Tuesday, January 24, 2017


You can never get enough of London, the buzzing atmosphere and non-stop entertainment put it squarely in any traveller’s itinerary. But sometimes London gives me too much choice. Do I eat or shop? Drink or watch a musical? And above all, where? So here I’m distilling London into a manageable set of places to love.
Luckily for me I occurred to fly from Delhi with Virgin Atlantic at a time when it is rejoicing 25 years of entertainment and for those who do not know Virgin Atlantic is the Virgin airline to familiarize inflight entertainment, hence this year they are revelling it with a period of film themed activity! In the shape up to being the authorized airline of the new Harry Potter movie Fantastic Beasts and where to find them clearly there were a few Harry potter film options on the entertainment system and I definitely made the most of it in my premium economy seat. I was equally charged up and excited to be attending a red carpet premiere at the London Film Festival of ‘Queen of Katwe’, a new Disney movie and attending the Festival’s Gala ball. All in all, Fly Virgin Atlantic premium economy which can give any Business class a run for its money with world class amenities and service at affordable rates and terrific timings and yes a great baggage allowance to stuff in all your shopping.
Athenaeum Hotel, 116 Piccadilly, London W1J 7BJ
Nestled in the heart of Mayfair lies this luxurious hotel where design meets elegance, the staff welcome you so warmly as if you are a family member and the cocktails are delightful. A few weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of staying here while attending the BFI London Film festival and what a treat. On arrival the legendary doorman, made me feel at home and led me to the desk where I checked in. Locate in a good spot as it’s near all the galleries, museums and opposite Buckingham palace. Which means you are close to all these tourist attractions and don’t need to travel far. The hotel has a welcoming bar and restaurant also all the rooms include WIFI which entices many people just like me now a days!
Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LR
I contemplate one of the things that mark the world of Harry Potter quite so dreamlike is the facet that the whole thing in together the books and the films contain. Every minute thing has been understood out to replicate this unbelievable world! My favourite bit was the Platform 9 3/4, where I posed for the mandatory ‘pushing the trolley through the wall’ photo, and I even stepped inside the Hogwarts Express and saw the tiny compartments where Harry, Ron and Hermione were often filmed in. Needless to add, I browsed the Railway shop. I certainly feel it’s an unquestionably incredible place – since it’s very infrequent you’re able to get up close and individual with movie magic – bringing to life the books and films so many loves. You won’t regret a trip there and whether you’re a diehard fan of Harry Potter or not, a great day is guaranteed.
Food wise, there is a cafe in the main reception offering a variety of hot and cold food, though the core port of call is the atelier cafe which is located in the mid of the tour – providing a picture-perfect place to invigorate for the forthcoming photo opportunities. I enjoyed my sandwich and coffee. Clearly in a place like this, you can’t fine dining, because the emphasis is on the incredible things on display. I also sampled the Wizarding world’s favourite butter beer, which I have to say – be nice but a bit overpoweringly sweet. The liquid part is dairy-free, but the shortbread flavour foam on top isn’t! I did attempt at a butter beer moustache though which could definitely rivals Hermione’s!
24-26 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JY, United Kingdom
You never know what to presume from a Red Carpet, and I was so apprehensive to see what it would be like this time as Disney premiered the Queen of Katwe in London. Of course I knew would be stars and cameras and all of the attraction and glitziness one would expect from a gala. However, the Queen of Katwe red carpet premiere brought about so much more than can ever be dressed and photographed. Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo were the only recognized actors in the movie, with the vast mainstream of the cast containing of native Ugandans, many from slighter villages, who could never have imagined being in a film of this magnitude, much less walking a red carpet celebratory their successes.
Queen Of Katwe is the real story of a young girl, Phiona Mutesi vending corn on the roads of rustic Uganda whose realm speedily changes when she is familiarized to the game of chess by Robert Katende a soccer player turned missionary. As a consequence of the backing she obtains from her mother, played by Nyong’o, her domestic and community, Phiona chases her dream of becoming a universal chess champion. All in all, an inspiring story, engaged with revelation and heart by Mira Nair and including performances of great profundity and integrity. After the film there was an after party where of course I ate and drank and made merry with my friends.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
The advent to the Palace is truly stunning; it’s such a gorgeous building and looks so extraordinary from the outside. The interior is likewise as spectacular! We were taken into the Palace bedrooms where Winston Churchill resided and learnt a lot about the history of the rooms. We then joined The Untold Story which outlined the heritage of the Churchill family and took us back in time to the 1700s. The tour was a walk round event but each room had interactive features including touch screen monitors, audio speakers and screen projectors. The Pleasure Gardens are a few minutes’ walk from the Palace and is home to the exotic butterfly house, model village, family maze and children’s play area. Blenheim Palace has also hosted some of Hollywood’s most famous A-list superstars over the years. Daniel Craig, Jack Black, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt, and Madonna, are just a few of the stars performing in key motion pictures counting 007 Spectre, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Cinderella, A Little Chaos, Gulliver’s Travels and many more.
The location is charming in itself, sitting comfortably right outside the palace; it gorgeously stands among greenery, a chic café and patio. It certainly doesn’t fail with its intriguing mix of traditional traveller’s fare and new age cooking. The food is hearty, and is served with the most imaginative skill without negotiating on the palate with emphasis being seasonal produce. My ‘Fennel crusted ocean trout’ served with Jerusalem artichoke mash, balsamic tomatoes, samphire and caper butter sauce on the side was finger looking good!! Desserts such as Warm sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce and Duke’s ice cream, ‘Rhubarb plus vanilla’ semifreddo with a rhubarb meringue, ‘elderflower sorbet’ and candied lemon Verbena are all so gratifying that they should be shared. Simplicity and balance are the buzzwords of this wonderful space, enriched by honest to goodness flavours and fresh picked produce.
Talli Joe, 152-156 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8HL; Tel: 020-78365400
The culinary essence is traditional and authentic regional Indian cuisine with a strong creative element in cooking and presentations as well as in the cocktails hand crafted by using seasonal Indian flavours and fresh ingredients crafted by the in house mixologist. The buzzy bar spreads its charm to the restaurant creating the perfect setting to relax and indulge in anything from a hearty lunch to a romantic dinner. I started with a ‘Kerry Collins’ (a heady concoction of vodka, raw mango puree, soda and lime) before heading for my food!! A good attempt at proposing Indian food for the twenty first century as it is indeed a unique marriage of beautiful ingredients and techniques with the flavours and traditions of India.
Good examples of recipes with interesting combinations enhanced by spices from Chef Sameer Taneja’s aesthetic creations are the ‘Gol Baari Kosha Mangsho’ and ‘Kochi beef fry’. The crowning glory for me was the ‘Nihari Nalli’; the marrow was cooked fairly melted in waves on the tongue topped on a Kadak roti. Amongst the vegetarian the ‘Kale chaat’ is a highlight. All in all behind every component is an honest process that is used to top dresser the ingredients. There is nothing accidental on any of Taneja’s plates, nothing there that serves to merely look glamorous; everything is on the plate for a reason. The concept with its quarter plates is an inspirational treat for all those who crave for good food with a difference. Chic, elegant and contemporary, this is one of the few bars I feel will hold its own for a long time…and as for me, I will go here each time I happen to be in London.
Our little group was met at the hotel by Mr Dewi Evans, Brit Movie Tour guide, who took us on a two hour tour discovering central London locations that featured in  Bond, Harry Potter, Paddington, Sherlock Holmes and more. Every movie buff knows how important the city of London is in the film industry, being commonly used as both a film setting and location. From bygone versions to starry-eyed amusements to law-breaking thrillers, London has been vital for film directors, frequently being an uppermost terminus for their movie sets. It was simply remarkable to set foot on the London’s iconic streets to check out all of Bond’s assembly points in Skyfall, and to witness landmarks such as Trafalgar Square that sent chills down my spine as it reminded me of all the thrillers filmed there. The flexibility of London as a film location is astounding. The ethnic history of the city reckons it a seamless location for period movies dated amid pre-Victorian times and the post-war era, but the avant-gardism of London also makes it perfect for intersecting plots, such as the narratives of Love Actually. The types of film and TV that use London as the setting is limitless, drawing in anybody and everybody that relishes feature presentations on the silver screen!
Best way to see London is booking a HOHO with Golden tours, 24 hours which comes with an offer including additional 24hrs, walking tour and river cruise. Ascertain all the majestic things, and all the imperative edifices that one would see on a precise touristy trail. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, various museums, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus (which, by the way, is not a circus), St. James, Chinatown, various theatres, Bloomsbury, the Tower or London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc. Later just taka a cruise on the River Thames…delightful! Also go to the lovely Covent Garden market. It will be a great shopping experience. A ride on the London eye would give you a bird’s view of the city. I used my ticket on Day 4 morning as well since it had additional 24 hours for free and my flight back home was in the evening!
Dawaat, 372 Strand, London, WC2R 0JJ, Tel: +44 207 379 4737
Head Chef Asharaf Valappil does an alternative take on the teatime classic, with the full flavoured Daawat Indian Afternoon Tea, which is one of London’s most unique partaking experiences. Chef’s assortment of lightly enlivened canapés includes Bombay Burgers, Lamb Samosas and sweet Indian pastries and the Chocolate samosa. The traditional English scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam are also inclusive…Wash it down with a hot cup of yummy Masala chai and you are sorted! You could come back for a lunch or dinner too; the chef does some of the best South Indian preparations in the city!!
Adelphi Theatre, Strand, London WC2R 0NS
This show is tremendously entertaining, some of the maximum enjoyable time that I have ever had seeing a show. Kinky Boots is stunningly designed. The Picturesque designer forays a significant equilibrium between the elegant gala that is Lola’s nightclub and the dreary shoe factory. The set is extremely mobile and deceivingly simple. If you blink, you could miss a set change. I have never seen a show changeover from scene to scene so swiftly and effortlessly. While wearing a diversity of glamorous costumes, they do splits, cartwheels and even turn up in the Northampton factory to pageant on the conveyor belt as a prologue to their climactic catwalk display. It won me over through the excellence of the principal performances, the vitality of its dramatization and its conviction, in its fetishist worship of thigh-high boots, that there’s no business like SHOE business!!

My story first published in TLF