed ‘to the trains.’ We rounded a corner and ended up on the most lively platform I have ever seen. No, sorry, the tube hasn’t started hosting secret after hours parties- we were in Cahoots, London’s newest (and only) war-time tube themed bar!

 Cahoots has taken one of London’s old air raid shelters and turned it into something totally magical. Sand bags line some of the walls, while vintage posters, signs, tube maps and train paraphernalia cover the others. We sat on the southbound platform (others sat in a recreation of a 1940s train carriage!) while staff dashed around not only in costume, but also in character! The menu looked more like a collection of vintage newspaper clippings, each page different, while the cocktails were themed with some rousing names such as ‘give peas a chance’ or named after stars of the ‘40s!

The cocktails were all tasty and presented beautifully. Mine came in a pretty crystal champagne flute, decorated with an apple crisp and a skewered blackberry. Another came in a tin mug (white with a blue rim of course!) and apparently you can even get one which is served in a working clock! We were also given a tin proclaiming to contain baking soda but instead was filled with popcorn, and, much to our delight and surprise, we were later presented with two complimentary lunchboxes filled with mini sandwiches, crusts cut off and filled with classics such as cheese and pickle. Hey, nothing excites me quite like free food!

Cahoots was a lot of fun- there was so much going on around us that I had to leave my seat several times to go have a closer look at something I’d just noticed and I caught myself more than once just gazing around the bar, taking it all in! All in all, Cahoots is definitely worth a visit, but I’d recommend you book- rush hour seems to go on all night!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Starting Work in The City

In the last month, I have started what I consider to be my first proper job. Not the kind of job which you use to fill up your summer months or fund your latest spending spree, but one where I have to turn up by nine each morning and don’t leave until at least six. The kind of job I could end up doing for the rest of my working life. Now that’s a scary prospect!

As a twenty two year old, I have never been in the same place, as it were, for more than seven years. Primary school, secondary school and university have been my life, as I guess it has been for most other British kids in their early twenties. Every year, you know you’re ‘going up a level’ and moving forwards, but eventually that stops.

A fair bit of my schooling career has been building up to this. ‘You must get good GCSEs to go on to A levels, good A levels to get to uni and a good degree to get to work’ has pretty much been the haunting mantra that’s followed me and many of my peers since about the age of 14. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, not at all. It’s got me to where I am now and that’s brilliant. The only question is, what’s next?

Now, I’ve landed in the big wide world of work and suddenly the path forward isn't quite so clear. I’m expected to act like a fully-fledged adult and yet I still feel like a student. Suddenly, there are no obvious signposts or people telling me exactly what I have to do next. The main message seems to be ‘forge your own career’ but as someone who’s always been pushed off in the right direction, this abruptly feels like I’ve been dumped far out at sea with no sight of land and some idiot threw the compass overboard!

However, what I’ve learned over the last month is that things are not quite as hopeless as they first appear. For one, starting work is exciting. There are so many new people to meet and things to learn. If there’s one thing I have found it’s that you’ll be occupied. At times, everything can be a bit much, but as things slowly start to fall in place, everything makes sense. Information overload flattens out as you realise that all the many things you were told from on day one, you will use on day two, three and four until it’s like you’ve always known them. New language, faces and places quickly become familiar and the process of assimilating new stuff becomes quicker and easier. And people are willing to help (or at least point you in the direction of someone or something who can). You plunge in at the deep end but sooner or later, your feet connect with the sandy bottom.

I’ve not been working long, but I’m already feeling like I’m settling in. Future goals are appearing on the horizon and although the route to them is not nearly as clear cut as it is in education, there is a way forward.
So if you’re about to be in the same position as me, let me tell you a couple of things I’ve learnt- although I’m an analyst in a large consulting firm, I believe what I’m about to say will apply across the board. Firstly, ask questions. Everyone has advice from how you should conduct yourself on a day to day basis to what’s the best way forwards to you. The information is out there, it just takes a little legwork to track down the right person safeguarding it.  Secondly, take opportunities. Go for drinks with your team after work or to that optional breakfast meeting. You never know who you may meet or what opportunities may arise. Offer to help other people out- you will learn something and they’ll remember that you were helpful. Lastly, enjoy yourself. This is an exciting time and sooner or later, turning up for work every day will become run of the mill- make the most of it while it’s still shiny and new! Oh, and make sure you always have a good lunch- if things aren’t going quite your way in the morning, a tasty lunch will make things feel a whole lot better!