Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Adapted from Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun:

Hallowe’en developed from the Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in'), which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. For the Celts, Samhain was the beginning of the year and a time to acknowledge the beginning and the ending of all things. As they looked to nature, they saw the falling of the leaves from the trees, the coming of winter and death. It was a time when they turned to their Gods and Goddesses seeking to understand the turning cycles of life and death. Here, on the threshold of the cold barren winter months, it was also a time of feasting and celebration as the weakest animals were culled to preserve valuable foodstuffs, and provide food to last until the following spring... For the Celts, Samhain was a time when the gates between this world and next were open. It was a time of communion with the spirits of the dead, who, like the wild autumnal winds, were free to roam the earth. At Samhain, the Celts called upon their ancestors, who might bring warnings and guidance to help in the year to come.

Monday, 28 October 2013

st jude and a banana cake

I spent most of this past weekend at home, curtains closed, candles lit, trying my best to avoid the onslaught of stormy St Jude. I based my entire weekend around cooking and eating (as I do every weekend, naturally...) - on Friday I paid a visit to the Edition Hotel for cocktails and Lima for supper. On Saturday I baked a great cake (Nigel's banana and chocolate loaf), made a squash soup and a butter bean and chorizo stew. Then I roasted a chicken with lots of garlic and thyme for supper. I also got on with preparing a sourdough starter - something I've been meaning to do for months. It's growing in size in the back of the cupboard for the moment. By next Saturday, we'll finally be able to begin making our own sourdough loaves. Rejoice! I also somehow managed to fit in Sunday lunch with friends at St John's Tavern. It's literally the ultimate North London autumnal lunch spot (Scotch eggs, dauphinoise, red wine galore). Oh, and I even had leftover cake to take into work today...

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Danish songstress Agnes Obel's new record Aventine is beautiful, quiet, enchanting, melancholic. A perfect autumn album. Listen to it alone.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

london: a cabinet of curiosities

Do make time to pop into Ben's shop (recently renamed Pentreath & Hall, due to Creative Director Bridie Hall becoming co-owner with Ben), where the pair's Cabinet of Curiosities, their annual selling exhibition, is running until next Saturday. This year the exhibition has a London theme (you'll find old maps next to bottles of HP Sauce) and has been curated in collaboration with the rather fab Bible of British Taste. The shop hosted a little party on Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening.

Bridie's (female) tortoise Winston made an appearance.

In fact she was the star of the evening, spending the whole night acclimatising to her absolutely incredible but totally bonkers new mansion home, designed and made by the artist Ed Kluz. I want to move in myself.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

wish list: ancient industries

Ancient Industries: a beautifully curated selection of products for sale, carefully chosen by art director and book cover designer Megan Wilson. Originally from New York, Megan grew up in England in the 1970s (she studied at Saint Martins, as I did). With her aesthetics-and-quality-obsessed mother in charge, the family bought only traditionally made and well-designed clothing and items for the home. When Megan moved back to the United States, her penchant for quality and tradition led her to continue the pilgrimages of her youth to the markets of Europe, where items made by the 'ancient industries', like Austrian enamelware makers and Menorcan cobblers, still existed. Megan started selling these wares to her friends, then friends of friends, before setting up her business.

The result of Megan's rigorous sourcing and hard work? A really great little shop, full of practical things that you want to buy and use. I'm particularly fond of this Porridge Pot, these Winter Candlesticks and these English Beeswax Candles. I mean it's essentially everything one needs in preparation for battening down the hatches come deep winter: candlelight and porridge.

Take a look at Megan's brilliant blog here. Then view her fabulous book cover designs here. (Oddly enough, she has designed some of my favourite covers, including a great one for Love in a Cold Climate, which I read and fell in love with earlier this year - see here.) Oh and whilst you're at it, read an inspiring interview with Megan here. Can you tell I'm a big fan?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

the grand budapest hotel

Wes has done it again - how good does this look? Coming to cinemas in 2014.

the ethicurean

Last weekend, I took a trip to my good friend Rowena's family home in Bath.

It was Rowena's Birthday, so to celebrate, we drove with her mother and sister an hour or so out of the city in the autumn darkness, deeper into the West Country to The Ethicurean - a kitchen garden restaurant overlooking the Mendip Hills in Somerset. Situated in Barley Wood Walled Garden's former glasshouse, The Ethicurean serves up delicious food using produce grown and sourced locally. (It was named Best Ethical Restaurant in the 2011 Observer Food Monthly awards and won a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand earlier this year.) I ate Welsh rarebit (quite possibly the best thing I've ever tasted), pork belly and a chocolate and stout pudding. It was a jolly supper; I can't wait to return. On another note, I interviewed the team behind The Ethicurean for Toast Travels back in July - have a read here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

an autumn derby

I've just ordered these. Look at that sole. Perfect for wading through October puddles and leaves. Finton Derby Shoes from Grenson.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

a feast by the sea

We took a train to the coast on Saturday afternoon, sleeping most of the way. Waking up in Broadstairs, we found our way to our hotel - pastel pink with dark windows, overlooking a golden beach.

We'd come to the Kent coast for dinner. East London restaurant Bistrotheque had decamped to the seaside for the weekend, commandeering Belvedere Place, a delightful hotel set back a few streets from the water.

We ate oysters, local fish stew and floating islands. Drank a lot of wine too.

I'd really recommend Belvidere Place. It's owner Jilly was the perfect host.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs.

On Sunday, with sore heads, we headed to nearby Margate and paid a visit to Turner Contemporary; a beautifully brutal building, all grey steel and concrete, with incredible views out to the North Sea.

The Turner and Constable exhibition is most definitely worth seeing. Highly inspiring. Great poster too... I love the lemon yellow text on those soft blues.

We wandered around Margate for an hour or two and came across something most strange: the Shell Grotto, an ornate subterranean passageway and grade I listed building. Its walls are covered in mosaics created entirely of seashells. 4.6 million, in fact! It was discovered in 1835 but its age remains unknown... After emerging from the darkness of the grotto (a little dazed and confused), we bought some hazelnut ice cream and took a walk along the harbour before jumping on a train back to London.

The British seaside. So good for the soul.

working on...

New things.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

english decoration

Some exciting news! Last week, I started working full-time for Ben Pentreath Ltd in Ben's newly established interior decoration department alongside Lucy Wilks, who heads up the studio. I first met Ben a couple of years ago. After launching an online antiques shop (Fox and Flyte*) with two friends in 2011, we wrote to Ben to let him know about our new emporium; he became our first customer, buying a set of fine copper pans from us. This lead to Ben offering us a small pop-up space within his Bloomsbury shop, very kindly, and we kept in touch after that. Fast forward to 2013: when the opportunity to join Ben's team arose back in the summer, I jumped at the chance. I've been a huge fan of Ben's colourful English style ever since I first stepped into his shop as a student. It's all very exciting. A new adventure!

Buy Ben's book here.

*We shut up shop at Fox and Flyte earlier this year, but new things are most definitely in the pipeline. Watch this space...