Elephant Parade, Central London

20 June 2010

Over 250 life-sized elephant statues, each painted by a different artist, have invaded central London for the summer.  You may have seen these brightly coloured beasts dotted around town and wondered what it was all about.

Well, the Elephant Parade is an art-based conservation campaign to highlight the rapidly dwindling numbers of Asian elephants in the wild, and these lovely creatures are brightening up the city to raise awareness as well as funds to help preserve the animal’s natural habitat.

It’s quite surreal to stumble across a herd of these multicoloured beasts in the peaceful surroundings of Green Park, or to see the shopping crowds on Regent Street pause to snap a photo with an elephant nestled snugly between shop-fronts. You could even find a throng of elephants congregating near Tower Bridge, or a crystal-encrusted statue peering through the windows of a bank on the Strand.

And now the elephants are on the move. This past weekend saw 62 of them in a “parade” along a section of road between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Now the whole herd is off to a secret elephant salon for a bit of a touch-up before they’re put up for sale at the Grand Elephant Auction on 3rd July.

Cybercandy, Covent Garden

24 April 2010

This shop is heaven for those with a sweet tooth and a taste for the exotic, or the international traveller with a hankering for home.   The shelves are lined with every kind of treat imaginable – from Tim Tams to Astronaut Ice Cream to Pocky to Candy Corn, as well as a range of drinks, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals and everything else you need to satisfy those sugary cravings.

They’ve got treats from all over the globe: America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Finland and Sweden – not to mention a new European range and several special edition sweets from Britain’s own shores. This is THE place to go for a Twinkie, a Scorpion Lollipop, Jelly Bellies or caffeinated mints.

But be warned, you will feel like a kid in a candy shop and it’s impossible to leave without a bag full of sweets and a strange can of fizzy drink (Berries and Cream Dr Pepper, anyone?). So be sure there is a responsible adult on hand to keep your inner child from going overboard!

3 Garrick Street
Covent Garden
0845 838 0958
Hours: Sun-Fri 11am-8pm; Sat 10.30am-8pm

Walk-In Backrub, Central London

3 April 2010

When I’m stressed out, massage therapy is the best solution for my knotted, aching muscles. But stress often means I’m short on time and money, so the last thing I want to worry about is making an appointment, travelling across town and spending a fortune and much of the day trying to get that relief. I need a quick fix. And the Walk-In Backrub provides just that.

No appointment, no undressing, just fast and effective massage for a reasonable price. You choose your time (10, 20 or 30 minutes), have a brief chat with your therapist about pressure, health, etc and then sit in a special massage chair while they go to work targeting your problem areas. Every time I go, I leave feeling relaxed, refreshed and euphoric. When I can find time for the 30-minute rub, all stress is banished and I spend the rest of the day in a floaty cloud of bliss. Read the rest of this entry »

Food For Thought, Covent Garden

13 March 2010

In the midst of the boutique shops on Neal Street, an unassuming doorway leads to one of my favourite restaurants in London – Food For Thought.  This little vegetarian eatery opened in 1974 and has been at the top of my list for almost ten years.  It’s the best place to go for delicious, wholesome and affordable veggie food.

Everything is ready-made, so although you may have to queue, you won’t be kept waiting long.  If you’re lucky, you can score the low table and cushions under the arches or a seat at the counter by the window upstairs.  Otherwise, grab a spot at one of the little wooden tables in the communal dining room.  At busy times you may have to share a table, but that’s all part of the fun, as you never know who might sit next to you.  You’ll find a fair number of health-conscious meat-avoiders here, but the central location also attracts a variety of actors and technicians from the surrounding theatres, whilst the low prices draw in students and budget travellers. Read the rest of this entry »

Eagle Bar Diner, Fitzrovia

2 June 2008

As the name suggests, this is two venues in one; it’s got tall, comfy booths and a menu packed with upmarket versions of diner favourites like cooked breakfasts, burgers, cheesy fries and totally sumptuous milkshakes, but it also has a fully stocked bar with an extensive, innovative cocktail list and skilled bartenders. So if you want a Peanut Butter Martini or a Berry Mojito with your Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Fat Chips, then the Eagle is the place to go.

Breakfast is served all day so you can indulge in a leisurely, boozy brunch at weekends. Or grab a snack with your evening cocktail as you sit under the purple lights at the long, glossy bar. On weekend nights, there’s more of a party feel and the place fills up as the evenings wear on. Arrive early to bag a sofa or a booth. Read the rest of this entry »

Paperchase, Fitzrovia

9 April 2008

You may have been to a small branch of this chain in a train station or a Borders bookshop, but you haven’t had the authentic Paperchase experience until you’ve visited their London flagship store. This place is an absolute paradise for stationery lovers. The rows of brightly coloured paper, envelopes, cards, pens, wrapping paper, ribbons, notebooks and diaries are a real feast for the eyes.  It’s enough to make you squeal with glee – and that’s before you’ve even spotted the party supplies or the cute and kitschy toys.

This isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill paper shop; it’s more like a designer stationery emporium. Many of the items are exclusive to Paperchase and their ranges are constantly changing, so there’s always something new to browse and buy. It’s a great place to come if you’re looking for a fancy gift-bag, patterned tissue paper, pretty ribbons, indoor sparklers or origami paper. And they go all out around the holidays; so be sure to drop in around Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas for some fun and imaginative products. Read the rest of this entry »

Satsuma, Soho

13 February 2008

Noodle bars are ten a penny in London these days, but a noodle bar with deliciously fresh sushi and a variety of tasty, healthy meals is a rare thing indeed. That’s what sets Satsuma apart from its competitors.

You really can’t go wrong when choosing your food here.  For a complete meal, splash out on a Bento box or one of the Rice Sets which come with salad, boiled rice and miso soup. Or construct your own feast from the Sashimi, Sushi, Maki, Side Dishes and Salads, all of which taste fresh and delicious.

You can expect quick service, shared tables and cheap prices at this bustling eatery, but what you’ll notice most is the delicious food.

TIP: The Green Leaf Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing is particularly divine.

56 Wardour Street
020 7437 8338
Hours: Mon and Tues 12-11pm; Weds and Thurs 12-11.30pm; Fri and Sat 12pm-12am; Sun 12-10.30pm

Beard Papa’s, Oxford Circus

3 October 2007

I’ve never been a great lover of cream puffs, but I’ve always been fond of specialty shops that focus on one item and do it to perfection. It was this thinking that first attracted me to Beard Papa’s, a cream puff café on Oxford Street – and it rocked my world.

This chain, started in Osaka, Japan, serves freshly made cream puffs with a light and crispy pastry shell, filled in front of your eyes with a thick, rich, fresh filling that is closer to custard than whipped cream. You can opt for the traditional vanilla, or try the flavour of the day from a changing menu that includes chocolate, strawberry, cappuccino, English tea, green tea and very berry. The monthly schedule of flavours (posted in the shop and on their website) is a good excuse to come back again and again.

Beard Papa’s also has éclairs, chocolate fondant and thin slivers of tiramisu and cheesecake. But I haven’t tried any of these yet, as the creampuffs are just too good for me to stray. Beard Papa’s has turned me into a cream puff lover after all!

143 Oxford Street
020 7494 9020
Hours: Mon to Fri 9am-9pm; Sat 10am-10pm; Sun 10am-8pm

I’m A Smoothie, Victoria

8 August 2007

Train stations can be a wasteland of fast food and other junk, so I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m A Smoothie just outside Victoria station. They have a tantalising list of smoothies, made to order right in front of your eyes. Unlike many of the bottled varieties on sale in supermarkets, these healthy beverages are made from fresh fruit blended with soya milk or natural yoghurt, with no additives, preservatives or sugar added.

Try the Pineapple Dream or the Mango Surprise for a tropical flavour, or grab a Burner Boost to kick-start your metabolism. Whatever variety you choose, the satisfying whir of the blender lets you know that your smoothie will be as fresh as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Muffinski’s, Covent Garden

2 July 2007

Muffins have a bad reputation for being fat-laden and unhealthy, but this just cannot be said about the treats on offer at Muffinski’s. Their muffins are handmade, organic, vegetarian and low in fat. They even sell sugar-free and gluten-free varieties. Lest this make you think Muffinski’s caters only to the po-faced sawdust granola crowd, I must assure you that the muffins taste like heaven.

They rotate between 80 different varieties – from Chocolate, Nut and Toffee to Pesto and Feta to Raspberry Banana. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury, there will be something to satisfy your appetite. All the muffins are made by hand, without the use of any machinery, from flour that has been stone-ground at a traditional watermill. And they come straight from the oven to the counter for sale, so you may even get your muffin while it’s still warm! Read the rest of this entry »