City Views: A Walk in the Clouds at Garden at 120

Nicole T Raleigh

For a while there in February it seemed like spring might very well have sprung. The brollies could actually have a break for a few days; the rainproof coat a rest upon the rack. Nonetheless, though March may have swung us determinedly back into a more apt wintry chill – replete with the rain and bluster garnered upon us most recently by Storm Freya – it is through dreams that we continue along the quotidian path, day in and day out. And what more warming dream is there when sat at one’s desk than the image of summer, strolling through a roof top terrace with a view and resplendent with plants, luxuriating in the sun-kissed touch of light only lofty heights can offer?

Well, take heart: such a dream doesn’t involve any pricey trip to the Continent, but rather has come into existence fifteen floors above ground level at One Fen Court, “a building of a hundred views”. Open to the public and completely free, Garden at 120 is accessible via lift to those who want to walk about away from the usual humdrum, pedestrian crowded pavement pounding at 120 Fenchurch Street. With 450,000 commuting into the City every day for work, this is sure to be a very successful garden sanctuary indeed.

The new HQ of Generali, the Italian insurance group, One Fen Court was designed by Eric Parry Architects and sits midway between the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie. The Garden at 120 rests at the peak of One Fen Court and its approximate 3,000 sq. ft. were landscaped by the German company Latz + Partners. Its vista stretches to London Bridge and Canary Wharf, as well as the across river Shard, of course.

As far as gardens go, the Garden at 120 offers the expected peaceful ambience, the effect of “neatly trimmed hedges, wildflower patches, and tranquil water features” brought together with a statement piece metal pavilion which, come summer, will be adorned by the sweet pungent bloom of Wisteria. Who needs an escape to the Home Counties when the glory of Shire gardens can be enjoyed in the heart of the City?

Currently open weekdays between 10am and 6.3opm, summer times come into effect as of 1st April, when you can head up to these landscaped heights until 9pm each day. Weekend opening hours are also being trialled, from 10am to 5pm.

Of course, you probably know what comes next… Yep, you guessed it: being as this location is at the epicentre of City dining, a new restaurant is set to appear in the none-too-distant future on the level beneath Garden at 120, the venue offering near 8,000 sq. ft. of space to work with in hospitality and top-notch gastronomic manner. So stretch those dreams of wandering en plein air to the working up of an appetite for afterwards, too – but do head along for the simple joy of the open air experience now as well! Trust us: it’s worth it.

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Ahoy! Music Nights in the City: Mrs Fogg’s Shines Out this February

Nicole T Raleigh

Everyone likes a bit of music. The taste in genre might vary (greatly, in some cases), but the background comfort of a tune is incomparable when a glass is in hand and favoured companions sat close by, conversation flowing and the evening whiling away pleasurably deep into the night… Never more so than when that music is live and the venue is hot. This is something Mrs Fogg’s has cottoned onto, its Broadgate Circle address recently announcing a new twice-weekly music night.

If you were unaware of Mrs Fogg’s up until now, it’s located in the heart of the City (Liverpool Street to be precise) and is inspired by Mr Fogg’s better half – his Indian wife, Aouda. If you didn’t know Mr Fogg’s either, then we’re here to help: it’s a series of bars replete in décor harking back to the Victorian era. Think opulence; think very nice indeed.

‘Below Deck at Mrs Fogg’s Maritime Club’ is a basement setting (“on the SS Rangoon Below Deck”, tucked into The Engine Room and Distillery) operating from the very specific time of 6.01pm on Thursday and Friday evenings, with the live entertainment starting at the equally on-the-dot time of 7.31pm. For those who love the ‘speakeasy’ vibe, why not join the Crew wreaking ‘havoc’ and go on an evening’s, ahem, adventure? Parties amounting to ten or more people are advised to contact the “Stowaways” in order to sort out the details of such a special booking beforehand (of course).

Nonetheless, if perhaps Mrs Fogg’s doesn’t sound quite your style, rest assured that other venues in the City have known for a very long time that live music nights are quite the appealing thing for its hard-working folk who want to wind down of an evening.

Sky Garden – yes, the one with the view – is another such establishment. Mrs Fogg’s locative opposite, rise from the bowels of the earth to the lofty skies for aural pleasure in this high end (pardon the pun) bar. With live DJ sets Thursday through Saturday, go along for a truly tasty cocktail and London music scene beats. Be aware that the Sky Garden is a naturally ventilated venue, so although there have been climatic hints at Spring the last week or so, a coat should be taken still.

Otherwise, for Jazz lovers there’s the option of the lovely Oriole Bar. Each night there is live music from 9pm, in two sets of 45 minutes each, with a third Late Set occurring on a Friday and Saturday night at 11.30pm. Music is free to listen to Sunday through Tuesday nights, £5 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and £8 Fridays and Saturdays. This cover charge is paid to the performers (which, frankly, is fair enough!).

If none of these suit, then you could always try The Bootlegger in Aldgate. Not to be sniffed at, The Compilations, The Cash Cows, and Ruby and the Duke are the current established live music acts – all of which are sure to get you in the mood for a good, cathartic dance. Something for everyone (the intriguing #illicit tunes of the first, the cover of Bob Dylan and Beyoncé from CC’s guitar and Double Bass act, to the harking back to the era of the flapper) – music nights in the City, no matter the venue, are never boring.

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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).