Tucked beneath the Thames Link Bridge in central London lies one of the most intriguing food markets around.
Words by Elli Hollington Beyond the basics of sustenance and gluttony, food is emotional – closely linked to memory, imagination, and travel. Supper clubs have cosily diversified the capital’s dining-out options, in which strangers come together along big wooden tables to break bread and share conversation. It is the experience of the intimate dinner party, expanded out, and unlike a restaurant, you know you’re never going to have that evening, those people, this menu in combination again.
Out of London’s growing vogue for supper clubs come two in particular that understand this irresistible lure of food and culture. The Literary Hour, which originated out of a group of friends' Haringey kitchen, lays on suppers inspired by classic writers and books. Kino Vino, a cinema supper club, puts on stylish evenings of feasting from the national cuisine of the particular film screened at the beginning of the night. This is cooking which inspires nostalgia, whilst also sparking visions of unfamiliar places and flavours.
The Literary Hour has been going strong for nearly two years now. Head chef Jude Skipwith started exploring culinary possibilities with her housemates in the summer of 2015. Thumbing through childhood copies of Roald Dahl stories, they dreamed of snozzcumbers, edible wallpaper, and luscious giant peaches. They put together their first menu, and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ golden ticket chocolate bars were sent out to their guests in the post as invitations. Since then, they’ve done ‘Silence of the Lambs’ for Halloween (duck hearts, lamb shanks, and blood-like gazpacho), and then moved on to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, using pumpkins leftover from Cinderella’s carriage, and peas that rolled out from under the Princess’s mattress, presumably. Beatrix Potter inspired last year’s spring supper club, with their dining table laid with an edible vegetable patch of seeds and olive tapenade ‘soil’, and tiny blue felt Peter Rabbit jackets as table settings.
Over Christmas they made the decision to upscale, moving their pots, pans, knives and pile of battered paperbacks to Styx. The multi-purpose arts venue in Tottenham gave them the space for their most inventive and ambitious supper club to date. Diners found themselves in an everlasting Narnian winter, complete with an indoor forest of fir trees with sprayed-on 'snow' and frequent belchings of dry ice. Warming up with steaming cocktails and hot water bottles, we sat down to feast under the most beautiful canopy of branches and fairy lights. I found myself taken back to childhood evenings reading ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ as the courses began to roll out. To start: a deliciously smooth celeriac velouté in a teacup, served with a black pepper scone and horseradish butter to warm our bellies. As we listened to the words of the Pevensies fleeing the wrath of the White Witch (readings between courses continue to be The Literary Hour’s signature touch), we tucked into an adorable 'ham on the run' picnic spread of the sort the beavers might have packed for them, although perhaps their version wouldn't have had the beaver salami we sampled. Of course, there was handmade Turkish Delight. After some boozy hot chocolate and pudding with marmalade vodka, we were ready for home.
Speaking to The Literary Hour’s founder Jude, it is evident that she is utterly obsessed with food, a highly talented amateur chef learning new techniques as she goes. She remembers in particular the challenge of making gorgeously fresh duck egg ravioli, ensuring the pasta was cooked whilst the egg yolk inside remained runny. Upcoming menus are often researched at the bottom of her garden with a picnic basket of cold prosecco and crisp salad, and she has been to every corner of London in her quest for the best ingredients. While her cooking remains essentially local and European, she’s a dedicated foodie traveller, and starts reminiscing about dishes of currywurst in Berlin and chicken heart kebabs in Thailand during our conversation. In her opinion, “Food is such a fantastic way to begin understanding a different country and their different culture. When language might be a barrier, it is the easiest - and most delicious - way to connect to people.”
This is a sentiment shared by Alissa Timoshkina, and put into mouthwatering practice with her supper club Kino Vino. She brings her genius curation skills to pair chefs with a particular film of her choice. Travelling thematically from nation to nation with each individual supper club, last month was all about India. Handed glasses of prosecco at the door, we started with a screening of 'The Lunchbox', the charming Indian film in which a pair of strangers fall in love over a misdelivered packed lunch. India, perhaps more than any other country, really comes to life on the screen: the streets of Mumbai rammed with dabbawalas on their bicycles, office workers inhaling spices from the lifted lid of a tiffin tin as ceiling fans whirl overhead, smoking on one's balcony at sunset. And the food: rich pulpy aubergines in baingan bharta, perfectly simple dal, and stuffed bitter gourd, with fresh chapatis to mop everything up. The heroine of ‘The Lunchbox’ licks her fingers at her stove, and the unlikely hero’s days are transformed as he falls in love with firstly her cooking, and then her (despite some outrageously ungrateful complaints about one lunch being too salty).
While we were watching, we snacked on our first course from Bengal-born guest chef Romy Gill - deep-fried potato balls with flavours of ginger, chilli and mint zinging alive in our mouths. Then, dinner, on the scrubbed wooden tables next door, surrounded by palms, candles and flower garlands. It was the kind of fresh, inspired Indian menu which is a world away from the average British high street curry house - stand-out dishes were the deliciously tangy octopus tentacles with a cool apple, fennel and dill salad, and the hugely comforting goat curry that followed. There were also plates of pork and cabbage momos to be rolled luxuriantly around in a soy and spring onion dipping sauce and stuffed, whole, into our mouths. As the guests opposite me told tales of trips to India, we finished up with perfectly creamy shrikhand flavoured delicately with saffron and cardamom, as live sitar played in the background. Oh, and there were mouthfuls of ruby jewelled pomegranate seeds - on everything!
As Alissa prepares for her next dinner, a Polish feast from chef Zuza Zak, I ask about her particular connection with food, film and travel. “It is the concept of a journey - sensual, emotional, intellectual - that has always attracted me to viewing a film,” she told me. “You start with a blank screen and by the end of the film, your life is no longer the same. This is not too dissimilar to a journey one takes during a good meal – an empty plate is your passport to a unique world of flavours that lifts you out of your seat. The idea of people gathering around a beautifully set table, and embarking on a journey through a film-inspired meal was the foundation for my supper club.”
The Literary Hour: www.theliteraryhour.com
Kino Vino: www.kinovino.org
We take the chance to talk about music, cartoons, techniques, influences and inspirations with Michaela Pointon of Marti Illustration, whose work is featured in Lodestars Anthology Canada (which you can pre-order here). For more of Michaela's illustrations, visit her website at www.martiillustration.com and follow her on Instagram @marti.illustration. Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained, how you learned, and what inspired you to become an artist and an illustrator when you were younger?
I’ve always been passionate about storytelling – creating something magical out of something not so magical seemed to be the thing I found most exciting when growing up. I grew up in Southport, which is a small seaside town in the North West of England and there was just something about it that fascinated me and made me question what was out there beyond the water.
I originally studied Fine Art in Southport as a diploma, and went on to specialise in Illustration as an A-level equivalent. From there I went on to The Glasgow School of Art to do my degree in Visual Communication, which was the perfect course because it wasn’t tied to any specific skill and allowed me to explore different ways of working.
I was so lucky to be placed in a class full of really great and talented people, we were all very close and I’d say they were a huge influence on me throughout the four years I was there. It helped so much to belong to a group who also lived and breathed the things they were most passionate about.
You’re based in London – do you take the city as an inspiration? Does it feature in your work?
I adore London, living here certainly has its ups and downs, but the energy of the city never stays still and I really enjoy that. There is so much see, and everyone you meet will have a story to tell about how they came to be here or their experience of the city and I find that so inspiring. There’s a real sense of determination and strength of character, which I love.
I wouldn’t say the City of London is featured in my work, but most certainly the journey I’ve had since living here and the people I’ve worked with along the way have influenced how I work.
You’ve mentioned that you’re inspired by mid-century design and travel – what is it about these themes that drew you to use them as an inspiration for your work?
For me, mid-century design is the perfect example of something being able to function in a beautiful and simplistic way. I love how bold and charming it can be just through its use of form and colour, I find that method of working very inspiring!
I wrote my dissertation on The Festival of Britain and just adored the psychology behind how things were designed for the purpose of healthy living and happiness. I think there’s so much to take away from that in our own lifestyles.
You’ve travelled to some interesting locations, and produced work relating to travel – have your travels influenced you significantly? Do you have a favourite country that you’ve visited?
Travel has always brought a change of scenery and a new experience. Everywhere you go people and places have a different story to tell.
I love the East Coast of Spain and have had great adventures in Greece, but I also feel a real connection to Blackpool and Glasgow, which are very contrasting!
I also enjoy illustrating places that I haven’t seen. The idea of creating a journey you haven’t yet experienced is a nice way of travelling on a budget!
You’ve worked across a number of different mediums and techniques, such as pen and ink – can you explain a little about the mediums/ techniques you use? Do you have a particular favourite? Do you find that working with one medium/ technique helps, or feeds into working with another?
I think the medium you use can really alter how you express the things you’re working on. I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories for my final year of my degree and found the words alone weren’t enough by themselves, so I began building installations to allow the reader to experience the sequences I played out in my mind when creating these stories. Since then I’ve become much more confident in illustrating and realising that you can tell a story with just as much meaning and expression with the stroke of a brush and some ink.
Illustrating with a tablet has become second nature, but I’d hate to lose touch with my ever-faithful brush set and pastels, so I try as much as I can to keep that up.
Some of your work has a lovely, Picasso-esque feel to it – has Picasso ever served as an inspiration to you? Do you have a favourite artist or illustrator?
That’s a really lovely complement! His used of big bold colours and exaggerated shapes have always been huge win for me.
Satoshi Hashimoto’s work is incredibly beautiful, and I just love the subjects he illustrates. They’re very clever and a real treat. I could also look at the works of Paul Rand, and Miroslav Sasek all day, every day and never get bored.
Mary Blair has also been a huge inspiration for story telling and vision. I could go on!
Your website mentions a fondness for Tom and Jerry, and your work can be quite playful – have cartoons been a significant factor in your work? Do you have a favourite cartoon? Is working in animation something you’re interested in?
Cartoons have played a huge part in my work. The further back you go the better they get! I’m fascinated by the work which was being produced in the 50s and the 60s because it adapted so much of its style to reflect design trends at that time. I’m still a big kid at heart and love that so much of what you find in the animation industry is created by people who are also living out that part of their imagination to entertain the masses, it’s a really lovely thing.
Disney’s 1953 Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom and UPA’s 1951 Rooty Toot Toot get a regular screening at home, not to Mention Ren & Stimpy!
Animation is something I’ll always be interested in, I’d love to be clever enough to make my work come to life, but I think I’d need some help from the pros!
You’ve mentioned Kryzsztof Komeda – do you find that music helps you produce your work? Do you have a particular piece that you enjoy?
I love listening to music when working, it’s a healthy way to free your mind a little more when it’s rammed full of day-to-day admin. More recently I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts, they’re so great for learning on the go, especially if you just want something easy to tune into in the background. The Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast is top of my list.
You’ve worked for a number of publications as well as producing personal work – do you have a favourite piece out of all the illustrations you’ve made?
I feel really excited about the things I’ve been lucky enough to work on so far, Lodestars in particular! The world of illustration is so exciting, and seeing your work in print is always a really special moment.
The great thing about working on editorial pieces is that it allows you to work on subjects you wouldn’t necessarily think to explore, so I’m learning all of the time, and that’s super rewarding.
This is not my first dalliance with La Soiree. Oh no, I am in fact a repeat offender, completely smitten with this cabaret's ability to celebrate the decadent, the divine and the downright scandalous. For 11 years now La Soriee has travelled the globe after springing to life back in 2004 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Back in London over the perfectly illuminated Christmas period, La Soiree is revelling in the encounter - it's sixth rendezvous with the city. La Soiree unfolds in the Spiegeltent, which, as the name implies, is a delicious Belle Epoque glass affair, complete with wooden floors, two bars (drinking throughout the show is wholeheartedly encouraged although it may just get you roped into an act, so watch your step) and a big top inspired roof - and naturally is surrounded by food stalls, so a Thames-side, pre-show burger is very much on the menu.
The acts steal your hearts, cause your cheeks to hurt from smiling and show that sometimes it pays be to a little forward. You will giggle, exclaim, sing, dance, aid a crowd-surfing 'Queen of the Circus' and when it comes to Captain Frodo look away in fear - I've never been particularly good with dislocations; he's right, it hurts us a lot more than it hurts him!
There is Mario, Queen of the Circus, brought to life by the juggling Clarke McFarlane, a Latin-accented bon vivant with an undying passion for Queen. This is a man who does not do understated and knows how to bedazzle a leather jacket. The delightful, Canadian born Mooky Cornish, who is all heart - and an orange belt Tae Kwon Do whizz - and the extraordinarily powerful Yammel Rodriguez, who flies through the air, all the while enjoying her true passion; a fine Cuban cigar. Australian Asher Treleaven reads Mills & Boon better than anyone in the history of ever and shows that diablo is more of a baby maker than children's toy. There is Miss Frisky with a voice and repertoire that will lift your spirits and The English Gents, who pull off spectacularly muscled feats (gravity, what gravity), before demonstrating their own unique talents - for Denis Lock it's the intimate world of bubbles and Hamish McCann it's about giving 'Singing in the Rain' a whole new meaning. Melanie Chy is straight out of Vegas and the embodiment of cool while Canadian Bret Pfister dances above your head because, well, aerial ballet really is the most spectacular thing around.
If you enjoy a thrill and a laugh and seeing the greatest show on earth completely reimagined, La Soiree is the show to warm your winter evening. Prepare to feel the magic and run away to the circus.
Down by the river, a leisurely amble from Richmond, is a somewhat unconventional garden centre. Donning the wellingtons and wandering up narrow, stone walled laneways feels decidedly earthy. And a little bizarre, as despite passing Thames-side water meadows and seemingly forgotten royal palaces, you’re technically stillintheconfinesofLondon.Yet these sometimes muddy laneways are worth the wading, leading you to a thoroughly English horticultural and gastronomic gem.
Petersham Nurseries is a haven of inspiration and a feast for the senses. Found by the grounds of the ever- tranquil Petersham House, you quickly become the proverbial kid in a candy store, wandering around and falling for the plethora of antiques, art, homewares and plants dotted around this Victorian working nursery.
Yet it’s the culinary offerings that really lure in the visitors. Petersham Nurseries has two star foodie attractions; their award winning café and teahouse, both open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday. The former, nestled inside a light- catching greenhouse, is all about fusing exceptional, naturally sourced produce with English gastronomic traditions and Italian flavours. Alternatively, the teahouse, which also boasts a rather disarming dirt floor, is ideal for patrons hankering after something a little lighter.
In both epicurean settings seasonal ingredients are always used and edible herbs from the Petersham House Walled Kitchen Garden enhance the experience. Each dish is lovingly presented using a range of garden-fresh flora that even the less green thumbed of us would love to grow. While these may act as humble garnishes to the inventive and sometimes unexpected fare they are capable of completely halting conversation. These are the type of dishes you have to stop and admire before you can even think of tucking in.
It’s not just the food that people flock here for. The relaxed, stately setting is pretty spectacular too. During my late summer visit the sight of freshly made strawberry Bellinis, sitting pretty on a marble topped wrought iron table by the café’s entrance, really got me in the culinary mood. Their bubbly, rosy hue blended seamlessly with the vines running up the artfully aged arch behind. The glass roof with its ornate metal framework suggestively reflects the colour and textures of the food below, and the eclectic mix of tables,chairs and antique collectibles filling the greenhouse make the café a space to unwind in.
After a stunning meal of goat’s milk cheese, truffle oil, luscious figs and marigolds (the menu here is the epitome of seasonal, so whenever you visit you’re sure to be in for something different), there is a natural urge to wander through to the shop where a wonderful array of international goods greet you. Girandole chandeliers hang from the roof and urns overflowing with orchids and blooms sit majestically on the console tables below. Large antique French mirrors open up the furniture filled space, making use of the natural light that pours in on even the most overcast of days. The effortless mix of flora and homewares (and stoneware for that matter) leads to drastic thoughts of redecorating,causing you to ponder just how easy it would be to ship an antique wardrobe back across the seas.
And then there’s the nursery – as if your senses hadn’t been sated enough already! Here you can see how the earthy food you so recently gorged on came to be. There are seeds and herbs ripe for planting so you too can make your own flavoursome creations, or at least grow something pretty. Dahlias, foxgloves, cuckooflowers and primroses mix with the quirky willow herb and catchfly, each resplendent in the afternoon sun that sends low shadows over their playful sway.
Petersham Nurseries is an enchanting place where brilliant fare and the beauty of nature join to create a floral, food and art-filled experience to savour.
Taken from issue 1 of Lodestars Anthology, which you can purchase by clicking here.
London is a glorious city. A hub of creativity and flair, the streets are imbued with history and green spaces thrive whatever the weather. However, this capital of art, culture and food is particularly spectacular when the sun shines. So, with a heat wave looking to descend upon us (as summer finally rears its warming head) we've been pondering how to best spend our sun-drenched moments. Yes you could picnic or day-trip or you could do something just a little bit decadent - a scrumptious lunch in the sun. Here is a selection of London restaurants you're going to adore rain, hail or shine (but especially shine).
Inn the Park
St James Park has always been a swan and pelican-filled gem. A stone's throw from the Thames and the allure of Whitehall, here afternoons disappear and the London of yesteryear lives on. Within the capital's oldest Royal Park you'll also find the refined and inviting Inn The Park. With an eco-friendly design and summer menu that pays its respects to fine British fare, the entire experience proves innovative and fun. Meals are vibrant, the rose wine come with a hint of France and the setting is perfection - this is part of the Peyton and Byrne family after all. Open from breakfast until dinner, here you can appreciate the rays in gourmet style.
The Friday night I found myself within The Terrace of Rocket in Holborn, the sun was in full force and Lincoln’s Inn Fields was brimming with barbecues and post-work Pimms sippers. Staring into the vibrant greenery, the London stone facade glowing behind me, I felt thoroughly content - and that was even before the cocktails started flowing (if you want a whiskey sour done right, venture here). The atmosphere is relaxed yet elegant and the menu, which seems to take its inspiration from across the globe, is tempting in the extreme - it's odd, even on the warmest of days it's difficult to pass up a stone baked pizza. Having said that, the halloumi & chorizo kebab, on mooli, green mango and cucumber spaghetti with sweet roasted piquillo pepper dressing was something rather special and sure to spice up any Friday. However it was the key lime pie that really won me over - if you've got a sweet tooth this is the venue for you.
Nestled into the foundations of the Tower of London is a venue with a knack for cocktails and capturing the London sunset. This stunning restaurant, made up of a cosy, dimly-lit bar complete with Alice in Wonderland-style bottles, spacious indoor dining area (complete with floor to ceiling windows) and a terrace made for sun worshipping. Subtle Chaucer reference fill the space - the restaurant does after all take its name from one of his greatest characters. The Reveller appears is The Cook’s Tale and loved to eat, drink and dance as often as possible - a London restaurant god if ever there was one.
But back to reality, the fare served at Perkin Reveller is fresh, flavoursome and delightfully British, accentuated by a diverse array of wine and cocktails (and floral post-dinner teas of course). What is special about this venue though is the staff, friendly and knowledgeable, they effortlessly guide you through the menu (made up treats like sloe gin cured salmon and creedy carver duck breast) and make you feel like you're dining with new friends. Meals come with in jokes and smiles and that only makes this summery experience all the more warming.
Of course there are other wonderful sites for those who like to eat in the sun. The seasonal Towpath Cafe is constantly packed with locals wanting to make the most of the Regent's Canal, with The Narrow Boat offering a similar sun-dappled watery vista. Caravan In Exmouth Market is ideal for those who like breakfast outdoors while The Terrace at Orrery comes with plenty of Marylebone charm. Whatever you hunger for, know that London is more than happy to dish it up - and throw in a patch of sunlight for good measure.
Photographer Hannah Parvaz has taken to the charming streets of London countless times to capture the intricacies of big city life. We had a quick chat to her about why she picked up this camera and loves this city.
Can you tell me a little about yourself - where did you learn to take photographs?
I started taking pictures when I was 11, and taught myself everything I can do. Taking photos was always more of an obsession than a hobby, capturing everything, improving my imagery with every shutter snap, reading about things online, discovering how exposure or ISO or the slightest change in anything can affect a photograph.
Why do you love photography?
I love photography because I can capture moments. Tiny vignettes of life within an image. I love my memories, and my photographs are just that, my visual memories. They are all personal, even commissioned things I pour my personality into.
Why do you enjoy photographing London?
London is its own character, ever developing and changing and never having the same people in the same place at any time. London is something that can look so different on different days. This is why I love London. It accepts everyone and displays everyone, and my camera helps me capture that.
Where can we see more of your work?