Monthly Archives: January 2010

Chinatown…Land of the Sleeping Dragon?

Chinese New Year is on Feb 14 this year, and down in Chinatown the shops are already crammed full of kitsch curios in preparation for the main event.

Chinatowns are one of my favourite places to visit in any city, because they’re normally so vibrant and full of interesting things to see, so I decided to go and have a wander round London’s offering on Tuesday.

The gate to Chinatown

Chinatown’s main strip is along Gerrard Street, with a couple of smaller streets running off it.   Here you’ll find tons of Chinese restaurants, a medicine shop/apothecary and a couple of Chinese supermarkets, amongst other things.

The supermarkets themselves are definitely worth a look, with weird and wonderful fruit and veg on display outside, enticing you in to see what else is on offer.

Aisles full of noodles, tea and sweets are intermingled with freezers full of dim sum ready to be steamed, and crockery sets – mainly adorned with fish patterns – chopsticks and bamboo steamers.

Finding Gold

Head down some of the smaller streets and you’ll find large shops with plenty of things to go rummaging about in, including cheung-sams (traditional silk dresses), Chinese slippers, swords and everything you might need to celebrate the upcoming New Year celebrations.

Lions guarding Gerrard Street

Red and gold are very symbolic in China, so you’ll find gold cats waving their arms at you, Buddhas, and, as 2010 is the year of the Tiger, lots of red and gold soft tiger toys.  If you’re planning to go to the celebrations on Feb 21, stock up on firecrackers and paper dragon fans, and you’ll fit right in.

Feeling hungry?

There are over 75 restaurants in Chinatown, ranging from all-you-can-eats to fine dining.  For cheap fodder, sample the dim sum at the New World restaurant at 1 Gerrard Street, where carts of a variety of dumplings are brought to your table to choose from.

Chinese cuisine

Or try a few different things from the starter menu, such as spring rolls or pak choi.  There are a couple of stalls outside some of the shops selling food, which is another cheap option.

Chinatown is not for the fainthearted, though – be prepared to see roast duck and various other meats hanging in the windows of some of the restaurants!

Streets paved with gold?

Although London’s Chinatown is small compared to other cities (New York’s is like someone actually picked up a small piece of China and put it in the middle of Manhattan), it’s definitely worth a look if you’ve not been before. There are lots of interesting things to see and shops to explore, and of course the food is worth a trip in itself.

I will be heading to the Chinese New Year celebrations in a few weeks’ time, and would encourage you to head down for the parade as they’re always a fun, loud and vibrant place to see.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

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Filed under Central London, Local interest

British Music Experience

I went to the British Music Experience at the O2 yesterday afternoon.

It’s a museum documenting the rise of popular music from the 50s to the present day, and has a great display of original hand written lyrics, stage outfits from Petula Clark and Mick Jagger (to name a few) and other musical paraphernalia.

The place is really interactive, allowing you to learn how to play various musical instruments (I was taken back a few years by taking a drum lesson, which was quite fun considering I’ve not picked up a pair of sticks for about 7 years) and my friends and I had a good time playing on Beatles Rock Band.

Being a museum, there are obviously historical elements to the place, and you can learn about the different styles of music that have emerged over the decades, while songs of the era play out in each of the different rooms.

Virtual Karaoke

Your ticket can be used to access a lot of the interactive stuff, and you can save various things via the barcode, where you can access it later.  So if you want to hear a ‘fabulous’ rendition of Girls Aloud’s ‘Sound of the Underground’ when you’re back at home (*ahem*) you can get it off the BME website via a special code on your ticket.

The museum is quite interesting if you’re a music geek, like me.  But it’s probably more interesting for kids, because of the interactivity.  You could probably get round the place in about an hour and a half if you didn’t stop to play on all the instruments like we did, so for £15 it might not be the best value.

Still, if you go in the next week or two, here’s a good tip: Sky have a booth near the entrance to the O2, where they’re doing a promotion on their new 3D channel.  If you pop in there for 5 minutes, they’re giving away a 2 for 1 ticket to the BME.

Tickets: Adults £15, students/concessions £12

Nearest Tube: North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)

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Filed under Music, SE London

Mamma Mia!

The O2 is hosting a screening of Mamma Mia this weekend.

A sing-a-long version of the film will be shown on Sunday, January 24 on a specially made 100ft screen.

There are two screenings – 2:30pm and 6:30pm.

Tickets are £18 and can be bought from here, but those generous folk at the Evening Standard are doing a 2 for 1 ticket deal, which you can have a look at here (you have to sign up/register to the website in order to access this)

Fancy dress is welcomed, but optional!

Nearest Tube: North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)

You can also take the Thames Clipper to the O2.  For other modes of transport, click here.

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Filed under Arts, Music, SE London

Tuesday, Tuesday

Tuesdays.  Pretty boring, right?

Wrong.

Here are some free or very cheap ideas for an alternative Tuesday night…

Huw Stephens’ Introducing

Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens hosts a few of his favourite new bands for 2010.  Dimbleby & Capper, We Aeronauts and Dutch Uncles are playing at The Social on Little Great Portland Street (just off Great Portland Street). Huw and DJ Felson will be on DJ duties.

It’s FREE…doors are at 7pm.

B.I.N.G.O

Nearest Tube: Oxford Street

Rock’n’Roll Bingo

The Lexington has a rather good entertainment schedule (I’ve already mentioned Monday’s fun pub quiz on the radio show), and Tuesday’s play host to Lord Sinclair’s World Famous Rock’n’Roll Bingo.

Starts at 8:30pm and it’s £1 per person per game.

The Lexington is on Pentonville Road.  Nearest Tube: Kings Cross or Angel.

More New Music…

There’s a cheap gig at Monto’s Water Rats, with four new bands playing, including an American singer songwriter I saw in New York called Rachel Platten.

Doors are at 7pm and you can get tickets on the door for £6.

The venue’s on Gray’s Inn Road.  Nearest Tube: Kings Cross.

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Filed under Central London, Music, N London

Last chance for Ice Skating!

Happy New Year to you all, hope you had a great  holiday.

If you’re missing the festive spirit already, this week is the last chance to head down to the Natural History Museum and have a go at ice skating.

The rink is open 10am-10pm Monday to Friday and closes on Sunday, January 17th.  Weekend opening times are 8:45am – 10pm.

Adult tickets are £13, concessions £10.5o (off-peak only).  For more information click here.

The entrance to the museum showcases some of the brilliant architecture

While you’re there…

Why not check out the museum itself, which is free to look around (apart from some of the exhibitions – click here for more information)

On permanent display are dinosaurs, the history of the planet and mammals, amongst (lots of) other things.  The architecture of the fabulous building is worth looking at in itself.

Definitely a cheap way to spend time indoors during the cold snap.

Nearest Tube: South Kensington (District, Circle and Picadilly Lines)

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Filed under SW London