February Finds

It is hard to believe another half-term is upon us — didn't we just get back from Christmas?
Luckily, London has it covered . . .

Chinese New Year (February 18 and beyond) — February 16th marked the kickoff of the Year of the Dog. Today, London boasts the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia. The parade complete with dragon and lion dances will start at Charing Cross Road at 10 am and go through the streets of Chinatown. From noon to 5 pm free activities will take place at: Trafalgar Square (main celebration), Charing Cross Road (talent and community), Leicester Square (family and children) and Shaftesbury Avenue (martial arts and cultural). The grand finale in Trafalgar Square will feature a fireworks display at 5:30 pm. In case you are not keen on the crowds, Chinatown restaurants will feature festive menus until March or checkout five places outside of Chinatown. 新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!

Climb Over O2 (50% off until February 25) — Up the O2 is really a climb over the roof of the O2 on a raised walkway. At the top, there's an observation platform with 360° views of London and its landmarks including Canary Wharf, Olympic Park and River Thames. You’ll also have a chance to star in your own movie with help of motion trackers. But hold on tight for the climb, which is 52 meters above ground level and reached via a fabric walkway.
www.theo2.co.uk+44 2074 071002
Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX

London Fashion Week Festival (February 22 - 25) — London Fashion Week (LFW) is one of the highest profile fashion events in the world and one of the ‘big four’ (New York, London, Milan and Paris). The event is limited to members of the press, buyers or if you are a celebrity. However, tickets for London Fashion Week Festival February 22-25, which follows directly from LFW, uses the same exhibition and catwalk venue. The event features expert talks, catwalk shows and a designer shopping event, including emerging to high profile designers. Orla Kiely will give a talk on February 23rd in advance of retrospective exhibit Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern at the Fashion & Textile Museum opening in May. 
The Store Studios, 180 The Strand, London WC2R

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Six Sweet Sensations

Worth sharing beyond Valentine's Day 

Balthazar (London) — Having only been to Balthazar for dinner, we were intrigued with the idea of having breakfast. They are known for kouign amann from the Britanny region of France. It is made of one-third dough, one-third butter and one-third sugar — no wonder I liked it instantly. The best comparison I can think of is it is the very best part of an almond croissant. To counter this delicacy, we had the Balthazar breakfast salad (avocado, bacon, egg, quinoa, spinach, tomatoes). We also ordered the cafe latte 'bowl' — large enough for two to share.
www.balthazarlondon.com/+44 2033 011155
4-6 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HZ

Ben's Cookies (Multiple) — Known for their chunks not chips philosophy, it is rare I pass by without taking a box of chewy cookies homes. What makes them delicious is that each shop bakes them on site and it is not unusual for them to be boxed up warm. In addition to the UK, they now have expanded to overseas locations, including Bangkok, Dubai, New York, Singapore and even South Korea.

The Hummingbird Bakery (Multiple) — Hummingbird Bakery bills itself as baking ‘authentic American cakes and desserts’. Indeed the portions are US sizes. They have huge cupcakes with black bottom, cookies and cream and red velvet varieties being family favorites. They also offer dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan cupcake varieties. Best of all you can have have them delivered to your door.

Konditor & Cook (Multiple) — Bakers to rock stars and royalty, Konditor & Cook are famous for their 'contemporary and witty cakes'. However, their decadent brownies are not to be missed. Our family favorites include: Boston (cranberry), Curly Whirly (vanilla cream cheese) and Fudgepacker (vanilla fudge with salted caramel). They claim to be the 'best brownies in London' and we agree! You can pick up four large squares for £10 at their shop or bake them at home following recipes from their cookbook, Konditor & Cook: Deservedly Legendary Baking.

Monty Bo Jangles Truffle Bar (Reigate) — A list would not be complete without mention of these award-winning French cocoa dusted truffles. A limited selection is available from local grocery stores, specialty shops and on-line. The full array can be found at their first and only retail shop and truffle bar in Reigate. The truffle sampler selection (choice of six) and crumpets drizzled with truffles are perfect for sharing.
www.montybojangles.com+44 2086 685261
57 High Street, Reigate, RH2 9AE

Udderlicious (Multiple) —When is the last time you walked by an ice cream shop in February and had to go in? This independent ice cream parlour* lets customers vote each month which 20+ flavours* are stocked in their freezers. As a bit of an ice cream-oholic, I can attest to the fact I haven't seen or tasted many of the unusual flavour combinations: builders tea and digestives, lychee and lemongrass, pomegranate and vodka, rhubarb and fig to name a few. Fortunately, you can taste before you buy and enjoy what you choose on a charming wooden swing — just right for two.

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Pancake Day

Known as Mardi Gras or 'Fat Tuesday' in the US

Pancake Day falls on Shrove Tuesday (February 13th), the day before Ash and the start of Lent (a period of 40 days of fasting). Traditionally, pancakes are an ideal way to use up fatty ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar.

In the UK, Pancake Day has grown in popularity and even features running in races in fancy dress* while flipping pancakes. Places to get your sweet or savory pancake fix, if 
you are more about eating versus racing:
  • Breakfast Club (Multiple)
  • Chiltern Firehouse (London)
  • Christopher's (London)
  • Crepeaffaire (Multiple)
  • The Delaunay (London)
  • Farm Girl Cafe (London)
  • The Original Maids of Honour (Kew)
  • Riding House Cafe (London)
Luckily, pancakes can be enjoyed year-round at these establishments!

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Dine like Harry Potter

Hogwarts type Great Hall for less

In 2015, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London —The Making of Harry Potter started offering themed dinners in Hogwarts Great Hall. These over-the-top events are usually priced beginning at £230/person and restricted to over 18s only.

An alternative option is Middle Temple Hall, an Elizabethan Hall reminiscent The Great Hall in Harry Potter. Built in 1570s, the historic hall survived the Great Fire of London and both World Wars. It features a stunning beamed ceiling, wood paneling along with beautiful paintings and stained glass windows. Located on the River Thames, The Hall and its surrounding courtyards and gardens are popular filming locations. Movie credits include Bridget Jones Baby, The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Sherlock Holmes.

A three-course self service lunch is served buffet style with hot and cold dishes, carvery and cooked to order dish of the day for £25/person.  For groups of 6+, a three-course served lunch can be arranged for £30/person.

Advance booking (children over 5 are welcome) and adherence to a dress code is required. Mobile phones may not be used in the Hall and photos are only allowed after members leave at 2 pm. If you are interested in learning more about Middle Temple Hall, consider booking a complimentary 45-minute tour (available weekdays at 10 am).

You'll just have to imagine candles floating in midair!

www.middletemplehall.org.uk+44 2074 274820
Middle Temple Lane, London EC4Y 9AT

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London Theatre Sale

Tickets starting at £10/seat for over 45 shows until February 9

With 35+ theatres in West End and another 120 off-West End, London's theatre scene rivals that of New York.  While you won't be able to get tickets for Hamilton, the annual 'Get into London Theatre' promotion includes other award-winning shows at affordable prices:

  • Aladdin — a Broadway hit and Tony Award winning musical
  • Dreamgirls — winner of two Olivier Awards
  • Kinky Boots — winner of three Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical
  • The Lion King — one of the most successful multi-award winning musicals of all-time
  • Mamma Mia!Olivier Award winner and 8th longest-running show in West End history
  • Matilda The Musical — winner of seven Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical (record for the most won by a musical)
  • The Play that Goes WrongOlivier Award winner for Best New Comedy
And this is just a handful of what is available.  Best of all there are no booking, postage or transaction fees for New Year Sale tickets — what you see is what you pay! 

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Best of 2017 — Part II

Top 5 posts

And now for the best of the best . . .

5. Downton Abbey Fans — Who knew that the historical period drama would become such an international hit? 
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/09/Downton Abbey Fans

4. Oldies but Goodies — Five of the oldest places to eat and drink in London that are still worth going to today.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/11/Oldies but Goodies

3. Christmas Markets — Visit three markets in under two hours without boarding a plane.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/12/Christmas Markets

2. Iconic London Shops — Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason located in Piccadilly is considered to be London's oldest department store.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/08/Iconic London Shops

1. Kids Week - Kids Go Free — Each year during the month of August, kids 16 and under go free with a full price paid adult ticket (and two additional children can go half price). www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/06/Kids Week Kids Go Free

That's a wrap for 2017. While Kids Week isn't until August, you don't have to wait until then to enjoy theatre discounts. Watch this space next week . . .

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Best of 2017

Top 10 posts — Part I

What better way to start the New Year than to take a look back at the top 10 posts from 2017. How many have you checked off?

10. London Light Trail — London is truly magical during the holidays — catch some of the best lights and decorations the capital has to offer.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/12/London Light Trail

9. 10 Bridges of London — Part I — As part of a weekly hiking group, we would take a break from the Surrey hills and hit the bridges of London.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/04/10 Bridges of London

8. Spirit of Christmas Fair — With each passing year, the signs of the holidays seem to arrive earlier and earlier.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/10/Spirit of Christmas Fair

7. Bonfire Night English Style — Bonfire Night (November 5) commemorates the anniversary of the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/11/Bonfire Night English Style

6. Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden — It is hard to put into words just how beautiful this garden in Ockley is. www.londonviasurrey.com/2017/07/Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

If you missed these, mark your diary to catch them in 2018. Best of 2017 - Part II will feature the top 5 posts from 2017.

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