Romantic Restaurant Suggestions

With Valentine’s Day very nearly upon us you may be at that awkward stage of panic where you just don’t know where to take your other half for a romantic dinner for two. Luckily for you we have a few restaurants that are sure to stir some romance.

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Clos Maggiore

Voted London’s most romantic restaurant by Harden’s guide Clos Maggiore is the perfect place to treat your loved one to a slap up Valentine’s Day meal. Situated on Kings Street, this independent eatery oozes romance even before you step over the threshold, as you wind your way through Covent Garden’s cobbled streets. Once you are inside, however, things go up a gear as you are welcomed by truly spectacular décor. An intimate indoor courtyard is decked with abundant decorative branches, which really come into their own once they are in bloom during the early summer months and the glass roofs are opened. During the cooler months of the year mirrors are place around periphery of the room, and beautifully reflect the glow from a crackling log fire. The menu is classed as ‘Modern Europe’ and is inspired by the tastes and culinary traditions of France, with a sharp focus placed upon quality ingredients – plus an award winning wine list which boasts over 30 bottles by the glass.

Yi-Ban

This award winning Chinese restaurant is situated conveniently close to Woolwich, and boasts some spectacular views over Royal Albert Docks. The glass fronted building offers unobstructed views of the docks and beyond, perfect for an evening when the capital is awash with lights. You can choose to look out over the waters from inside, or in warmer weather on their outdoor balcony. You can choose from a vast array of various Dim sum, Seafood and other classics from Chinese cuisine such as Cantonese Honey Pork and ‘Kung Po’ chicken. Yi-Ban are also offering a special Valentine’s Day menu.

Petersham Nurseries

If you’re after somewhere a little more relaxed and rustic this is the place to go. Although it is located rather off the beaten track (for London standards), and has been lovingly been described as being a spacious, light and furnished shed, it’s the sort of place that would feel at home in Tuscany or the South of France. You’ll likely see the chef nipping to the beautiful and overgrown garden to collect some herbs, and their homemade lemonade is as much in demand as their wine is. Critics warn that prices for this relaxed and charming dining experience don’t come cheap, with produce being sourced directly from tiny organic shops all over Europe. However, it has a blissfully relaxed atmosphere that will put even the newest of couple’s first-date nerves at ease. For a cheaper, and potentially more imaginative alternative, you could go for tea and cake in the Teahouse – tea choices range from exotic fruit varieties to your traditional English breakfast.

What’s on at the Woolwich Grand Theatre?

Fancy doing something slightly different on the weekends or a day off? If so, the Woolwich Grand Theatre may be the answer. The Woolwich Grand Theatre is both an arts venue and a cinema situated in the heart of Woolwich, and only a five minute walk from Woolwich Arsenal station.

Upcoming events at the venue include:

Roller Disco and family skate session

On Saturday 1st of February the Woolwich Grand Theatre will play host to a family skate session in the main hall, from 3pm to 6pm, followed by an adult’s roller disco from 7pm to 6pm. The family skate session would be a great day out for the whole family, and the kids are sure to have more than a few opportunities to laugh at their guardians donning their rollerblades. Skate hire costs £7.50, if you’re a keen skater and have your own the cost of entry drops to £5.00, and if you think it will be better (and safer) for everyone if you skip the skating all together spectator entry costs a mere £3.00. Prices vary slightly for the adult’s roller disco, with skate hire costing £10.00 and without skate hire costing £8.00 (spectator prices stay at £3.00). It’s great alternative weekend activity for friends and family to enjoy alike.

King of Comedy Night

Head down to the Woolwich Grand Theatre on Friday 28th of February from 7pm to 11pm to have a laugh, and leave all your troubles in the office (what a great way to start the weekend). The King of Comedy Night consists of ten acts battling it out to be crowned King or Queen of the evening, which the audience gets to decide. As the Woolwich Grand Theatre have said themselves: “This interactive principle is proving very popular among acts and audience members alike. So come down and enjoy the show, get involved and have a laugh on us.”

Help to Buy: What You Need To Know

House prices rising, symbolized by arrows with a house shape going up.

 

Sadly, it’s a well-known fact that in the current economic climate buying a house, especially if you’re a first time buyer, is a notoriously tricky business. However, if you’re struggling to save up for that mammoth deposit on top of the cost of living, there are avenues you can pursue in order to get your foot on the ladder. The Help to Buy home ownership scheme gives you financial help if you live in England and can’t afford to buy a home.

The Help to Buy equity loan

This loan is available to first time buyers, and home movers on new build homes up to the worth of £600,000. Be aware that you won’t be able to sub-let your home if you use this scheme. With a help to Buy equity loan you will have to contribute at least 5% of the property price as a deposit, the government will then give you a loan of up to 20% of the property’s price, you will then need a mortgage to cover the remaining 75% of the property’s worth.

The benefit to getting an equity loan from the government is that with a larger amount of money to put down, you’ll hopefully get a better mortgage rate from your particular lender.

So, what happens when you have to pay the equity loan back?

Thankfully, the equity loan is interest free for the first five years. However, from the sixth year, and every consequent year there after you have to pay an admin fee. This fee will begin at 1.75% of your loan, and increase every year by any increase in the Retail Prices Index plus and extra 1%.

A word of warning, these repayments are in addition to your mortgage repayments, and won’t be decreasing in size. So, over time the cost of the admin fee could become pretty expensive.

The equity loan will need to be repaid in full after 25 years, when your mortgage term finishes or when you sell your home – whichever happens first. You will repay the market value of the loan at the time, rather than a fixed cash amount. For example:

You take a 20% equity loan to buy a property worth £200,000, which will be £40,000. Then, when you sell the property, it’s worth £250,000. You will consequently have to repay £50,000 – this is 20% of the new value of your home, not the amount you borrowed. If the property had dropped in value, you’d pay less than you borrowed.

You can also choose to repay part of the loan early in chunks of either 10% or 20% of the total value.

Top 5 Tips for Packing When Moving House

It’s a well-known fact that moving house is up there as one of the most stressful situations an individual will ever go through. What’s more, it’s more than likely that the meteoric rise in stress levels will begin to take place months before the removal van pulls up outside. Living somewhere for years and years will, inevitably, result in an astounding accumulation of possessions, and it is commonly the thought of having to segregate and pack all those worldly belongings that sees the majority of us break out in a cold sweat. So, in order to prevent you from falling at the first hurdle follow these top 5 packing tips to make your move, relatively, stress free.

1)     Be selective

By this we mean that now is the perfect time to have that clear out you have been meaning to do for months, maybe even years. There will inevitably be a lot of junk hiding amongst your treasures so hiring a skip could be money well spent. You may also find that you have some perfectly good possessions that you just don’t need or want anymore, but other people will. If this is the case take a trip to the charity shop or attend a car boot sale – this way you manage to lighten the packing load and earn some money or help someone less fortunate out at the same time.

2)     Be strategic

Packing up the entire contents of a house can be a daunting, and sometimes overwhelming, thought. In order to stay on top of things pack each room one at a time. This way you set yourself more achievable challenges, and once a room is all packed and ready to go you will have the relief of knowing you are one step closer to your end goal.

3)     Be organised

It’s stressful enough moving as it is without adding extra niggles which could of easily been avoided with a bit of forward thinking. Make sure you order plenty of boxes way ahead of time, so when it does come round to packing it is all there waiting for you – and you won’t have the hassle of not having enough storage.  Ensure that the boxes you do order are strong, and designed for the job at hand, otherwise there could be a few nasty accidents.

4)     Be sure to label everything

There is nothing worse when you move home than looking for the essentials such as clothes or kitchen utensils to find you have no clue where they are. Be sure to label each box with exactly what’s in there to minimise stress, and make unpacking that little bit easier.

5)     Be practical

In a haze of industrial tape and cardboard boxes it may be quite easy to lose your head, but adopting a practical approach can save a lot of drama and hiccups along the way. Remember to pack important documents, as well as necessities you may need to access quickly, clearly labelled and separately from your other items. Pack fragile items on their own and with plenty of padding to avoid breakages, tears, and lots of cleaning up. Also, as tempting as it may be to save room, don’t over pack your boxes. This will minimise injuries and the chance of the boxes splitting; revealing all your worldly goods to your new neighbours.

The History of Guy Fawkes

November is synonymous with fireworks, even after Guy Fawkes Night has been and gone. You can’t go an evening without hearing a firework or two and watching the dazzling spectacle they produce. But, loud bangs and pretty colours aside, amongst the frivolities all these fireworks parties bring it’s easy to forget the history of Guy Fawkes Night, so here’s a quick round up.

It all started in 1605, when a fellow named Guy Fawkes and his band of plotters conjured up a plan to blow up the houses of parliament with barrels of gunpowder planted in the basement. Why? Because they wanted to see the back of King James and the King’s leaders. Fawkes and his followers felt that since Queen Elizabeth had been on the throne Roman Catholics had been treated unfairly, forced to practise their religion in secret in fear of violent repercussions. Hopes of these laws being revoked when James took the throne were dashed when he came to power and controversially imposed more laws upon the Catholic religion. So, the Gun Powder Plot came to life. The men bought a house next to the houses of parliament, which conveniently had a cellar which spread under the parliament building.

But why was Guy Fawkes such a big part in this plot I hear you ask. Well, he was given the task to keep watch over the barrels of gunpowder and light the fuse when given the go ahead. However, fortunately, on the morning of the 5th of November Fawkes’s plan was scuppered as he was discovered in the cellar amongst the gunpowder and arrested. He was sent to the Tower of London where he was tortured and questioned into a confession.

In celebration of his survival, King James declared that his subjects should all have a spectacular bonfire on the night of the 5th of November. This signalled the birth of the Guy Fawkes Night we know to this day. The commemoration of the gunpowder plot now, appropriately, includes fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire.

Why We Love London Fashion Week

You don’t have to be a fashionista to embrace and enjoy London Fashion Week, as there is plenty on offer for everyone to get involved in.

Obviously, Fashion Week itself is strictly a trade event for industry professionals but you can still enjoy some of the shows as you can watch them live, through an online free stream. So you can enjoy the show, designers and clothes all from the comfort of your living room or maybe even on your lunch break at work!London-Fashion-Week-AW-20101

The Vodafone London Fashion Weekend runs from 19th to 22nd September at The Somerset House and is welcome to the public, also you might be surprised to know that tickets start from under £20! Plus, you can add on extras to your ticket such as a wash, cut and blow-dry for both men and women. It’s essentially a designer shopping event where the public can purchase items from designers of London Fashion Week.

If you attend you will receive a ‘show bag’ aka a goody bag… and everyone loves a goody bag! The bags typically contain products and samples from a range of designers and brands. This season, upcoming designer Sister by Silbing has designed the tote show bag.

If you fancy a drink and want to admire fashion industry professionals from afar then head to The Mayfair Hotel, as it’s the official hotel for London Fashion Week. Also, just to make it that little bit better they have created a spa treatment specifically for Fashion Week that you can enjoy!

After all the excitement of Fashion Week you might as well grab a ticket for £12 for the ‘Help A Capital Child’ LFW Closing Party. The party includes: live music, DJs, catwalk shows, free drinks on arrival and much more. What better way to celebrate London Fashion Week with some of the best entertainment and free drink all for £12?!

Things To Do In London Now The Kids Are At School!

So finally the long summer holidays are over and congratulations you can get your life back! If you’re in need of inspiration then here’s the perfect little list of some great things you can do in your spare time without having to entertain the little ones.

Southbank Centre Book Market

A great place to head if you’re a book lover as you can browse through endless second-hand books to discover something that’ll tickle your fancy without having anyone to nag you to hurry up.

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Hampstead Heath

Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and watch the world go buy and what better way then to sit comfortably in Hampstead Health, you could even be reading a book you just picked up at Southbank!

Oxford Street Fashion Showcase

Now if shopping is your thing or you’re in need of a little retail therapy, then Oxford Street is the place to be as they’re celebrating Fashion Week from 1st September to 17th. Including exclusive talks from famous British designers and blogger style sessions plus lot’s more. Well worth a visit for any fashion lover!

Homemade London

If you fancy something a little creative, Homemade London offer a range of craft workshops that you can take part in. At the moment their currently running an Introduction to Perfume-Making, where you get to “create your own perfume blend to take away with you”.

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London Restaurant Festival

If you’re more of a ‘foodie’ then this is right up your street. With two sections to the festival: Events and Festival Menu’s. There are loads of different events you can get involved in including, Tapas Tour, Gourmet Odysey and Cicchetti Trail.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you enjoy it especially not having to worry about any ‘little ones’ for a good few hours!

 

The Summer of Music in London

Hard Rock Calling 29th and 30th of June

With The Boss headlining this weekend shindig at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the 150 000+ spectators will certainly not be left  where the Glory Days are. This will be the second time that Springsteen has headlined Hard Rock Calling after an unforgettable performance in 2009. Over 50 years he has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, whilst maintaining his blue-collar accessibility and fantastic live show. The festival also plays host to the legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon, as well as other acts including Kasabian, Paul Weller and the Klaxons.

London Music Festival

British Summer Time Hyde Park 5th-14th of July

Taking place over 10 days and 2 weekends in Hyde Park , this brand new event in the heart of central London features some of the biggest names from across the globe (and throughout history.) With Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Lionel Richie and Jenifer Lopez to name but a few, this is one music festival looking set to make a mark on the capital. However, the differing zones of entertainment across the park -including restaurants, salons, pubs, cocktail bars, cafes, bistros and food stalls- play host to a more intimate vibe from Monday to Thursday. Midweek the headliners will be replaced with film, music, literature and sport. A true all-rounder and definitely worth a look.

Wireless Festival 12th, 13th and 14th of July

Back to the Olympic park where this festival is one year from celebrating its decennial. Wireless is big, bold and boisterous, and attracts over 20 000 revelers on each of its three days. If you were born later than 1980 then this is your festival. Justin Timberlake, Jay Z and Calvin Harris to name but a few, will all be taking the main stage of the newly re-launched Olympic park.

Lovebox Weekender 19th, 20th and 21st of July

Perhaps the friendliest of the inner-city festivals, close your eyes and you could be at Glasto itself. Situated in Victoria Park, the Lovebox weekender plays host to a huge range of musical styles across multiple stages. This years line up includes the fantastically foul-mouthed Azelia Banks playing her only UK festival set, Rudimental, Goldfrapp and Lil’ Kim.

Camden Roundhouse

iTunes Festival 1st -30th of September

For the entire month of September the iconic yet intimate venue of the Camden Roundhouse will be host to a free gig every night. This year Jack White, Norah Jones, Usher, and (somewhat surprisingly) One Direction will all be headlining, but more acts will be announced nearer to the time of the event- always best to keep everyone guessing. For more information about how to apply for tickets, visit www.itunesfestival.com.

The Summer of Sport in London

With the Olypmics last summer, its safe to say that 2012 was a legendary year for sport in London. However, lest we forget these balmy months have played host to legendary sporting fixtures in London for the past 100 years. Here’s Woolwich Central’s quick guide to the top sporting fixtures not to miss, in and around London this summer.

Football – UEFA Champions League Final, Wembley Stadium, 25th May

Host of rockstars, concerts, and more occasionally football matches. On the 25th of may Borussia Dortmund take on Bayern Munich at Wembley after the German pair respectively overcame Real Madrid and Barcelona in the semi-finals. The 90 000 seater stadium re-opened its doors in 2007 after a facelift, featuring a newly built arch and enclosing 4million cubic metres of space under its roof- a fitting venue so oversee the battle for the European championship.

Aviva Premiership Final

Rugby – Aviva Premiership Final, Twickenham, 25th May

Just 10 miles south of Wembley, Twickenham stadium hosts the WRU’s biggest domestic club final, selling out the 82 000 seater stadium for the last 5 years running. The line-up for the final is Northampton Saints vs Leicester Tigers, a clash that is guaranteed to match the occasion itself.  The finalists have spent nine long months to get to this moment;  the culmination of 135 games between the top 12 teams and the season all comes down to this one game, with the best two sides in the country going head to head in a winner-takes-all encounter.

Tennis- Wimbledon, 24th June – 7th July

Prepare to share your pearls of tennis wisdom and cross your fingers for the weather to hold out; the 127th Championships  at Wimbledon are likely to be dominated by a familiar theme – can Murray (or any Briton for that matter) take home that heralded trophy? Hopes will be higher than at any time since Fred Perry’s 1936 victory after Andy Murray made it all the way to the final last year, but Federer showed us why he deserved his legendary status last year and will be hungry as ever to win an incredible eighth title. Serena Williams is not far behind on five Wimbledon championships and undoubtedly dominant on the noise stakes. So ready you tents for the queues, pack your strawberries, cream and a sturdy umbrella and head down to the All England Club for 2 weeks of world-class tennis.

Horse Racing- Royal Ascot, 18th- 22nd June

A short stop outside of the capital and top racing action mixes with high fashion at the five-day race Featuring some of the top equine stars from around the world. Since 1711 Royal Ascot has been a date in the diaries for the ‘well-heeled and fabulous’, promising “excitement, pageantry, fashion and style”- and 2013 looks set to be no different.

Rowing- Henley Royal Regatta, 3rd -7th July

Just an hour’s drive from central Greenwich, this sleepy town on the Upper Thames comes alive once again for first week of July. With crews from across the globe competing, this event is the culmination of the previous 365 days of 5am training sessions, vats of pasta and endless hours on the rowing machine. US universities look set to dominate the Temple challenge cup once again and 2013 promises no end yet to the Eton/Abingdon rivalry for the Princess Elizabeth. But as with all good sporting events, Henley Royal is also a steady fixture on the social calendar. With some of London’s finest watering holes de-camping to the toe-path for the week, it’s safe to say the clubs are full of more than just vanquished rowers drowning their sorrows. Just remember your maxi dress / blazer, picnic and a hearty supply of Pimms and you can’t go wrong.

Henley Regatta

Cricket- The Ashes (Lords and the Oval), 10th-25th July

Back slightly more central for an age-old rivalry with the aussies. This year England will host Australia in the Ashes series in July and August. The sides will contest five Test matches  at Trent Bridge, Lord’s, Old Trafford, Chester-le-Street and The Oval. England hold the famous urn after winning the last two series, but with our cricketing performances as unpredictable as the weather, who knows what the 2013 competition promises.

Athletics – Anniversary Games, Olympic Stadium, 26th-28th July

The world’s best athletes will descend on the nation’s capital as the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games takes place at The Stadium - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 26-28 July. Considered one of the best IAAF Diamond League meets in the world, 2012 saw a host of British and international champions put in show-stopping performances, and this year looks to build on previous performances.

What to do now that the sun is out in London…

We have had a weekend of sunshine and with temperatures rising daily, it is time to think about what there is to do in London now that the sun is out…

London Cycle Path

The View from The Shard

The View from the Shard

Running right past our doorstep, it would be almost criminal not to take advantage of a sunny  day by hopping on a bike to enjoy some of londons finest spots. Taking you past independent shops and markets, the best of british architecture, and some of Londons finest ‘secret gardens’, the London Cycle path is a great way to explore the capital. The nice people at transport for London have even put together a few suggested routes for you to try.

The View from the Shard

Self-proclaimed as ‘London’s most eagerly awaited attraction’, this new vantage point from which to enjoy the panorama of the British capital is a must for any clear-afternoon. From floor 69 you get a 360° view of London, before being exposed to the elements on floor 72.  At 800ft the shard is almost twice the height of any other viewing platform in London, and you are promised a crowd-free, stress-free, queue-free viewing experience – although pre-booking tickets is advised.

Horse-riding

There are a surprisingly large number of inner-city haunts which take care of all your equestrian needs. Offering everything from taster sessions, to birthday parties, jumping lessons and hacks, look no further than the capitals riding stables to provide a great day out for when the weather finally warms up. Dulwich Riding School, established in 1961, offer horseback rides through Dulwich park for £25 for an hour – the perfect way to enjoy some ‘inner-city ‘countryside.

Rock n Roll Walking Tour

With a weekend to kill and spring on the breeze, why not jump whole-heartledy into tourist mode and embark upon a walking tour of our great capital? Free with a London Pass, or £9 without one, the ‘Rock and Roll’ walking tour takes you through the musical history of London. You’ll wander through Soho and Covent garden tracking Britain’s rock heritage including the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and David Bowie. Tours start daily at 1pm from the Original London Visitors Centre.IMG_4745

Outdoor Fitness

Making the most of the capital’s parks as well as a range of industry expertise, the SWFitness group specialize in outdoor group fitness sessions … ‘Boot Camps’… which are designed to give you “the best hour of exercise you can get”. Burning up to 1000 calories a session, in a motivational environment in the great outdoors, SWFitness cover everything from dropping body fat, to all-round health, and of course nutrition; because nothing says “spring is here” like donning the lycra and getting sweaty in a local park.