Hannibal, Kubrick and Harry Potter

The Silence of the Lambs

Allens of Mayfair was one of the most famous butcher’s shops in London. Having opened its doors in 1830, it was also the capital’s oldest butcher until it closed in 2015. The sausage supplier to the nearby Dorchester hotel was also famous for weekly butchery classes, seasonally sourced British lamb and its very own Scottish beef reared in the Cairngorm National Park. These were the things that made it the place to go for the well-heeled carnivores of Mayfair.

However, fame of a different kind is now coming to the Grade II listed shop on the corner of Mount Street in the shape of New York’s finest deli, Dean & DeLuca’s. Joel Dean and Georgio DeLuca opened their first store in New York in 1977 and there are now branches all over the world – from Japan to the Middle East – and soon to be Mayfair, London.

The company has plenty of celebrity customers already including Taylor Swift and Helen Mirren but perhaps its most famous link is to a certain Hannibal Lecter! In the 2001 film “Hannibal”, Anthony Hopkins enjoys Dean & DeLuca’s finest provisions alongside his less appealing ingredients! So where else would you go for your fava beans and Chianti from now on?

Daydreaming in the West End

Somerset House, on the North Bank of the Thames by Waterloo Bridge, is one of the most exciting, vibrant places to visit in central London. There is always something good going on there. The neoclassical Georgian building has a fantastic inner courtyard, which is the scene for a beautiful ice rink in the winter and outdoor film festivals and concerts in the summer.

This glorious edifice stares out over the mighty Thames and the original Waterloo Bridge was built to complement it, providing an illusion of porticos beneath the palace above. The bridge has long since been replaced by a rather bland structure but Somerset House survived and has been reborn as a great arts venue after decades as the public record office.

And never has this rebirth been more evident than as the inspired choice to host a superb exhibition called “Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick”. This shocking, memorable and evocative display comprises a stunning variety of art forms inspired by Kubrick’s work.

The exhibition starts with a pleasant painting by his wife of 40 years, Christine, showing the great film director sitting in his peaceful garden – but this is no taste of what’s to come! Be prepared for a mountain of electric fires, a room with dozens of radio transmitters all crackling at the same time, strobe lights, giant teddy bears and a frozen dead body!

Each work is by a different artist and linked intimately with Kubrick’s iconic films such as “The Shining”, “2001 A Space Odyssey”, “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut”. For me though, the most haunting were those inspired by “A Clockwork Orange”. I first saw this film in France since it was banned in Britain at the time and this exhibition reignites the shock and fear of the dystopian futuristic society I experienced in “L’Orange Mechanique”.
Rush along for some daydreaming before the exhibition closes at the end of the month.

Home from home

The Museum of London has always felt a little tucked away in a seemingly unloved corner of the Barbican, on the outskirts of the City. But now there are exciting plans to move into a great new location just down the road at Smithfield Market.

Smithfield, unlike other famous former central London markets such as Covent Garden and Leadenhall, still does what it says on the tin and functions as the largest meat wholesale market in the UK (and probably Europe). However, there are large areas of buildings which are unused and have fallen into disrepair – but this is all about to change.

West Smithfield will become the new home to an enlarged, vibrant museum depicting every aspect of London’s history. An international competition was held to design the new building and the winners have been announced as London-based architects, Asif Khan and Stanton Williams. Their inspirational design includes a fantastic domed atrium and spiral escalators together with a huge underground chamber and a sunken garden.

Winning designer Asif Khan said: “We want the Museum of London to be a museum where everyone belongs and the future of London is created.” Well, we will all have to wait for the future as the new museum will not open until 2022.

Brexit Bonus?

In the short term, London seems to be doing rather well on the back of the Brexit vote. The 13% fall in the value of the Pound has boosted tourism with foreign visitors increasing by some 18% year on year. It also seems people are spending more with major retailers saying that takings are up some 20% on last year. On top of that, travelling overseas has, of course, become more expensive for Brits so the idea of a ‘Staycation’ is that much more appealing.

Hotels report a surge in bookings, attractions like Westminster Abbey say visitors are at record levels and popular West End productions like the latest blockbuster “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” seem to be sold out for months.

Interestingly, some of the biggest increases in visitor numbers were from northern European countries including Norway. Maybe Norwegians are feeling a renewed kinship with the UK after the vote to break away from the European Union!

The outcome for the Capital’s property market is far less clear. There are reports of huge divergence in both directions following the Brexit vote and it seems only time will tell. A cheap currency will always bring short term benefits to a country but the underlying uncertainty is undoubtedly leading to many people just sitting tight to see what happens next.