Must see exhibition – Art Of The Brick by Nathan Sawaya

One of the things I love most about living in London in the amazing array of art, exhibitions, galleries and museums on my doorstep. There’s always something going on and when I heard about Nathan Sawaya’s Art Of The Brick exhibition I new instantly it was a must-see, as a kid I LOVED Lego and could spend hours with just my imagination and a box of bricks, which I think my mum still has stashed away somewhere.

art of brick john lennon

Hosted in the trendy Shoreditch (where else!) and appropriately named on Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery the exhibition is an amazing insight as to just what you can achieve with those little bricks and I was blown away by the detail and background stories of each piece, which Sawaya playfully injected his humour into giving it a more personal touch and much more fun to read for younger guests.

Ripped from the official website

‘Nathan Sawaya is a New York-based artist who creates awe-inspiring works of art out of some of the most unlikely things. His recent global touring exhibitions feature large-scale sculptures using only toy building blocks: LEGO bricks to be exact. His work is obsessively and painstakingly crafted and is both beautiful and playful.

Sawaya was the first artist to ever take LEGO into the art world, and is the author of two best selling books. His unique sculptures and touring exhibition, THE ART OF THE BRICK, is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on LEGO® as an art medium and has broken attendance records around the globe. The creations, constructed from countless individual LEGO® pieces, were built from standard bricks beginning as early as 2002.

Nathan Sawaya has earned a top position in the world of contemporary art and has created a new dimension by merging Pop Art and Surrealism in awe inspiring and ground breaking ways. His art consists of playing with the material, colour, movement, light and perspective.’

I’ve only featured about a third of what’s on show, the exhibition space is huge and there’s so much to see. You can get right up close and personal with the sculptures to see how they’re made and there’s lots of interactive features and videos to keep little ones entertained.

Art Of The Brick is running until the end of January and is definitely a must-see for art fans, tickets are from just £14.50 and admission is in half hour slots so as to not get too crowded.

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Something a bit different… Dinner at Bonnington Cafe.

Going out for dinner is one of my most favourite ways to catch up with friends or have a ‘date night’ with my partner, I love cooking and I get a lot of my inspiration from meals I’ve had in restaurants mixed with my own imagination and a dash of my main man Jamie Oliver. I love trying to new things and have quite an open palate when it comes to new cuisine but having recently looked a bit deeper into nutrition I wanted to branch more into non-meat dishes as too much red meat really isn’t good for you. By coincidence, BBC ran a really interesting documentary ‘Should I Eat Meat? – The Big Health Dilemma’ which gave an insight into what meat does inside our bodies and the damage it can cause when eaten in excess. There’s also a short write up here if you don’t have access to the BBC iPlayer.

I was a keen vegetarian for almost 2 years so I’m no stranger to just how tasty and fulfilling a non-meat diet can be, my reasons back then were purely ethical (the meat industry is hideous – but that’s a another story entirely) but I fell ‘off the wagon’ when I became heavily involved in kick boxing and needed more protein which was easily sourced from meat. Anyway, whilst searching online for somewhere new (and cheap!) to eat I came across the Bonnington Cafe, a BYOB vegetarian restaurant conveniently located a 2 minute walk from Vauxhall station.

I LOVE the concept of a different cook every night, to me this means having someone who loves and is passionate about food and is doing so for the love of it as looking at the prices I can’t imagine it being much of a money spinner. A good veggie/vegan cook knows how to make the blandest food in the world (tofu – urgh! It’s like little lumps of what you imagine chlamydia to look like) not only edible but delicious. Booking a table is a simple process, there’s a spreadsheet on the website of what cook is on each night and you simply send the cook a text on your chosen night with your name and the time you would like to chow down.

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Our cook on the night was Marie, who was a friendly middle aged woman who had that familiar warmth to her, like a favourite school dinner lady who gave you extra chips. My name was scrawled on a piece of paper (spelt incorrectly but meh) and we were seated with little fuss. I love unlicensed restaurants as I find alcohol really bumps up the bill, being able to bring a £5.25 bottle of Sainsbury’s Cava made the tight bastard in me very happy indeed! The restaurant itself is nestled in a little residential square, away from the usual Vauxhall riff raff from the outside it looks like you could be in a little village somewhere in the country and the interior is just as offbeat and welcoming.

Each cook will freshly prepare 2 starters and 2 main courses, with vegan options all at a very reasonable fixed price – starters £3, mains £7 and desserts are £3. Unfortunately, here is where the excitement ended as I found all 3 courses to be bland, unexciting and really not restaurant quality (although Bonnington Cafe is not trying to be anything special I was expecting decent food). On the day we visited the menu consisted of a choice of hummus and carrots or carrot, parsnip and orange soup, vegetarian tagine or vegetable curry and for dessert there was a chocolate cake or apple pie. Quite a simple selection, but cooked right could be packed full of flavour with the added bonus of being all home cooked, healthy and meat free.

We both went for the carrot, parsnip and orange soup to start which was bland and watery, we found it hard to detect the orange and as we dismissed it as being OK for £3 I thought to myself I could make something much more creative and flavourful at home on the same budget. If I’m really going to nit pick the portion sizes were really quite small, those with a larger appetite wouldn’t be satisfied with the serving size but as it wasn’t that great we were cool with the amount we had. With little flavour and served with a shop bought slither of French stick the soup was a bit of a let down and didn’t give us high hopes for our main course.

Again, we both went for the tagine (I had something spicy for lunch and my partner isn’t keen on any kind of heat) which was presented well but again lacked flavour and it was hard to distinguish just exactly what the vegetables were that made up the stew. Served with grated carrot, cous cous, salad and some runner beans the tinned tomatoes used for the base of the stew hit you in the face as soon as the dish was laid on the table and unfortunately overpowered the whole plate. It basically tasting like we were eating tinned tomatoes with lumpy bits in it or a cheap vegetarian ready meal that had all the flavour nuked out of it. Not good. To their credit, everything did taste fresh BUT there was just no flavour. It needed something to give it a good kick and at least distract from the tinned tomatoes, if I had made this at home I would have threw in lots of garlic and paprika and maybe boiled the cous cous in a ginger broth? Jamie Oliver has a great recipe for a vegetable tagine here, which I’m keen to try. Overall it was very disappointing and we both left quite a bit on our plates despite being moderately hungry.

Wanting to down my cava (and get a kebab on the way home) I wasn’t keen to order dessert but my partner loves apple pie and was interested in seeing if the desserts would be any better than previous offerings but once again flavour and passion were desperately lacking, I should have asked but it tasted like it was sugar free. The limp mass of fruit and pastry disguised as an apple pie was probably the most displeasing thing we ate as it just wasn’t the sweet treat we were expecting, it even looked sad, which made us sad.

I’m sorry Bonnington Cafe, I wanted to love you. I wanted to Instagram the fuck out of my delicious, healthy meals that would come out of your kitchen. I wanted to be inspired to do more meat free cooking. I wanted to bring my friends here for a cheap night out and become a frequent customer but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be. Even though there is a different cook every night, I don’t think I shall be returning due to my disappointing experience. Shame.

10 things they don’t tell you about house sharing.

Like most people in the 21-30 age bracket who live in a big city and favour alcohol and shoes over mortgages and savings accounts, I live in a house share. Whilst it’s not my first choice of accommodation, until I earn double what I’m on now or pop out a kid and throw myself on the mercy of the council (don’t do that) this is as good as it gets for now. The Office for National Statistics states ‘In 2013, over 3.3 million adults in the UK aged between 20 and 34 were living with a parent or parents. That is 26% of this age group.’ Shocking? Read more here. I truly understand why people choose to live with their parents well into their thirties, entering the world of independent living is exhilarating but the expense, responsibility and frustration of living with strangers is not something you account for in the excitement of having your very own 70 sq. foot kingdom.

With websites such as Spareroom and Easy Roommate bursting with fun, quirky ads promising your dream living space making it sound like some sort of awesome adventure, the reality is somewhat different as you’re faced with constant mould, bullshit and weirdos.

1 – Finding something half decent is a full time job. You’ll trawl through hundreds of ads only to discover your ‘perfect’ flat is on a big crack fuelled council estate, nothing like the pictures or just a big fat pile of disappointment. Finding a flat share is a lot like dating, even when you’ve found ‘the one’ you’ll probably get rejected and have to start the whole process again. Soz.

2 – There’s a 99% chance your landlord will be a dick. Whole of South London had sex on your bed and now the mattress is FUBAR and causing you back pain? He doesn’t care. House crawling alive with ants because your housemates are dirty bastards who don’t clean up after themselves? He doesn’t care. Boiler broken causing you to wash your hair in freezing cold water? Guess what, he doesn’t care. But be more than a few hours late with your rent that month and he’ll be all up in your tits like the bone that pops out of a cheap bra. If you have a good landlord, worship him. Worship him good and you’ll probably get a few months rent free – top tip.

3 – At least one of your housemates will be a dick. Plates constantly piled up in the sink, mess and crap everywhere, loud music playing at all hours of the night, mid-week parties, their weird, drunk friends waking up on your sofa most mornings, hair down the plughole, and giant floaters in the communal bathroom. There’s always one and they never take out the bin.

dirty kitchen

4 – You’ll turn into your mother within 24 hours. All those times your mum bitched at you to not leave crumbs on the side, to clean up after yourself, not leave dirty dishes in the sink and to plump the pillows? You thought she was batshit crazy and overly houseproud… Nope, those are just the basics and you’ll be bitching at your housemates for the exact same things.

5 – You can’t really make anything your own. Your dick landlord will probably have strict rules in place about you not being able to make holes in the wall and if you accepted the room as fully furnished you’re stuck with that fugly sofa and dodgy bedside lamp that came straight out of Guest House Paradiso. 

6 – If you’re lucky you’ll be allocated your own shelf in the fridge and freezer and if you’re really lucky you’ll get your very own cupboard. All sounds very civilized but one day you’ll come home from work with an intense craving for those Sainsbury’s Basics chicken nuggets you bought with the last dregs of your pay packet only to pull out a bag of ice crystals and breadcrumbs. Apparently it’s an unwritten rule that washing power and milk are a free for all and get delivered by the washing powder and milk fairy.

7 – The kitchen will almost always be too filthy for you to cook in so you’ll eat on your bed most of the time. Your housemates will use every pot, pan, plate and cup so even if you want to cook some Supernoodles you’ll have to wash something up. You grit your teeth and do it the first 5 times but after that you’ll want to kill someone and refuse to do it any more, you’ll either starve out of principal or order something from Just Eat if you’re feeling flush.

8 – You’ll become all too familiar with the bowel movements of your roommates as you all fall into a bathroom routine and playing the delightful game of spot the skidmark as you brush your teeth will become the highlight of your morning. Fun times.

9 – Your housemates will shaft you with the rent and bill splits any way they can. If your home is being rented out as a whole unit and not room by room, the current housemates can divide up the rent so you’re paying more than them. Sneaky bastards. Also, in a lot of houseshares there’s 1 person who pays all the bills/rent and you pay them… This means you have no idea just how much the bills are and they can pocket the rest.

10 – …but some of your housemates will turn into lifelong friends who will see you through the dark days, share your hangovers, sync with your cycle and be there at the end of a long day with a glass of cheap wine. They’ll eat your disgusting attempts at a Jamie Oliver 15 minute meal and join you on many a drunken impromptu escapade, such as chasing someone down the road with a screwdriver after they piss through your letterbox and you’ll wonder where they’ve been all your life.

Beer in brugge

It’s not all bad, I promise.