Friday 28 February 2014

Google City Experts' After Hours Treasure Hunt at the Museum of London

Once upon a time, DS proved himself to be an excellent source of information on fun things to do in London, and thus became my fairy godfather of sorts - I.E. Assuming I was Cinderella, he'd let me know where all the coolest balls were being held. (It's a tortured metaphor, but stay with me here.) One day early last year, he told me about Google City Experts, but I dithered over writing the 50 necessary reviews and didn't quite get on the pumpkin until, by some twist of fate, I found out about Google Local London's #BurgerBinge contest this year, and their latest event for fully qualified City Experts: A treasure hunt at the Museum of London. Since I write so much anyway, with sufficient motivation it didn't take long to churn out all the three to four sentence reviews I needed. And poof! I made it to the ball. Closer to midnight than I'd have liked, but better late than never. (End of terrible metaphor. *throws confetti*)

Cheapside Hoard Exhibition Museum of London

Having only experienced treasure hunts in school settings - ultra-competitive and cut throat events that involved a great deal of running, screaming and finding who carried around Neoprints in their wallets with the most number of people in them (It was a common question in my time. The 2000s was strange for everyone), I wasn't expecting the Victorian-esque gentility that greeted us when we were admitted to the Sackler Hall. It was all exceedingly civilized, with an open bar and snack tables for mingling. They'd laid out the posher sort of Kettle Chips (The ones with beets and parsnips and sweet potatoes), and I was fairly impressed by that. (I'm very easily impressed, don't mind me) Did a bit more snooping round the room in between sneaking handfuls of chips. I may have squealed in delight (Just a little) when I realized that the exquisite tea-cups laid out were meant to contain Hendrick's.  

My previous trip to the Museum of London was towards the end of second year when I tagged along with SL and the Warren Street Crew, and I'd quite enjoyed myself. The treasure hunt was contained within the L2 level, which showcased London from the 1670s onward, which meant we didn't get a chance this time to go up to level E, which charted London's development from pre-historic times till the Early Modern period. Pity, since I'd liked the medieval bits, but the museum does have free entry so it's really no hardship for me to pop round another time. DS & I have our student museum cards as well, so we can enter the Cheapside Hoard exhibition gratis. Now we just have to find a day where we're both free....

It was my first time in a museum after-hours, and it was nice to see this side of the city. They were serving a really good non-alcoholic apple Mojito at the bar, and it became my drink of choice for the evening. The lovely thing about hiring the Museum of London for corporate events is that guests can eat and drink in the galleries, so I had a glass in hand throughout. This meant trotting along at a more sedate pace round the exhibits rather than mad dashing, but my legs were still tired from three hours of high intensity dancing at Morning Glory the day before so that was all I could manage anyway.

Our hosts for the evening's event were actors and actresses dressed up in suitable period costume, including multiple Victorian gentlemen, a slightly out-of-time Elizabethan lady and a suffragette. They manned the activity stations and pointed us to our next destinations when we needed to move on, keeping things running on time. It was all very well organized. 

Each group had to follow their own quiz sheet for timings and locations, which rotated us around the exhibits like smooth clockwork. My group began in the Victorian gallery, where we jumped into the deep end immediately and had to make a silent film involving the made-up shop fronts, where we were supposed to be "reviewing local businesses". It was all very meta, and this being London it involved a necessary trip to the "pub", which we decided was 'Good for a pint, but there's no #WiFi :(' A lot of sad staring at phones was captured for our movie. We should all have won Oscars really, it was so realistic.

A brief quiz section was next, followed by a session with the resident suffragette. We didn't campaign for women's rights this time, but we did make placards about London and wave them around while singing and marching round the exhibits. Radicalism - it's good fun! 

Two more quiz sections and we found ourselves back in the hall, where plates and plates of biscuits and cups of gin "tea" had been laid out. Our mad tea party involved constructing London landmarks out of the confectioneries that had been set out before us with as much realism and detail as possible. Icing sugar had been provided as cement, and we were strongly encouraged to snack as we built. This led unfortunately to the consumption of a pink wafer, a decision I still regret. I'm surprised my teeth didn't fall out after encountering that much sugar. 

I attempted to construct the Shard, a project which seemed to be going fairly well at first. I had the height desired, and all I needed to do was add a few finishing touches to get the details right.

Then disaster struck, in the form of a soggy McVities, which sent everything above the first level tumbling back down. The stuff is good for dunking in tea, but terrible for tower construction. Curse the lack of structural integrity of McVities! Ended up scarfing the offending piece, then grabbing the tureen of icing sugar to start again. 

A one stage, my remodelling of the Shard looked quite disturbingly similar to the Dark Tower - all it was missing was the Eye of Sauron. We had to move on before I could get more detail in, so the resulting piece looked a little half-baked, but I was very glad to finally wash the icing off my fingers so we could traipse off. 

A haiku, a dirty limerick and some angst about clue finding later, the treasure hunt was over and we were all gathered back into the hall to receive awards for our miscellaneous feats of daring. We were fairly amused to find that our construction table was in a far messier state than everyone else's. Had they actually eaten all their leftover biscuits? Was that a thing we had to do? 

Rosettes were given out at the prize ceremony at the end, and I was awarded one for my haiku. I bowed as I had been instructed at the Victorian Walk ("To the air! To the heart! To the ground!"), and after the ceremony ended we all adjourned to - you guessed it! - the nearest pub. 

To this day I still don't know how we did on the quiz - the answers have been put up (I knew something was wrong with the phrasing of that question!) but with our answer sheets in the hands the Google Local London team we'll probably never ever find out. (I still maintain our group won though) It had been a really marvellous evening out, and I'm looking forward to the next event they host. 

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Mozart Undone

I signed up to Mousetrap Theatre Projects' WestEnd4£10 programme way back in first year, and thanks to the fact that I'm still under 23 and haven't aged out yet, I've continued to receive invites to watch productions across London for £10 or less. It's a wonderful system that allows young people to cultivate a love for the performing arts and see numerous high quality productions we otherwise would have been priced out of. Sometimes, they even do collaborations with theatres, and when I got the email inviting us to write in for free Tweet Seats for Mozart Undone at the Barbican I was pretty thrilled. 

Mozart Undone Tickets

Ever since my first visit when AS brought me to the Barbican as her plus-one for Richard II, courtesy of The Beaver (Our unfortunately-named school paper for which she writes theatre reviews. We got brilliantly placed stall seats, and every time I think about it, it makes me smile), I've thoroughly fallen in love with the place. The seats are squishy and comfortable, the wide open spaces are a welcome change from the usual claustrophobia of daily London existence, they've got the coolest safety curtain (Although "curtain" might be a bit of a misnomer in this case - more like massive metallic casing) and the bathroom graffiti is top notch. The Tweet Seats were all located in the Circle so that our phones and cameras would cause minimal disruption while still affording us a good view. 

Before the show started, the director came onstage to inform us that one of the female singers had developed a throat issue and had been advised by their doctor not to perform that evening. Her replacement had been contacted and was hot-footing it down from Copenhagen, but was still stuck at Heathrow, so the original singer was going to soldier through the pain until the interval since the show had to go on. It was a lot of dedication right there, and we were all suitably impressed. 

It was quite a novel experience having my phone in hand and being able to use it once the show started. It took a bit of trial and error figuring out how the pictures were going to look. Since we weren't allowed to use flash photography, with the stage lighting and the zoom, all the figures eventually took on an oil painting-like quality, which I thought quite suited the theatricality of the performance.  

Mozart Undone keeps what they think are the best bits of musical theatre - the stagecraft, the amazing costumes, the spine-tingling musical numbers, while discarding such pesky things like hackneyed and over-wrought plots and the hiding away of the orchestra in a pit. The chosen elements are then churned together with certain aspects of rock concerts (Set lists! Flashing lights! Sexy rock star vibes!) for a thoroughly revisionist mash-up. You don't realize how good Mozart is as a base for chilling screamo rock songs until you've seen Mozart Undone. 

To be honest, with all the costume changes and the jumps between songs, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on half the time, I was just enjoying the spectacle. Was there time travelling? Was it all a play within a play? During the interval, I spoke to the guy next to me, who confessed that he had no idea what was happening either. As we discussed how our minds impose speculative story lines in order to make sense of seemingly random events, he admitted that in his head, he had to pretend that one character was Mozart in every scene. 

"It's the only way my brain can cope."

I tried to do the same thing in the second half of the performance, and my fevered imagination came to the realization that Mozart is whoever has the biggest hair on stage at any point of the performance. Of course, this system wasn't perfect. Case in point - spot the Mozart:

Much like a rock concert, those searching for deeper meanings here probably won't find it. What you will find is a bizarre, heightened aesthetic that is fairly enjoyable on its own, provided you aren't a massive classical music purist, and don't hate cascades of water and glitter. The whole show pretty much consists of every novelty element seen in other performances, which is a pretty big accomplishment and quite amazing to watch as it unfolds. 

The audience that evening seemed to get into the spirit of things quite quickly, and there was raucous laughter and even some hollers from the crowd throughout the show. You could tell we'd completely gotten over the sacred and embraced the profane by the fourth song, when a bunch of people in the audience added their own noises to The Conference of the Birds, which had been inspired by Die Zauberflöte. The people in the stalls were a pretty rowdy bunch.  

For all that I'm surgically attached to my phone, I never managed to shake the lingering sense of unease I got when using it throughout the show. In addition to that, when I watch shows I usually focus on certain characters but still manage to keep half an eye on everyone else. With the phone in my hand and the camera lens trained on specific persons though, it became disturbingly easy to ignore all that was going on beyond the screen. Still I don't really regret the futile efforts I made at getting a good shot of the guy who was playing the electrical guitar with a violin bow, because that was pretty damn great.  

I spent much of the ride home feeling puzzled and not a little shell-shocked, partially because of the realization that I'd had a really enjoyable evening. I'd once fallen asleep at a classical music concert because I'm an absolute heathen, but I was never in fear of that throughout Mozart Undone. The talent of the singers and musicians is completely undeniable, and while much of the newly-penned English lyrics didn't make a whole lot of sense, the music had been pretty good. I get the sudden urge to groove whenever I hear snatches of Mozart now.

Morning Glory Dance Rave

There's always so much stuff going on in London, but unless you're in the know (Or know someone in the know), it's really easy to miss out on all the coolest events. Trial and a great deal of error these past three and a half years has helped me streamline my method of becoming more aware of happenings around me, and now one of the things I do is subscribe to websites like Indigo Memoirs. In the dead times when I'm waiting for buses to arrive or classes to begin, I read through their suggestions on where to go and cool things to do, and thus far it's stood me in good stead. 

Morning in London Cambridge Heath

For instance, thanks to them, I found out about Morning Glory, and got myself a ticket to the coolest way to start the day in London. M has been going on and on about how I needed to exercise ("Sitting in your bed with your laptop all day isn't healthy!"), but I loathe running and have yet to find a cheapish place nearby to do yoga, so very little physical activity had been done at all. A one-off intensive free-style dance marathon though? I was totally down for that. Up in my hovel of an attic room there's isn't even enough space to move, much less dance (I generally just clamour onto my bed from the door - that's how little space there is), and I've needed to get my moves on for ages. Doors opened at 6.30 am to the feel-good sober rave, so I caught an early train down to Cambridge Heath and stayed for most of the dancing, which went on till nearly 11 am. 

Morning Glory Dance Rave Outfits

The dancing was wild, but quite unlike other raves, there was a definite wholesome vibe to Morning Glory. Fresh pressed juices were sold alongside organic coffee, toddlers were in attendance, life-affirming slogans were hollered out and group hugs were exchanged. Some people went all out with their costumes, while others (Like me!) were quite happily decked out in pajamas. It was all very uplifting, and my body was still thrumming on leftover adrenaline from my krav maga class the evening before so I was all over that dance floor. The glorious thing was that even with the sheer number of people at the venue, everyone magically had enough space to do their thing. Only once did I accidentally whap someone in the face when I was throwing my hands up in the air, but that's still much better than my previous record, which will never be mentioned again. Hooray! I am now less of a public menace!

At the back of the room, there was a small table set out with organic beauty products that we could help ourselves to, so in between DJ sets I'd shimmy my way through the sea of bodies and help myself to the tea tree wipes to freshen up and get some stretches done. There was a Japanese news crew who were around filming a segment, and it was quite funny watching from the back as the dancing got more frenzied whenever the camera came near. 

Beyond the power of improvised dance, there were also free fifteen minute massages to help participants recharge. I managed to snag a slot for the healing head massage, which was the most gentle and soothing treatment I've ever had. So soothing in fact, that I fell asleep halfway through. When the therapist woke me up though, I felt utterly refreshed and ready to jump back into the thick of the action. 

Morning Glory Dance Rave at the Oval Space

I skipped out early to beat the queues for the cloak room, and when I left the Oval Space, the glorious weather seemed to reflect the "It's a nice day to be alive!" ethos of the dance party. Even the Bethnal Green gas holders looked cheery under the sunlight. 

Iconic Alternative London Images

With a song in my heart I went back home, and wound up napping before class in the afternoon. Woke up ridden with aches and found that I couldn't lift my arms over my head any more, which was perfectly understandable considering all the exercise I'd done within a 12 hour span. It felt good. 

London in sunlight The Oval

Monday 24 February 2014

Gordon's Wine Bar

Gordon's Wine Bar  has been a London institution since the 19th century, and claims to be the oldest wine bar still in existence in London, and perhaps one of the oldest throughout Europe. While the current Gordon family who owns the place aren't actually related to the original Gordons, the name has been maintained and so has, I suspect, much of the interiors. Apparently, the place was shut for a while in the 90s for alleged Health & Safety violations, and to get around it the late owner used hairspray to deal with the worst of the dust bunnies. It's a marvellous story. The inside didn't seem terribly grubby when we went to pick up glasses of wine and a plate of cheese, although I suspect the dim lighting may have had something to do with that. 

For all the people who walk by not realizing this gem of a wine bar exists, there are enough people in the know that the place is packed on Sunday afternoons, and we were lucky to be able to find a seat outside. Next time, we go, we'll probably hit the bar early to get a seat in their outrageously dim cellar. I'm not quite tall enough to hit my head on the low arches, and the candle-lit tables seem like the best place to settle down for some booze and gossip. The bar stocks some lovely Sherries, Madeiras and Ports, but it felt like a good afternoon to run down their list of wines, so that's what we did. 

Sitting outside in the sun is an excellent way to people-watch and gawk at the bottles being enjoyed by the other tables, but you absolutely must walk round the inside of the wine bar itself, which could probably function as a time capsule in a pinch: vintage furnishing and old newspaper clippings abound. Had quite the trippy visit to the ladies' - a picture of Prince Charles and Princess Di beaming down at a baby Prince William was on the wall,  and it felt so awkward I had to find another cubicle. 

We got a selection of cheeses including the Gouda and Smoked Cheddar, which came with a warm and really crusty baguette, pats of deliciously salty butter and as much pickles and relish that you dare to heap onto your plate. After Sunday Roast, SSH couldn't stomach anything beyond the odd pickle, but the rest of us are a bunch of gluttons and polished off the rather delectable cheeses in no time at all. 

Even under the radiators, whenever a breeze came in we got a bit of the chills and a sudden hankering for something fleecy to wrap ourselves in. The only solution we could think of in the absence of blankets falling from the sky was to enjoy some more wine and hope its warming properties set in. This wasn't very difficult at all given the dangerously drinkable by-the-glass list on offer. For all the flavours and complexities of the wines we had, all of them went down terrifyingly smoothly, and were rather well-priced given the high quality.

We sent ES to the cheese counter to beg for more pickles, and he came back to the table bearing a small plate of them that we set upon quite ravenously. Time works a little bit differently at Gordon's - it's like stepping into a fairy circle. You only feel like you're there for minutes, and when you finally make your way out you realize a whole swathe of time (Like an entire afternoon) has suddenly vanished, which you can't quite account for. But everyone leaves happy, and at the end of the day that's really all you ask for. 

Sunday 23 February 2014

Sunday Roast at The Roebuck

This week, SSH does a spot of guest posting because The Roebuck, where we went for Sunday Roast, happens to be in her 'hood, while I add in bits of additional commentary. Imagine I sound like David Attenborough, just... Younger and more female: 

Deciding we all needed to go for Sunday roast we were first perplexed by where exactly should we go. Luckily the decision was made to venture to The Roebuck, a pub situated neatly in my neighbourhood. The Roebuck is one of the little gems one will come across near my student housing with its daily changing menu, a quaint and homey feel, a stack of board games to play, and an ever fitting portrait of Bambi sitting on the wall.

The Roebuck was quaintly shabby-chic, the sort of watering hole that attracts the more laid-back of our species...

Being Canadian I have never had Sunday Roast, so I was extremely excited to partake in this ever so traditional British meal. While we waited for Abigail to join us we all diligently perused the menu. The Roebuck offers a plethora of options for Sunday Roast; something to please every palate and diet, but I knew that I wanted to stick with the beef option, as it seemed the most traditional out of all. Luckily if you go in big groups everyone will order something different, and it gives you the opportunity to share bites with one another (which was the case for us).

We all sat quietly as we tucked in and savored each bite, since we hadn’t eaten all day in anticipation of this meal. The beef was tender, and slightly chewy but very delicious. 

Abigail ordered the pork which came with a delightfully crackled skin that was very flavorful, and I was pleasantly surprised by the sumptuous taste of GW’s vegetarian option, which was a cheese, leek and walnut pie in a buttery and oh-so flaky crust. 

But I think we were all in agreeance that the best part of the roast (to my surprise) was the roasted vegetables! Carrots, parsnips, potatoes and cabbage roasted to perfection and drowning in the right amount of gravy to completely satisfy your taste buds!

Towards the end of the meal, a significant amount of plate shuffling occurred, as each individual picked out what they felt were the choicest morsels and passed the rest on to someone else...

Part way through our meal we were joined by a sweet, slightly kooky, older woman by the name of Anne. She kindly asked to join our table (With a cry of "Goodness me! It looks like the League of Nations here!" - I think the biggest surprise was that she mentioned that instead of the UN) and sat with us while we finished our meal. Sitting closest to Abigail, she told her of her memories of the Blitz, and claimed to have seen GW around and asked if she was a dancer. We weren’t quite sure what type of dancer she meant, but GW is certain she meant a stripper (which she is not for the record). Abigail and I decided Anne might have been a fairy of some sort there to sprinkle some cheer in a quirky way (She also insisted that I visit the Ministry of Sound, and provided extremely accurate walking instructions on how to get there from The Roebuck. Apparently she'd been there before and thought it was quite good. I didn't think it would be open at two in the afternoon though), or to remind us that an act of kindness is one of the most beautiful things we as humans can do for one another.

After almost 2 hours of stuffing ourselves to epic proportions we decided it was time to venture outside and walk around in an attempt to ease the fullness of our stomachs. All in all I have to say it was a great introduction to this Canadian’s first Sunday roast.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Craft Beer Rising 2014

While going through my planner (I haven't lost it yet and it's already March! Hallelujah!) and noting down my outings for the next few months, I recalled the London Brewers' Alliance Festival London's Brewing, which I attended last year. It had been an utter delight trying brews like Pressure Drop's Stokey Brown, dancing to the live music and getting a free bagful of Serious Pig's award-winning Classic Snacking Salami (Best. Thing. Ever. Only I have to go all the way to Selfridge's to get the stuff), so I was wondering if anything similar was on before I need to leg it back to Singapore for the summer. 

And lo! A quick search turned up Craft Beer Rising, which was very conveniently happening just the next weekend. I got myself a ticket immediately (Wincing somewhat at the cost), and it's a good thing too because they sold out completely not long after. Most beer festivals happen in the summer, but thankfully organizers are realizing that people have a taste for these events pretty much all year-round. 

The map indicated that the event was held at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, but when I got into the main building, the receptionist sent me on a merry chase down the street and round to a pokey little door in the back of the next building, which turned out to be the trader's entrance. The security team there directed me back round the front, where thankfully a queue had formed, indicating that I was in the right place. (Such useful things, queues.)

My £16.50 (Once you included tax and the booking fee) ticket for Saturday afternoon got me a free glass and £5 worth of tokens to spend at any of the food and beer stalls, after which I'd have to purchase more at the token counter if I wanted to get anything else. £5 wasn't really going to cut it for an event that was on from 12 to 5 pm, so I ended up plonking down an extra £10, which was very restrained of me. I spoke to a guy later in the afternoon who was obviously pretty sloshed, and he had no idea how much he'd spent exactly. 

"Just... A lot. I've spent a whole lot."

With over 200 beers from 60 different breweries worldwide, trying everything was next to impossible, and with beer such a subjective thing, finding "the best" stuff to drink was equally elusive. The programme booklet did have a list of recommended beers to try, but with a glass in one hand and a bag in the other, I wasn't in much of a position to be wielding that as well. Besides, I figured that loads of people would be crowding round the same few places, and wanting to try something different, I picked the first free stall I could find and started my beer journey from there, trying their beers then asking which breweries they particularly enjoyed. 

A bunch of visitors pulled away from Freedom Brewery's stall to go on their prowl for their next pint, so I stepped in. Tried a nice big sip of their Freedom Organic Lager, which tasted quite sublimely drinkable, but wound up opting for half a pint of the hoppier and very aromatic Freedom Pioneer, because I like what I like. All of Freedom's beers are certified Vegan, and matured for at least four weeks before sterile triple filtration, which results in much more complex natural flavours in the beers. The great thing about Craft Beer Rising, is that the brewers or distributors themselves man the stalls, so you get to stand around and talk to them about the beers you're drinking. When I asked which other brewery stood out for them, they pointed me round the back - "There's a brewery from the South of France that's very new, but their beers are good."

Meduz has only been around since August 2012, but they've already picked up a pretty dedicated fan following where they're based in Uzès, the South of France. I spent 15 minutes chatting with one of the owners of Meduz, who was a really lovely dude, while trying pretty much their entire range of unpasteurized craft beers. He's spent ages working in the beer industry and used to home-brew before taking the plunge and opening his own brewery, which now produces four different very tasty beers. It was ridiculously windy outside, but safe in the venue, with the sun streaming in and a third pint ("Pace yourself by ordering thirds, then you can try more beers." What did I tell you? Absolute sweetheart.) of their delightfully tart Meduz Blanche, the freshness of their wheat beer helped me imagine I was summering in the South of France. I ended up buying one of their glasses, with designs all round looking like the waves of the sea and a small marking on the bottom in the shape of an M to help with the nucleation process (I.E. A steady stream of bubbles in the beer), a little investment for future beer enjoyment.

He gave me not one, but two excellent recommendations, so I started with BeerCat from Catalonia - I'd told him I love hoppy beers, and their Further Westward had stood out for him. The stall was fairly busy so I just got my third pint and legged it, nursing my beer while having a bit of a wander. BeerCat's another newly established craft brewery, and Further Westward was a really exciting beer, unbelievably light for all its hops. 

Like most over-used labels, no one exact definition of 'Craft Beer' exists, but honestly, I don't think most of the people at Craft Beer Rising even cared. It's beer! It's supposed to make you happy! All the other participants I spoke to were a really cheery bunch who were just glad to be there to drink different things, and I ended up swapping glasses with a whole bunch of people, thus trying drinks like Left Coast Brewery's scrummy Baltic Porter while in line for tokens, and an alcoholic ginger beer cocktail while companionably sharing a bench with another girl. 

I got to the event at 12.15 pm, and started straight with the beers, but filling as they were, I needed lunch. There was a man selling sausage rolls which another participant had sworn up and down were the best he'd tasted, and another person doing ham sandwiches, but while deciding where to do I smelled the sizzle and was hooked. I followed it to where Burger Bear had set up shop in a corner, with decor that made me want to Roller Disco. It was a toss us between the Grizzly Bear (Bacon! Cheese! Bacon Jam...) and the Angry Bear, but I was desperately craving something spicy to sop up all the day drinking, so the Angry Bear it was. 

Byron's likes to talk about their squishy bun, but it has nothing on the sproing of Burger Bear's, which puffed right back up again. Just like that, I knew it would be a pretty life-altering burger experience. 

The fiery hot sauce was just what I needed, and the burger itself was mighty fine. It's probably the juiciest patty I've tasted so far, with lashings of vegetables, relish and cheese, packed between a gloriously fluffy bun. I just sat at the corner of a table smiling like a loon while attacking my burger, taking sips of Further Westward in between bites. I was probably the happiest person in the world.

Eventually I passed out of the happy burger haze enough to have a nice chat with the lady across from me, who was completely enamoured of her fish finger sandwich. She recommended Redwell's Steam Lager, which I eventually spent my last 50 p token on later in the day, while I ran through the entire list of things I'd drunk since I couldn't decide on a favourite yet. 

ES dropped by only to find that no tickets were left, but with my wristband I could come and go as I pleased, so I wound up taking a walk with him down Brick Lane to digest a little before Round 2. We popped into Dark Sugars after the smell of chocolate wafted by and wound up with two bags of exquisite handmade truffles, then went over to JoY so ES could do a bit of shopping. I always have to shop for BB, who refuses to actually step into stores with me, so helping ES out was a breeze. It's so much easier pick outfits when the person who'll be wearing them bothers to actually go out and try it on. Along the way I made a new friend at the store, and we discussed movies while ES was in the fitting room. 

After the parting of ways, my phone shuddered back to life long enough for me to snap a picture of Brains Craft Brewery, where I had a wonderful time. They had little plastic cups for people to try their beers from, which was such a well-organized thing to do. (Instead of half-pint glasses maybe next year the organizers should give out a small case of shot glasses instead so people don't overload on a single beer.) Brains has a really diverse range of great beers, and the guys behind the counter were incredibly generous, allowing me to taste my way pretty much through their entire catalogue. I couldn't really pick a favourite (I liked everything!), and debated with myself for a good long time while nursing a tasting portion of their rich burnt caramel and coffee Imperial Russian Stout, Shining Tsar. Eventually I left with a bottle of the Black Mountain IPA, which I'm saving for a special occasion. 

My last proper stop was at Butcombe Brewery's stall, on the suggestion of the guys from Brains. After a whole afternoon of boozing, the beers here still more than held their own. Of the easy-drinking rather than the strong novelty variety, the beers served at the Butcombe stall had a great build, resulting in really well rounded beers you could probably drink pints and pints of without feeling overwhelmed. I had thirds of both the Haka (Made from New Zealand hops! Zesty and oh-so quaffable) and the Brunel Atlantic IPA. They've got free tours over at their brewery near Bristol, and maybe one of these days I'll make a weekend of it and actually use my student railcard. Ah, the things I do for love (Of beer).