Tag Archives: Damien Hirst

London Slant: The art of the dinner deal

Summer is traditionally open season for London restaurant deals. It’s the time of year (along with January) for swanky dinners without fear of fainting at the bill. So, come August, I was off, grabbing all those special offers while the sun shone.

We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Nor will you get a value menu at a decent (let alone great) restaurant at 8pm on a Saturday night. But 6.30 pm on a Monday is fine by me. And I’ll happily have my post-prandial espresso in the lounge if the table needs turning for those with pockets deeper than mine.

London Slant -Savoy Grill

The famous hotel sign just above the entrance to the Savoy Grill.

So, first up was the Savoy Grill. Well, wouldn’t it have been churlish to ignore Gordon Ramsay’s £26 three-course dinner with champagne?  I knew it was going to be fun the minute I stepped inside and into what seemed like a glamorous 1920s film set. The bubbly sparkled, and dull-sounding dishes (root vegetable salad followed by ravioli) sprung to life in my mouth with unusual herbs and spices, delicious dressings and flavoursome sauces. A millefeuille with crunchy-crisp wafers layered with luscious fruits and cream brought the evening to a decadent end.

I loved the retro decor of the Savoy Grill, but was less enthused by the recent makeover of the rest of the hotel. Where they got some of the artwork from (a Far East factory?) I dread to think. Much more to my my visual taste was my next port of call: Tramshed in Shoreditch. I do like to see a pickled cockerel and cow above my table (thank you, Damien Hirst) when I’m dining out on chicken salad and steak frites. And especially when a cocktail and Ronnie’s amazing apple pie are thrown in for £16.

London Slant Tramshed

Damien Hirst’s pickled cockerel and cow dominate the carnivorous carnival at Tramshed, Shoreditch.

Scanning the menu I spotted all sorts of nifty prix fixe treats year-round. So I plan to return for more simultaneous eating and art appreciation. I’m fired up to try Indian Rock chicken curry, for instance, and more of Ronnie’s puds. Then there’s the Chapman Brothers’ wallpaper and the Cock n’ Bull Gallery in the basement downstairs . Even the staff’s T-shirts are a collection of works of art.

But now here comes the good news. We’re well into September, but the deals haven’t stopped. If anything, they’re popping into my inbox even faster than before. I’ve had a free bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my birthday at Pizza Express  (I recommend the crispy-thin Da Morire Romano pizza – truly to-die-for – in their Coptic Street branch, a former dairy with patterned tiles).

Maybe some geek inside my laptop has marked me out as a sucker who can’t resist a tempting offer. Whatever, next week I’m off to the Cinnamon Club (a 3-course Indian menu, with cocktail, for £24). It’s adjacent to the Palace of Westminster and is known as a haunt of Lords and MPs. Could the parliamentary recess possibly have any bearing on my deal?

I found my deals via Time Out, Top Table and direct from Pizza Express.


The swallows have swooped in, roses have burst into flower—and the Serpentine Pavilion has sprouted in Kensington Gardens. There may be other signs to the contrary, but these three arrivals announce that summer, unequivocally, is here.

Serpentine pavilion

The Serpentine Pavilion: a dazzling addition to Kensington Gardens.

Anything involving London’s Serpentine Gallery is always an event. Its exhibitions invariably catch the zeitgeist: thought-provoking, off-piste, fun…I rarely regret the pilgrimage to check them out.

And what better advertisement hoarding could the gallery erect than its pavilions, temporary structures designed by international names which have popped up here every summer since 2000. Following a parade of wacky designs by starchitects like Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Oscar Niemeyer, for 2013 it’s the turn of a comparative unknown, Sou Fujimoto from Japan. Knowing the Serpentine’s knack for backing winners (I recall an exhibition years ago with a pickled sheep by a young artist called Damien Hirst) I think we can be assured that Fujimoto is One To Watch.

I like to use my annual pavilion foray as an excuse for a stroll through Hyde Park’s glorious swathe of green. This year I set off from Lancaster Gate and plunged straight into the freshly restored Italian Gardens. Their spouting fountains and urns with tumbling flowers made an exuberant start to my stroll.

Next landmark was the Henry Moore Arch, now happily back in place after it became unstable and was off show for 16 years. It looks terrific reflecting in the Serpentine, framing the vista towards Kensington Palace. Just beyond is The Magazine, an historic former munitions store, which is being transformed by Zaha Hadid into the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery. It’s due to open later this year with exhibition space and a cafe. Mark your cards for the opening now!

And so to Fujimoto’s pavilion, a non-building or at least one that seems to have vanished, leaving only its shimmering scaffolding behind. You can see it as many different forms: billowing mist, a mass of phone masts…but it struck me as a magical oversized child’s climbing frame. I’ve never seen so many grown-ups clambering around with such glee, beaming down from the highest points as if to say “I’m the king of the castle”. I stepped gingerly from one glass box to another, never sure whether I was planting my foot on thin air, and confess to feeling quite superior when I secured a lofty perch.

Rock on top of another rock

Rock on Top of Another Rock outside the Serpentine Gallery.

Rock on Top of Another Rock eventually drew me on my way. This teetering monument by artist duo Fischli/Weiss is so dramatic in this natural setting it’s a shame it will move on next March to the Middle East.

And so to a waterside coffee among yellow irises fringing the Lido as a bunch of swimmers battled the waves. And along the lake to The Dell and Rose Gardens, bursting with colour and scent. At Hyde Park corner my carriage awaited—on the Piccadilly line.