It’s time I talked about my stint in the clink.

The CliffsNotes version of the story? I’ve considered leading a life of cocktail-intended crime ever since I escaped the joint. For my two-hour sentence, Alcotraz Penitentiary huddled a room of booze-smuggling strangers together to bring our respective Orange Is The New Black/Shawshank/Bad Girls dreams to life.

Alcotraz is the world’s first immersive prison cocktail bar; starchy orange jumpsuits, jaw-dropping convictions, unstable wardens, cell shakedowns and all. With carefully-hollowed bibles and 70cl-friendly pillowcases to support the inebriation of its inmates, Alcotraz is as good as immersive theatre gets.

Though they’re putting an applaudable spin on your everyday tequila slammer, the experience won me over with a dedication to absolute madness. This crowbar hotel would be the perfect precursor to any East London night-out.

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lami malo london

As a food writer I am quick to respond to restaurant suggestion demands across every corner of London, but Liverpool Street has always stumped me. While there are the obvious choices, great independents are swamped by chains and nondescript watering holes until you get closer to Shoreditch.

New restaurant L’ami Malo is an exception to the rule.

Nestled past the boozing bankers of Artillery Passage, this contemporary French crêperie has taken inspiration from the traditional French town of St Malo (famous for its high quality galettes) and executed the cosiest of culinary concepts.

We’re talking crepes and galettes pushed to their limits.

To start, my date and I split buckwheat goat’s cheese croquettes (atop roasted heritage
beetroot, and kasha seeds with a honey & thyme dressing) before delving into their similarly galette-inspired ‘maki rolls’; ham hock (his favourite – with gherkin, watercress, and piccalilli) and smoked salmon with capers, shallot, dill, keta caviar, and crème fraîche (obviously my favourite, but rich enough to warrant sharing).

Though the menu ran the risk of galette overkill, their star interpretations were so incredibly well-cooked I almost forgot buckwheat had anything to do with them. My own main, confit duck leg, included braised red cabbage, a caramelised pear, tenderstem broccoli, and a red wine jus in a way that could truly only have been heightened by a bottle of 2015 Château Coudray-Montpensier Chinon.

(A herbaceous and heavily-berried choice which, of course, they had.)

I would order the confit leg or slow-cooked red wine ox cheek (with confit baby onion, heritage carrot, buckwheat polenta, and crispy kale) again in a heartbeat.

With the recommendation of our l’ami-personifying waitress, we ordered their take on a vanilla cheesecake (a delectable arrangement of cakeless ‘cheese’ with baked dutch rhubarb and crispy crepe swirls) to end.

L’ami Malo is a restaurant I would recommend to anyone. Without hesitation. And I never do so lightly.

lami malo london

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short black hair
If being a woman has taught me anything about beauty, it has taught me we all give a lot of f**ks about our hair.

To an extreme. A, dare I say it, religious extreme. We wake up most mornings thinking about it. Praying our efforts don’t get ruined by forces out of our control. We obsess over the loss of it, change of it, silver-crept ageing of it, and more.

And few of us are atheists. Despite priding myself on my intellect and kindness far above my follicles, I have spent decades tonging, bleaching, and masking my hair. If anything ‘of the flesh’ was to consume me, it would be the mass of tortured strands on my head.

The realisation came unexpectedly and I knew I had to break the chain.

Aptly named as it could could be, The Chapel provided a personal hair mecca.

While my first visit had little to do with hair whatsoever, the environment left such a positive imprint on me I knew it was the place to turn to cut more than half my hair off. To finally fill in those over-bleached ends. To get over the use of hair as a security blanket*.

In two separate appointments, Oliver (and a slew of truly kind salon accomplices) took me from weighed down to the glossiest, bobbed version of myself I could hope for. With the service, laughter, and know-how of proper barnet apostles.

As my hair grows out, the gloss will fade into a healthy version of the natural colour I can barely remember. And I can’t wait.

the chapel london
the chapel london
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red dress
I need to look after you. No really, I do. I have a crippling compulsion to prioritise others’  needs far above my own and, naturally, put any hope of relaxation on the backburner.

I, thankfully, learned this force majeure is that of an OCD persuasion. And does far more harm than good. After years of running myself ragged, all it takes is a little bit of enforced perspective and I’m half-way unwound.

Nonetheless, I am a work in progress. Over the last few months I have discovered that dedicating at least one hour a day to something indulgent – be it cooking a meal or doing a dance class – keeps me sane. That music at least two decades old will always make me smile. That wearing a killer dress, even when working from home, takes my brain from ‘work mode’ to ‘party mode’ and almost doubles my productivity. That I can better help those in need when I help myself.

As stress is a heavy-handed trigger for acid reflex/heartburn/other such nonsense, I also make sure to physically limit any irritants while I work on my brain game. I avoid eating late (or forgetting to eat altogether), eating spicy or citric food, and drinking alcohol or caffeine (though, cards on the table, I will always be dependent on an espresso or five to run at a normal human pace).

In this age of digital distractions and predominantly demanding days, relaxation has to be a conscious choice. I fully advocate finding out what works best for you.

And listen to a lot of Robert Palmer while you’re at it.

What I Wore:
Red lace dress (almost everything I’ve worn over the last month has been from Mancunian fashion brand LOTD, for all of you who have been asking on Instagram!)


red dress

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dinner time stories london

While I am undoubtedly tech obsessed, the receipt of press release with the words “multisensorial projector-based dinner show” at the top made my combatively anti-millennial instincts flinch to throw my laptop at the wall.

Since when did good food need anything more than a fork? Since when did it need projectors?!

I masochistically read on.

Le Petit Chef was the latest dining concept from the well-received innovators of Dinner Time Story.

This time led by a diminutive 3D animated chef who likes to spend his evenings travelling across tablecloths.

Nonetheless, their London outpost was going to be held in the roof of Shoreditch’s TT Liquor and was safe in the knowledge I could spend an evening drinking some of my favourite whiskeys if all else failed.

I’m also far too curious to ignore anything that would charge £95 for a ‘concept’.

At the start of the dinner, guests were seated around communal tables with a blank storybook in front of them. For the two hours after that, you are thrust into a culinary and augmented reality exploration. While still seated.

And I have to hand it to Dinner Time Story, they took me there. To the Silk Road, Middle East, Western France, sea, and sky. While producing six small homage-yielding courses and cocktail pairings at each stop.

With soundtracks and scents to elevate each imagined destination, that damned “multisensorial projector-based dinner show” really got to me. It heightened what was arguably a mediocre menu to an evening well-worth it’s price tag.

It was whimsical, charming, and full of potential. I simply hope the food (besides the deliciously cumin-heavy tagine croquette) catches up.

(Dinner Time Story is currently running in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Berlin and Belgium, and expansion plans for China and Scandinavia are already underway. Keep an eye out for their next pop-up.)

dinner time stories london
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