Valentine’s Day in the City: Wonderfully Romantic and Unique Venues

Nicole T Raleigh

Ah, February… Deep in the heart (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) of winter – and what a winter it’s recently been! – and yet warm and toasty with… You guessed it: love. We are, of course, referring to Valentine’s Day (what else?) and its placement smack bang in the middle of this month. And if there’s a city more aptly placed to celebrate the bond between you and your significant other than London (be quiet for a second, Paris), then we’ve not heard of it. Replete with ideas for that special evening, One City has had a think and come up with the following list of absolutely wonderful and utterly romantic venues.


1. Bleeding Heart Bistro, Farringdon

We might have suggested the French Capital take a backseat for a moment while singing the praises of the City as the centre of romantic restaurants and wine bars, but we may very well have to bite our own tongue and admit that Bleeding Heart Bistro is absolutely quintessentially romantic French in both cuisine and atmosphere. Trust us, she’ll thank you. No more need be said.


2. Strut & Cluck, Spitalfields

For something a little unusual (and certainly for the meat lover in your life), perhaps satisfy more alimentary cravings on the night with a trip to Strut & Cluck – but only if you love Turkey, both the bird and the place. Minimalist in décor and lighting, and softened with sporadically placed living plants, the greenery adding a verdant touch of life, it’s all about what’s being consumed: “grilled drumsticks with pomegranate molasses; thighs with sweet potatoes & barberries; hand-pulled shawarma; charred escalope with za’atar; and house-smoked turkey pastrami on sourdough”. That’s not even mentioning, of course, the Wild Turkey bourbon…


3. Le Pont de la Tour, Tower Bridge

With food by Head Chef Orson Vergnaud, and with the availability of the special Lodge D’Amour for two to hide away in, Le Pont de la tour might be on the outer limits of the City, but the trip is oh so worth it, particularly if you both hanker after a particularly wintry night out with furs and snuggling to boot. Charming.


4. Oriole Bar, Smithfield Markets

For that little touch of magic, that element of mystery, and all under fabulously underplayed lighting, then Oriole Bar is the pick for you. Renowned for its “rhythmic, acoustic music from around the world: from the early Jazz of New Orleans’ red district and early international Swing Jazz to Brazilian Jazz, to 50’s Rhythm and Blues”, this Valentine’s Day is no different. Reservations are pretty much obligatory if you both want to ensconce yourself in the otherworldliness of global glass-encased curiosities whilst sipping on a superb cocktail (or two), eyes connected for that one heartbeat chink of glass on glass, and then… Sultry.


5. Victorian Bath House, Bishopsgate

Our personal favourite, the unique Camm & Hooper Victorian Bath House is incomparable. A subterranean night out, Grade II-listed and furnished as becomes the period, this is a sumptuous venue that lends itself perfectly to the subtly placed loving hand. Sheer indulgence. Originally built in 1895, it was originally – as the name suggests – a Turkish bath house. Now, replete with Victoriana, it’s niche, decadent, and simply divine. Valentine’s with a touch of class.

What’s On at The Guildhall Art Gallery: Seen and Heard

Nicole T Raleigh

The Guildhall Art Gallery, an ocular treasure in and of itself, is home to the City of London Corporation’s art collection, replete with Victorian art, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and – overall – a marvellous spread of representations of the capital, many of the collections bequested to the gallery.

Originally opened in 1886, but destroyed by bombing on “the longest night of the Blitz in 1941” (together with hundreds of pieces of art), the Guildhall Art Gallery as can be seen today began being rebuilt in 1995 and was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1999. The design of this new gallery was inspired by John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, painted between 1783 and 1791 – spanning as it does two floors (earning it the accolade of being one of the largest oil paintings to exist in Britain). To celebrate the gallery’s 15th anniversary in 2014, all paintings were rehung after £600,000 in renovation improvements.

Given its immediately obvious aesthetic appeal, it is no wonder that this venue frequently lends itself to evening drinks receptions and other events. On which topic, although the Guildhall Art Gallery regularly hosts late night talks on its permanent installations, visitors can enjoy a deeper insight into the works displayed through intermittent exhibits, inclusive of workshops from time to time. Needless to say, with a function room of 300 person maximum capacity, twilight dos are quite something here (both those run by the gallery itself and privately hired out), and are serviced by extensive facilities.

Currently, the installation not to be missed is Seen and Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame (on until 28th April; tickets £8 / concessions £6). Exhibiting 50 works showing the idealisation of the domestic landscape, wherein only contented children, sweet innocence, and a family life free from care existed, this nineteenth century artistic movement depicted a middle-class romanticism sought to overlay the real life poverty and hardships many were suffering at the time. Nonetheless, Seen and Heard includes also works of a darker nature, including Henry Herbert La Thangue’s The Man with the Scythe (a title explicative of its content, one might say).

In addition, this era saw an individualisation of figure of the child, perspective changing from the miniature adult to a smaller creature in need of especial care: that of a loving home. Expect to view works such as George Elgar Hicks’s The General Post Office, and also five or six paintings by Webster that are rarely on show at any one time.

Each Wednesday at 1pm a free talk will be taking place, conducted by curator Katherine Pearce. Further, there is planned a Victorian Valentine’s Late Night talk on 15th February (7pm-10pm, tickets £15/£12), inclusive of activities, drinks, and music.

Lastly, given the exhibition’s content, it is perhaps unsurprising that each second Saturday of the month under-12s may take an adult for free along to Seen and Heard, in the hopes of instilling in the next generation a due love of art.

London International Mime Festival 2019 at The Barbican

Nicole T Raleigh

Mime is so much more than the filmic stereotypical Frenchman in black leggings, a striped top and a beret, walking his hands across an invisible wall down a backstreet of Paris for fleeting touristic passers-by. Indeed, now in its 42nd year, the London International Mime Festival, running from the 15th January to 3rd February at The Barbican (and Sadler’s Wells also), proves through a veritable “spectrum of contemporary visual performance” just how much there is encapsulate within the word and under the term “mime”.

Bringing to audiences a quartet of theatre shows and a duo of cinematic screenings, this year’s London International Mime Festival promises to awe spectators with the full range of mimic craft. Indeed, the festival is renownedly successful that the first three performances of the run have unfortunately sold out (Les Antliaclastes: Waltz of the Hommelettes; the silent film The General (U) + live accompaniment by Guildhall Jazz Musicians; and Le Théâtre de L’Entrouvert: Anywhere). That said, the following still have tickets remaining:

1. Gecko: The Wedding

Running from 24th through 26th January at the Barbican Theatre, this a highly symbolic and intricately choreographed piece of mime is set to stun into applause those who manage to see it. Questioning the “union between state and individual”, between “community and the individual”, and led by Artistic Director Amit Lahav, Gecko’s nine-part ensemble goes from hopeful birth to spiritual and self-dislocation come from the maturation of experience in a business-like world, that climaxes to a revolutionary finale oh so tribal in its rhythms. Tickets between £16 and £28.

2. Peeping Tom: Father (Vader)

On from 30th January to 2nd February in the Barbican Theatre, Peeping Tom is essentially a portrait of ageing. Expertly balanced betwixt reality and fantasy, the choreography is said to be amazing. Possibly the most complex of elderly men to be discovered in a care home, scenes shift – or rather melt – from isolation to divinity, from ridicule to melancholia. This is an hallucinatory theatrical experience where lucidity becomes less and less as the performance progresses. Father is the first piece in a trilogy, Mother preceding its appearance at The Barbican last January, and 32 rue Vandenbranden picking up an Olivier back in 2015. Who said mime was a dying art? Tickets from £16 to £28.

3. He Who Gets Slapped (12A*) + live music by composer-pianist Taz Modi

Showing at 4pm on 3rd February in Barbican Cinema 1, this second of the two silent films is for those who like the strange and twisted. Ever had the most humiliating of days? Would you relive it again and again, day after day, in front of people paying for the pleasure? Well, that’s just what the protagonist does within this little silent filmic treat of emotional masochism! Scientist Paul Beaumont (played by Lon Chaney) has both his research and his wife stolen by his boss – and duly cracks. Transformed in to the clown HE, the title encapsulates the crux of his act. Think David Lynch, and enjoy. Tickets £12.50 (concessions available).

Keep Fit in 15 Minutes

Mandy Kaylin

Keith McNiven, founder of London based personal training company Right Path Fitness tells us how you can keep fit in just 15 minutes.

When you have a hectic lifestyle and a fast paced job, fitting in time to exercise can seem like an impossible dream. But just 15 minutes of exercises a day can be hugely beneficial to your health. The recommended amount of exercise per day is 30 minutes but studies have shown that 15 minutes of daily moderate exercise upped life expectancy by three years vs. inactivity. So if you can’t fit in 30 minutes, aim for 15 minutes of exercise. And you don’t even have to leave your office to do it!

1. The chair lift

This is an exercise you can do right in your office chair– just make sure it’s safe before you start! Hold onto the sides of the chair, elbows bent outwards, and put your legs out straight in front of you. When you are ready, straighten your arms and let your arms take your weight to lift your bottom out of the seat. Your body should now be in a nice downward sloping line with your feet lifted slightly off the floor. Keep your core engaged as you hold the movement for 60 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds and repeat.

2. The chair trio

For this exercise you need a chair without wheels that is strong enough to take your weight. You’re going to use the chair to do three exercises within 15 minutes. Start with tricep dips, holding on to the edge of the chair with arms straight and legs out straight in front of you, use your triceps to gently lower yourself down (don’t let your tummy sink) and back up. Do 15 reps. Next climb on and off the chair, alternating the starting leg each time. Do this 15 times. Then grab onto the edge of the chair for some mountain climbers. Start with tummy facing downwards and legs out straight behind you. Bring one leg in towards the chair and back, then the other leg as though you are climbing. Count 15 climbers. Then rest for 60 seconds and do the 3 exercises again, 60 more seconds rest and complete the trio of exercises for a final time.

3. Bosu ball squats

A Bosu ball is a handy piece of kit to keep under your desk, it looks a lot like a fit ball cut in half and can be used for improving your balance and stability. Squats are a brilliant exercise for strengthening and toning your lower body, and to add challenge, you’re going to do the squats whilst standing on the Bosu ball. Find your balance standing on the ball, and put your arms out in front of you. Slowly lower yourself down into a squat, keep your chin up and don’t hunch your back. Then slowly back up to standing. Challenge yourself to see how many squats you can do in 15 minutes. If you don’t have a Bosu ball, then just do the squats on the floor.

4. Floor trio

Even in a busy office, there is usually a bit of floor space to get your 15 minutes of exercise in. Your trio of floor exercises to do in a circuit are standard press ups, lying side hip raises and planks. Start with 15 standard press ups, then roll onto your side resting on one elbow with legs straight and stacked one on top of the other. Use your core to lift your hip off the floor and down again, never quite resting on the ground. Do this 15 times and switch to the other side. Then flip over to your tummy and hold the plank for 60 seconds. That’s one circuit. Rest for 60 seconds and do the whole trio again twice.

5. Resistance band stretches

This is another good one to do right at your desk whilst sitting down on a chair. Grab a resistance band and place in at mid-thigh level with thighs closed. Slowly open thighs and close again, continue for 60 seconds. Then move onto biceps. Put the band either under the leg of one chair so you can work one arm at a time, or if the band is long enough then put it under the chair so you can hold the band in each hand. Start with an extended arm (or arms) and curl in and out. Do 60 seconds of these. Finally, tie one band around an ankle and press the other end of the band under your foot. Extend the leg with the band outwards until it is fully stretched, and back to starting position.

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Winter Forest at Broadgate – Holiday in the City

Nicole T Raleigh

When the winter holidays come round, some people eagerly search online for a sun-seeker’s paradise package, daydreaming of sand and hot climate frolics; others revel in snow-covered possibilities in Scandinavia and like icy lands, almost tasting the pine on the air as they scroll through images worthy of National Geographic; and then some clever folk think, hold on a minute: few places surpass London and travel during the holidays is a bit of a hassle; why not makeover the City in quintessentially wintry ways? Why leave the capital at all this Christmas? And so it is that Broadgate’s Winter Forest was born.

If you think you know Broadgate Circle, then think again, as until 24th December a fine layer of festive cheer has been overlaid in the form of “300 snow-covered pine trees, twinkling lights and wood cabins”. If you’ve secretly been eyeing travel magazines for years, drooling over eye-wateringly expensive Lapland luxury stays, then why not reconfigure your thoughts more locally – you’ll still be able to enjoy hot butter rum cocktails under the warmth of a cosy blanket (particularly if you head to Mrs Fogg’s Winter Terrace).

Usually known for its “craft beer, botanical cocktails, cutting-edge workout spaces, sharing plates and street food”, Broadgate Circle is an ideal place to visit during December for that special blend of shopping (Links of London anyone?) and self-care (in all respects). And if you really feel you missed out on that winter sun escape you’d already been enjoying in your head at your work desk, and indeed find yourself a bit peckish to boot, then there’s always the Aussie-inspired Beany Green to try out for some tucker in the arvo this month.

Open seven days a week from 12 noon to 11pm (barring Sundays, when festivally minded action ends at 7pm), another winning feature of the Winter Forest is the wide breadth of live music it has on offer during December (up until 22nd). Further, each Wednesday will have carolling at – you guessed it – Mrs Fogg’s Winter Terrace, and Sundays will be offering seasonally apt craft classes (think wreaths; think even candles!). You might even be able to blend the two if you can carry a humming tune…

Speaking of Mrs Fogg’s Winter Terrace, until 10th December there is a chance to win a £200 bar tab thereat, together with a blow-dry or trim at Barber & Blow, with the further added goodie of a 45-minute treatment at The Body Balance Clinic. If you miss out on the grand prize, there are always festive quiz nights each Monday instead (and for all the glitz and glamour of wintry decorations, who doesn’t like a nice pub quiz?).

Do note also that there will, of course, be special visits from Father Christmas himself until 12th December, as well. Better be good, girls and boys…

Donations to Winter Forest go towards Centrepoint for the second year running, the charity which provides housing and support to young people, essential at this time of year.

#BroadgateWinter