Lifestlye

2018, Looking Forward & Back

I usually dread the start of the year. January can be a quiet time for freelancers, as the 9-5'ers struggle back to work through the cold mornings, leaving me to the cycle of self promotion, meetings and self loathing (laughter is permitted at this point). However 2018 has been off to a promising start, with various commisions coming in for portraits. I love being asked to photograph people, and as I predominantly shoot food and drinks it's always great to have a subject I can talk to! As I am unable to share any of this exciting new work yet, I have been looking back at a some of my favourite portraits I've shot over the last few years, ranging from personal work on my 'Brother' series, to the wonderful actor Daniel Kaluuya and a day in the life at London Shell Co.

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La Basitde de Moustiers

Hidden away  in the mountains above Les Gorges du Verdon is a beautiful Provençal paradise, La Bastide de Moustiers. Founded by the one and only Alain Ducasse  , La Bastide is set in four acres of land, with small stone cottages set around the main house, where you will find the stunning restaurant and terrace over looking the landscape. The S.O and I had the pleasure of visiting over the summer, and as autumn descends upon London, I cannot help but think back to the warmth of Moustiers in August.

Everything that is produced at La Bastide is seasonal, with an ever changing menu. Walking out into the gardens, you can see all the herbs and vegetables being grown, tended to and picked. There is not a single sound apart from the buzzing of bright violet carpenter bees, weighing down every flower they can land on.

La Bastide is a short drive from the town, famous for its hand painted china. We spent a hot afternoon wandering the steep streets, the S.O trying to distract me from buying every piece of china with Lavender ice cream and the promise of cold Rose. If you should find yourself in Moustiers, look out for the star which has hung above the town by a knight after the Crusades (legend has it).

 

For me, the absolute highlight of our stay was the breakfast each morning; walking out into the dappled sunlight took my breath away. The sweet, fresh juices and home made honey on warm pastry made me wish the moment would never end, and I could stay in this haven, eating breakfast with my love forever.

Lazy Days Spent in the South of France

When I think of summer, my mind immediately wanders to being at my mothers home in France. The drive up into the mountains, the warm sun and of course the food. There is nothing I enjoy more than a morning spent at the market. France_01

Each weekend, Valbonne opens itself up into a food paradise, selling the most beautiful fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses and meats. Charlie and I spent a wonderful morning perusing the market and sneaking around the quieter backstreets to take a break from the hustle and bustle.

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Admittedly Valbonne can be a little bit of a tourist trap, however I recommend getting to the market early, watch the vendors setting up their stalls, buy everything your stomach desires and as the crowds descend, make a quick exit into the hills.

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My favourite escape from the busy markets has to be the Foundation Maeght, a stunning art gallery set in the hills of St Paul de Vence. I have visited the Maeght since I was a child  and each year that I return feels just like the first. Founded in the 1960s' the Maeght is famous for nurturing contemporary artists; Giacometti, Miro and Chagall all have permanent works integrated into the gardens.

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Visiting the South of France every year feels like coming home. It is the place I have been with my friends and family as a child, fallen in love as an adult and now having my mother living here, it really is home.

A New Neighbour

I have to start off this post with an apology for the radio silence, however I do have a good excuse, the S.O. and I have spent the last month buying our first home! So it seems apt that today's post is about our newest local restaurant, Neighbour. Located right at the top of Kentish Town high street, Neighbour serves up seasonal fair from brunch until dinner with a cocktail bar tucked away down the stairs.  

Naturally we started the evening off with drinks from the ample Spritz menu and they did not disappoint;  chalice sized Aperol and Campari Spritz's, with the perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

 

Neighbour offers a vast selection of small plates as well as mains, and after much deliberation, the four of us decided to order a plentiful selection of the small plates to share. I would highly recommend this approach to dining if the option is there, I always want to try as much as I can without feeling like I'm sharing all of my food! The standout dishes by far were the fried chicken with kale and siracha ketchup, the salt cod and fritto misto with salsa verde.

 

I have to confess we rather over ordered on our mains, so split two desserts, Pimms jelly with strawberry mousse and the chocolate salted caramel torte. The desserts certainly looked beautiful, however it was the mains that stole the show (or perhaps we were too full!).

For a new opening, I think Neighbour is onto a good thing; the space is stunning, with a warm atmosphere, good food and friendly service. I'm happy to count them as my new neighbourhood go-to.

Lunch of a Freelancer 4.0

For every rule there is an exception and in terms of City heat, I like to think of myself as that exception. I love the heat of the summer and how the pace of London life seems to slow right down. What then could be better than a luxurious lunch in the sunshine? In order to achieve the maximum amount of rays, I chose the Roof Deck at Selfridges. I also secretly wanted to impress my favourite American friend, Rosie Spinks to see if the promise of Californian style dining in Central London could live up to her discerning tastes. Roof_Deck_001

We started with the latest trend in drinks, Frosé aka frozen Rosé. I can confirm this is not just a trend, it is also one of the most delicious and thirst quenching experiences I have had; the sweetness was perfectly balanced with fresh berries and lemon mixed with a lovely medium dry wine.

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The tuna ceviche with plantain crisps was light and fresh, however the Cobb salad absolutely stole the show. Creamy blue cheese dressing, crunchy salad and ripe avocado paired with perfectly salty bacon. Rosie and I ate it so quickly I have no photographic evidence to show for it!

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If you are eating any meal in the sun, it has to be finished off with something very, very cold. Thankfully the deck offers an unusual and exciting dessert, avocado and pistachio ice cream sandwich. Held together with sweet meringue, the ice cream had a wonderful flavour, with a hint of avocado, leaning on the right side of savoury.

I adored the Roof Deck; the food is fresh and beautiful, the drinks cool and refreshing. The bill was the only thing that stung a little, the Roof Deck is not cheap, however for a special occasion or just a drink after work with a spectacular view of the City it's one not to be missed this summer.

Lunch of a Freelancer 3.0

Lunches (for me) fall into two categories, long and luxurious or quick and easy. They each have their merits, however both must be delicious. Walter and Monty  falls firmly into the latter. A beautiful space in the city, right next to the Gerkin, Walter and Monty serves up a selection of perfectly marinated and cooked meats, either in a box or wrap. The meat is butchered and prepared each morning by Chef James, or as I prefer to call him 'Meat BAE', but fear not vegetarians! There are hearty salads galore, so no one is left out.

When the doors open for lunch service, there is genuinely a queue out into the street. Most are regulars, who have a great chat with Alex (an owner, who can be found behind the till most days) as they choose from the variety of meats and salad. A good friend of mine who works in the City takes in her own Tupperware box to be filled, and is proud to be the only one (although I may have just ruined her secret).

Having worked in the City for many years, Alex has tapped into exactly what the market wants; quality food that is competitively priced that can be eaten on site or taken away (in beautifully designed packaging) to your desk. Everything moves quickly, the service is impeccable and each person who visits leaves happily full, or excitedly salivating.

 

Craft Beer Rising

 

As the readers of this blog can probably tell, I regularly wax lyrical about how much I love a good drink and great company. Luckily, my career choice allows for both of these pastimes. I spent most of the last weekend at the Old Truman Brewery, photographing for Camden Town Brewery at Craft Beer Rising; a wonderful cornucopia land of beers, where guests wonder from stand to stand, sampling everything there is to offer from larger, to pale to dark ale (and even alcoholic ginger beer). The atmosphere is relaxed; everyone is friendly and a little bit tipsy.
I love shooting for Camden for so many reasons, they are a fantastic brand who make delicious beer and everytime I turn up to shoot somebody at the bar smiles and yells 'hey photographer lady!' which completely makes my day. In between photographing other people drinking beer, I had a chance to try some myself (naturally).
I usually opt for an Unfiltered Hells for it's fresh full taste, however at CBR this year there was a new beer to try, Charlie Roper's 'Foolish' Rhubard IPA. The first keg was tapped on Saturday, with the money raised from Charlie's beer going to Medicines Sans Frontiers.

Sadly CBR is now over however do not despair! You can try Foolish at The Horseshoe or Camden's Daughter and still raise money for charity. If you are a fan of a fresh, punchy and deliciously sour beer, this IPA is the one, and having tasted more than one at CBR, I definitely have the authority to say so.

Party at the Parlour

In 1999, aged ten, I received a fax whilst on a school trip to France. My sister had given birth to a baby girl, Ava. The letter was handwritten by my mother and I read it excitedly as my friends huddled around me. I was an auntie and for the first time in my life I had something that no one else had - and for perhaps the last time,  I was (for a moment) considered cool.
18 years later, we celebrated Ava's birthday at the Parlour in Kensal Rise. I told the fax story over a crisp glass of Picpoul and salt baked chicken. Ava's boyfriend asked me what a fax was and I suddenly felt ancient by comparison. We spent the entire afternoon sat in the main bar at a long table for 12 - laughing, drinking and reminiscing.
Everyone opted for a variety of roasts; venison, beef and of course the salt baked chicken. Each as scrumptious as the last, with lashings of gravy, huge fluffy Yorkshire puddings and of course buttery veg. Only one person broke the mould with chicken kiev with slaw. We finished our meal with cake (as one must) and espresso martinis - I highly recommend this combination.
The Parlour is a place for celebration. The space is light and airy, the staff are incredibly accommodating and made no objection when my sister covered the table with glitter and balloons, insisting her daughter was turning 12 and never 18! Every other table was filled with groups of families, all celebrating their own occasions, giving the whole place a contagious sense of joy.
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Thyme Well Spent

There is no better way to beat the January blues than a weekend escape. With that in mind, we skived off on Friday and took a drive down to Thyme. Over the last 12 years, the Hibbert family have lovingly restored the estate's cottages and barns to create a stylish, comfortable and unpretentious hotel that showcases the stunning stone built architecture that is so quintessentially Cotswolds.

Everything about Thyme is personal, from the welcome note and biscuits in our room, the friendly and attentive staff (especially barman Connor who makes a mean Espresso Martini), to the hot water bottle we found in bed that evening. I am not sure if it was sheer coincidence or that it was obvious how much we love a good drink, but I have to make a special mention of the home infused blood orange vodka nightcap left out for us after dinner! Two of my favourite things in life are puns and cocktails, so I was overjoyed to find The Baa at Thyme, complete with sheep seats to rest weary limbs after a country walk. All cocktails at the bar are seasonal and created with homemade syrups, bitters and infusions. Purely in the name of research I may have drunk one or two ... (several), but the winner by a mile had to be ‘Thyme Goes Sloe-ly’, a perfect blend of sloe-gin, St Germain and house made ‘Winter Bitters’.

It may sound as if we survive solely on a diet of alcohol, but thankfully for our livers this could not be further from the truth. The Hibbert family also own a picturesque country pub, The Swan, approximately five minutes' walk away. Armed with an umbrella and a lantern (kindly provided by the Hotel) we wandered over for a beautiful dinner of scotch eggs, veal pappardelle and pheasant breast, washed down with a bottle of white wine (of course).

At breakfast, in Thyme's grand dining room, we had baked ham with fried eggs and portobello mushrooms, alongside a selection of homemade preserves and freshly baked sourdough bread. I wandered into the kitchen where I was warmly greeted by the chef, who obliged my request to take pictures as he prepped freshly picked herbs and vegetables from the farm.

After breakfast, we took a walk around the grounds and found Thyme's farm. During a lengthy debate about whether it would be ok to climb the fence for a closer look, we bumped into Jerry Hibbert, who gave us a personal tour and a fascinating insight into Thyme's produce-to-plate approach. The farm has chickens, quails, indian runner ducks, more chickens, pigs and two vegetable poly tunnels, all of which supply the majority of the hotels fresh produce. The proof is in the eating. Thyme's enthusiasm for homemade, home grown food (and drink) creates a unique and perfect example of how to do country escapes.