Life and Death in Pompeii - British Museum
In 79 AD, the Roman seaside towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were obliterated by a cloud of super hot ash that rolled down from the nearby Mount Vesuvius. The fiery deaths of the inhabitants, though tragic have led to their carbonized imprints being stamped on the volcanic ash. This has given archeologists the ability to create accurate moulds of their bodies which give us an uncannily accurate snapshot of the ancient world.
It was a cultured and literary world in which freed slaves could rise up and be educated before learning a prosperous trade. Remains of the houses and their contents show a peaceful and harmonious community who were blissfully unaware of the impending disaster on their doorstep. The British Museum lays out all the artifacts in an engaging and informative way which educates and entertains in equal measure.
Once - Phoenix Theatre
A non-retro musical about music and it's emotional impact? Surely not! Where's the flying cars? The holograms and the political subplot? Well they're mercifully absent and Once is all the better for it as the actors/musicians play a vital supporting role in telling the tale of an initially innocuous meeting between an Irish busker and a mysterious Czech girl.
He repairs her vacuum cleaner and in return she agrees to flesh out his sad songs with her classical piano skills. The resulting love story is sweet and a little bit sad but the music is far deeper than what you would normally hear in a West End production. It’s almost as if you get a proper gig thrown in for free, so skillful and authentic is the singing and playing.
Iron Man 3 - Cinemas London-wide
The third installment of the blockbuster Marvel franchise sees Robert Downey Jr reprise his role as the steel suited avenger with a nice line in self-depreciation. Gwyneth Paltrow, fresh from being crowned as "The Worlds Most Beautiful Woman" is given a beefier role in that, rather than providing arm candy for the hero, she now controls his business empire.
This frees up Iron Man to do what he does best and that is to protect the world from evil while smashing half of it up in the process. The action set pieces are of the usual heart-stopping variety. The special effects and computer graphics are slick but the ace in the pack is Sir Ben Kingsley's villainous Mandarin.
Then Jerico - Clapham Grand
Late eighties rockers Then Jerico weren't afraid of relying on big tunes and big production values in their quest for chart success. Like U2 and Simple Minds, theirs was a sound geared for stadiums and festivals and its unfortunate that they split up before they really got going.
Last year they reunited for a successful national tour and promised each other that they'd do it again. This exclusive date at the Grand is a result of that promise. Frontman/songwriter Mark Shaw has kept the flame alive with an acclaimed solo career, but it will be great to hear "Big Area", "The Motive" and "Sugar box" performed by the original crew.
Walking With Dinosaurs - O2 Arena
To educate and entertain in equal measure is the holy grail of any family show. Walking With Dinosaurs is a live spin off from the hugely successful BBC series of the same name and seeks to fill in any knowledge gaps while cranking the atmospherics up a considerable few notches. With the aid of animatronics and skillful puppetry the Jurassic swamps of prehistoric times are brought to thrilling life with all manner of rampant reptiles vying with one another for the right to scare us out of our seats.
An excited Indiana Jones - type guide keeps us informed as Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus and Triceratops roar and crash about the O2 stage but you get the sense that the audience is waiting for the star of the show. To the delight of the crowd, Tyrannosaurus Rex bursts out of the primordial ooze with blood red eyes and teeth the size of daggers. Intent on causing maximum mayhem, the lizard king tries to munch through the nearest dinosaur before nearly eating the guide (if only!). After picking fights with various rivals, T Rex is finally stopped in his tracks by the show's momentous final: a recreation of the meteor strike which supposedly called time on the reign of the giant reptiles. Never has natural history been so blood-curdling fun!
The Great Gatsby Ballet – Sadler’s Wells Theatre
Ask anyone to describe The Great Gatsby and they will invariably mention two things: the clothes and the music. Any adaptation of this great American novel is bound to be a visual and aural feast and the Northern Ballet production at Sadler’s Wells does not disappoint. Dubbed ‘The Jazz Age’, the 1920’s was a time when Americans shook off the gloom of war and partied like there was no tomorrow, revelling in a culture of quick fortunes and sharp suits.
The vivacious swing music and the immaculately tailored dancers do well to communicate the opulent lifestyle of Jay Gatsby and set the scene for his illicit affair with Daisy Buchanan. The role of Daisy is perfect for a ballerina with her curls, tassels and impetuous movements providing a mesmerising focal point to the action around her. To dance a movie plot is difficult enough but to dance a novel is no small undertaking indeed. Northern Ballet are to be lauded for this smartly choreographed and lavishly designed effort.
The Mercer – Threadneedle Street
Located in the heart of London's financial district at 34 Threadneedle Street, the Mercer has a good, serious buzz set off by a sober, almost monochrome decor and a short but assuredly versatile menu.
The ambience is unmistakably 'City', as British as a Bulldog and you can expect snappy delivery of food and a happy set of wine options. The room has a vaguely pre-war Manhattan feel, with high ceilings, glossy black columns, big mirrors and hanging globe lights.
The tables are well spaced, the seating comfortable and the formally dressed waiters are friendly and knowledgeable – especially regarding the use of carefully sourced seasonal British produce. The Mercer was launched three years ago amidst the gathering clouds of the economic downturn but has gone from strength to strength by dint of getting the basics and their customer's requirements spot on.
Asparagus Season - Various Restaurants
Last years Olympics proved that Great Britain seems to have shaken off it's aversion to winning and is actually quite proud of being number one at such things as cycling, rowing, complaining about the weather etc...however, because these things don't last, it is good to have something that we will always be the best at and that one thing is growing asparagus. Nothing even comes close to British asparagus, either in taste or texture and as the season only lasts about six weeks from late April to mid-June, top restaurants have already bagged quite a large proportion of the crop.
Hix Chophouse in Farringdon serve asparagus raw with fennel shavings and Caerphilly cheese, such is their confidence in the quality of the product, while over at the Blueprint Cafe, near London Bridge, it is wrapped in the most delicate of pastries or served with Parmesan cheese and topped with a poached egg. If asparagus is a new delicacy for you, it is best to go the way of the purist. Lightly steamed with a small knob of butter or dab of Hollandaise, it's springtime on a fork.
The Elgin, Maida Vale
A gastropub in this corner of north west London is the nearest thing to a culinary sure bet in these challenging economic times, but it is still important to get the basics right. The Elgin presents a good selection of modern English dishes in a relaxed and artistic environment. Modern art hangs from whitewashed walls and the background music is tastefully eclectic. Brunch is big here as the well-heeled bohemian crowd that frequent these parts like to drop in on their way to the latest gallery launch.
The Elgin is a big hit with the Yummy Mummy set that dominate the daytime scene around Maida Vale and Notting Hill and sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, bacon and avocado is tailor made for their tastes. For more hearty fare, try the hash of chorizo, spinach and poached duck egg. Both bar and table service are available.
Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes - Bloomsbury
The multi-lane indoor bowling experience has become a fairly sterile one of late as so often happens when leisure franchises get involved. Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes push back against the impersonal electronica of your local mega bowl with a throwback to the genre’s origins in fifties America. Bloomsbury has pleasingly retro feel which it has combined with imaginative crowd pleasers such as live music, hip-hop night and free vintage films.
Grilled chicken and boutique beers make this an ideal pre-club meeting place or a place where you can take your teenager without you both dying of embarrassment. The crowd is a good-natured mix of students, tourists and bowling enthusiasts who all seem to be channelling either “The Fonz” or Fred Flintstone, depending on their ability levels or body shapes. Even if you don’t bowl, you will find the vibe so agreeable that it may become a favourite chill out spot in its own right.