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Posts Tagged ‘Design’

I had a visitor in town a few weeks ago and we decided to head to the Art Science Museum. It’s such a lovely piece of architecture and having it situated right on Marina Bay makes it’s hard to resist.

Currently there are two free exhibits on display, Hermes Leather Forever (until December 13) and The Nobel Prize: Ideas Changing the World (until January 2016).  We decided to check these two exhibits out and pay to see the Collider exhibit if we had time and energy afterward (spoiler alert: we did not.)

Unfortunately, I think we should have skipped the free exhibits and forked out the money for the Collider instead. Or better yet, made it to one of the ArtScience Late sessions where the museum is open for free in the evening.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the Nobel Prize exhibit and the Hermes exhibit felt like an overt advertisement. It’s not like I didn’t learn anything though- I got some historical perspective on the Nobel Prize and learned a bit about the beginnings of the Hermes brand. Did you know they got their start with horse riding?

We met Shanna for a drink at Overeasy on Collyer Quay after the museum session. She was surprised to hear that I was less than impressed with Hermes Leather Forever, but then again she attended a Champagne premier of the exhibit. Looking at luxury goods you can’t afford is always better with a glass of Champagne in hand.

One thing I can say is that the Hermes exhibit was artfully crafted. But you wouldn’t expect less, would you?

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Hermes Motorcycle Gear VROOM VROOM

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Can you spot the Birkin Bag??

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I pass by the Bluebird Cafe on the King’s Road frequently. Often I have stopped to look at the menu, lingered and then walked by. It’s so hard to pass it by with that beautiful courtyard in the budding spring, but I just can’t reconcile it’s price-point on diner food. Erm, I mean, it’s just so Chelsea.

Perhaps it was my recent trip to the Design Museum and my new respect for Terence Conran and his projects, but more likely it was spotting the 2 courses for £10, 3 for £15 sign after a sweaty carb-killing workout that made me finally stop and get a table.

The atmosphere is quite fun with funky chandeliers, hodge-podge chairs and sleek lines. The building itself is an art deco former garage complex built for the Bluebird Motor Company in 1923 that sets the scene perfectly. Despite this, you can’t help but get the feeling that being in a diner to the target clientele here is a novelty.

Funky chandeliers and sleek lines

As a lone diner, I invoked the advice of the server on what to order. She advised that the pumpkin soup was spicy and that the prawn cocktail was popular. She also added that the coley goujons were highly recommended and mumbled when I asked about the spinach gnocchi.

Well, alright then. Lets split the difference. I’ll have the pumpkin soup and the coley goujons. Shit. Did I just order fish and chips? This is not helping me at all towards my goals of a.) losing weight and b.) eating more vegan.

The soup came and the waitress was dead wrong. That pumpkin soup was not spicy. It was actually quite bland save for the pumpkin seeds on top that added an important contrasting texture. The focaccia bread was fresh and soaked up the warm liquid nicely.

Not very spicy pumpkin soup

As for the goujons, they were delicious. I know it’s really hard to go wrong with fried food, but the batter was crisp and light on the tongue if heavy on the stomach. It was a true warm plate of comfort food.

Coley goujons.

There’s something to be said about this style of dining. There is usually some innovation to the dishes and like the decor, the lines of the food are sleek and neat. You are getting something calculated and well presented. But if you want something greasy spoon authentic, this is not it. For a true King’s Road diner with appropriate prices and ennui-ridden waitresses, head to the Stock Pot a few blocks down the road. It’s the kind of place where you can get a decent lunch at 10 am and no one bats an eye. I truly love the Stock Pot for that alone. Plus, a plate of chips there is equally delicious and costs £1.50 compared to the Bluebird’s £4. But if you are treating your girlfriend’s West London mother, new South Kensington business prospect, or random posh friend to a “casual” brunch, this is probably a good bet and chances are you’ll like the food too. Just don’t forget to slyly ask for the 2 for £10 menu, and trust me, you have to ask. Most of the menus conveniently have the insert missing.

The Bluebird Cafe is located at 350 King’s Road near Beaufort Street and is open Mon-Fri 12-2:30, 6-10:30; Saturday 12-3:30, 6-10:30 and Sunday 12-3:30 and 6-9:30.

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If you’ve been around London and paying any vague amount of attention, you’ve probably heard something about the Designs of the Year exhibit at the London Design Museum. What? You’ve never heard of the London Design Museum? Well I guess neither had Justine when I suggested we go one afternoon, so scratch that first sentence.

It’s in a slightly undesign-y looking building near Tower Bridge on the Thames. In fact, it is housed in a former 1940’s banana warehouse, but this all to change with a slated 2014 move to the former Commonwealth Institute building in west London. The museum covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design and was a brainchild of Terence Conran, who coincidentally has an exhibit dedicated to him on the entire first floor. The museum costs £10 for adults to enter, which feels a bit expensive in a city full of free museums, but is totally worth it if you are a design geek. Being slightly artsy with a background in product design, I felt like I fell well into this category. As for Justine, she had an upcoming date with a design and art book publisher, so naturally this would aid in the development of dinner conversation material.

Along the River Thames near the Design Museum

The current museum consists of only two floors, but to be honest this was perfect for my museum attention span. When I find myself at places like the Victoria and Albert or the British Museum, I try to see to too much and end up heady and overwhelmed. The Design Museum with a cup of coffee in the cafe and a peruse in the gift shop can easily be done in 2 hours.

As I mentioned before, the entire first floor was dedicated to Terence Conran. At the time, I had no idea who this bloke was, but turns out that’s because his contributions are so woven in to the London experience that I had been influenced by him without even knowing it. The  designer, restaurateur and retailer promoted a whole new style of interior design simplicity that reverberates today across the globe. Looking at his designs, I started wondering what things had looked like prior to this ubiquitous genre. “Like an old Granny’s house,” Justine had to remind me. In my head I tried to contrast clunky wooden furniture with heavily upholstered thick florals next to sleek clean lines and curves. Obviously I’ve spent too much time in London and not enough time at my Granny’s.

Clean Lines at the Design Museum

Teapots

In 1964 Conran opened the first Habitat and later went on to develop Heal’s. He was revolutionary in his displays as they were set up like actual living rooms, which not only taught people how designs could be arranged, but also allowed them to wander in and out of possibilities imagining them as part of their everyday life. I’m reminded of this scene from the movie 500 days of Summer.

And while we are here, shouldn’t we mention Ikea? Being founded in 1943, I can’t say that they’ve necessarily taken from Conran’s concepts, but clearly they must have influenced each other. Ikea, however, being more disposable and therefore a further step away from Granny’s living room.

Justine and I compared back and forth which Terence Conran restaurants we had been too. Most were a bit too expensive and highly appealing to the West London set. Nice area, but not quite what I consider innovative. But then again, there was a day when the King’s Road was full of Mary Quant innovation and Vivienne Westwood appeal. Funny how things evolve.

We next headed upstairs to view the 2012 Designs of the Year where my definition of design continued to expand and expand until I wasn’t quite sure what a designer is or does anymore. There was everything from a bicycle helmet that activates and extends only upon impact to a computer software program that mutates an image of your face into a creepy facsimile. Also included were an electric car, DIY design jelly shoes and elements from Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. In April, judges will chose seven winners from Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport categories and one overall category winner.  I couldn’t even begin to guess who the winner would be. I left with my head spinning from so many ideas.

The Design Museum is located at 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD and is open daily from 10am – 5.45pm. Last admission is at 5.15pm.

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