As Sydney steps into summer, we review the London trends setting sail for our shores. To tease out which will hit first, we caught up with two Aussie expats including design journalist Mandi Keighran and film producer Gabrielle Weller.
Cravings for Californian clean eating, culinary pop ups and a surge of the micro-bespoke are all making waves. From porridge cafes, to bone broth pop ups and a spattering of healthy grocery joints – London’s getting a taste of healthy eating. Like Sydney 5 years ago, London is experiencing “next level” quinoa and kale. It’s taken the plunge and added organic and online ordering into the mix. In this respect London is now playing catch up. As early adopters of kefir and kombucha, Sydney has beaten London to the punch by embracing what makes us look sexy and likely to live forever.
Always dreaming up new ways to party, London has also started to ‘pimp out’ derelict tunnels, toilets and arches. These grimy industrial chic spots are the latest backdrop for emerging chef residencies and underground gatherings. Climpson’s Arch in Hackney is a great example. This is the spot where Som Saa is installed as the restaurant du jour. Started by two chefs who trained under David Thompson at Nahm, the restaurant has a focus on north eastern Thai street food. Som Saa points the way to another major London trend: regional ethnic dining.
Where once upon a time people talked about popping out ‘for an Indian’ or getting ‘a Chinese’ takeaway, this is not the case anymore. London 2015 brings the dawn of regional and cultural ethnic dining. Today you wait in line for a slow-cooked Gujarati in Daltson or for Ghanaian food on Holloway Road. Forget the ramen rickshaws and nose-to-tail dining, sophisticated regional fare is set to pass through the cultural colander to Sydney. Manchurian or Javanese anyone?
Underscoring the ‘rage for regional’ is top restaurant Barrafina in Covent Garden. Barrafina was voted 2015 National Restaurant of the Year by 150 expert foodies. It’s celebrated for presenting Basque tapas with delicacies from the Baleriac Islands.
“I recently visited the Basque country,” says journalist Mandi Keighran, “I travelled to Bilbao, Getaria, and San Sebastian – where I did a story on pintxo,” says Keighran. “Sydney-siders will go crazy for this. Pintxo are small skewered or spiked foods served at Spanish taverns. Like tapas, they have a strong socialising component and can often involve anchovy, pork, peppers, cod, or croquettes,” Keighran says.
Film producer and founder of fashion blog Oliver Grand, Gabrielle Weller says she has spied independent films and theatres having a cult style renaissance. “London loves a good doco – even in summer. Indie-documentaries are having a strong resurgence here, along with tiny cult picture theatres. My film of the summer is Amy. It’s a simply stunning documentary,” Weller says.
Specialist cinemas get her top billing. Three of the best include Shortwave in Bermondsey, Screen on the Green at Islington (for a big screen indulgence complete with sofas and pop corn machines) and Electric House on Portabello Road where the lights are low, and the mood ‘deeply glamorous’.
Outside the cinema, trips to the local flower markets at Columbia Road has Weller discovering new niche scents made from all natural ingredients.
“Haeckals from Margate is a wonderful boutique scent store which creates fragrances based upon the latitude and longitude of specific locations. I’m obsessed with the seaweed-scented candle at the moment, their oil based candles and their scents of leather mixed with elderflower, chalk and fennel,” she says. Started by a filmmaker, Dom Bridges, Haeckels joins a new breed of retail, hotel and hospo spaces art directed by people with a background in film. Hotel Hotel by Don Cameron in Canberra is a good Aussie example.
Just like Sydney’s one time art gallery in the transformed subterranean toilets of Taylor Square, Darlinghurst – London is also now home to the chic Bermondsey Arts Club & Cocktail Bar underneath Bermondsey Square. As real estate reaches a premium in London and Sydney, we’ll see some of the coolest new late night venues pushed underground.
The other major trend to flow from the Mad Men cocktail obsession, is the era of baby, bespoke distillers.
“Baby distillers and tiny batch brewing has gone ultra bespoke in London,” says Mandi Keighran. “Having your own in-house gin to send home with guests is now de rigeur for some of the coolest bars and hotels in London. Some bars are even packaging up their signature cocktails for people to mix themselves,” Keighran says.
Claridges Hotel does a cocktail pack with Hendricks that retails at Fortnum & Mason food hall and, like Young Henrys with their Noble Cut Sydney gin or top shelf distiller Archie Rose, the transfer of knowledge inherent in this artisan trade, creates a feel good rush in guests.
From the top end to the tiny players, Londoners are learning to celebrate a breed of low-fi chic in the summertime. Upwardly casuals are bucking the trend for silver service and seeking out raw and natural experiences. This summer, off-the-cuff catch-ups have won the day, according to Mandi Keighran.
“I’ve been loving the bars and cafés around Regents Canal. Sager & Wilde is great for wines by the glass and Hampstead Heath offers loads of green space to relax in. The take away picnic baskets at the Bull & Last are also amazing. They come packed with English treats, wine, a blanket and even a map,” Keighran says.
“This is a trend I can see working well in Sydney where people love engaging with the environment. The ‘return to nature vibe’ is also in step with the adventurous Australian psyche and let’s face it, Sydney has the green space and weather to support it.”