The part of London between Portland Place and Goodge Street has historically been a bit of a culinary no-man’s land, with little to tempt you to eat in the estate-agent-christened ‘Noho’ unless you actually worked in the area.
However over recent years the local pubs and cafes have been smartening up, the Riding House Cafe and 48 Newman Street Tavern have opened and now there is a development so new that the postcode doesn’t even yield a map when typed into Google.
Percy & Founders, the new all-day bar and restaurant built on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital, has a nod to tradition in that you can actually peer through a glass wall from the restaurant into the hospital’s original chapel, perfectly preserved and soon to be open for people to have a look around.
The day was bright and sunny for Her Majesty and Prince Philip as the Royal party arrived to launch P&O Cruises new ship Britannia last Tuesday, a welcome change from the drizzle and rain of the previous day.
Before the official naming ceremony took place though, the seated guests (thoughtfully supplied with hand warmers and mugs of hot spiced cordial) were treated to some acrobatic ‘zorbing’, the exuberant Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and The Irish Guards.
There was a brief speech from David Dingle, chairman of P&O Cruises’s parent company Carnival, a prayer from the Bishop of Southampton, and then the invitation for the Queen to name Britannia from Captain Paul Brown, with proceedings ably and entertainingly MC’d by comedian Rob Brydon.
It cost more than £520 million to build, weighs 141,000 tons and will carry more than 3,600 passengers. And this Friday Britannia, P&O Cruises brand new cruise ship, will be making her way from the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, to her new home in Southampton, ahead of the official launch ceremony on March 10th.
Journalists and travel agents were given a sneak preview last weekend, including a tour round the vessel guided by Britannia’s Captain Paul Brown.
P&O Cruises chairman David Dingle and chief executive David Noyes were part of our group, as were P&O’s new ‘food heroes’ Olly Smith, Eric Lanlard and Charlie Turnbull, respectively in charge of the wine, cakes and cheese offering on the ship.
The rainy day didn’t detract from the impressive sight of Britannia, P&O’s largest cruise ship to date, which will boost P&O’s passenger capacity by 24 per cent. At 1.082 ft long, and with 15 passenger decks, she displays the world’s largest Union Flag on her bows (94 metres long) and she was pretty impressive on the inside too. Continue reading First glimpse of Britannia, P&O Cruises brand new cruise ship→
It is hard to avoid Gordon Ramsay. He’s either being snapped triathlon-training on a Malibu beach getting in and out of his wetsuit, or on our TV screens shouting at hapless (and hopeless) restaurateurs.
Only last week tabloid readers were treated to the revelation from his daughter that he apparently likes to run round his house in the nude. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at his recently-opened Heddon Street Kitchen. Would the great man himself be streaking through the kitchens? And what would health and safety (not to mention hygiene) inspectors have to say about that?
Thankfully there were no naked chefs in sight in Heddon Street itself – that little pedestrianised offshoot of Regent Street which has become a restaurant enclave – and the Heddon Street Kitchen looked very inviting, with outside tables, lots of pot plants and big windows through which the lights shone out into the cold February night.
Inside it was also very pleasant: a large space saved from turning cavernous with the use of some thoughtful room design, the brown floorboards and furniture made less gloomy by well-placed lighting, and even the heavy presence of 80s-style exposed pipes in the ceiling couldn’t detract from a calm and relaxing atmosphere.
There are worse things to do on a Monday morning than to be out in the glorious sunshine being taught how to play golf by a rather charming golf pro at the Centurion golf club.
Thankfully, said pro – Nick Ansell – did not seem to mind that almost all of my previous golfing experience had been on the crazy golf courses at Bognor Regis, Bournemouth, Boscombe and several campsites in Northern France.
In fact he could not have been more welcoming and friendly, which was just as well as the brand new Centurion Club, just a few miles from St Alban’s, prides itself on being extremely welcoming and friendly, particularly to women.