Lost in London

Spider Silk Exhibition - 22/10/21




Cromwell Place

The Serpentine 

William Curley

Marugame Udon

Head across to Instagram for more pics....here's a taster gallery to entice you. Click on the images to enlarge them!

During early September I was in the kitchen talking to my mother about spider silk and she was telling me of its rarity. I think Google was listening to what we were saying as later that day on my news feed, a Guardian article about exactly that came up. Serendipity? Unlikely. Sometimes I find it a bit unsettling that this happens, however on this occasion I was more than happy about it. 


If you don’t fancy reading the article, although I highly recommend you do because it’s fascinating, it explains the journey of a team of people with questionable sanity, who endeavoured to collect the silk from spiders in Madagascar, then weave it into some garments. It took them fifteen years; seven years planning and eight years execution. The culmination of their efforts totaled one cape, a lamba (like a big scarf) and two shawls. Yes that’s it. It’s incredibly difficult to do, taking years of time, patience, skill and determination. But it was definitely worth it - they literally glow like pure gold. But more about that later.

As I read the article with abject fascination I was gleeful to establish that the silk was going to be the centre-piece of an exhibition of rare and unusual objects linked to nature commencing in London a few weeks later and lasting for one month, plus it was free to get in. As I was already juggling my Patisserie & Confectionery course at Suffolk New College with working part-time, it seemed the perfect time to crowbar in an Artist’s Date. In her internationally acclaimed book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron defines an Artist’s Date as “assigned play….a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you…When choosing an Artist’s Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.” I had not done anything matching that criterion in a long time, let alone on a weekly basis, so this was a total no-brainer. I immediately went onto Anglia Railway and booked a day return ticket for the final day of the exhibition, to depart Ipswich at 8am then return 12 hours later at 8pm. I also bought an all-day travel card when prompted.


Entry to the exhibition was free, you just had to go on and register your details and pick a time slot so I went for 11.30am, to give me time to find some breakfast off the train before then heading to the gallery. Personally I feel that a total of £35.90 travel costs and free entry to an exhibition in London is a really good value day out. The only thing you need to then think about is what you want to do for food and drink. And what an exciting question that was.

I had a month to decide how I was going to fill out the rest of the itinerary. I prefer a loose plan, with one definite thing, a few maybes then additional breathing time to see where the wind takes me on the day. I also love solo excursions. Being completely untethered for a little while is good for your soul. Currently a patisserie student, my immediate secondary plan was to visit a few while there. I follow a few London patisseries on Instagram. Under the pseudonym Epicurious Emma, I document snacks I discover on a student budget mainly around Suffolk and London, or wherever I happen to end up. Having gained a BA (Hons) in Broadcast Journalism and subsequently working in commercial radio for a number of years, I find it had to resist the urge to document! I am going to California with the family to visit my sister for Christmas and New Year so will certainly by cramming in as many snacks as I can while there. I then use emma_patisier_chocolatier to document the dishes I have produced on my patisserie and confectionery course. La Belle Epoque, Miel Bakery, Maison Bertaux and Cakeboy London are all on my list of places to visit in London.

I particularly wanted to go to Miel Bakery, because I had seen Canele cropping up regularly on their posts and I was desperate to try one. The cooking process fascinates me, with the little copper moulds which they coat with bees wax and butter to ensure you get a shiny crispy caramelised exterior that you have to crunch through to get to the unctuous custardy rum flavoured centre. I love custardy things, give me anything with vanilla custard or any variation thereof and I will be the happiest human on the planet. Well that and meringue. 

In the end however, I did not make it to any of them. Cromwell Place, the gallery hosting the exhibition, turned out to be in South Kensington, right opposite the Natural History Museum. As soon as I stepped out from the Underground I knew straight away it would be crazy of me to leave the area prematurely, there being so many tantalising patisseries right there for me to drool over.

#1.    Eataly – 135 Bishopsgate, Broadgate Circle

Having arrived into Liverpool St at 9am on the Friday morning, before making my way across to South Kensington I wasted no time on my patisserie quest and went straight next door to Eataly. Split over 2 Floors, Eataly has everything Italian your heart could ever desire. I was recommended to go there by Suffolk Food Hall if ever I was in London and I am so glad I followed it up. If I had dropped dead on the spot there and then I’d have died happy as I was literally in heaven. While at university studying journalism, I had worked for a while for Pizza Express which was my first exposure to Italian food, then later on spent a few years working for Carluccio’s which had a deli attached to the restaurant. It was there that I was introduced to some of the most incredible food and I got the Italian bug then. Eataly has it all, in abundance.


After walking around for a while on cloud nine, I headed back downstairs as I wanted to have a closer nose at the patisserie. There was a steady flow of people coming in for quick coffees and croissants. I had not eaten yet and was drawn to the bright colours and mirror glazes of the patisserie counter, when something caught my eye – a Mont Blanc. I had seen pictures of them and had been intrigued by the chestnut spaghetti. I knew straight away that’s what I was going to have, there was now no contest. An Italian man who I had a brief queue dance and chat with did a double take when he saw me with the Mont Blanc, bearing in mind it was before 9.30am and therefore not the customary time of day for such a high injection of sugar, but I was determined. I sat down at a table with my Mont Blanc and latte, then after the obligatory snaps taking for Instagram, ate it. The tart blackcurrant centre with the creamy vanilla mousse and chestnut spaghetti made for a mouth-watering balance with the sweet pastry and frangipane base. It was divine. It was also way too much sugar for that time of the morning – the Italian man knew it and so did I. I was riding the coffee and sugar hit for a good few hours after that as I had already consumed a Starbucks coffee at Ipswich train station, but I was on a solo Artist’s Day out, London was my oyster and no one was there to tell me I couldn’t eat patisserie for breakfast. 

Coming out into the daylight at the other end, I was greeted by the glorious autumn sunshine and the picture postcard view of South Kensington. I spotted my old friend, Carluccio’s, across the street. With forty-five minutes to spare before my allocated arrival time at the gallery, I decided to locate that first then see what I could spot in the way of patisseries close by.


Establishing the gallery was just down the street, I realised I had a serious thirst on from all the sugar and coffee, so headed into the nearest bakery, Paul, to buy a bottle of water. Obviously my eye went straight to the patisserie counter and there, standing in neat little rows, were my much coveted Canele! I ordered one with my bottle of water, pronouncing it completely wrong then being told the correct way to say it (I have now forgotten), then sat outside in the bright autumn sunshine at a street facing table to rehydrate, closely inspect my petite pastry and do some people watching before the exhibition.


#2.    Paul - 47 Thurloe St, South Kensington

After my major sugar and caffeine overload, I headed back down into Liverpool St Station and jumped onto the Circle Line to take me to South Kensington, which was eight stops away and took about half an hour. I love Liverpool St station’s roof, with the intricately latticed arching pillars painted blue, red and white, rising up to the rows of hundreds of rectangular pane-glass windows high above. I also have a thing for the gleaming metallic symmetry as you look down the escalators in the Underground, so stopped and took some photos of the empty ones until I got shooed along by a member of staff.

#3.    Cromwell Place – 1 Cromwell Place, South Kensington

Cromwell Place displayed no glaringly obvious signage that it was a gallery, apart from a flag which I did not spot until leaving, so I ended up asking a delivery driver if I was in the right place. After establishing I was and being there on time for my 11.30am time slot, I was pleased to be informed by the friendly people in the reception area that as well as the exhibition I had booked to see, there were in fact three more occurring simultaneously which I was also permitted to enjoy at no extra charge. I had hit the jackpot! Cromwell place has an incredible history, with many artistic greats residing within its walls since being designed and built specifically with artists in mind in 1858. The doors were only opened to the public for the first time in October 2020. All of their exhibitions are free to the public, you just have to go onto their website and book. I personally feel very grateful to be permitted access to this stunning space free of charge.


#4.    The Natural World by Damien Hoare (Oliver Hoare Ltd)


The exhibition reminded me of a cabinet of curiosities, all the items laid out neatly spaced and numbered on tables or dotted around the room in such a way as to enable you to get up close and look at them without there being a pane of glass in the way, which was pleasing as I like to be able to inspect things closely.


The spider silk itself was of course too rare and valuable not to be kept behind glass as were one or two other items and was up on the wall in a separate annex. The overall space was not very big, but that added to the relaxed intimacy and I felt at ease as opposed to intimidated by the closeness.

There were a few people coming and going but it never became crowded. I noticed there was a beautiful catalogue available detailing the items, so I bought one straight away and it is now one of my most cherished belongings, a total bargain at just £15. Once I had deposited my rucksack in a safe spot so as to not accidently dash all the priceless and irreplaceable artefacts onto the floor in a slow motion horror scene, I headed straight to the spider silk. It was breath-taking.

The three items – the brocaded weave lamba, sheer taffeta weave shawl and satin weave shawl – all glowed bright gold with an intensity that was truly dazzling. There were quotes dotted around on the walls and as Richard Francis Burton noted in 1883, “writers talk of spider’s silk like gathering moonbeans,” the silken thread so fine the wisps were nearly imperceptible to the naked eye. I chatted to the lady who was overseeing everything and she told me that the silk is so light that when placed upon someone’s hand they cannot feel anything there, yet it is also the toughest natural material known to exist on our planet. Scientists have been trying to replicate its properties and are getting closer but have not yet achieved it. Whoever does manage this will be in possession of something straight out of the Spider Man comics.


What it could mean for science, medicine and technology is unfathomable. Simon Peers, remarking on his creation of the spider silk cape, described it as “a nod to every self-respecting superhero.”  After asking permission to take photos (I was not sure on the etiquette in this situation), I spent a fair amount of time with my face pressed up against the glass drinking in the luminous hue that was saturating my soul with sheer joy, my eyes wide with abject fascination. I am not exaggerating when I say it was so incredibly beautiful I could have cried I was so happy of its existence, at the astounding human endeavour and sheer ingenuity involved in creating these pieces, the many people over the centuries sacrificing their time and potentially their reputations in order to chase after something that sounds like it could only exist in a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale. As David Attebrorough stated, “It must surely be counted as one of the rarest and most glamorous of fabrics. Thank goodness the world still holds marvels.”  


Humans have an innate desire to create which cannot be stemmed; this is in evidence everywhere you look. But this must be achieved at no detrimental cost to our habitat. Every action has a reaction, however small, the ripples of the tiniest movement building into a tidal wave when not carefully managed, Edward Lorenz’s butterfly effect in tragic realisation. If you have not already done so, watch Attenborough’s “A Life on our Planet”, where he reflects upon all he has seen during his 93 years, a stark warning for the future but also with light at the end of the tunnel, due to the incredible ingenuity and determination of the human mind. When it comes to the acquisition of spider silk, Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley certainly unleashed their creative desires, completing this all by hand, with a carbon footprint of net zero.

A brief overview of the process. Spanning the course of nearly two decades, they followed in the footsteps of their predecessors spanning centuries, by collected the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders, Nephila Madagascariensis. These beautiful and elegant creatures are famous for weaving the most glistening shimmering golden webs. Eighty men and women were trained to scour the highlands of Madagascar for five years, collecting spiders every morning for ‘silking’, then returning them at the end of each day to exactly the spot they were found. I envisage the spiders trying to figure out if they had just woken up from some bizarre day-dream, wondering if that was real or not, those hazy few seconds when you are in limbo between wake and sleep trying to make sense of things.


To put this gargantuan undertaking into perspective, one ounce, or 28 grams, requires the silk of 23,000 spiders. The brocaded textile alone took the silk of over one million spiders. How do you collect the silk from over one million spiders I hear you ask? You harness them in groups of twenty-four at a time, each spider placed in an individual compartment with equipment custom built and designed to enable the careful threading of silk from their spinnerets onto cones. The cape took the silk of 1,200,000 taking two years to gather, silk and weave, with an additional 6,000 hours then spent on the embroidery and applique. Watch this video from the V&A to see how it is made.


Since the first known person to experiment with spider silk in the 17th century to Peers and Godfrey today, items such as gloves and socks have been created for Elizabeth Christine of Brunswick – Woolfenbuttel (Empress of Germany and Austria, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and grandmother of Marie Antionette), Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia), Empress Josephine (1st wife of Napoleon Bonaparte) and reputedly Napoleon himself.

The largest known piece to be produced was a bed canopy which was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle, a world’s fair held in Paris in 1899, but the piece was lost to history after the fair closed, its whereabouts since unknown. Nobody has tried to do this again until now, with Peers and Godley reviving the quest, over 100 years later.

After a while spent absorbing as much detail as possible and taking many pictures and videos, I turned my attention to the equally fascinating items making up the rest of the exhibition. I won’t go into such rambling depths over each one but will list a few, most notably Ranjit Singh’s Gilder Bezoar Stones, an inscribed yellow sapphire, a meteorite and meteorite slices, narwhal tusk, a dodo bone, carved coco-de-mer, a mala of human bone, skull caps (one reputedly owned by Lord Byron), an ancient Inuit maskette, ancient axe heads, a pirate’s ring, an eye agate amulet, scholar’s rock and scholar’s root, a slab of chalcedony and pyrolucite exactly resembling a slab of stilton, jade, Eskimo snow goggles and numerous other large and small items to pore over. You can see all of the items and the gallery space here on Oliver Hoare website. Once I had examined the objects and taken many photos, I eventually made my way to the other exhibitions. 


#5.    Douglas Abdell: Reconstructed Trap House

While viewing this collection a very helpful lady pointed me in the direction of a QR code which took me here, where you can read about the history of this great artist and see some of his work. A pretty cool character, he made a name for himself in 1970s New York, closely connected to the Soul and House music scene emerging there. I would give up all the vanilla custard and meringue in the world to have been able to attend one of the infamous block parties. I took particular enjoyment from A prelude to Kryad, Timeless Proportionality, Proportionalism and Meditation Piece (all produced in 1975), partly due to them reminding me of the Magic Eye pictures (fancy name “autostereogram”) I had all but forgotten about since childhood, also coveting The Intervalist Chair despite not having the gigantic hallway that would be required to house it.

#6.    Sebastiao Salgado: Collectors’ Prints

Next on my culture glut was a series of breath-taking photos. Sebastiao Salgado, whose work centres around documenting dramatic landscapes, marginalised people and endangered species as a way of highlighting social injustice and environmental concerns, had simultaneously been displaying works in the Science Museum, with some of his most iconic and career-defining images making their way to Cromwell House. You can see them and read about his extensive career here.  All were incredible, but my favourite one was of the penguins jumping off the South Sandwich Islands, mainly because I was imagining how much fun the penguin in mid-jump was having.


#7.   Karen Knorr: Transmigrations

The last room I visited was showing works of Karen Knorr. According to information I was given while inside, “transmigrations refer to both displacement and reincarnation as well as to the migration of souls to an afterlife. In this age of climate change and of great migrations to come, where will our wildlife reside?” Animals appear in all of the images, usually wild or taxidermy and photographed separately then placed digitally in regal interiors, signifiers of the vulnerable, displaced and rejected in a perpetual conflict between nature and culture. The images were all striking and saddening, appearing so real you could imagine stepping through the frames into the palaces beyond. 

#8.   Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Hyde Park

I came out of Cromwell Place cultured up to the brim at about 13.30, with plans to be at Marugame Udon for ramen at 17.30. This gave me a window of 4 hours to play with, which was very exciting indeed. I did not have a clue where to head, but as it was such a gloriously sunny day with just a slight autumnal chill to the air, I decided to wander in a random direction and let my senses guide me. I figured no matter where I ended up, I could most likely find a tube station with no real difficulty if needed, so to just see what was down the road. I walked down the steps of Cromwell Place and immediately to my right, across the road, was the Natural History Museum. I walked onto Cromwell Road, turned right, and could immediately sense this was the right direction for me to head in.

I could see majestic architecture all around, curving enticingly around a bend and I really wanted to know what was ahead just out of sight. I carried on over the crossroad with Exhibition Road, immediately coming across a row of stunning patisseries, while immediately opposite on the other side of the street was the Victoria & Albert Museum – I could not believe my luck! I considered crossing over to the V&A, but seeing as the weather was so glorious I decided to carry on. I also think it will take a whole day trip on its own to fully experience and appreciate it fully, so will return there in the future.


I kept wandering down the same road and in no time was in Knightsbridge. Harrods was on my right and it took all my strength not to be drawn inside. I then spotted the entrance to Hyde Park across the road and knew immediately that’s where I wanted to go. I crossed over and entered the park through Albert Gate, the autumnal colours soothing as I entered. Having no idea what my plan was, I walked up with the Serpentine Waterfall on my left while people sat eating their lunches on the benches, birds crowded in for their crumbs.  


I very soon stumbled across the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, which is positioned right on the corner of a lake named, unsurprisingly, The Serpentine. I ventured into the café and realised it was the perfect place for a time-out and to plan the rest of my afternoon. It’s a large chilled café with a view out across the lake and a menu of sandwiches, soups, pizzas, burgers, light-bites, cakes, pastries and more. As I had eaten my Canele on the walk through Knightsbridge, which had a satisfying crispy exterior then chewy middle with a distinctive honey, rum and vanilla kick, I was feeling all sugared out again so ordered some chips and water, being in much need of a savoury snack.

I had begun to realise that my main issue with being out and about in London for 12 hours straight was staying hydrated. I had already got through three bottles of water by this point, having brought one from home then purchasing two more so far. I knew I was going to need a great deal more water by the time I got back in the front door, but there is only so much you can carry on your person and I had to resign myself to buying bottled water at a premium all day long.

I sat in a quiet corner and gathered my thoughts. As I had decided not to chase to-and-fro on the Underground in search of patisseries, I began thinking how to make good use of the three hour window until my dinner plans at 17.30. I had been speaking to one of my lecturers at college the day before about chocolatiers that I could visit in London and she had recommended me two.

The first was Choccywoccydoodah, but after some Googling I established that sadly they had ceased trading, so the next one on the list was the chocolate shop of award winning chocolatier, William Curley. I put it into my maps and was thrilled to find it was only half an hour walk from my location in Hyde Park, over in Soho. I decided upon reflection it would be rude of me not to try one of the Pastel de nata that was winking at me from the pastry counter before I left The Serpentine, so I ordered one with a latte and sat outside on the decking that stretched out into the water then proceeded to try and eat it without the birds snatching it, which was easier said than done as they were swooping with intent.


#9.   William Curley Patissier Chocolatier - 33 Smith’s Court, Soho


I once again found myself on a picturesque route taking me to William Curley’s shop. I came out of the park at Hyde Park Corner and passed Wellington Arch, picking up the same road I had been walking down earlier, with this stretch now being Piccadilly. I stopped to take a photo of The Ritz, because one of my lecturers used to work there and recommended I follow their head pastry chef Lewis Wilson on Instagram which I have since done, then carried on down the road. My mind is totally blown by the architecture in London, I am always in awe, it’s such an incredibly beautiful city. It took all my strength not to go into Fortnum & Mason, as again that is somewhere I would need to dedicate serious time and budget to. Looping round Piccadilly Circus into Regent St, the curvature of the buildings pleased me so I stopped for another quick snap, admiring all the fancy shops along the way.

Taking a sharp right into Glasshouse Street as instructed by my phone, I found myself walking immediately into Soho. It amazes me how close places are to each other in London when you decide to walk. I had with me a walking map from TFL London which tells you how long the walk is between each station in minutes. Seeing London on foot is a must as far as I am concerned. Luckily the weather was on my side. Being led to an archway so unassuming I nearly missed it, I was taken down into a beautiful little courtyard, so quiet and shielded by tall buildings, I could have instantly forgotten I was in central London. William Curley’s beautiful shop sat nestled in the corner, a burnt orange, gold and black jewel twinkling invitingly. Inside I was greeted by a friendly lady who didn’t hang about in offering me some chocolate to sample, which I was more than happy to accept. I tried the rose and raspberry, which was stunning, you can see why he also has a concession in Harrods. Having not long eaten some chips and a pastel de nata, and having now had three coffees since I left Ipswich, I decided the most sensible thing to do was go for a signature hot chocolate and to buy some chocolate Viennese whirls to take home for my family. Classic Viennese fingers are hands down my favourite biscuit, the way they melt in the mouth, so delicate and soft on the tongue. I love it when the ends are dipped in dark chocolate. These were round chocolate biscuits sandwiched together with a chocolate ganache. The hot chocolate was very good indeed.

I did not eat a biscuit myself having bought the last three they had to take home to the family. I noticed there were a few William Curley patisserie and confectionery books dotted about so I decided to flick through them while I enjoyed my hot chocolate. The recipe for the chocolate Viennese biscuits was in one. I now know what I would like for Christmas, aside from a Kitchenaid. It was incredibly hard to walk out of there without buying copies of both the books I had flicked through, as there was so much useful information and inspiration in them, with all the foundational knowledge, techniques, tools, tips, ingredients and recipes you would need to get you off to a good start. 


#10. Marugame Udon – 114 Middlesex Street, Spitalfields


I managed to somehow leave William Curley's beautiful shop without buying the entire place out, then doubled back to Piccadilly Circus, taking the Underground to Liverpool St station. Marugame Udon is then right across the street. It had been another Guardian article which had prompted this visit. I have a few friends with an obsession with decent ramen and I really wanted to try the place out. This is their first restaurant to open in Europe, being found all over Japan.  I love Japanese food. I also really loved the prices. I get choice paralysis every time I eat out, but I also get major food envy. I did not have long before I had to commit to ordering as it was a system where you grab a tray then move down the line and I had forgotten to look at the menu online before going in, so as a knee-jerk reaction I went for the Two Pork Tonkotsu. You can see them making it all in front of you as you move along and it smells insanely good in there, the comforting umami aromas enveloping you and compelling you to peer in closer.

I got my bowl of steaming handmade udon noodles topped with charsu pork, spicy miso pork mince, rich tonkotsu style soup, seaweed and a seasoned egg, they followed the counter round, picking up some vegetable goyza and a tempura pickled egg along the way, which is near-on impossible to avoid as they strategically place it at eye level as you move round towards the till. I passed the drinks which included various soft drinks, chilled teas, kombucha, wines and beers, but did not fancy anything at this point, however when nearing the till I could hear them offering glasses of tap water to all customers unprompted, which I thought was a nice touch bearing in mind my general resentment towards buying bottled water repeatedly on the hoof. I was thrilled to establish my dinner had only cost me £11.85. In all honesty I was just being greedy having the additional battered egg and goyza as I definitely did not need either of them, the main dish certainly being substantial enough, so actually my dinner could have been as cheap as £7.95. Their cheapest udon dish, Kamagee, is £3.45, which to me, being right opposite Liverpool St station, was mind-boggling. I just presumed anything near a major station would be expensive, but I was clearly wrong. I had also seen signs outside bars nearby on the same street advertising pints of beer for £4 all day long, which again surprised me.

But back to my ramen. Once you have paid, you take your tray over to a counter which has a rainbow array of free toppings, such as pickled ginger, red chillies, spring onions, battered bits (“scraps” where I come from), various oils and sauces; you name it I chucked it all on. Armed with chopsticks and also a knife, fork and spoon because I had a feeling I may struggle based on past performances, I found a high stool at a window seat in the corner where I could perch and admire how interesting and stylish everyone in Soho looked, then set about taking all the necessary Instagram pics. Once satisfied with my evidence gathering I got stuck in, enjoying the music, artwork and general ambiance of the place, noticing that people were now having to queue up outside, meaning I had ducked in just in time. It’s not easy to eat a bowl of ramen in a delicate fashion, but to be honest this does not particularly concern me. There’s probably a technique that I need to learn, which I may get round to establishing before I return there next time, along with also trying to remember to study the menu in advance.  


Two very friendly members of staff checked I was happy and one cleared my tray which I was expecting to have to do myself, so I was very grateful when they did it for me. Currently working in a restaurant myself part-time, I always appreciate it when staff are nice to me. I ate most of my meal with no problem apart from a few noodles in the bottom of the bowl because I was full, having had eyes bigger than my belly (I wish). The pork was soft and fell apart as I hoped it would, the fat rendered down so as to melt away, the broth rich and deep with layers of flavour. With all the toppings piled on it was a very delicious, exciting and satisfying dinner indeed. The spicy miso pork mince had mixed throughout so I was getting yummy spicy pork hits in every mouthful. The tempura pickled egg was dirty good, the crispy goyza filled with something green and delicious. I’ll definitely be going back as I need to try literally everything.  I headed to the toilets before leaving, enjoying the manga art and Japanese lessons playing through the speakers which were highly amusing. I did a year of Japanese while at university – I can say hello and count to ten but that’s about it.


Sadly I did not have time to stay long and brush up on my linguistics so got myself over to Liverpool St and onto my 19.02 train back to Suffolk, arriving into Ipswich at 20.06, full and entirely satisfied with my day in London Town and having managed to sweet talk a lift home from the station in exchange for fancy biscuits. I will be returning again soon for more low-cost culture and random snacks; with it being only an hour away on the train it seems wasteful not to, plus I do not need much convincing when it comes to cheap and fun days out eating all the food.

Total spend 


To the station – no cost, 20 mins walk

Train - £22 return, booked six weeks beforehand with no student concession applied

Underground – £13.90 for all day travel card

Home from the station – could have walked but blagged a lift on promise of chocolate biscuits

Gallery entry

Free – just had to register and book a slot - £15 spent on catalogue but that was not a necessity


Food and drink

Starbucks – coffee at Ipswich train station - £3.95 (ouch)

Eately – coffee, Mont Blanc - £8.70

Pauls – water, Canele - £3.50

Serpentine – chips, water, pastel de nata, coffee – £11.75

Tesco Express – water – 95p

William Curley – hot choc, 3 x biscuits (none for me, sad times) - £14.50

Marugame Udon – two pork tonkotsu, tempura egg, vegetable goyza - £11.85

Total spend for 12 hours travel, entertainment, exhibition catalogue, all snacks and drinks - £106.10, so £8.84 per hour.

This could easily be shaved down further if you wanted to be more frugal if you’re on a student budget as I currently am. I must remember to flash my student card about to see what happens. The cost was also spread out as I bought the train ticket six weeks earlier. Verdict – total bargain for a fulfilling London day out with some excellent snacks.