a quirky look at London Life

Dior @ Victoria & Albert Museum

A courtyard discovery in Hackney Wick

I got off the Overground train at Hackney Wick and kept on walking for about ten minutes – could have been quicker, but my eyes were on buildings old and new, mostly old and about to be made new via demolition. Currently a bit of a limbo land paradise for those of an artist persuasion.

The entire walk was punctuated by street art. East End Edgy. Loved it. St Mary of Eton is a different story. It’s an elegant, tall, impressive red brick church but so intent was I to reach its pop up courtyard bar that I completely forgot to photograph it. Anyway! The purpose of my Monday afternoon was to attend a mixology masterclass. I was there to learn about kombucha and kimchi and most importantly to enjoy the accompanying 6 course drinks menu from the Social Beverages Bar.

Such a lovely welcome! And such intriguing ingredients and unfamiliar machines dotted about.

Some familiar favourites here too.

To find out about how to make kombucha you will have to book a masterclass because I want to get straight into talking about the drinks I tried. Starting with my favourites. From this bubbly bottle of beetroot juice came this ‘sinister’ shot

A highly unlikely combination of cold brew coffee and said beetroot produced a potent drink that was surprisingly rounded in flavour. An awareness of lemon first off then the surprise hit of the coffee – a totally unexpected, boldly confident assembly. One of several mood enhancers over the afternoon, making the slow mindful sipper feel quite bold and confident in return! Probably not for the late evening as the caffeine is high level in cold brew. There’s a sweet story behind the drink’s name, Ground, but I am not here to tell tales, you need to go and experience it for yourself.

Mother Mary, oh how I loved your sweet, smooth, gentle comfort and refined yet fresh finish. Salt rim was good too. And the heavy crystal glass added to the enjoyment. And the story of its name honours both a London place and a Korean culinary heritage. I love that this whole adventurous enterprise is both passionate and personal. Let it be, oh let it be, as the Beatles might sing its praises. Keep singing the song and you will hear what I mean.

But back to the beginning. Gently introduced to the afternoon with a welcome drink of jasmine tea kombucha which was delightfully delicate at first and there followed a zingy aftertaste from the lemon balm powder.

I could go on – the Tree Hugger had a fabulous bouquet before it got wrapped inside a chickpea foam. Delivering a powerful hit for lovers of root ginger like myself, this one had real staying power. There’s also one sporting a brave combination of spirulina and liquorish root elixir. Devilishly good.

Oh and a booze free digestif to finish. A naturally sweet effervescent end to a delightful afternoon, with neat pear shrub offering a very peary liqueury tastebomb. Surprises from beginning to end. Original, innovative, bold but subtle. Mindfully drinking away an afternoon, trying new potions, making new connections, adding my own life experiences and reflections to the sensory mix left me feeling joyful, almost a part of the story.

Hackney Wick courtyard bar? My kind of quirky.

September Pop Up details available from Insta/ socialbeverages

Taking a walk down Redchurch Street

Well, I didn’t see a church until later in my day but I did see red. As I walked down Redchurch, after exiting Shoreditch Overground on another inspiring day of London sun. I was heading for an early lunch at Tra Tra, part of Conran’s Boundary but with time to spare I just drifted down Graffiti Road.

Seeing red.

Seeing rad.

And goggling at doors

And hanging out with shoes

And drooling over shoes

And falling in love at first sight

With a house

and with pipeworks

and bicycles

And I got so excited discovering this little guy I nearly forgot about lunch.

To be continued …..

Dry Room @ Brighton Fringe 2018


A performance installation by Eldarin Yeong Studio in The Warren (The Hat) Brighton Fringe
Thurs 10th May2018  Sat 12th May 2018
This was narrative and interpretive dance of the highest quality directed by some powerful cello pieces from composers such as Carlo Alfredo Piatti, Johann Sebastian Bach and within the repertoire, a soul-searing piece Alone by Italian composer, Giovanni Sollima.
The cellist was the internationally renowned Carolina Bartumeu. 
The interpretive dance was based on sequences or scenes laid out by writer Eldarin Yeong which took us through the different and often heart-rending stages of trauma within three damaged young people, a journey through abuse, torment, self-discovery, bonding and finally redemption. Dancer, Jemma Gould was particularly outstanding in the grace and beauty of her movements and interpretations.
The piece lasted an hour and all of us in this famous fringe venue, were gripped and moved by the beauty and pace of the installation.
Photographer: James Bellorini

Launch Party for Italian Cuisine Week 2017

What a party at Bellavita Academy celebrating the launch of this year’s Italian Cuisine Week ; where perfect Prosecco and expert pizzaiolos – put the lively into lovely.

You see but one slice. I had several. Tomato. Mozzarella. So simple. So good. Down to practised skill and the quality of the ingredients.

But! It’s a tie for my cooked culinary affections!

These guys were fun! As well as good chefs!

The vegetarian ravioli was ! Satisfyingly spinach-y ….

This good!

And this! Pumpkin! They totally smashed it 😏

They even let us mere mortals have-a-go at pizza-making & the brave ones did rather well

While I tasted cheesy delights and sweet afters

Grape jam! Who knew! Healthy too, by all accounts. A firm favourite, though perhaps a bit too more-ish.

The adjoining shop stocks unusual and carefully selected products and I shall return for a proper browse before Christmas as they sell scrumptious-looking smaller edible items that would make perfect stocking fillers.

Thank you Bellavita. For a most enjoyable evening.

Meeting Ilaria Tachis

I was privileged recently to meet Ilaria Tachis at an event in Mayfair’s Novikov restaurant organised by Dolce Vita wines.
The occasion was to allow Ilaria to present two wines from her estate and also to speak about her relationship with her father – the legendary Giacomo Tachis, Italy’s (late) great innovative wine maker. Ilaria – scholar and oenophile – spoke movingly about her relationship with her father and how she did take over responsibility for wine-making when within her heart she wanted to follow a course of language and literature. She has done both; there is in Tuscany a substantial library founded by her father and perpetuated by Ilaria – then of course there is the wine!The photograph above is of Ilaria with that commemorative bottle of 100% Merlot, labelled Giacomo.
For the wine-pairing menu at Novitov, she brought two wines from her own vineyard and two others from friends in Sardinia.
With the first course, seabass carpaccio (almost invisible in its paleness) and with the tiniest taggiasca olives – a Sardinian Vermentino; with the young grouse and wild mushroom risotto her own 2013 Chianti Classico, much praised for its use of wood; Ilaria did mention her intention to seek a structure and strong body from the ancient culture of wheat and wine. With the braised whole beef shank came the sublime and pure 100% Merlot Giacomo – to be laid down in memory; with the pear and caramel mille-feuille, a digestive to proclaim and enshrine Sardinian hospitality and friendship.
My thanks for the invitation to Signore Ambro of Dolcevita wines and here is a photo of that great man presiding!

In her speech, Ilaria humanised the legend which is her father- she said that quite often when in a local restaurant he would order Lambrusco or a beer – he maintained that from ordinary sources, great things grow. I am reminded of Shakespeare:

Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.
Whereto the climber upward turns his face.
But when he once attains the utmost bound
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend ..
(Julius Caesar Act2 Scene1)

Not for Giacomo or Ilaria …



The swish Meridien hotel in London’s Piccadilly saw the launch of Signore Daniele Cernilli’s 2018 “ultimate” guide to Italian wine and wineries. What makes this wonderful compendium different? It is not – in the words of Signore Cernelli himself, (aka Doctor Wine) “encyclopedic” – rather it is “essential” in that a “rigorous selection process” has been in place. I would describe it as panoramic since it is “essentially” meticulously country wide and of course includes wines from Sicily and Sardinia. In all, the guide evaluates over 1,000 wineries and over 3,000 labels; over 500 of these fall inside the 15 euros bracket – there are of course expensive wines too! The wineries and their terroirs are described in some detail and the wines themselves conveniently graded along the lines of
A Inexpensive
B Reasonable
C Expensive
D Luxury
E Priceless
The good wine doctor’s guide has become essential pre-prandial reading.

The tasting in the Meridien Hotel suite encompassed many of the wines in Signore Cernilli’s guide and were set out on their winery tables: I started with a delightful mainly chardonnay blend called BEYOND THE CLOUDS from Elena Walch; a little short of heavenly perhaps, given its 2015 vintage.
PRICE B Imported by Bancroft Wines.

Then much joy from a decent 2015 Poggio al Lupo Morellino di Scansano from Tenuto Sette Ponte.
PRICE B Imported by Champagne and Chateau Boutinot.

Excellent wine too from Decugnana dei Barbi , my chosen one- the 2015 Il Rosso.
PRICE B Imported by Alivini.

Two tables then of island wines which interested me greatly; one from Sicily and the other from Sardinia; of the wines on display I very much preferred the Sardinian exhibits and especially the 2006 Alghero Anghelu Ruju Riserva, a really dark and lustrous red with wonderful herbs and spices and even a touch of liquorice. Ideal – I was told- with local wild boar.
PRICE B Imported by Matthew Clark/Alvini

The Tuscan wines on the Vignamaggio table were beautifully presented by a representative of the winery; I tasted two terrific Chianti Classico and a wonderful 2011 Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc was indeed a sleek wine which I will long remember for its sheer stand-out class and quality.
PRICE C Imported by

Corney and Barrow

To finish off I was privileged to taste the Zyme 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella La Mattonara Riserva. An experience never to be forgotten!

Shaun Traynor

@shauntraynor69 on Twitter

A Celebratory Lunch at Sager+Wilde

Another grey city day …. and what better prospect than a lunch to celebrate the pairing of Parmigiano cheese and Balsamic vinegar, hosted in a candlelit railway arch near Bethnal Green . A first visit to Sage+Wilde. They win me over immediately with their in-house fizzy water which sees me through a nosey-around this inviting bricked space and all through lunch … complimenting each course perfectly. But first we get to taste! A hard cheese rich in history, mature in flavour showing no sign of going out of fashion. It stands superior as a cheese that can be eaten without adornment or dipped into a pool of balsamic. We were fortunate to be able to taste 18 month old, 24 month old and 30 month old Parmigiano alongside 12 year and 25 year Balsamic…the older the cheese, the drier and more crystalline , the older the balsamic (let’s not call it vinegar)the sweeter, more intense….. And so to the lunch menu! Six courses , the first and final two courses devised and prepared by Chris Leach, Head Chef @ S+W, the remaining courses presented by Gianpaolo Raschi, a Michelin star chef from Modena. The first course, with a chewsome Burrata was delightfully crunchy-crisp from the nut soffritto. A beautifully presented, substantial dish. Personally, I found it a bit too robust, on the heavy side as an opener and would have preferred it to swap places with the bright, colourful, light and moreish prawn dish. Such a vivid vibrant dish, enriched by just the right hint of sweetness from the 24 month balsamic. The squid (which I had without the duck liver) did not benefit from being served cold but I loved the crunchy sing of the red onion pickled in balsamic .I am a lover of chickpeas and this soupy broth full of big fat chickpeas and plump clams was a heavenly bowl of comfort, based on a family recipe, faultless in its delivery. Hats off to chef Raschi (below, right).I can only rely on fellow guests with regard to the beef sausage and they evidently enjoyed it especially the fact that it was made in-house. Meanwhile, my hake was perfectly cooked, an excellent flavour and texture that worked really well with the burnt shallot. I’d imagine the beef stood up better as a robust companion to the 30 month cheese .And finally, dessert. A bit of a colour and shape theme going on here as we finish with a dish that looks similar to the first dish, both from Chef Chris Leach (below) Big on portion, big on flavour, absolutely loved the plump baked fig with the creamy vanilla icecream and again, a terrific balance of flavours, syrupy yet tangy, a perfect place for the glossy “younger” 12 year old balsamic to shine. A sweet ending to a skilfully prepared lunch that certainly did justice to its two key players .

🍒Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries🍒

London Life was delighted to attend a recent media event showcasing Jerte Picota cherries at Ibérica restaurant in Victoria . An intriguing tasting menu devised by César García and Luis Contreras in this roomy, attractive space soon lifted the spirits on what was an ugly wet evening. I dislike the term "fine dining" but the presented dishes were very fine indeed. Subtle, sophisticated, surprising.
But first, a taste of the cherry in all its naturalness, along with some specially selected Cava to add some sparkle to the evening.

I adore cherries, buying them by the bucketful while their short season lasts and until this evening, have always devoured them in their plump. sweet and juicy natural state. The Jerte Picota  variety, much prized in Spain, is a brighter red, not overly sweet, with a solid texture, making it versatile and an ideal ingredient in both sweet and savoury combinations. As for the Cava, I have it on good authority that it was utterly delicious and just look at that bottle! Gaudi inspired!

While my everyday life is just a bowl of cherries, on this enchanting evening, life perked up considerably when it came served up as a soup bowl of smooth cherry gazpacho with a kick of anchovy, a hint of mint and the welcome surprise tastebomb of a floating cheese icecream.

My favourite dish of the evening?

Let us continue!

I can't speak for the Croquetas de Jamón  but I can say that the asparagus was as lovely as it looks- vivid green chubbiness, crunchy charred ends, accompanied by grownup Manchego cheese. The remaining impression thanks to onion  relish is of a balanced sweetness.

It is so liberating to eat tapas-sized portions! That way you can taste a lot of different flavours in a number of dishes and leave the feast feeling satisfied but not uncomfortable after over-indulging!

This ever so slightly seared tuna was clearly sushi quality. I have never tasted better. I take it all back. I could easily have eaten much more of these meltingly moreish mouthfuls, completed by a pop sensation from the toasted pine nuts and that subtle underlying hint of sweetness from apple. Finished off by popping one of those pickled cherries into my mouth. There can never be too much of a good thing.

This was followed by a pork dish. Readers, this you will have to judge for yourselves. Other diners clearly enjoyed it!

Drum roll for a most interesting vegetarian option. Cauliflower and cherries with pak choi anyone? Me neither, until I tried it.

It was salty, sweet, creamy crunchy, very umami! With a smooth sauce textured with nut. Brave combinations but they worked. Cauliflower cheese, eat your heart out.

There is always room in everyone's stomach for dessert and I was keen to see what the chef would come up with, as I mostly associate cherries with sweet pastry pies.

Mercifully, this dessert was light and fluffy, managing to taste warm, fulfilling that sense of being cosseted from the cold outside world, just as you prepare to re-enter it. And then! The pleasant shock underneath, the refreshing surprise of cold sharper sorbet which is a neat reminder
of the surprise bomb in the gazpacho at the beginning of the meal.

An accomplished menu, with playful touches, like an ongoing amuse bouche, but with more substance,  showing respect for the ingredients, especially the honoured ingredient of the evening, the blushing Jerte Picota cherry
I loved it all but it's a tie between the gazpacho and the tuna for first place in my affection. A thoroughly Modern Spanish Food Experience! Which still respects and utilises the food traditions of Spain. Well done guys!

The Jerte Picota season is short and will end all too soon. Still available as I write at Sainsbury's , Morrison's  and Tesco .

For more on the provenance, quality and history



A random walk in Hyde Park on a blue Monday in July

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