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Become the world’s #1 hero

The three-month Superheroes Bar pop-up in Stoke Newington is less like a visit to a bar, and more like an adventure into the world of heroes and cocktails. The 1hr 45min immersive trip casts visitors as a hero complete with mask and cape. They will collect stones of power to mix and make their own drink.

The choose-your-own-adventure style experience allows visitors to tour the comic book multiverse while making choices that determine what superpowers they collect, what drinks they make and how their story will end.

The team behind the superheroes cocktail experience is The Cauldron. There, a 1hr 45min immersive class lets visitors use molecular mixology to brew drinks. Instead of a mask and cape, they’re given a robe and a magic wand. Plenty of choices this March, to be someone with superpowers.

Where? 5d Stoke Newington Rd, Dalston, London N16 8BH

When? 27th March for three months

How much? £29.99pp Wed, Thurs; £34.99 Fri, Sat, Sun (including three drinks)

Website: https://www.superheroes.bar/

Vegan Life Live

If you’d like to discover more vegan food this weekend, Vegan Life Live at Alexandra Palace is the perfect two-day festival to attend. Food vendors will be selling anything from vegan burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, salads, pizza, and more.

There will be tips from exhibitors on how to make small changes to become vegan, and a number of presenters, speakers, activists, and chefs will be sharing their stories and expertise on all things vegan.

Visit the festival on Saturday, 14th March, if you’d like to see Jon Dale cooking with freshly foraged Cornish wild garlic to create wild garlic pesto. Or learn about Ayurvedic cuisine and the effect it has on your digestion and health. Juliette Bryant will teach you about how to thrive on a plant-based diet while Tomi Makanjuola will demonstrate plantain recipes that are quick to make.

On Sunday, 15th March, there will be a vegan pizza making masterclass, a demonstration of cooking king oyster mushroom carbonara with smoked almond cream, and a showcasing of how to make spicy jackfruit curry. Stay until the early afternoon to catch Danielle Maupertuis making a pomegranate cheesecake with agar agar and vegan dairy substitutes.

Where? Alexandra Palace, Palm Court Entrance, London, N22 7AY

When? 14th Mar 10am – 6pm, 15th Mar 10am – 5pm

How much? From £10 concession online to £15 adult on the door

Website: https://london.veganlifelive.com/

St Patrick’s Day

Of course, the other London festival and parade you won’t want to miss is St Patrick’s Day. Everyone’s invited to the big Irish party that will center around Trafalgar Square on Sunday, 15th March. There will be plenty of Irish food, dancing and a ginormous parade featuring floats and music from KILA and Imelda May.

Where? Trafalgar Square

When? 15th Mar 12pm – 6pm

How much? Free

Website: https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2020-03-15/london-st-patricks-festival-2020

Eat, Pray, Love

The original London outpost of the pizzeria can be found on Baker Street, but the founding restaurant hails all the way from the origin of pizza itself: Naples. Michele of the Condurro family opened his first pizzeria in 1906, with generation six of master pizza makers continuing his legacy. The restaurant’s enduring success can be credited to the use of natural ingredients, and a traditional, time-tested method of leavening the pizza dough.

Eating pizza at Da Michele is so mind-blowing that it was only a matter of time until it would be picked up and featured in a piece of literature, and then a film. In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert mentions the pizzeria Da Michele where “the pies we have just ordered, one for each of us, are making us lose our mind.” We know the feeling. We pray to return ASAP whenever we treat ourselves to a Da Michele pizza.

Da Michele in Soho

Except for the extra-luxurious Gold Pizza, you’ll find all of Baker Street’s pizza classics on the Soho menu. Desserts are the same too, but starters include new additions such as Burrata and Aubergine, Oyster, and Sauté di Mare (fresh mussels and clams in extra virgin olive oil and white wine). There is a new mains section with items such as Octopus Luciana (an octopus stew with creamy saffron potato) and Catalana Lobster.

If you have that one shocking friend who’s not that into pizza, bathe in beautiful pizza bliss while they enjoy some pasta. Reflective of the rest of the menu’s new seafood additions, there are Frutti di mare pasta options such as Spaghetti Mussel and Linguine Lobster. And prepare yourself for some smoking cocktails like Green Eyes – an absinthe, rum, double cream, pistachio cream concoction.

If you love pizza as much as we do, there are many other pizza spots to try in the capital. From tender stem broccoli pizzas to those made in Roman style, – with thin, crispy bases – the choice is plenty.

Where? 44 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 4TY

When? 20th February, 6 pm

Website: https://www.anticapizzeriadamichele.co.uk/

Pressure to post

Having a strong social media presence has become a requirement for restaurants who want to stay competitive in a digitalised world. But often these businesses with a low-profit margin don’t have the budget to hire a social media manager. They need to fit in the time to learn about how to best take photographs and style their food for a picture-perfect dish so that they have new content to post every day.

So chefs try to plate their dishes not just so it’s ready for Instagram but so unique or mouth-watering that it’ll stop an Instagram user in their digital tracks. Many people will make their dinner decisions based on a photo of a dish they saw in their morning feed, scrolling through dozens of other images crying for their attention. The pressure can be cosmic.

Stock photos as a quick alternative

Sometimes restaurant owners cave under the pressure and post stock photos on their social media, making it look like the image is of a dish they serve on their menu. But they don’t post to mislead, they post to post. If they miss the timing, not enough diners will come flocking in that evening. Of course, that doesn’t make it acceptable. And it can have negative results for the restaurant as well.

Imagine this. Based on an image you saw on a pancake restaurant’s social media, on your visit to Pancake Heaven you expect a fluffy pancake topped with whipped cream, strawberries, raspberries and chocolate sprinkled on top. You go to Pancake Heaven and outcomes a chewy pancake with clotted cream, strawberries only and no chocolate. You were looking forward to the fluffiness, the raspberries, but it didn’t deliver. It might be the reason why you don’t come back again.

Stock photos may seem like a quick fix, but in the long-term, it does more damage than it does good. Restaurants will benefit from looking at other strategies such as using the same photo again after some time has passed, or taking many photos in one session that can be used over a long period of time.

Five different dining environments

Expect to travel through another world at this new immersive restaurant set in an Art Deco Grade II listed building, which is due to open in spring this year. The first stop will be the Batcave and Pennyworth’s, named after Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, where you’ll find historically inspired British dishes. The Iceberg Lounge, a large restaurant, and bar, will offer an international menu and live entertainment throughout the week.

Harley Quinn-inspired omakase is the star in the top counter dining area, while a villainous speakeasy features original cocktails with sharing plates. The Monarch Theatre is the final destination, which will need to be booked well in advance. A multi-sensory tasting menu experience with 360-degree projection mapping technology will be your most immersive experience yet.

Immersive dining

Themed dining experiences that ask the visitor to immerse themselves in the world of the film or character have been current in London’s restaurant scene since the early days of the Rainforest Café and Planet Hollywood. More recently, a dinner show based on the Abba movie Mamma Mia! is gaining in popularity.

But never before has a restaurant of this scale been conceived as a fully immersive DC-inspired gastronomic experience. There will be multi-sensory tasting menus, magician Chris Cox to work his magic on your senses, and mirrored glass structures that will enclose diners much like the classic scene of the dome dropping over the city that is familiar to comic book readers.

We’ll make sure to binge-watch the movies that have inspired the restaurant’s experiential universe before its opening: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, and The Penguin. And we’ll keep that wonder woman outfit ironed and ready at the back of our closet, just in case they’re cool with coming in costume.

Where? 77 Brewer Street, Soho, London, UK

When? Expected spring 2020

How much? Prices starting at an average of £45pp; £120pp for a tasting menu at Park Row’s Monarch Theatre

The Kudu Collective

Following the success of Kudu, including a Bib Gourmand awarded by Michelin, the couple addressed the necessity of having a place to enjoy pre or post-dinner drinks by opening their own cocktail bar, Smokey Kudu.

It is more overtly South African than its older sibling, with cocktail creations that use ingredients such as rooibos, Amarula, and South African brandy. A “sexier version” of Kudu, its central horseshoe bar is set against a large antique mirror, with green velvet booths and red marble-topped tables.

Little Kudu will be more informal. There will be bar stools or high tops of four, which are designed to be shared, as well as floor tiles instead of Kudu’s parquet flooring. It is meant to complement Kudu as a place to enjoy wine and snacks.

A great marriage of talents

Amy Corbin, daughter to Chris Corbin who is one half of the hugely successful restaurant group Corbin & King, met Patrick Williams, Kudu’s South African-born executive chef at a family meal. She had spent some time in New York studying interior design but had considered moving into the hospitality industry when she met Williams.

Creating a sense of community

The duo wanted to make sure they can be present in all of their venues every day, so you will find them located no more than 50 meters from each other. Because people feel valued when they see the owners present, it creates more of a sense of community.

Keep your eyes peeled for Little Kudu opening next month, and in the meantime head on over to one of the Kudu Collective’s other two venues.

Grace Dent’s review

Grace Dent reviewed Angel Lane Chippie in Penrith, describing it as a “shining example of British brilliance.” She praises the atmosphere which evokes feelings of nostalgia, bringing Grace back to British chippies in the 1970s when she “struggled on tiptoes to see into the cabinet.” She also seems very pleased with Angel Lane’s cod, “which is always curly, firm-fleshed and clogged with extra globs of thick batter.”

A man criticizes

Enter Twitter and a response by one man who claims that the batter should be thrown away, not eaten. His tweet reads: “You. Eat. The. Batter? The batter is there to protect the fish during frying, you peel it off, throw it away, then eat the fish! If you bake a fish (or indeed a vegetable) in a salt crust, do you eat that too?” Grace’s response? “This comment has kept me awake. I. I just. What.”

The history of fish and chips

The tradition of fish and chips came about as an amalgamation of immigrant food, much like many other greatly loved dishes all over the world (think American hot dog, Indian-British Tikka Masala, or Turkish-German döner kebab).

When Jewish refugees emigrated from Portugal and Spain during the 16th century, they brought one of their native dishes with them. It was a dish very similar to today’s pescaito frito, literally “fried fish,” that was prepared for Shabbat dinner on Friday evenings and often eaten cold the following afternoon.

Eating this fried fish cold required a superior batter to protect it from spoiling and the fat from penetrating the fish. Some believe that this is how fish was prepared even before the Jewish immigrants arrived, with the batter acting only as a preservative that would be thrown away.

Over time, this Jewish tradition morphed into a national dish of battered fish and chips that was served, fat dripping, in a wrapping of a newspaper.

Fish and chips developed over centuries into the dish we crave and love today. Despite Grace Dent’s position as a food critic and fountain of knowledge, it’s not surprising she would not have heard of that time when the batter was considered purely functional. The batter is surely the best part about fish and chips, so it’s a stretch to imagine such a possibility.

London’s Chinatown suffers

People’s fear of contracting the virus have led them to avoid Chinese restaurants, resulting in a downturn in business and an upturn in racist abuse. Bookings at Jinli restaurant’s four branches have fallen by 50%. General manager Martin Ma estimates the usually busy flagship restaurant in London’s Chinatown has lost £15,000 over the weekend alone.

Jinli staff returning from China are kept home for at least 14 days, and sanitiser gel is used extensively, but people continue to be scared and stay away from Chinese restaurants.

The narrative of ‘Otherness’

This fear is unwarranted when it comes in the form of racist prejudice that frames Chinese individuals (and anyone who, in the eye of a Westerner, might look like them) as uncivilized, barbaric ‘Others.’ ‘Others’ who, because of their appetite for animals outside the norm of Occidental diets, enable the spread of contagious diseases such as Coronavirus.

The often subtle racism is expressed by the avoidance of Chinese people, but also with ‘casual’ verbal abuse that people of East Asian descent are expected to brush off. It brings to the fore previously dormant racism about the things they eat, much like Brexit has been a springboard for openly offending foreigners with racist comments.

The increase in racism also reveals people’s strong beliefs in their own cultural hegemony where some animals are considered socially acceptable to eat, and others are not. While currently the prohibition of meat production would be unimaginable in the United States, the slaughter and sale of cows in India is considered a sin and forbidden by law in vast areas of the country. Similarly, horse meat is deemed a delicacy in many parts of Europe, most famously France, but an appearance of horse tartare on an episode of Top Chef Canada in 2011 caused massive outrage.

There are no hard scientific facts to suggest the necessity of avoiding London’s Chinatown. But there is evidence that blatant and subtle racism can cause damage to individuals who endure it, and to a capital that prides itself on building bridges between cultures and on enabling people from these cultures to live together, harmoniously.

A growing trend

Compared to last year, the number of people who signed the pledge has almost grown two-fold. In 2019, it was 250,000 individuals who participated in the event, and 170,000 in 2018. The UK-based group set out on their mission in 2014 and has attracted signatories from every country in the world except Vatican City, Eswatini (previously known as Swaziland), and North Korea.

More vegan products

Restaurants, pub chains, supermarkets, and manufacturers are following suit with hundreds of new vegan products launched in the UK alone. This includes Veganuary offerings from fast-food chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, and KFC, which sold one million vegan burgers in the first month they were on sale.

Pret A Manger also launched a vegan croissant which is made using margarine and sunflower oil instead of the usual 55% French butter. The vegan pastry is selling twice as fast a day as the non-vegan jam croissant.

Other big brands that have seen an increase in vegan food products and sales include Greggs, with its meatless steak bake, Tesco, M&S, and food delivery service Deliveroo with a 78% increase in vegan dishes ordered.

Veganuary is focused on January, but the movement is spilling into the rest of the year with the mindset and vegan products here to stay. It’s a drastic transition from meat and meat products most days, to none ever at all. Luckily there’s also the alternative option of flexitarianism that can be a lot more manageable but still make all the difference.

Promoting self-love

The self-love restaurant includes mood-boosting music, feel-good food, and mirrors that reflect motivational quotes at the single diner.

The pop-up was created following a survey by Mintel of 2,000 UK consumers that found that one in three people are regularly eating meals on their own, in London every second person.

Above all else, the Two4One mirrored event is meant to encourage singletons to enjoy a night out on the year’s most-celebrated romantic date, without needing anything more than their own company.

The twist

If you thought dining on your own isn’t awkward enough, wait until you see the person on the other side of the mirror who was dining there with you all that time.

Maybe it turns out to be the love of your life and you have a nice story to tell. Or if all else fails, at least you get to split the bill and claim a two-for-one deal.

Money raised at the pop-up goes to Mary’s Meals charity, which provides hungry children with a meal every school day.

If you’d like to go for a more traditional Valentine’s Day meal with a loved one (other than yourself), there are plenty of romantic dining options in London.

Where? TWO4ONE, 46 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3EP

When? 13th & 14th Feb

How much? £20pp

Website: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tastecard-brings-first-ever-mirrored-valentines-pop-up-restaurant-two4one-tickets-92698360291