Lithuanian Restaurants In London – Another Look

The recent revelations from the census have unearthed some startling facts about London’s ethnic and national makeup, in particular the fact that the Poles currently make up the largest group of immigrants to the capital. Often overlooked however are their near neighbours, the Lithuanians who have also arrived in large numbers (you might well have mistaken them for Russians if you’ve passed them in the street – the men in particular have a similar physical build and their language sounds similar to the untrained ear).

Barring visiting the country itself (it’s worth mentioning that the capital Vilnius is a very pleasant destination for a weekend break) there are various ways that you can familiarise yourself with Lithuanian culture right here in London. Some time ago now I wrote what turned out to be a popular post about the Lituanica restaurant which sits above the big Lithuanian supermarket in Beckton, but since then new options have opened up that will allow you to spend some time in the company of our Eastern European neighbours, particularly when it comes to their cuisine.

‘Smilte’ at 627 Lea Bridge Rd

London now has four Lithuanian restaurants, all of them over in East London where the majority of recent Lithuanian arrivals have found themselves. There’s Lituanica, as I’ve mentioned above, and Krantas on Walthamstow High St, Smilte at Baker’s Arms and Berneliu Uzega at the Shepherd Inn in Leytonstone (part of a chain that also has restaurants in Lithuania itself). The latter two also act as nightlife venues for the local Lithuanian community – visit at the weekend and there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself being serenaded by pop stars and folk groups from the home country.

Typical Lithuanian dishes include ‘cepelinai’ (Zeppelins) which are potato dumpling stuffed with minced meat, usually accompanied by a large dollop of sour cream – very filling, I wouldn’t recommend more than one at a sitting! ‘Zrazai’ (rolls of beef stuffed with vegetables) are also a popular evening meal as are ‘skilandis’ (pig’s stomach stuffed with meat and garlic – not a million miles away from haggis).  You might want to wash it down with their fermented, slightly alcoholic bread drink,  gira (which is fairly similar in taste to dandelion & burdock).

If you fancy something different for an evening out, why not steep yourself in some Eastern European culture and give our Lithuanian friends a try?…

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Fingers & Thumbs Seafood Shack – A New London Pop-Up Only Until Saturday

Fingers & Thumbs Seafood Shack is James Ballantyne’s latest pop-up eatery, bringing foodie goodness to Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green.

Occupying The Arch, a cavernous gallery/events space underneath the railway at no 289 (between Wilco Security and E-Two Parts on the western side of the road if you’re struggling to find it), the Shack is serving up huge steaming bowls of seafood, enough for two or more to share, until Saturday 8 December.

The offering includes crab claws (at £32), enormous tiger prawns (£36) or huge hunks of lobster for £40 a bowl. Served up with a selection of vegetables and bread, these gently spiced and seasoned dishes are the perfect antidote to London’s current freezing conditions! It’s a BYO establishment, so don’t forget to secure some alcohol (or whatever takes your fancy) before you arrive – our table was occupied by white wine, rum and ginger beer which proved to be the perfect accompaniment to the more-ish seafood!…

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Natalie Merchant @ The Hammersmith Apollo

She was over in the UK to perform her new album, “Leave Your Sleep”, the first for seven years. It’s a remarkable piece of work, where she sets to music her favourite poetry from a whole raft of British and American poets based around the theme of ‘Childhood’. Between each song on Saturday night she took a few minutes to set out her reasons for choosing each poem and gave us a brief biography of the author, as each of them looked down on the audience from a big screen at the back of the stage as she sang. The breadth of the musical genres that were covered was remarkable too, although we didn’t really get their full impact as she is only touring with a cut-down group consisting of two guitarists and a cellist. The styles of the songs range from sea shanty to reggae via blues, as well as tunes that wouldn’t have been out of place at a good old-fashioned hoe down!

It was an absolutely mesmerising performance as she used her soft, breathy vocals to their maximum effect, and sitting up in a very warm and stuffy circle both my friend and I were drifting off at times – perhaps it was the childhood tales of sleep and lullabies that did it! Her two encores roused us out of our stupor though, the first turning into a completely random retrospective of some of her very early material as she struck up a ongoing dialogue with lots of members of the audience and struggled to remember lyrics she probably hasn’t sung in twenty years, as people shouted and clapped in encouragement. Returning to the stage for a second time we were then treated to some of the material by which she is best known, with songs such as ‘Don’t Talk’ from the 1987 ‘In My Tribe’, and ‘These Are The Days’ from the 1992 recording, ‘Our Time In Eden’, both of which are from her time as lead vocalist of the 10,000 Maniacs, the band she left in late 1993.

Just a final note on the new album, ‘Leave Your Sleep’. It’s available in both single and double disc versions and, given that the latter has twice as many poems set to music, and also includes a small nicely presented hardback book with the poetry for each piece reproduced alongside portraits of the poets with short biographies, I think it’s worth spending a few extra pounds to get the double album. Here’s one of the tracks on YouTube which I’m sure will whet your appetite……

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TheLondoneer: ‘Set Sail’ Landing in Trafalgar Square On Thursday – ‘World Stage’ Tour

I’ve just heard about a rather fun new acoustic pop band, ‘Set Sail’. Consisting of 3 young Australians, this coming weekend they will be on the London leg of a 48 city, 5 continent trip which for obvious reasons they’ve dubbed the ‘World Stage’ tour.

[EDIT] I’ve been in touch with ‘Set Sail’ and they are now performing on Trafalgar Square at about 1pm on Thursday, and are hoping to do a complete set of material. If you pop over to their Facebook page or their YouTube channel you can see what they’ve been up to so far. There has been what looked like a great little impromptu performance in a Berlin park (which attracted some rather colourful dancers), they’ve had problems with overzealous police in Paris and they’ve even been entertaining other passengers on the flights they’ve been taking to reach all of the destinations on their tour…

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Londoneer: The NME Small Venue Awards – Bush Hall for the London Prize

You might know that the NME have an annual award to celebrate live music venues across England. Several places in London are up for the award this year including the Bar Fly in Camden and the celebrated 100 Club on Oxford St. 


My vote will be going to Bush Hall however, the beautiful and intimate little venue on Uxbridge Road just down the street from Shepherds Bush Market tube station. It’s incredible inside – covered in elaborate plaster mouldings from floor to ceiling it’s like stepping back into the late 19th century. I’ve seen several bands there in the fairly recent past, most notably a manic performance by the wonderful Liam Finn in late 2009 which was breathtaking!

If you’re interested in supporting London’s smaller live music venues (and frankly there’s nothing like being up close and personal to your favourite artists in an intimate setting, compared to somewhere corporate and vast like the O2 for example) then please make your vote count. The competition closes on 10 June, so get online and pick your favourite venue on the NME website here.…

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The “Eyes” Have It

Here are some photos taken on Boxing Day of Julie Mathias and Wolfgang Kaeppner’s art installation in Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf. It consists of 100 sets of animal eyes set around and about the park. At night, they’re illuminated by lighting designed by Admir Jukanovic, so that they look like animals caught in headlights…

Oh, and there’s a gratuitous shot of two reindeers and a sleigh in the album, just to keep in with the Crimbo theme  All photos in this set courtesy of SH and his new FujiFinepix A920 (thanks for Christmas dinner btw, it was lovely)

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Shoreditch Street Art Tours Goes Off-Piste @ Hackney WickED

Last weekend saw the very welcome return of Hackney WickED, the annual weekend long arts festival that turns the normally quiet streets of the Wick and Fish Island into bustling thoroughfares, worthy of Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon!

Although the major draw to the area for most visitors was the opportunity to visit the artists’ studios, perhaps snapping up some bargain-priced artwork, or checking out the live music, craft fair and food in Queens Yard, I had a different purpose for visiting…

I was on my way to the auditorium of the Yard Theatre for an hour-long talk by Dave from Shoreditch Street Art Tours on how best to capture street art, followed by a two hour walk around the area to put what we’d learned into practice. Now I’m no novice when it comes to photography but you never stop discovering new techniques and ideas, and I was surprised at how little I really knew about snapping this particular form of public art in an effective and compelling way…

After the talk (more on some of the salient points that came up in a moment) it was time for us to undertake our circuitous route of Hackney Wick. Maneuvering around the growing crowds we saw the bright new coating that the abandoned Lord Napier pub has received in the last few days, and a few other brand new pieces of street art. Apparently just prior to the start of Hackney WickED several of the locally-based artists had been out painting, spraying and pasting up their work. I was quite awed by the fact that were were very probably the first group to subject these pieces to close examination, and to capture them for posterity…

Now in terms of photographic techniques, I won’t spoil the surprise (or indeed deprive Dave of revenue) by telling you everything that I discovered, but I will pass on two key points that you should bear in mind when photographing street art. Firstly, it’s important to put it into context i.e. to demonstrate how it interacts with its surroundings, or indeed to show how people react to it. Secondly, when you’re bored with capturing a piece of street art straight on (which is a bit like photographing a painting – a rather uninspiring thing to do IMHO) you could think about abstracting the image in some way. The most obvious, but by no means only, way to do this is to use reflective surfaces to distort the image – perhaps capturing the art in a puddle, across a canal or indeed in a car wing mirror, as we attempted to do on Sunday afternoon!

Below you’ll see some of the photographs that I took on Sunday – hopefully they show that I managed to retain some of the advice that I received earlier in the day. If you’re interested in spending a morning, an afternoon or indeed an evening on one the Shoreditch Street Art Tours yourself, you’ll find the dedicated page here – …

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Londoneer: HostelBookers Christmas Advent Calendar Competition

I do love finding out about fun competitions and this is a good one from HostelBookers, with the added bonus of having a seasonal Christmas theme 🙂

The company, who you may know offer a service for booking budget accommodation in London and elsewhere, are running a 24 day Christmas giveaway in the form of an advent calendar which runs all the way up to Christmas Eve. Prizes on offer include free stays in London youth hostels, an iPad, Sony digital cameras, shopping vouchers and more besides!

All you have to do to enter the competition is to look out for a daily question posted on the HostelBookers Facebook page and email your answer to [email protected] Each day over Advent there will be a different question that will test your knowledge of different Christmas traditions across the world. There’ll also be some photo competitions popping up on the site over the month, so keep your smartphone or camera close by so that you can get your entries in quickly. You can find out all of the details and enter the competitions on…

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