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Modern fare at The Standard, King’s Cross

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If you’re planning a good night out in the capital chances are King’s Cross doesn’t immediately come to mind. The party restaurants of Mayfair? Sure. The genteel sophistication of the King’s Road? Of course. But a slice of north London largely dominated by two huge commuter hubs? Not so much.

Which would have been fair enough a decade ago when the area was largely a post-industrial wasteland populated by seedy pubs and old school caffs catering to the commuter crowd. Perhaps because of the two aforementioned train stations, King’s Cross was a place to simply be passed through on your way to somewhere more desirable.

Well no longer. In 2007 the Eurostar moved from Waterloo to the newly renovated St Pancras station kickstarting a new age of regeneration for the neighbourhood. In 2011 Central Saint Martins, the world’s best fashion school, opened in a refurbished grain store moments from King’s Cross station. Headquarters for Google and The Guardian followed before the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Coal Drop’s Yard retail and hospitality space opened in 2018, cementing King’s Cross’s reputation as a destination in its own right.

Amid this came a slew of new hotels appealing to a more upscale clientele. Along with the grand dame stylings of the Great Northern Hotel and St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, both reincarnations of historic hostelries, came The Standard. The first European outpost from America’s chicest hotel chain, it promised New York cool, modern hospitality and buckets of interior design inspiration all contained within one of the capital’s most distinctive, and divisive, Brutalist buildings.

Image: Anton Rodriguez

It’s fair to say it’s been something of a smash hit. Shawn Hausman’s kitsch colourful, Seventies-inspired interiors have been invading homes and Instagram feeds since the hotel threw open its doors in 2019 and anyone who’s anyone knows that the all-day bar, Double Standard, is the best place to brunch on a Sunday morning – especially if you spent the night before partying until dawn at in-house club Sweeties.

For dinner, meanwhile, you have two choices: Michelin-level Mexican at Decimo or seasonal Mediterranean small plates at Isla. Both are excellent choices but on our visit, on a chilly evening at the start of the festive season, Isla’s cosy heated terrace and lively buzz were too tempting to resist.

The vibe here is relaxed, casual and undeniably cool. From our vantage point on a mezzanine overlooking the open-plan restaurant, it was clear that Isla attracts a crowd that falls squarely into the Bright Young Things category. Creatives from the nearby college rub shoulders with dinky (double income no kids) couples on date nights and gaggles of women in their early thirties gossiping and working their way steadily through the inventive cocktail list.

It’s a crowd unlikely to be deterred by the, admittedly, low-key service and a menu on which every dish is designed to be for the table. If sharing isn’t your thing then Isla is not for you but, if you’re willing to risk a squabble over who gets the last of the burrata, you’re in for a feast that cherry-picks fine seasonal ingredients, inflecting them with Mediterranean vibrancy and the occasional Asian twist. Among the highlights of our meal was a vast bowl of tagliolini pasta with Devonshire crab and chilli, an exemplary butternut squash hummus and a seriously moreish heritage carrot and sheep’s yogurt salad. It’s a menu that feels indulgent and exciting while being pleasingly light.

Image: Anton Rodriguez

Likewise, the wine list is a contemporary affair specialising in low-intervention wines. Natural wines have become quite the thing across the capital over the last decade or so with mixed results. Choose poorly and the lack of additives and filtering can leave you with a tipple with some intense farmyard funk. Best, then, to leave it to the experts. Isla’s knowledgeable staff led us to a light, crisp white that was fruitier than my usual preference but a fantastic foil to the bold flavours of the food.

In Isla, The Standard has created that rare thing: a reliably good neighbourhood restaurant that can be called upon for special occasions or casual nights out alike, in a location that is actually convenient for both Londoners and out-of-towners.

And if you end up having a little bit too much fun? Well, there are 266 rooms upstairs to take care of that.

Visit islalondon.com

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ICE London 2023 to feature exhibitors from record 68 nations – IAG

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Industry trade show ICE London will feature exhibitors from a record 68 nations, topping the previous best of 65 set three years ago, according to organizer Clarion Gaming.
ICE London returns as a full-sized show for the first time since 2020 from 7 to 9 February, with the total 623 exhibitors representing everything from Argentina to Australia and Macau to Mexico.
“No other exhibition in the gaming space can come anywhere near the internationalism of ICE,” said Clarion Gaming Managing Director, Stuart Hunter.
“To have 68 nations represented by our community of exhibitors means that visitors are immediately part of what is a global experience with unique access to the smartest gaming innovators drawn from every corner of the world. There are very few exhibitions of scale in any industry sector which are able to compare with such international representation and legitimately lay claim to being a ‘global’ or a ‘world’ event.
“Once an event is recognized as being genuinely international, stakeholder groups including brands, regulators, trade associations, media groups and strategic industry-wide bodies focus their activities accordingly.
“Research that we’ve undertaken has shown that for many people ICE and iGB Affiliate London actually start on the Sunday preceding and finish on the following Saturday. In that week we estimate that over 100 gambling industry events will take place outside of the show hours providing a new and compelling perspective on why ICE and iGB Affiliate London are so influential and important to the world industry.”
IAG will have a team of four at ICE London next week. Visit us at Stand ND7-C.

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David Ford and Annie Dressner Live in London

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There’s something special about London on a Saturday night – there’s a certain buzz in the air as you head into the Capital city. For me that buzz was extra special, as I was going to see David Ford and Annie Dressner at The Lexington in Islington. I literally listened to their ’10 Days (Live)’ album for the first time a week ago, but since then it’s been on repeat and heading in I knew that the night was going to be special.
The Lexington is a great place for music, with a bar on the ground floor before heading up the winding stairs to the spacious venue itself. And as the crowd started coming in, the atmosphere in the room was growing by the minute.
Opening the night was Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart. He set the night off really well, with an engaging set that got the crowd onside from the start. He opened with his 2021 single ‘Hot To Trot‘ and you already knew the set was going to be a good one – a rousing folk song with great lyrical dexterity. The highlight of the set was ‘Frontlines’, a simply gorgeous song (check out a YouTube video of the song here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDCLwYwsesk). Gary ended with a fine cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Song for the Asking’.
It was time for a quick visit to the bar before settling down for the main event. 
The duo appeared on the stage to great applause, David in an orange shirt and Annie in a sparkling black dress. They opened with ‘Easy Falling’, the first song that I’ve ever heard of theirs, and a song that convinced me I needed to listen to the rest of the album. This slow and moving number is a touching love song and shows off the brilliant harmonies of David and Annie – there’s something special about the English (David) and US accents (Annie) mingling in the way that they do. 
Throughout the set, there were so many highlights. ‘Something I’ll Have to Learn‘ is a song with an almost timeless feel that feels like a conversation in song, Annie’s original ‘Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names‘ was simply brilliant and ‘Some Folks Are Lucky I Guess‘ is a song with a great sentiment. ‘Can’t Help What I Want‘ (below) is a great example of those brilliant harmonies that the two share.

‘Trash‘, a cover of the Suede hit, was a particular highlight – a song that was a nice surprise on the live album. As they break into ‘Oh maybe, maybe it’s the clothes you wear‘ it almost feels like this was a song that Suede wrote for David and Annie, their version is that good. Outstanding.
The set had a second cover, a song that Annie introduced as ‘an American classic‘. This classic was ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You‘ from Chas and Dave, a song that typified the cockney sound of London back in the 1980’s. I love the way they re-worked it and there was something special about the way Annie sings the word ‘Darling’ in her US twang that just resonated and put a smile on my face.
There were great moments of humour throughout the night, the chat between the two great. At one point mid-song, Annie passed her guitar to David, exclaiming ‘I knew there were chords in this song, I just didn’t know which ones‘ which had the crowd laughing.
The best of the night was saved till last. ‘Warning Sign’ had quickly become my favourite song from the pair and hearing it live in person lived up to all expectations. There’s such a beauty in live music, and hearing songs like this with other people in a venue can really bring a song home – and almost even change your own personal relationship with a song.
The final song of the night (there was no encore as David explained that they literally had no more songs!) was ‘Put Me In A Corner’. Annie’s vocals take the lead in this track and it was just magical, the emotion of the song emanating from the stage and filling the room. You can listen and see for yourself below.

You never know what to expect when you see an artist or artists perform for the first time. Some exceed expectations and some just don’t hit the heights you expect. In David Ford and Annie Dressner, it was definitely the former. The gig was stripped back – just two people on a stage creating a moment. And what a moment it was.
Annie and David and reviewer Nick Cantwell
Check out their websites and hit and follow the social links!
http://www.dressnerford.com/

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http://anniedressner.com/
***Note – I need to say a word about the audience for the gig. The audience was impeccable, with barely any talking at all at any point (apart from whispered orders at the bar). Credit goes to Gary, Annie and David, who managed to grab the audience from the start, but also to everyone there. If you were there yourself, give yourself a high five!***
Review written by Nick Cantwell (instagram.com/nickcantwellmanagement)
 
 
 


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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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