Returned to the Union Chapel again last night to see the wonderful Unthanks sisters, Becky and Rachel, play a set comprised of Anthony & the Johnsons and Robert Wyatt covers.
I think this venue is just a little bit inspirational and it has always brought out something very special in the artists I have seen perform here. Last night was no exception and the music the ladies and their excellent band summoned up was so good it hurt.
Anyway the purpose of this slight refrain of a review was to comment on the café/bar. Having had a look at the food offering on our last visit we decided we should give it a go. We arrived at just after the 7pm opening time and managed to get our coats down, to reserve our seats, on the third pew from the front. Good start to the evening.
The café/bar was already pretty busy and there was a good queue at the food "station". I managed to grab a comfy sofa and B got us a chicken curry and a veggie lasagne. At £6 a plate and with the profits going to the homeless you really wanted to like this food. Well, it filled the gap but the food was very much of the eat to live school of cooking; it reminded me a little bit of school dinners. B was slightly more complementary and declared herself reasonably satisfied.
Perhaps I was suffering from having high expectations but I was hoping for something a bit more authentic and therefore tasty. Having said that I’m not giving up on the café and will no doubt be back next year.
On the drinks front Bishops Finger and 6X were available by the bottle and there were cans of Red Stripe for the larger drinkers. The red and white wine by the glass seemed to be going down very well. All at pretty reasonable prices and if you manage to get a seat it's a very nice space to spend some time pre or post gig.
After my third visit to this beautiful venue last week to see an absolutely storming set by 'I am Kloot' (previous gigs have been very special outings by Laura Marling and Max Richter - I think this venue brings out the best in pretty much any perfomer) I am fast coming to the conclusion that this is my favourite live music venue in town. In general you will have a great view of the act at reasonably close quarters; the sound quality is awesome (and that's a word I hardly ever use); and atmospheric doesn't even begin to describe the vibe. Worth bearing in mind at this point that in my "youth" I was very fond of the Brixton Academy.
Anyway, I thought I would share a few tips and general musings with fellow qypers:
Get yourself on the mailing list, in my opinion they have a great booking policy and no shortage of acts that I am keen to see. Getting a ticket can be a problem if you are not qucik off the mark!!
Its a working church so bear this in mind, seating is un-allocated and is in pews. Picture a church in your mind and you will soon realise that if you turn up late in the day you will be left with seating on the sides with the (relatively) limited view etc that entails. Although as it's a church, the view is pretty good wherever you sit and it's on a slight rake towards the back which helps too.
However, on the three occasions I have had the pleasure of watching live music at the Union Chapel, a quaint but lovely old-school tradition still holds good - the 'bagsy-ing' of your spot by leaving a coat, jumper or whatever on the pew while you trot off to the bar for cold refreshments. Much to my amazement this arrangement is respected and you can be sure of your spot only ten feet from the stage on your return. How much do you love our London ways!!!!
Food and the bar in general seemed very, very much improved from my visit earlier in the year. B and myself had already eaten some pretty bog standard pizza in town before we headed over to the gig, but the guys had a constant queue for their curry, lasagne, and quiche, which looked and smelled very tasty - on my next visit I will definitely give it a run out, and for well under a tenner it looked to be great gig food. Seating and general ambience in the bar was lovely, think members' club crossed with a youth club, and is a great place to spend an hour or so. Some decent ale on tap and this could be totally divine.
So to sum up my advice would be to turn up early, doors seem to generally open at 7pm and on this occassion 'I am Kloot' were on stage at circa 9pm after an excellent support act, bagsy youself a primo spot in front of the stage and then head off for some tasty food and a cold refreshment of your choice. Then, sit back and imbibe the music!
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