The old normal — in Kew and Tate Modern

This was the first weekend that felt normal since the start of the pandemic last year. That’s not to say everything is back to the way it was or will be soon.

Like our last weekend of freedom before the pandemic, we had a full weekend of activity. On Saturday, we started with lunch at the India Club in the Strand.

Many shops have not made it through the pandemic. The restaurant trade is difficult to survive at the best of times. In the pandemic, one of my favourite restaurants, Tibits, closed both its London branches. I happened to be walking past one of them last year and the owner and the manager were there. They said that whilst one of the landlords had been flexible with rates, the other hadn’t. Having walked past both branches recently, I noticed that no one else had moved in. They lie empty.

Although the India Club, which is over 50 years old, remains open, there was an ominous poster saying the landlord wanted to redevelop the building or, failing that, increase rates by 80%. The India Club is challenging the plans.

I first went to the India Club many years ago because it was right next to my university. Being tucked away on the first and second floors with a narrow entrance, it is not a place you accidentally discover. Since my trip to India a few years, I’ve developed a liking for masala dosas and the India Club’s version is very good.

Another of my favourite restaurants from my university days was Food for Thought in Covent Garden. Once described as “London’s leading vegetarian restaurant”, it was a beacon of alternative London making affordable vegetarian food long before vegetarianism became fashionable. After forty years, it finally closed in 2015 when the rents became unaffordable as Covent Garden became increasingly gentrified.

After Saturday lunch, we walked to the Tate Modern to see the popular Anicka Yi installation in the Turbine Hall. The floating AI-controlled aerobes look like jellyfish and mushrooms, and emit various scents. They respond to the environment, such as the heat generated by people in the gallery. Each visit is unique.

On Sunday, we returned to Kew Gardens. Everything seemed back to normal. There is a Japanese exhibition around the gardens this month. Most of the action is in the thriving Temperate House, where we saw some live Japanese calligraphy.

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