Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On the trail of the Chelsea Flower Show: Belgravia in Bloom 2017

Ebury Street
I've already told you about Chelsea in Bloom, the free flower festival taking place in venues around Sloane Square this week. Now, meet its more sophisticated sibling, Belgravia in Bloom.

Like Chelsea in Bloom, Belgravia in Bloom consists of a series of floral window displays in local shops, bars and restaurants. The theme here is children's books, with four pop-up installations dotted around the area.
Belgrave Square

Again, you can print off a map before you go, and be prepared for a lot of walking, as it's fairly well spread out. If you're not a purist about it, you could cut out the first 18 stops on the map and begin your trail at the corner of Ebury Street and Elizabeth Street - the stops prior to this are a bit underwhelming.
Motcomb Street

At the Ebury-Elizabeth crossroads, though, things get interesting. More specifically, things get very pink thank to Peggy Porschen's display. It must be one of the most Instagrammable spots in London right now - but might be too saccharine for some tastes.
Ebury Street

According to the map, the first pop-up installation -on a teddy bear's picnic theme - should be around here somewhere too, but it's nowhere to be found, so head on up Ebury Street where you'll find a few more floral shop windows, and then a long walk until you reach the Hari Hotel. Although it's not one of the official pop-up installations, the Mr Fox display outside the hotel (and in the windows) is one of the highlights of the festival, and is well worth stopping by for.
The Hari Hotel

After this, head up to the corner of Lowndes Street and West Halkin Street, briefly taking in the Mary Poppins arch. Now you'll have to do a bit of doubling back on yourself, as West Halkin Street and Motcomb Street are both worth seeing
Lowndes Street
On the former, florist Neill Strain has unsurprisingly gone all-out with a vibrant floral arch over the shop door. On the same street, Mosimann's has gone for a candyland theme, with a lollipop and candy cane garden, and a gingerbread man garden over the entrance of the former church.
West Halkin Street

Round on Motcomb Street, La Stupenderia has gone for floral garlands on the railings and around the shop door. It's a simple idea, but the colour combinations used make it one of the most effective installations on the trail.
Motcomb Street

Now head back down past Belgrave Square to find the pop-up installations. The Alice in Wonderland tea party is in Belgrave Square itself, on the western side - but it's in a private, residents-only garden, so the rest of us have to make do with peeping over the fence. Nonetheless, it's beautifully executed, a lilac table dressed for a picnic, draped with flowers and surrounded by Alice characters.
Belgrave Square

Head down to Eaton Square and you'll find Peter Rabbit doing his thing in Mr McGregor's Garden:
Eaton Square

As for the other two installations - teddy bear's picnic and The Secret Garden - they weren't forthcoming and I never managed to find them, despite trailing round and round the area marked on the map. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I was visiting in the evening - perhaps they're in shops or businesses that are only open during the day. Either way, it was a disappointing end to Belgravia in Bloom 2017.
Pimlico Road

Ebury Street

Elizabeth Street

West Halkin Street

West Halkin Street

Belgravia in Bloom 2017 takes place 22-27 May 2017, and is free.

Scribbling Lau is now on Facebook. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Things get wild at Chelsea Flower Show

Jimmy Choo on Sloane Street

Every year, the events around Chelsea Flower Show seem to get bigger and bigger, from with events in local (high-end) shops, floral cocktails on local bar menus... and near-lifesized model elephants in Sloane Square, thanks to Chelsea in Bloom.
Duke of York Square
The free floral festival takes place in the area around Sloane Square. Shops decorate their windows and doors with some impressive flower displays and arches, and floral sculptures on a certain theme pop up in public spaces. Naturally, there's a marketing element to the whole thing (#cynical) with special events going on in store and branded hashtags to use on Instagram if you're so inclined. Otherwise, it's just a pleasant, unusual, photogenic (and free!) thing to do for a week in May.

Duke of York Square
This year's theme is floral safari, a theme which succinctly combines two of my favourite things; wild animals and floral displays.

Kiehl's, King's Road

If you're heading out on your own floral safari, it's worth downloading yourself a map from the Chelsea in Bloom website. It'll give you a rough idea of where to head - but don't rely on it for 100% geographical accuracy.
Symons Street
Following the trail on the first evening of the festival, I found it to be very hit and miss. Some stores had gone all out, while others had a paltry flower or two in the window - and others still seemed to have nothing special at all, despite being marked on the Chelsea in Bloom map. It's probably best going when the shops are open, but as the festival's only on for a week, that's not an option for many Londoners.
Symons Street
Numbers 6 (Jimmy Choo) and 40 (Annoushka) are marked in the wrong place on the map and take some persistence to find, and I didn't manage to find number 51 (11 Cadogan Gardens) at all.

Pavilion Road

The trail is quite spread out - fine if you've got plenty of energy and time, but if you're short on either, cut out anything west of Kiehl's (#37) on King's Road), and don't head north of the zebras on Sloane Street - it's not worth it.
Pavilion Road

If you're really short on time, I'd recommend sticking to Sloane Square and Duke of York Square, making a quick detour up King's Road to Kiehl's, and briefly hitting up Hackett and Jimmy Choo on Sloane Street.
Sloane Street
The shop windows are hit and miss, but the centrepieces of the festival are the giant floral animal sculptures. An elephant, a crocodile and a hippo sit slap bang in the centre of Sloane Square, while a pair of zebras cause drivers to do a double take on Sloane Street. Lions take pride of place in Duke of York Square, and a wooden rhino stands proud on Pavilion Road (again, don't rely on the map to find the rhino - in reality, he's right behind Peter Jones).
Hackett, Sloane Street

Sloane Street
It's worth pointing out that Chelsea in Bloom is raising money for charity, with the large floral sculptures being sold off in aid of conservation charity Elephant Family.

Sloane Street

Sloane Street

Sloane Street
Corner of Sloane Street and Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Lower Sloane Street

Chelsea in Bloom 2017 takes place 22-27 May 2017, and it's free to take part in the trail.

Scribbling Lau is now on Facebook. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Rooftop rollerdisco pops up in Stratford


Attention all Londoners - this is not a drill. Our wonderful city now has what it's been missing all along; a rooftop rollerdisco.

Roof East in Stratford is open again for the summer, bringing all manner of hipster pursuits to the top deck of a multi-storey car park. The rollerdisco is just one of the activities on offer - although let's be honest, it's the best.

The rollerdisco was the last place we visited. As the night - and the cocktails - went on, my photography got worse.
Situated inside a marquee with a DJ blaring out classic cheese, it's the ideal place to fall thingy-over-whatsit to the dulcet tones of R Kelly*. The downside of the marquee is that the rollerdisco is the only place on the roof that you can't admire the views over east London and beyond.


Elsewhere on the roof, take out the day's rage in the American-style baseball batting cages. Armed with a helmet and a bat, you'll have the balls fired at you (pick a lane depending on your preferred speed). Be warned though - it's harder than it looks to strike a hit.
Team Londonist shows its competitive side.
If that's all a bit strenuous, try the more gentile offering of bowls. A word of advice; ten pin bowling it is not. Do not lob the ball down the lane (pitch? court? green?) with all your might. It's a case of skill over strength - as Team Londonist learnt, after much trial and error.


The crazy golf is back for another year. This year's course is much improved on last year's meagre offering - although the decor probably gets a bit trippy after a few drinks.


Unfortunately the food offerings aren't as varied as last year. Pick from pizza courtesy of Pizza Shack, or all manner of Spanish-inspired food from Jimmy's Tapas Bar (top tip: the chorizo hot dog is a worthy choice - and the cheese from the pizzas leaves an excellent shine, should you accidentally drop it on a black leather boot #justsaying).


Last, but by no means least, is the outdoor cinema by Rooftop Film Club. I've been a fan of what these guys do since my first introduction on top of Peckham's Bussey Building some years ago. The cinema's on the northern side of the roof, so no getting distracted from the screen by the skyline views.


When the sun's out, it feels a bit Miami Beach - all bright colours, (fake) palm trees and summer vibes. But when night falls, there's no getting away from the fact that you're in E15. Dress appropriately. You've been warned.


*Actually happened - not to me for once, but to a colleague.

Roof East 2017, top floor, multi-storey car park, Great Eastern Way, Stratford, E15 1XE. Entry is free, all activities incur a charge.

Scribbling Lau is now on Facebook. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

How to see Harry Potter film props for free in London



Calling all Potter fans! There's an exhibition of Harry Potter memorabilia in London at the moment, and it's completely free.

It's not by any stretch a new exhibition - House of MinaLima threw open its doors in mid-2016, and was originally due to close in February 2017, but has been extended indefinitely due to popularity.



It showcases art and design work by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima that was used in the films, with props on loan from the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Basically, a Potter nerd's paradise.




I'm not the biggest fan of Harry Potter which is why it's taken me so long to get round to visiting the exhibition. Nothing against the Boy Wizard, just not a huge fan of the series - more a casual observer.

On a Saturday afternoon, it's nowhere near as busy as I'd braced myself for, and I even had some of the rooms to myself, except for the extremely friendly staff members who are posted on each level. The expected throng of die-hard Potter fans was few and far between - presumably they visited in the museum's early days. Most of my fellow visitors seemed to have walked in off the street, attracted in by the intriguingly colourful shopfront.


You'll enter (and exit) through the ground floor gift shop - but as the exhibition's free, you can't begrudge them the chance of making some money. With Hogwarts house badges at £3.50 and posters starting at £19 though, it's not somewhere for young Potter fans to be spending their pocket money.

Take the narrow, steep, winding staircase up to the first floor - unfortunately the exhibition's not wheelchair accessible - where you'll step into 1920s-30s New York.



This section is dedicated to the most recent film, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and although I've not seen the film and had very little idea of what was going on, there's no denying that a lot of effort has gone into recreating the time period.



Up another flight of stairs - the staircase is an artwork in itself - and you'll come face to face with artwork from the original Harry Potter films. Daily Prophet front covers line the walls and Hogwarts textbooks stare down at you.



Even with my limited Potter knowledge I was able to recognise the Howler letter Mrs Weasley sent to Ron at Hogwarts, and a ticket for the Hogwarts Express.



The highlight? You'll find yourself standing on a Marauder's Map the size of the room (invisibility cloak optional).


After solemnly swearing that you're up to no good, head up another flight of stairs for even more items from the films. Centrepiece here is the Dursley's fireplace, overflowing with Hogwarts acceptance letters - a bittersweet sight for any die-hard Potter fan who's still waiting for their letter to arrive.

Take time to glance again at the artwork lining the staircase on the way back down - even on second glance, you're bound to miss something.



A quick sweep around the shop and you're back outside - although by this time you'll be expecting to find yourself in Diagon Alley, rather than 21st century Soho.

House of MinaLima, 26 Greek Street, Soho. Open 12pm-7pm every day. entry is free.




Scribbling Lau is now on Facebook. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.