It's now officially autumn, but London is finally getting a bit of Indian summer — or sunshine, at any rate, which is almost as good. My long weekend in Copenhagen and another imminent European getaway have meant that I have tried to cut down on my eating-out and entertainment expenses this month. As such, culcha picks outnumber food and drink in my list of favourites for this month.
1. A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell.
When I travel, I like to read books about or set in the country I am visiting. Russell, a journalist, and her husband moved to Denmark for a year and this book reveals what it's like to live in Europe's happiest country. There are long winters, huge taxes and plenty of rules, but the welfare system, the snegl (pastries) and the hygge more than make up for it. Russell's writing is sharp, funny and engaging — her book reminded me a lot of Bill Bryson's travel writing.
2. Brunch at No 67
There are plenty of great places for brunch in Peckham, but No 67 remains at or close to the top of the list. You shouldn't have to wait for a table if you arrive soon after 10 am, and as well as the cosy front room and the larger, minimalist back room, there are a fair few tables outdoors. It was beautiful and sunny during my last visit, so we took advantage of the clemency and dined al fresco. There are a lot of great choices on the brunch menu, but I usually find myself choosing between the waffles with bacon and bourbon syrup (£7.75) and the scrambled eggs and bacon on sourdough (£7.75). This time I went for the latter (partly so that I could also have a muffin for 'pudding') and it was the right call. The food is always good and the bacon comes crispy as standard (they have a special grill, apparently). If you want a bit of post-brunch culture, you can drop by the adjacent South London Gallery.
3. Miss You Already
Catherine Hardwicke's film sees Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore star as two lifelong best friends who find their lives diverging rapidly, as Collette's Milly, a successful PR, receives a breast cancer diagnosis, while Barrymore's Jess tries to get pregnant. The story isn't especially novel, but the performances of the two actresses and the chemistry between them elevates the film, and Milly's spiky retorts and (perhaps justifiably) selfish or thoughtless actions keep it from descending in to mawkishness. There are also good supporting performances from Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine, as Milly's and Jess's husbands, respectively. A lot of the film was shot in Southwark (particularly around Borough and on the river in Rotherhithe) and it was fun to see parts of my borough on the big screen.
4. The Coffee Collective coffee.
I waxed lyrical about this trilogy of cafés and roasteries in my Copenhagen Coffee guide, but since my return from the Danish capital, I have been sampling the beans I brought home with me. I bought the Finca Vista Hermosa beans from Guatemala and, brewed in an Aeropress, the variety works well for this time of year: the coffee has the chocolatey smoothness you would expect from Central America, but with some fruity, citrusy notes to keep it interesting. You can order online, but I'd recommend a trip to Copenhagen instead!
5. How To Get Away with Murder
I have to wait another week before the new season of The Good Wife starts and to whet my appetite, I decided to give this show a go — my curiosity was also piqued by its star, Viola Davis, just winning an Emmy. HTGAWM is a sort of mash-up of The Good Wife, Legally Blonde and either Desperate Housewives or Pretty Little Liars. Davis plays Annalise Keating, a formidable criminal law professor, who selects five students from her class each year to join her firm and help out on her cases. Each week, there is a case-of-the-week — often similar cases or loopholes to The Good Wife but not executed as well. There is also an ongoing investigation into the murder of a female student at the university and, possibly connected with this, regular flash-forwards reveal that the five law students and their professor become involved, to some degree, in another murder.
HTGAWM does feel a little flimsy at times, with rushed sub-plots, forgettable performances from most of the actors playing the students and under-used actors playing Keating's other employees. Davis is wonderful, though, as she plays a complex and often unlikeable, though impressive, character. For all its frothiness, the show is quite addicting: I rattled through the breakneck first half of season one pretty quickly, and although it seemed to lose its way mid-season, things start to pick up again as it rattles on towards the finale.