London

I love London. I sign things London. London is the key to my heart – it deserves some writing.

la soiree
The first ‘non-essential’ I bought myself when I moved back to London as an adult was a ticket to La Soiree. Trading a week of caffeine-dependent sanity for nose-bleed seats to a modern circus no-one had ever heard of felt like a risk at the time.

Eight years later, it has become an essential annual ritual.

Be it from laughter that has you clutching the seat in front of you or the physical reaction required when seeing act after act defy death, La Soiree simply takes your breath away. Each act – be it this year’s raucously inappropriate Daredevil Chicken Club or blindfolded cradle act from The Chilly Brothers – is mischievous and magical by equal measure and only heightened by their well-deserved arrival at the West End’s Aldwych Theatre.

The Olivier Award-winning phenomenon is neither circus nor variety show nor dive bar nor burlesque act. Yet all of them, all the same. Though their cast changes annual, the show always feel like home. A home where people fly through the air, strip, and sing the most politically incorrect songs you’ll enjoy all year.

So, you know, normal Christmas vibes.

Do not miss out this year. But do watch out for the bananas.

how to make sushi
After four hours of OCD disquietude, my naive ‘how to make sushi’ Google sinkhole resulted in force-feeding my frustrated and starving eighteen-year-old self a bowl of hard rice, unripe avocado and inconceivably expensive Ahi.

It foreshadowed a decade of failed sushi attempts.

I took sushi for granted from my very first mouthful of maki; the demanding rice recipe process, the art of the roll, the balance of flavours. Sushi is, unequivocally, an art. Then Hashi Cooking changed everything.

Owner and teacher Reiko Hashimoto is not only the first Japanese chef to teach sushi in the UK but has been doing so for 17 years in London. If anyone could turn my incompetence around, it would be her.

With desperately low expectations for myself, I headed to The Club at The Ivy for one final attempt at successful wok and rolling.

For the afternoon, Reiko was joined by Oliver Hilton Johnson (sake educator and director of Tengu sake) and 19 other sushi chefs in the making.

To make a long story short, I can genuinely make sushi now. I know the tips. I know the tricks. I know the tactics and I understand them in a way my previously fruitless Googles couldn’t teach me. I can inside out roll, create beautiful omelette nigiri and sake pair my creations to perfection.

I even left with enough sushi to gift a friend for his birthday.

If you have ever considered a crack at the fine art, Hashi may be just what you’ve been looking for.


how to make sushi
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w london perception bar
I have treated W London‘s Library and Room 913 as a makeshift members club for over five years. I frequently danced myself into the next day under its titanic disco ball, made my way through a myriad of martinis while people-watching over Leicester Square, and nestled into back rooms for private film screenings with loved ones.

But I had never consumed more than an olive on any visit.

In all fairness, hotel restaurants typically hold little clout when I’m looking for somewhere to eat. Especially in Central London. With every cuisine conceivable available within a five minute walk, the W had little chance to enter my laundry list of must-eat adventures.

Then they decided to get all gastronomic on me.

This month, the W unveiled their face-lifted bar (now called The Perception) alongside a new dining series set to introduce emerging chefs to gourmands both local and en voyage.

The series has launched with the delicious genius of Magnus Reid (owner of C.R.E.A.M and Legs – the latter of which gained a Bib Gourmand after just four months of business). Magnus has long debunked any misconceptions that culinary success requires qualifications – having none – as one of the most unconventional and exciting chefs in the city. And his residence at The Perception only further proves it.

The sharing-friendly menu is a twisted Mediterranean-European triumph. It pairs burrata with chilli jam and fried garlic (addictive), celeriac carpaccio with buckwheat and gremolata (trust me on this one), and mussels with nduja and fennel (some of the best I’ve had anywhere in Europe).

In my presence, the pasta (see: pappardelle with crab, chilli & breadcrumbs and tagliatelle with sausage/fennel ragu & parmesan) has also been multi-Italian approved and the dessert (the chocolate pot with mint granita, in particular) turned a dessert-hater on his head.

If my Granada Gunpowder (Woodford Reserve, Campari, Disaronno, Carpano Antica Formula, Angostura Bitters) idée fixe wasn’t reason enough to return, this luxury dining experience at a Hackney price tag sealed the deal. I can’t wait to see who Team W London decide to champion next.

w london perception bar
w london perception bar
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mercante supper club 1
I am a little bit indecisive when it comes to ordering food.

Little bit in the way that Donald Trump is a little bit awful.

It’s not so much that I’m a picky eater but that I’m someone who suffers from culinary FOMO on the daily. When I eat out, I want my choices to not only be better than the versions I could make at home but better than everything else on the menu.

Mercante have developed a rather magical way to do both.

This month, the authentic Italian restaurant launched a monthly ‘no menu’ concept supper club to showcase the seasonal delights of la dolce vita del cibo.

Head Chef Davide D’Ignazio’s evolving four-course menu is revealed to guests on arrival and plays heavily on his home country’s regional specialities.

At the supper club’s nativity, we enjoyed a plate of truly succulent pork cheek (with opaline crackling, porcini carpaccio & celeriac puree), delica pumpkin risotto amaretti with parmesan crumble, sea bass (with a shockingly tasty fennel, olive & caper salad), and a pomegranate gel panna cotta. Each cooked at our side by David while we indulged in perfectly paired wines.

The recipes of which I would also sell a kidney for.

(The ‘no menu’ Mercante Supper Club experience is priced at £55 per person for and will run on every third Thursday of the month at 7pm. Advance booking essential.)


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poutine air canada
This side of the pond, I’ve had nothing but tragic poutine experiences.

The Canadian culinary favourite (think jazzed-up cheesy chips with gravy) has, in my experience, only ever been executed well by Canucks.

The Air Canada Poutinerie in Shoreditch, however, makes this week an exception.

To celebrate their #CoolNotCold Winter destinations, the airline has taken over a two floor cafe on Kingsland Road to dish up a wordly interpretation of Canada’s iconic comfort food.

The offering includes Boston’s Loaded Crab putine (fries, fresh crab, gouda cream sauce, scallions & blue cheese crumbles), Cancun’s Costa Maya Mole (sweet potato fries, queso fresco, mole sauce & micro coriander) and the unbelievable Portland’s Vegan Chili Fries (fries, Szechuan chilli gravy, bean curd, sesame & spring onion) – all priced at £3.50.

Every poutine purchase also rewards you with the chance to win two Air Canada flight to any destination of your choice from its network of over 200 #CoolNotCold destinations on six continents (all you need to do is post a picture of your poutine on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #CoolNotCold, tagging @aircanada)!

For the price, quality and vibes (I was having so much fun I didn’t realise they were closing until I had to be thrown out) it can’t be missed.

(The shop is open until this Saturday (December 11th) at 52-56 Kingsland Road, London and poutine fans new and old are welcome to set down their Canadian beer or wine to enjoy a virtual reality experience which transports them from the mean streets of London to the skies of an Air Canada flight while you’re there.)



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