Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Make Do and Mend

Make Do and Mend is the name of just one of the current exhibitions at the Museum of Childhood (www.vam.ac.uk/moc), in Bethnal Green, satellite of the V&A Museum. 
Particularly relevant in these credit crunch times are the offerings from three contemporary designers who have reinvented and recycled everyday materials. Old socks have been turned into loveable toys, a battered chair given a new lease of life with a glossy floral covering and an abandoned supermarket trolley converted into a stylish chair. Victorian parlour games, traditional moving toys and wooden rocking horses are some of exhibits in the permanent collection, where the cry of  'I remember those!' can be heard from reminiscent adults wandering around the galleries. The museum also has a serious remit. Dedicated to informing the public about child labour, its extensive outreach programme in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney is designed to help all visitors explore the themes of childhood – past and present.


Monday, 15 June 2009

Fish in the House

The Fish House is a modern fish and chip shop restaurant that has really got it right. The owners of this family run operation on Lauriston Road, on the edge of Victoria Park really seem to care, and use sustainable fish wherever possible. Waiting staff are usually efficient and delightful (on one occasion we had a disinterested waiter), but the food never falters.

Arrive hungry and have two courses, if not three. The seafood starters – such as calamari aioli or Colchester oysters – are sublime and the very English desserts like Eton Mess and Victoria Plum and almond tart are always enticing. It goes without saying that you can't go wrong with the fish and chips here, ideally with a some bright green mushy peas, but my favourites are the creamy Fish House pie and the scallop saffron risotto, with a side of buttered samphire, when it is available.

Dine in the charming, contemporary indoors space or at one of the outside tables. For counter service customers, there are a few bench tables set aside, or get your take away wrapped and eat in the park.


Hackney Home History

A little gem of a museum, the Geffrye is housed in 18th century almshouses, protected from the busy traffic of Kingsland Road by its own peaceful gardens. And it is very good value – free, in fact.

The Geffrye showcases English homes through history, allowing visitors to walk through a series of living rooms, peppered with fascinating objects and insights – many with particular resonance today. The use of seasonal, good quality, local produce may be a current trend, but in the 17th century it was a necessity. We are told that 'the angel of the house' had to know which vegetables were in season and which cuts of meat were right for a particular dish. Visitors learn that green was very much the old black, with a sample of Samuel Pepys sage coloured curtains, which apparently were all the rage. 

'Voices from the past' speak to us through telephones. You can hear a reading from the Female Spectator aimed at improving women's lot rather bizarrely recommending that women 'counteract the depressive qualities of tea by drinking alcohol'. An amusing excerpt from Dickens' Our Mutual Friend (read the full text here) describes Mr and Mrs Veneering – who, like their brand new house and furniture, were 'in a state of high varnish and polish'.

Don't miss the delightful walled herb garden (accessed through a separate entrance). It may be that you shouldn't judge a museum by its cafe, but I always do. This museum cafe is a light filled, charming spot, often peopled by 'ladies who tea', sampling the tangy lemon cake or the rich chocolate brownies. washed down with traditional lemonade.