London Lights at Night

River Lights

Late at night, the city looks different.

Silent Night

Lights flick in and out of focus on the horizon.

Squiggly Lights

Street lamps cast an eerie glow around the silhouette of another person walking in front of you.

Thames at Night

There is stillness everywhere, except along the roads where the city moves on.

Prince Albert Bridge

Reflections, colourful long streaks, plunge into the Thames along the shore.

Coffee

Faded pale backgrounds blur into spots hanging in the sky like fairy lights.

Dancing Night Lights

It is silent but for the distant music, shouts and laughter from a party boat floating by, sinking slowly under the bridge and into the night.

Christmas Lights at Night

There are no stars in this part of London, but you can at least see the bright moon.

Spider Crawling on the Moon

Listen to a Londoner: Natalie Lester

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Natalie Lester

Natalie has a BA in English, BSc in geography and MA in publishing; She loves English literature and her outlet is writing. Her favourite gelato is found in London at Gelato Mia in Notting Hill (dark chocolate and Biscotto). She loves the theatre and when she was younger, wanted to be Christine in Phantom.

LLO: How long have you been in London, where did you come from originally and what brought you here?
NL: I’ve been in London for a little more than a year – I just finished my MA in publishing at UCL…turned in my dissertation in September so here’s hoping for the best! I grew up in Idaho (in the US) and during my undergrad I did a study abroad in London. Ever since I have been planning to come back. In my opinion everyone should live in London for at least a little bit!

LLO: What’s your favourite way to pass a Saturday afternoon in London?
NL: Nothing beats the markets in London on a Saturday. I live right next to Regent’s Canal (Little Venice) and you can easily walk along the canal to Camden Market. If you go early enough then usually you are the only one along the canal and you get to breathe in the crisp air all by yourself. On my way to Camden I sometimes take a detour into Regent’s Park with my book… but I always make sure I get to Camden for my favourite treat in London – Chocolate covered strawberries and pineapple on a banana leaf!

LLO: Where is your favourite place to pick up an American treat if you’re craving something from home?
NL: One time I was in desperate need of some Root Beer and happened to be in the Leicester Square area so I had to pop into Ed’s Diner and pay a ridiculous price for a can of some A&W…it was worth it!

LLO: Which part of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best part about it?
NL: Well, I live on Edgware Road, which is pretty central London, so probably that area and then the Regent’s Canal area I was talking about earlier. London is great for its diversity and there is no better place to see this than Edgware Road with its plethora of Middle Eastern restaurants. And while the rest of London seems to close ridiculously early, you can venture onto Edgware at midnight and it still has the liveliness of midday.

LLO: If I told you I would be in London for one night only and wanted to get off the tourist trail, where would you send me to eat and drink?
NL: Ok, maybe this is still a bit touristy, but you can’t beat their chicken and leek pie at Doggetts Pub. It is right on the southbank by Blackfriar’s Bridge and if you want a nice meal you can go up top to the restaurant and sit by the window and watch London light up at night.

LLO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an expat in London?
NL: Maybe this is a lame challenge to have, but I miss my clothes dryer every day! Jeans just don’t fit the same here with nothing to dry them back into shape. Like I said, lame, but other than that…oh, and trying to find a frozen turkey at Thanksgiving (an adventure that ended with my flatmate and I carrying a frozen turkey in our arms for 45 minutes on our walk back from Camden). Other than those two things I have very few complaints about London.

LLO: Tell us about a favourite London memory that could only have happened in London.
NL: Keeping on the Thanksgiving theme, last year my flatmate and I were hosting a Thanksgiving party for a lot of people and we had purchased two turkeys. Somehow we forgot that this wasn’t America and not only did we not have room for them in our fridge, but we didn’t have two ovens. On Thanksgiving day we rang up some friends that lived about 15 minutes away to ask if we could borrow their oven. We ended up carrying the pre-cooked (but stuffed and seasoned) bird down the road and stuffed it into their oven which was even smaller than ours. Four hours later I picked up the bird—who was now full of juices and twice as heavy—and proceeded to walk down the very busy Edgware Road with a 20lb bird and turkey juice sloshing all over me everytime I placed a foot down! Surprisingly, after all that poor turkey had been through, and my arms shaking for about 20 minutes afterwards, Thanksgiving dinner never tasted so good!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
NL: My favourite place in all of London is one I discovered with my fiancé. He is a Londoner and loves to walk on the southbank by the London Eye at night when the trees have their blue lights. While we were sitting, gazing up at the Eye through a sea of blue, we noticed that there was a break in the hedge and on the opposite side of the trees was a park…with swings. Now, it isn’t like this playground is exactly hidden, but it is further back from the main southbank walkway and I had never noticed it before. We quickly climbed over the rest of the hedge and snuck into the playground to swing (my all-time favourite past-time). In front is a large tree, and when you swing at night you catch glimpses of the London Eye lights through the trees and it looks like the London sky is full of stars that you can almost touch. I think it is one of the most magical places in London.

LLO: What would you suggest if I asked you to plan a creative, off-the-wall or otherwise unique date in London?
NL: Saturday morning head down to Borough Market, bring your appetite! Spend the first little bit just wandering around the stalls and take advantage of the free samples. Then, just about midday choose something that either a) you can’t possibly resist or b) something that is really strange and you have never tried before. Don’t eat it yet, but walk to Shakespeare’s Globe and wait in line for the groundlings so that you are the first ones in. While you are waiting break open lunch and enjoy! When they open the gates make sure that you get front and centre and you can lean up against the stage! Enjoy!

LLO: If you move back to America in the future, what five things will you miss most about London?
NL: Where do I start, once you have lived in London it becomes a part of you and I think there will always be something that I miss. But, if I had to choose 5, I would have to say 1) waking up on a crisp Autumn morning, getting a Chocolate Milano at Café Nero and crunching through the leaves in Hyde Park; 2) Big Ben at night…it just looks so magical and everytime I see it at night I think that Peter Pan will come land on the hands of the clock at any moment; 3) Amazing fish and chips the the hole-in-the-wall chippies (they are always the best); 4) Christmas time in London, from the Harrod’s Christmas Parade to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park; 5) Low-tide on the Thames on the southbank skipping rocks.

Thanks Natalie!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.


Listen to a Londoner: Kerry Hiatt

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Kerry Hiatt

Writer, relationship guru, alfresco sex junkie and sometimes basset hound thief, Kerry Hiatt talks to The Little London Observationist.

LLO: As well as being signed with Penguin and plenty of other work, you’ve written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, LOOK and Psychologies and have made a freelance writing career work for you. Any dream clients?
KH: I have an amazing client list. I started writing for the national press when I was 18 and that had always been my dream. With every passing week there’s always another exciting client though. For example, this week, I’ve signed a contract to write a sexy, new board game.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
KH: You would think that I’d seen it all having lived here my whole life but that’s the most amazing thing about London, you can never see it all. One of the great things about editing www.getupandout.com is the plethora of new experiences we discover as a team. Just recently, I’ve tried out performing live stand up comedy, burlesque and zoo keeping in the city; all of which I would absolutely consider as a new career. Although, as my mother constantly reminds me, we’re from a family of travelers so if I were to do a career change, I’d likely end up working in a circus, which sort of combines all three doesn’t it?

LLO: You met your husband in Greenwich. Give us a great Greenwich date idea.
KH: Greenwich is so full of history and culture, I adore it. One of my favourite things to do is evening star gazing from The Royal Observatory. You snuggle up under blankets, sip hot chocolate and watch the incredible night sky. I spend most of my time trying to steal other peoples’ dogs in Greenwich Park though and Joe often has to come and drag me away. If he’d just let me have a basset hound it would save him a whole lot of trouble …

LLO: Your recent Time Out Magazine article on alfresco sex got a lot of attention. Can you share three of the best places to take it outdoors without getting caught?
KH: I love sex. It’s a very natural thing and people feeling inhibited is just silly. Having sex outdoors is a wonderful, primal feeling. Yes the article in Time Out caused a stir but I’ve also received tons of e-mails from couples who have tried it and loved it. As long as you’re safe and discreet of course. Greenwich Park has many a secluded spot to throw down a blanket, a bottle of wine and your three pack of Durex as does St. James Park by night. Personally, I’m keen on those occasional blacked out phone boxes you find around the city. If you see one, go for it.

LLO: As the editor of the newly launched site “Get Up and Out”, tell us what it’s all about and why we should visit immediately.
KH: www.getupandout.com is fab. It’s something that started off as a small blog because I just couldn’t fit all of the amazing date ideas I had into my features in Time Out. Within a month, it’s grown to huge proportions and we’re very proud. It encourages people to shrug off tired and traditional dating. You know, say au revoir to cruising along the River Thames by moonlight – everyone has done it already … twice. And those BOGOF cinema tickets for your local VUE? It’s dull. for a first or second date. Instead, we provide our readers with a plethora of quirk-a-licious date ideas as well as fashion, food and relationship advice. It’s very much a community blog.

LLO: Best thing about living in your postcode?
KH: Greenwich Market. I love how I can whiz over there on a Saturday morning, pick up freshly ground coffee beans (Jack Daniels flavour, natch), warm churros for breakfast and something completely original to wear for the evening. There’s something very special about the camaraderie of the market too. I’ve lived here on and off all my life so it’s lovely to walk into a bar and say hello to familiar faces.

LLO: One of your specialities is writing about relationships. Give us three favourite quirky date ideas for Londoners looking for something out of the ordinary.
KH: There are LOADS of things. Three of my favourites include The Italian Job Experience with smallcarBIGCITY, where you and your date don blue boiler suits, stash gold in the back of a mini and navigate your driver through the twisty backstreets of London to get away from the law. Circus Space also offer circus skills workshops for couples; juggling, unicycling and all that malarky. It’s so much fun, trust me. Simon Drake’s House of Magic is great for the ‘seen it done it’ type too. It’s a secret mansion house in London with haunted cellars, an enchanted garden, fortune tellers and magicians. He does occasionally public nights with drinks and dinner and they are crazy weird.

LLO: One of your loves is karaoke. Where’s the coolest karaoke bar round town?
KH: Without a doubt, it has to be Lucky Voice, which has venues in Soho and Islington. With its bubbly, Japanese kitsch party atmosphere, we often book a private karaoke room for two hours and invite friends down with us. The jukebox is easy to use (there’s even an ‘I’m Thirsty’ button, which sees your drink orders delivered at speed) and every room is equipped with a fancy dress box chock full of 70s sparkles, 80s mullets and, of course, the classic 90s shell suit. Perfect.

LLO: Give us a few ideas from recent book on your favourite childhood literary haunts around the capital.
KH: It’s still top secret but this city is a literary goldmine. Charles Dickens, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Harry Potter are just a few covered in the book.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you noticed most over the years? Anything you miss?
KH: London gets more and more exiting as the years roll by so I never feel too nostalgic. I do miss the old pie and mash shops that once littered the streets of the south; they seem to be disappearing. The only thing I truly miss though is busking with my Great Grandfather, Edwin. My family immigrated from Ireland after the war and he made his living by playing the accordion on the streets of London as well as other things. We would go to Portobello Market on Sundays and I’d sit on his case while he played. It’s one of the best memories to have. My love for London started young!

Thanks Kerry!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Luiz Hara

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Luiz Hara

Luiz’s London Foodie blog is a well known resource for Londoners looking for a range of delicious meal options, light snacks or unbeatable cocktails. He shares some of his favourites for different occasions for this week’s Listen to a Londoner.

LLO: How long have you lived in London? 
LH:
Since 1992, so 18 very happy years!

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog – The London Foodie. 
LH:
I started ‘The London Foodie’ in 2009 as a platform to express my gastronomic creativity (much suppressed in my current investment banking role) and my opinions on the London restaurants I visit, but most importantly to get to know and meet other London foodies out there.

It’s been a most rewarding project. Through The London Foodie I learnt about some amazing restaurants and supper clubs I wouldn’t otherwise have visited, met some like-minded people, and started The London Cooking Club at my home.

I eat out a lot and write about these experiences at The London Foodie. Readers can find my reviews by the restaurant index, or by cuisine or location.

My aim is to find restaurants serving outstanding food that will not break the bank, exploiting the full range of nationalities and cooking styles on offer in London.

LLO: How did you become so obsessed with food? 
LH:
Food was always part of our family – my parents were restaurateurs for a while, and my mother had her own Italian restaurant for many years in Brazil after their divorce.

My dad was also an accomplished cook, and would rustle up some fine meals for my three siblings and me when he wasn’t taking us out to some of his favourite restaurants in Sao Paulo. Through my dad I learnt a great deal about Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Syrian and other cuisines from a very early age.

My Japanese grandmother was also a great influence – she lived with us and wound spend her whole day finding the best fish, meat and vegetables in the street markets of Sao Paulo, and cooking the most delicious Japanese-Brazilian meals. When I think of fusion style cuisines I always recall my grandmother.

LLO: You were born in Brazil to Japanese and Italian parents. Where can we find the best Brazilian, Japanese and Italian food in London?
LH: Italian cooking, like Japanese, is all about top quality ingredients and these do not come cheaply. It is impossible to replicate these cuisines in the UK on the cheap, apart from pizza and certain types of pasta. For the best and most affordable pizze in London I would recommend Franco Manca, Rosso Pomodoro and Pizza East. The Riverside Cafe is undoubtedly one of the best Italian restaurants in London but also one of the most expensive.

Other than outstanding Japanese fine dining joints like Nobu and Zuma, an affordable and very authentic Japanese restaurant I love is Asakusa in Mornington Crescent. For top quality sushi without the price tag, Atariya Fishmongers and their small sushi outlet on James Street by Selfridges is also a must.

I have yet to find a good Brazilian restaurant in London. I am however very excited to hear that Jose Barattino of Hotel Emiliano in Sao Paulo will be cooking at Skylon on the Southbank for the Brazilian Festival throughout the summer 2010. The well thought out menu and his cooking showcase the best that Brazil can offer.

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to go off the beaten track, where would you send me to eat and drink?
LH:
There is nothing further from the beaten track than spending an evening eating at one of London’s supper clubs. The opportunity to go into someone’s home, share your table with some interesting Londoners for a fixed donation and bring your own wine is one not to be missed.

There are some amazing supper clubs I would very highly recommend like Fernandez and Leluu in Hackney for great atmosphere and food, Friday Food Club in Blackheath for the best British food in London, Cucina Cinzia in Fulham for really authentic and delicious Tuscan food outside Italy and LexEat! in Shoreditch for their sensational and no-fuss cooking.

LLO: I’m skint, but hungry for something tasty and don’t feel like cooking at home and don’t like chain restaurants. Where should I go?
LH:
There is a misconception that London restaurants are expensive, but due to intense competition and the multitude of cuisines found here, there are some great deals to be had.

I would head to Kingsland Road for some amazing and very affordable Vietnamese food, Song Que and Viet Grill being my favourites.

Along St Giles Street by Centre Point at a place now known as Little Seoul, there is a cluster of excellent value Korean restaurants that will not break the bank. Assa is one of these restaurants, and their lunch special with appetisers, main course and unlimited tea is priced at £5.

For European alternatives, Franco Manca, and its wonderful sourdough base pizza, is also very good value. Also worth a look are the many Turkish and Greek restaurants along Green Lanes with Antepliler being one of the best.

LLO: You just came back from a trip to Vietnam. Where can we get a taste of Vietnamese food in London?
LH:
Kingsland Road, also known as the Pho Mile, would be a good place to start. The best Vietnamese food in London however is not to be found at a restaurant – for a taste of authentic, fine dining Vietnamese cuisine, I would try and secure a space at Fernandez and Leluu for one of their Vietnamese evenings. At £35 for a six-course dinner and BYO, it is also excellent value.

LLO: Best restaurant for vegetarian options in London? 
LH:
My favourite vegetarian restaurant in London is Mildreds on Lexington Street. The quality of ingredients used is always high, it is reasonably priced and with a casual and cosy feel about it which I like very much.

LLO: My boyfriend and I want to go out for a romantic dinner followed by drinks. Where would you send us?
LH:
Skylon, on the first floor of The Royal Festival Hall, is one of the most romantic and glamorous restaurants in London. Chef Jose Barattino is serving 2 & 3 course menus priced at £22 & £25 respectively. The views of the Thames are fantastic and the cocktails second to none.

I would then go for a leisurely stroll along the Southbank towards the Oxo Tower, and up to the top floor for a glass of Champagne at the Oxo Tower Bar.

LLO: What’s the best restaurant in your postcode?
LH:
I live in Islington N1. My favourite restaurant in this neighbourhood is Ottolenghi on Upper Street. I love the style of cooking, a mix of Italian and Palestinian – it is packed with exotic flavours and made from the freshest, best quality ingredients. I also love the big, beautiful platters of food on display, the concept of sharing tables and the opportunity to eat and share many small dishes.

Thanks Luiz!

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The Dock by the OXO Tower

Oxo Tower from Dock

When this dock by the OXO Tower is empty, it’s one of my favourite places to escape the chaos and crowds. I have brilliant memories of this dock from about six years ago when I did a work placement at Fleet Street Publications in the Sea Containers House nearby. I would eat my lunch here, bring a bottle of wine and a few friends after work or watch a romantic sunset like this one.

Sunset and Cranes

It’s a place of memories for a lot of other people as well, judging by the carvings along the rails.

Love Letters

[[On another note, Happy Birthday Colin!!]]