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Beyond Beauty at Two Temple Place

There's the most amazing exhibition space on the north bank of the Thames. Unknown to even me, a native Londoner, until I came across it in the hallowed pages of Time Out, Two Temple Place is the Gothic fantasy palace of William Waldorf Astor, built at the turn of the 20th century. Every year it flings open its doors for a fleeting few months for an exhibition: this year, the compelling Beyond Beauty: Transforming The Body In Ancient Egypt.

Stepping into the warmth of the first room, the sound of the outside world muffled with omnipresent mahogany panels, the visitor is greeted by an array of artefacts housed in glass cabinets: zoomorphic stone palettes for grinding cosmetics pigments, perfume jars, amulets, polished bronze mirrors and hairpins. This is a collection that far surpasses my own artillery of makeup and jewels and shows just how vital beautification of the self was in Ancient Egypt, even in the afterlife.

I had wrongly believed the first room to be the full extent of the exhibition. Pushing through a door, I came to an intricately carved wooden staircase, its newel posts upgraded to pedestals for lively characters in Stuart costume. A wander up the stairs took me to another rich set of rooms with breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows, their contents even more impressive than the first.

Morbidly fascinating canopic jars carved in the image of the Four Sons of Horus: monkey, falcon, jackal and human. These were used to house the bodily organs during mummification. 

Naturally, the next set of rooms is absolutely packed with mummies and their accoutrements - from colourful cartonnage cases complete with painted faces and false beards to the later Coptic fayum portraits, so disturbingly life-like that you might think them painted perhaps two or three hundred years ago, rather than relics dating back to mere centuries after Christ.

The mummy room reminded me strongly of my discovery of the Ancient Egyptian collection in the British Museum as a small child, so bewitched by the ancient bundles of rags and desiccated human remains within that I could think of nothing else on subsequent trips to the museum. I still can't help but feel small and awed in the presence of the cases.

This gorgeous gilded mummy mask looks quintessentially Ancient Egyptian, but a glance at the back of his head, inscribed with Greek script rather than hieroglyphs, reveals his provenance: a Roman citizen at a time when the Roman Empire had taken control over Egypt from the Greeks.

I would strongly recommend Beyond Beauty to anyone looking for a day out with a difference in London: whether you're a budding Egyptologist, a beauty junkie interested in examining 2000-year old make-up routines, or simply keen to have a nose around in a beautiful heritage building, there's something for everyone here. The exhibition makes for an intriguing morning or afternoon, whiled away in charming surroundings, and it's totally free. It runs until April 24, so if I've convinced you to have a look you've got plenty of time to see it!

After the afterlife, a spontaneous detour to Soho for noodles at an old favourite. Because bone mummies have to be followed by Bone Daddies.

Petals of salmon sashimi with shiso and lime soy.

Lipsmackingly good chashu pork and corn croquettes.

Spicy miso ramen with pork chashu and silky sesame oil.

T22 topped with mustard leaves, chicken and cock scratchings (keeps straight face).

I've been to Bone Daddies so many times I've stopped counting, and yet I still love it. Although they've stopped doing my favourite ramen (baptised in an unholy amount of miso butter and corn), Bone Daddies continues to deliver as a fun place to come with friends and family for a style of ramen quite unlike the more solemn (and authentic) Kanada-Ya.

Frosty, chewy mochi balls filled with yuzu and matcha ice-cream. Deliciously icy and with a good level of flavour, and though I felt I could have eaten at least three more it was great to finish the meal on such a light note. Ancient Egyptian artefacts and a pseudo-Japanese lunch: a truly multi-cultural day out in London. I couldn't have constructed a more perfect Saturday if I tried.

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