Arty food or foodie art?


Jelly St Paul’s Cathedral by Bompas & Parr

There has long been a connection between food and art. Post-Impressionist painters would famously pay for their meals in paintings, kicking off the artwork-in-a-restaurant aesthetic.


Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde cow at Tramshed

Some have taken this to the next step, such as the formaldehyde cow-in-a-restaurant look that Mark Hix has gone for at his London restaurant Tramshed. You can’t miss the giant Damien Hirst ‘artwork’ of a cock and bull which references the chicken and beef dishes on the menu. It’s hard to focus on your whole stuffed upside down chicken with the suspended animals in your line of sight.

Cafe-DALI-by-Annvil-01 Cafe-DALI-by-Annvil-02

Salvador Dali purposely created art with maximum shock value and has inspired many in the restaurant business. Dali Café & Art in Riga is a culinary temple to the great Surrealist artist which includes plenty of his trademark motifs like eyes, lips, curved lines and draped fabric.


A ‘melting clock’ style chocolate crepe

Melting clocks come by way of the chocolate crepe, served to look like The Persistence of Memory. There are also plenty of blue and gold tones, Dali’s favorite colors, to highlight the eccentric fit-out.

Glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jelly

Glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jellies

The idea of food itself becoming the artwork is growing in popularity. My all-time favourite foodie artists are Bompass & Parr, two English gents who call themselves jellymongers.

The roof of Selfridges becomes an emerald lake

The roof of Selfridges becomes a lake of lolly water

Their CV has the most absurd but fantastical list of projects you could imagine; a chocolate waterfall in the middle of a shopping centre, flooding part of the Selfridges roof to create a lolly water emerald boating lake, glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic jellies… Read More

A year of heart stopping coffee moments


A perfect Leipzig coffee

A day doesn’t pass when a cup of the good stuff doesn’t pass my lips. Not because I’m addicted or because it gives me an energy boost (although I’m not denying either of those points).

Rather my daily coffee is a ritual. The where, how and who are just as important as the what. What use is great coffee in a soulless room with a lone grumpy staffer playing bad music? Only the whole coffee package will percolate through my memory long after the event.


Steffen and his portable Lieblingskaffee

I had my first heart stopping coffee moment in the east German city of Leipzig. My friends Marc and Kathleen took me to Lene Voigt Park, a stunning expanse of green which seemed strangely elongated until I discovered it’s on the site of old train tracks. Here they introduced me Steffen who runs Lieblingskaffee, literally meaning ‘favourite coffee’.


Steffen takes his time making each filter coffee

Steffen cycles his café into the park daily and sets up camp. Everything he needs is cleverly packed away and unfolded when needed. Ikea would have a field day with this design. Steffen takes his time with each coffee – carefully filtering it to deliver a smooth and sprightly cup.


Hanging out in Lene Voigt Park

The coffee was tasty. But the moment was heaven. A roaring sun, Marc strumming away on his guitar, locals stopping by to say hi. If you’re ever in Leipzig, you must track down Steffen and this idyllic park.


Classic Irish coffee – just don’t ask for the recipe

In Ireland, if you mention ‘the good stuff’ they inevitably think you want a pint of Guinness. Thankfully Irish coffee is as ubiquitous as stout, unfortunately the recipe is almost as carefully guarded. Neven and I couldn’t find a single bartender who would reveal the recipe and they purposely made it out of eye’s sight, dammit.


Can you tell which one is the Irish coffee?

A quick google revealed it was as simple as hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, topped with an almost impermeable layer of thick cream. After a chilly day exploring the Connemara district, nothing is more welcoming than a warm pub, cosy fire and large glass of this delicious concoction.


Getting some perspective at Monmouth Coffee

And now over to London’s Monmouth Coffee. Big deal I hear you saying. Monmouth Coffee tops every ‘best coffee’ list in London so it’s hardly an unsung hero or undiscovered gem. But by god is it marvellous. The coffee itself is of course sublime – a good body, distinct caramel notes and organic Jersey whole milk make the best latte of your life. But it tastes all the more special when you’re perched precariously on a wooden stool that took twenty minute of shameless hovering to secure, looking down at the mayhem of Borough Market. Then turn you gaze turns upwards to the arresting figure of the Shard. Now that’s a money-can’t-buy view.


In Sweden I become a fika fiend

Accoutrements are important for any coffee experience. And in Sweden that means kanelbulle or cinnamon buns. I’ve exposed my weakness for these babies before but it’s not just me – all Swedes are engineered to consume coffee and kanelbulle on a daily basis in the name of fika. The coffee in question was in the old town of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, with my local friend Claire. It was Claire who insisted I try the chokladbollar or chocolate ball (”Only if I can still order a cinnamon bun” was my response), beloved of children all over Sweden.


Proper iced coffee

It wouldn’t be a true list without some Sydney representation. My favourite coffee moment of late was an iced coffee on a hot day with Cheryl in Cremorne. I’m always nervous about ordering an iced coffee. Cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos are (almost) universally recognised and generally resemble your expectations. But you’re playing with fire (or ice?) when you order an iced coffee – it’s open to interpretation. So Bread & Butter’s cold drop coffee with icy milk and a dusting of cinnamon really hit the spot. I think the drink-in-jar moment may have passed though (you know the zeitgeist has moved on once it’s on the shelves of Kmart).

And to finish, here is my all time favourite coffee moment of the past year:

“One iced coffee please˝ I asked my waiter politely while enjoying the afternoon sun with friends in downtown Mallorca.

And this is what was served.


Iced coffee – just like I ordered

Technically he delivered what I ordered. But now you see why I get nervous ordering iced coffee!

The London restaurant with no chef and no kitchen


The new London restaurant with no chef and no kitchen

How do you feel about food in a can?

Spam, tired veggies, no thanks.

Fish in a can? I love the stuff. I’ve eaten more cans of tuna in my time than John West has ever rejected. Salmon, sardines, the oilier the better please. Add salad leaves, balsamic and a good olive oil and there’s lunch. And I know I’m not alone on that front.

But how do you feel about a restaurant serving canned fish and only canned fish? When I heard that Tincan had opened in London, I had to investigate.


Staff prepare cans at the counter

I chose a rainy Thursday night and my timing couldn’t have been better. Tincan, perched just off Golden Square in Soho, was empty. Perhaps not so good for them but excellent for me. I sat at the bar and quizzed the lovely Lithuanian and French hosts with my myriad questions.

Who came up with this random concept?

Which can is the crowd favourite?

How often does someone order the £45 can of Carelian caviar?


Food or art?

‘A six month project by AL_A sourcing the finest tinned seafood from around the world’ is noted at the top of the menu.

AL_A is a London based design and architecture firm, responsible for projects including the V&A Museum courtyard and Bangkok Central Embassy. While designing a new cultural centre in Lisbon, the directors discovered a restaurant in a former fishing tackle shop that specialised in tinned fish. They were inspired to take the concept back to London and launch their own pop up.


Sleek interiors where the can is the hero

Looking around it’s no shock that a team of architects is behind this. The décor is minimal but chic, with a Monocle-meets-Warhol aesthetic. Wherever you look, the can is clearly the hero.


The menu – all 26 types of canned fish

To see what’s on offer you can simply look around the room, or down at the menu which offers 26 varieties of canned fish, ranging from £7 – £45. There are familiar fish such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies, although you’ll be pushed to recognise a single brand. The further down the menu you go, the more interesting the offering becomes; smoked eel fillets, squid in its own ink, Portuguese-style stuffed squid, bonito belly and clams in their shell with garlic, to name a few.


Open can. Serve can. Your meal is ready.

All the hard work is done before the tins arrive at the restaurant. Much of the fish is caught by traditional methods and even hand packed into tins. The restaurant staff open the tins and serve the contents with salad leaves, fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, chilli and shallots.


The tasting plate, perfect for indecisive diners

I wanted to order everything. Thankfully they offer a tasting plate which makes it easy for the indecisive. Priced at £12, the platter includes tastings of Icelandic cod liver, urchin caviar, slow cooked Galician octopus in olive oil, sardines in spicy olive oil, tuna in molho cru spices and spicy mackerel fillets.


The sardines, mackerel and tuna were all very pleasant but not dissimilar to good quality canned product I’ve eaten before and nothing to write home about.

The other three, however, almost deserve their own posts.


Icelandic smoked cod liver

Being both a fan of liver and having recently been to Iceland, I was surprised and a little embarrassed that I’d never actually eaten cod liver before. The French staffer told me it was a big part of her childhood and standard fare in France. It had an unctuous texture, just like liver from a cow or calf, with a slight fishy flavour and was absolutely delicious, especially with bread. I can see why this is one of the top selling cans.


Icelandic cod liver is the best selling can

The urchin caviar – mixed with onion and lemon before being served – was also a standout. It had a slightly grainy texture and mild flavour so it was a surprise to hear that it’s one of the more polarising offerings on the menu.

The Galician octopus in olive oil was my favourite. A dead ringer for the similarly tender, deliciously marinated Greek-style octopus that I don’t eat nearly as often as I’d like. The Greeks never thought to put it in a can though.

Unfortunately the platter didn’t include a tasting of the Carelian caviar, at £45 it’s the most expensive can on the menu. I’ll have to go back for that one.

The owners spent over a year trying every type of canned fish they could get their hands on, from every corner of the globe. But you wouldn’t know because the menu overwhelmingly features fish from Spain and Portugal, with the odd addition from Iceland and Finland. Apparently even French canned fish was not up to scratch.


Er Boqueron, salt water beer

I’m not one for beer but the other selling point here is the salt water beer, Er Boqueron. Tincan is the sole distributor in the UK and apparently it’s very nice.


The restaurant was a massive hit when it first opened in September (the punters were packed in… like sardines : )

It’s been a little quieter since the cold weather hit. A can of room temperature fish is probably not exactly what most people lust after when the temperature reaches zero and extremities are freezing. Perhaps the restaurant’s six month life span would have been better positioned over the summer months.


I love this concept and I think they just get away with it because of the exceptionally high quality of fish. Seems to be working because according to the website, next stop is New York…

Christmas eating at Harrods and Harvey Nichols


Oh how I’d love to eat my way through this hamper

London does Christmas better. Better and bigger than anywhere else in my humble opinion.

Right now it feels like the entire city is illuminated. Streets are decked out with elaborate lights, stores are dressed like pantomime stars, every corner reveals an outdoor ice skating rink selling mulled wine, and the tell-tale smell of cinnamon and cloves wafts through the air.


Xmas pud yoghurt

Then there’s the food. And this is where London really shines. Even the supermarkets bring out imaginative Christmas ranges, from Heston’s hidden clementine Christmas pudding at Waitrose to xmas pud yoghurt (delicious by the way). The Christmas ad from Sainsbury’s this year stopped the nation.

But the real action is in the department stores that I usually steer clear of because I’m more Primark than Prada. And if London does it best then no one comes close to two of the big names in retail: Harrods and Harvey Nichols.


You’d think every day was Christmas at Harrods

Harrods is a retail temple that’s lit up from top to toe all year round so you can just imagine how energetically it embraces the festive season. Every inch of the four giant food halls is festified.


One entire food hall at Harrods is dedicated to chocolate

Little red cards noting special dishes are dotted through each section – a clever technique that subtly screams ‘limited edition’, ‘you need me for Christmas’ and ‘buy me immediately’.


Your Christmas table centrepiece perhaps?


Decadent kugelhopf dusted in gold leaf

The bakery section (always my favourite) is full of stunningly decorated cakes, pastries, donuts and breads. You can pick up a Christmas train cake for a cool £150, slices of marbled vanilla chocolate kugelhopf dusted in gold leaf or a gingerbread man ham and cheese puff.


The prices are, as expected, exorbitant. But when you consider the artistry and precision involved in every single item, they are somewhat justified. And in case I had any doubts about the extremely high standards set here, an exchange I witnessed set my mind (and wallet) at ease.


What fruit kugelhopf?

A suited manager asked one of the servers what on earth had happened to one of the fruit kugelhopfs on display. Admittedly the pieces looked like they’d been hacked by a five year old. The server hastily explained that it was a very difficult cake to cut and she’d really struggled with it. 

‘So what is it doing on the shop floor?’ asked the manager with an arched eyebrow.  

All evidence of that cake was gone in 30 seconds (I desperately hope not straight into the bin).


It took every ounce of willpower not to buy one. A whole one.

The dish I found most drool worthy was definitely this sweet potato pie, perhaps a legacy to Thanksgiving as much as Christmas. Almond pastry encloses a heady spiced sweet potato mix which is topped with pumpkin seed tuille and mascarpone. What a stunner.


Savoury patisserie at its best

And then there is the savoury patisserie. According to The Independent newspaper, “Savoury patisserie is a thing now”. Basically take your favourite pastry and replace the usual sweet flavours with savoury and presto, you have savoury patisserie.


Will that be foie gras or goats cheese in your éclair?

For Harrods this means traditional choux pastry éclairs stuffed with goats cheese. Or delicate macaroons filled with foie gras.


That’s my next birthday cake sorted

They sound exquisite but my attention was focused on the smoked salmon gateaux. Layers of smoked salmon, delicate crepes and light smoked salmon mousse are topped with avruga, salmon caviar and cream cheese ‘icing’. My next birthday cake perhaps?


Harvey Nichols gets festive

Down the road at Harvey Nichols, the food hall on level 5 is slightly more chic (sweetie darling) but equally adorned. Giant silver crackers hang from the ceiling, spilling out beautifully packaged panettones, gingerbread men and mince pies.


No dodgy paper crowns in these crackers

If those crackers are a little big for your dining table, there are smaller ones designed in black, gold and white that are filled with choice gifts and premium headware. Presumably the jokes are more high brow too.


You can never have too much glitter on your cheese


There is an impressive cheese selection and numerous ‘bombs’, including a smoked cheese bomb and whisky cheese bomb, both sheltered in thick wax and sprinkled liberally with glitter. Nothing says festive glam like glitter.


Cake or turkey?

My favourite find was the large Christmas fruit cake in the shape of a turkey. Even the vegetable accoutrements are made of fruit cake. That’s one way to get the kids to eat their vegies!


Eggnog for the uninitiated

As much as I would have loved to buy this cake (a steal at £49.95), I settled for some eggnog instead. You rarely see eggnog in Australia, probably because of the 30 degree plus temperatures around Christmas time so I’m curious to give it a whirl.


Your festive condiment needs are sorted at Harvey Nichols

Christmas is a marketers dream. Create it and they will buy. This is why you need a specific pickle for Christmas Day and then a separate chutney for Boxing Day. Using the same over both days would be uncouth.


If you only buy one thing, make it this

The alcohol department is also a favourite of mine, stacked high with bottles of Dom and Krug priced higher than a plane ticket to Sydney. My tip for the festive season is the mince pie syrup. Mix it with rum and pressed apple juice to create the perfect mince pie martini.

Between the two stores I could have easily dropped my life savings. But I’d better save a few quid for a trip to Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason…

5 fun ways to get fit in London


This post isn’t technically about food. But the more I exercise the more I can eat, right?

And in fact I do occasionally take a break from eating to exercise. I´m a big fan of running, especially when I travel as it’s a great way to see more of the place you´re in and all you need is a pair of trainers.

When I´m in London though, I like to mix things up a little and it´s not hard because a new fitness craze seems to launch every other week. Here are some of the most original and fun ways I like to sweat it all out.

Learn how to move like the master

Learn how to move like the master

Michael Jackson dance class

You have to love a dance studio that offers classes like Cheerleading and Waacking in its timetable.

But the class I´ve always loved at the Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden is the one dedicated to the greatest pop star of our time. Run by the super taletented Anthony King , it’s an hour of pure poptastic MJ choreography to a selection of his classic tracks.

Anthony King dances like he is MJ!

Anthony King dances like he is MJ!

The class is a combination of street, commercial pop and modern jazz… with plenty of crotch thrusting. £11 for the baddest dance workout around.

Anna the Hulagan

Anna the Hulagan

Hula Fit

Who would you expect to be running a hula hoop class? Why Anna the Hulagan of course! She´s been at the forefront of the hoop scene for years (that´s right, there´s a scene) and it shows. I´ve never seen such toned abs before.

Hula hooping warm up

Hula hooping warm up

Hula Fit classes emphasise toning and coordination and use special weighted hoops. Two kilos doesn’t feel like much to start with but your middle will be aching by the end of the one hour class (and possibly be covered in bruises like mine was).


It’s fun and fast paced, a mix of cardio routines and core abdominal work, all to a bouncing playlist. If you´ve got the hips, they´ve got the hoops…. £6 in advance or £8 drop in.

Stroll through London in your skates

Stroll through London on your skates

The Sunday Stroll

I was innocently cycling through the back streets of Chelsea one day when suddenly a flock of roller skaters (hundreds of them!) appeared from nowhere and thundered past me, followed by a guy with a boombox playing funky tunes. What the… ??

Turns out this is a regular ritual known as The Sunday Stroll – a weekly marshalled street skate in Central London. It starts in Hyde Park at 2pm every Sunday and the route changes each week. It´s open to all skaters who can stop, turn and control their speed on hills, which unfortunately does not include me.

Santa gets in on the skating action

Even Santa gets in on the skating action

It´s free and run by volunteers and I aspire to one day give it a crack. If I´m good enough by Christmas I will definitely join the London Santa Skate (but don´t hold your breath!).

Sequins, hotpants and roller skates

Anything goes at roller disco

Roller Disco

While my limited roller skating skills are not quite ready for the streets of London, they are good enough for my all-time favourite London activity… roller disco! You have to hand it to London for having a dedicated Roller Disco, which is tucked down an alley in Vauxhall and open Thursday to Saturday nights.

There are two inter-connected skating rooms so you can switch between funky disco tunes and deep house. The surrounding area is for drinking and lounging when you need to take a breather. It´s so retro kitsch you´ll feel like an extra in Boogie Nights.

Remember that roller disco is always best undertaken while wearing an afro and hot pants… or at least spangly tights, leg warmers and sequins. £10 -£15 which includes skate hire.



Imagine a spin class on speed. With dance music, hand weights  and strobe lights.

That´s GrooveCycle, a ´dance-cycle session´ that will leave you weak at the knees. Each routine is choreographed to a specific dance track and keeps your entire body moving, all while sitting on a bike in Europe´s largest spin room (100 bikes!) at Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf.

A Halloween-themed GrooveCycle session

A Halloween-themed GrooveCycle session

I have my dear friend Emily to thank for introducing me to this unsuspecting form of torture. Every time I go my thighs swear I´ll never return but I always go back for more. I did love the Halloween themed class though, lots of spooky tracks and witches hats to keep us distracted! £10 a class.

Do you know of any other fun ways to get fit in London or any other city for that matter?

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium


What´s the hottest ticket in London these days?

A table by the window in The Shard? Tickets to the latest version of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch?

Wrong. That would be a booking at a certain east London cafe. This place has turned back the likes of Katy Perry in recent times and you´d be hard pressed to score a table before the year was out.

The unassuming entrance of Lady Dinah´s

The unassuming entrance of Lady Dinah´s

And why all the fuss?  Cats! Practical cats, dramatical cats, pragmatical cats, fanatical cats, oratorical cats, delphioracle cats… inside Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium you´ll find almost the full spectrum of T. S. Eliot´s cats.

Read up on each cat before you enter the cafe

Introducing the cats that live at Lady Dinah´s

This café was set up primarily to care for rescued cats so the entire space is like a feline Disneyland with every nook and cranny filled with fun wheels, toys and nesting perches.


Guests are carefully briefed, sanitised and wormed… i mean warned, before entering the emporium. Don’t even think about picking up one of the ten cats mid-snooze or feeding them your macaron crumbs. If they approach you however, it´s game on.  Read More

Scotch eggs


What is Britain´s favourite snack?

A piping hot Cornish pastie, Marmite on toast, jellied eels perhaps?

Well no doubt all of the above, but certainly also high up on the list is the humble scotch egg. Consisting of a hard boiled egg encased in sausage meat, breadcrumbed and fried, it was allegedly invented by the Queen´s providore, Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly London, as a convenience food. The idea was that a scotch egg or two could fit nicely into a gentleman´s pocket or hankerchief to provide sustenance on the long carriage ride back to the manor. Well it was 1738.

The scotch egg was bastardised for a while there in the 90´s and taken advantage of by service stations and the like but now seems to be going through a renaissance. In the interests of presenting a well-rounded (no pun intended) case, I recently sampled a selection and bring you my findings:

scotch f and m

A Fortnum & Mason scotch egg

Fortnum & Mason scotch egg: Whether or not you believe their ´traveller´s snack´ tale matters not a jot. Bite into one of these beauties to reveal succulent organic mince and a perfectly cooked soft yolk egg. Read More