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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Gourmet Picnics on a summer's day.

As the mornings get colder and the evenings darker, the warmth and light of summer can seem such a distant memory. 

To remind myself of what will hopefully return next year, I've dug out a few photos from an idyllic later summer's day in mid-September at Lords. 

I was there to witness one of the most exciting cricket finals in living memory as T20 winner Hampshire beat County Champions Warwickshire on less wickets lost after both facing forty overs of cricket.

As well as the ability to sit in the sun in a beautiful setting watch top level sport, what I really like about watching cricket is the opportunity to eat and drink all day long.

Unlike football and rugby stadia, Lord's allows you to bring your own food in with you - creating the perfect setting for a Gourmet Picnic. 

And not any old Gourmet Picnic would do, it had to be the best of the best and fortunately I knew just the person. 

Sam Sheffield-Dunstan was my first ever client whilst working at Barefoot Media. Back in March 2010, I helped Sam raise awareness of the opening of her new restaurant, Amélies at the Smokehouse, which is perched on the waters edge in the tiny fishing village of Porthleven on the South Coast of Cornwall. 

After a successful lunch on a restaurant that continues to go from strength to strength, Sam also based her Gourmet Picnics company on site. Incidentally, we also project managed the creation of the Gourmet Picnics website (case study).

Founded in 2007, chef Bruno creates restaurants quality meals using the best available locally sourced ingredients available. 

The Minack, detailed above, in the crown prince in the GP family. Designed for two but easily enough for three greedy men, the lobster is caught in the waters around Porthleven and was unbelievably fresh and an absolute treat. The bread is baked on site and the cheese, strawberries, cream, and crisps are all the finest available. And the bubbles? Well they help everything taste better.

The picnics are also environmentally friendly - the cutlery is biodegradable and the coolbag is yours to keep.

I'm a massive fan of Gourmet Picnics and completely biased but The Minack was restaurant quality and showed no sign of the 300 mile trip it had made.

For me, great food is about unforgettable experiences. The Minack will cost you more than chilled sandwiches and greasy supermarket pork pies, but sitting here typing this as I sit shivering in my kitchen, it evokes priceless memories. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wine tasting at the Bleeding Heart Yard.

On Monday night I felt extremely fortunate to attend a Portuguese Wine Tasting Masterclass in the Parlour at the Bleeding Heart Yard, Farringdon.

We enjoyed eight wines from all corners of Portugal and each was really well matched with authentic food from the region.

We were talked through each of the wines by the extremely knowledgable Neil Philips from www.thewinetipster.co.uk and the setting and atmosphere made for a great evening.

For more information on special evenings and events, please see www.bleedingheart.co.uk/

Friday, 5 October 2012

KERB arrives at King's Cross.

One of most exciting movements I've become aware of since moving to London earlier this year has been the continued explosion of street food.

Gone are the days of buying a cold, gristly burger and low quality coffee from a nondescript white van on your lunch break. 
Today, peckish Londoners can grab a bite to eat from a myriad of colourful trucks, vans, and stalls all over the city. 
At the heart of this movement has been eat.st (pronounced Eat Street) - a foodies mecca of the best in takeaway bites, all situated at the plush, recently renovated area next to King's Cross Station. 
Recently it was announced that eat.st was going to be broken up, with one of the founders Petra Barran, herself an owner of acclaimed stall Choc Star, relaunching with many of the same traders under the banner of KERB
Last night was the launch party complete with top tunes from the surprisingly good Spit & Roast sound system and even an afternoon parade of the vendors. 
Situated in the same spot under the canopy next to Central St Martin's, the boulevard was frantic with city workers, students and foodies alike all looking for an affordable feast. 
The covered location meant that that the multitude of smells from the different traders had no chance to escape and all heaped happiness onto an already gleeful atmosphere. 
Competition to become a member of Eat.St was fierce and I can't see this changing given the queue lengths and brisk business last night. Fully deserved, too, as the quality of produce is unbelievably high. Whilst I would have greedily eaten from all of the menus on offer, the following three stuck in my mind on the tube home:
  • Mike + Ollie are one young chef (story) selling flatbreads filled with rustic ingredients. Mike also runs fantastically affordable dinner clubs, details of which can be found here.
  • Bhangra Burger - spiced Indian burgers in a wrap.
  • The Rib man - famous amongst the London food scene, we sniffed our way to the front of the queue before being told that they had run out of buns to pack their slow-cooked shredded pork into. Heartbreaking. 
Whether a newcomer to London or street food, or an Eat.St veteran, KERB is worth a visit for the unrivalled diversity of quality as well as a fun and frenzied atmosphere. 

And with the two other founding member of Eat.St, Giles and Gareth forming Food Hawkers, the street food scene has never been in ruder health and not just in the capital

It's telling that the strapline for KERB is 'making cities taste better' so expect to see a convoy of beautifully designed vehicles trailing a delicious aroma trundling into a space near you. 

KERB is open at Kings Cross every Monday to Friday from 11am - 2.30pm. For the latest on new traders and locations, follow the @kerb_ twitter feed. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Takeaways from Converge + UK

Last night I spent an enjoyable evening at the second Converge + UK event in Farringdon. 

With signs on the walls displaying 'Get Sh+t Done' messages and people wearing t-shirts emblazoned with 'Creative Abrasion', the five talks were designed to discuss how design, technology, and business could come together to help organisations better achieve their goals.

While all the talks were entertaining, so much so that I think I sometimes missed the key points, it was the presentations from Robert Stevens and Mat Morrison which provide the majority of my takeaways:

  • Robert - an expert in driving desired behaviour from consumers by creating optimised user experiences - discussed the evolution from functional products to those that induce an emotional response.

    He showed that the Nokia 6310i worked perfectly well as a mobile telephone (and let's not forget snake) and yet just 10 years later we have the launch of the iPhone 5 - a device which can evoke a much larger range of emotions. According to Robert, we are now entering the same process with websites.

    To illustrate, he touched on Burberry's Art of the Trench - a site I really like apart from the automatically streaming music. When Burberry could have built a perfectly functional site displaying the qualities of their trench coat, why have they gone to the effort of producing such a complex site?

    The answer, as Robert nailed, is that to own a Buberry trenchcoat you have to part with a fair amount of money. For most, this requires an emotional buying decision rather than a functional one, and therefore requires an website which elicits an emotional response.

    Takeaway: design products to draw out the necessary level of emotion.
  • We also saw due to a study into the 1984 Olympics that there were  'No cultural differences in expressions between blind and able sighted people.' I think this is generally a fascinating insight into the human race and also a really important when looking at designing and interpreting user experience.
  • Mat showed us just how much data is openly available online. I particularly liked his tip to add a + to link shorteners such as bit.ly. Worth trying out as it can provide a real insight into rival brands and companies. 
  • Mat also touched upon 'Flame Wars' - a phenomenon I was aware of but had never put a name to. On his blog, Mat writes about how 'Flame Wars' should be treated by page admins. Definitely worth a read for those interested in community management. 
  • I'm currently putting a lecture together for students of fashion promotion, so perhaps this is more a note for myself, but Mat mentioned that ASOS are a really good illustration of a retail business implementing effective social media marketing and community management. One to follow.
  • Mat's final takeaway was that everybody should learn to code (which, believe or not, is what I am attempting to do with this site). He also introduced to me the style of cargo cult programming, the process of copying your coding error into Google in order to solve the problem - a road I have already embarked upon, albeit with errors of much lower levels of complexity.
  • Finally, a chap called Alex told us he was young and showed that there is a real opportunity -  for those looking to overcome the challenges the country provides - for e-commerce in Vietnam. While interesting, I think I'll try and crack e-commerce in a market where people use credit cards before venturing to pastures new.
Thanks to Peter and Klaus for organising and David for letting me know about the event.

For details of the next Converge + UK event, follow the team on Facebook and Twitter

Note on refreshments: strong selection of soft drinks and thoughtful addition of grapes to the spread.

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