Glorious, brutalist London

London, Photography

I recently attended an event at FTI Consulting, where we had drinks on their terrace at 200 Aldersgate. With incredible views over the city, we looked out on the Barbican estate in all its brutalist glory. An ugly concrete building it may be, but a beautifully ugly one at that. I don’t think anyone could disagree that in the summer evening light, the city has never looked better.

The verdict

Cannot beat the city views in the early evening summer light.

Dinner diaries: Timmy Green

Food, Wine & cocktails

Another new restaurant in Victoria Nova; this time it’s Timmy Green, set up by Australian Prue Freeman, who takes inspiration from the Oz food scene with fresh, healthy small sharing plates, steaks and cocktails.

Between 3 of us, we shared a delicious tuna steak and salad, halmoui fries with pomegranate and yoghurt dip, sweet potato wedges and crispy fried calamari and courgette with grated chillis, lemon and mint. The pomegranate and yoghurt combination was a running theme across several dishes and is always a winner in my eyes.

The decor included neon lights, duck egg blue chairs, hints of gold and low hanging lights.




The verdict

Come for the fresh ingredients, tasty cocktails and live music.

Dinner diaries: M Restaurant

Food, London

I was lucky enough to be taken to the new M restaurant on Victoria Street in London the other day, with a friend and her uncle whose Argentinian wine, Alpasión, is stocked in the restaurant and wine shop upstairs. The restaurant is run by Martin Williams, a former manging director of Gaucho, who met us with a warm welcome and tour of the restaurant, including the plush members’ lounge where each member has their own bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label in the cabinet. In the members lounge I’d recommend the tangy lemon and gin cocktails made with Tanqueray 10.

cocktail M restaurant

[Source: Timeout]

In the main restaurant the emphasis is on the steaks and grilled meat. Each main is meant to represent a different country; I of course went for the Argentinian steak to match the Alpasión wine, the Argentianan Malbec. The food was delicious – the sweet potato mash was the creamiest, tastiest mash I think I’ve ever eaten – it’s a must! I must admit the steak wasn’t as good as my all-time favourite: Hawksmoor.

Back to the starters, I had my eyes on the venison salami, which came with hazelnuts & toast, or the red prawn coconut curry. But unfortunately these were unavailable (we were pretty late sitting) so I went for the buttermilk fried chicken instead – the poshest version of KFC there is.

The restaurant itself is luxuriously decorated in duck-egg blue with boothed seating round the side. For a grill restaurant the décor was refreshingly feminine in comparison to the usual dark-wood, brown leather and dim lighting you find at the likes of Hawksmoor. With the meat hanging on display in a fridge, you know you’re in for an authentic experience.

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M Restaurant, Victoria. [Source: The Standard]

So a little about Alpasión…

The wine is from Argentina, and comprises the Alpasión Malbec and the Private Selection, which is made from a blend of grapes – I didn’t get to try this one. The design of the bottle label makes this brand particularly unique; on the label are the fingerprints of all the brand’s owners. It’s only UK stockist at the moment is M – but keep your eyes peeled as something tells me this won’t be the case for long.

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[Source: Alpasion Instagram account]

The Verdict

A little haven of luxury in the busy Victoria. Make the most of the well-chosen cocktail list before dinner. Be sure to get the best cut of steak you’re willing to pay for and a bottle of Alpasión Malbec, of course.

Gender-free fashion: he, she, me.

fashion, Retail

A hot topic in the fashion industry has been the rise of gender-less clothing. While the idea of unisex fashion is nothing new, there are now a number of designers catering for this once-niche area of the market, and even mainstream brands are pushing the boundaries of gender norms.

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Minimalist affair: Ader Error, a Korean brand specialising in unisex clothing

Last year, Selfridges launched its Agender pop-up department in store, where men and women could shop together irrespective of gender. The idea of the concept came as Selfridges noticed people were increasingly shopping outside of their allocated shopping sections. While this launch no doubt coincides with the spotlight growing on trans, LGBT and gender equality issues, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a reflection on this. It can merely relate to the increasing overlaps between men and women’s fashions and this is something we are set to see more of. As Dazed & Confused put it:

“The new Agender pop-up offers a small but significant peek into a genderless future”

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Agender at Selfridges

It’s true that many key trends are found across both menswear and womenswear. On the streets we see girls in over-sized bomber jackets, men in skin-tight jeans while women wear their denim ‘boyfriend’ style, both donning this season’s chunky knit or rollneck jumpers. The image below is from Mr Porter’s Instagram account, yet the outfit posted here could easily be seen as women’s style inspiration.

Mainstream unisex ranges could in theory cover the same key pieces, just with different cuts to suit different body shapes. Enabling men and women to shop together, this would also put the focus back on the quality of the garments and the longevity of the styles.

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Mr Porter Instagram post

The Verdict

The notion of breaking down the gender barriers is here to stay. Expect to see more brands experimenting in this arena.

Store watch: Smug, Angel

London, Retail, Travel

A personal favourite store is Smug found in Camden Passage in Angel, Islington.

The small store offers a curated range of stationary, homewares and magazines, all in candy-pop pastels. The tiny two-floor lifestyle shop has a mini coffee shop downstairs with just enough room for a few people to sit down in the winter, or there’s seating outside when its warm. Stationary from Wrap and homewares from HAY are among the delightful products on offer here.

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See the Smug website here: https://www.ifeelsmug.com/

The Verdict

The go-to place for cutesy birthday gifts and home inspiration.

Fashion retailers get beauty-full

Retail

Fashion retailer H&M recently announced the launch of a sustainable beauty range. The range, Conscious Beauty, is an extension of H&M’s existing eco-friendly fashion line and includes skincare, haircare and bodycare products. The products are all free from frangrances, dyes and parabens, including aluminium-free roll-on deodorant.

Even the packaging is sustainable – recycled paper is used for most of the products – in stylish, minimal designs. For the few products that require plastic packaging, only recycled plastic is used. With the product offering spanning shampoo, face masks, hand cream, handwash and oil, the range is sure to be a hit with H&M’s conscious customers.

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The sustainable beauty launch follows on from H&M’s full beauty launch in 2015, when the retailer introduced over 700 beauty and cosmetics lines.

In fact, 2015 saw a number of the leading fashion retailers extend into new categories in a bid to drive sales. While the year started with sportswear launches, with the likes of Matalan, New Look, Boohoo and Net-a-Porter launching their own activewear collections, 2015 saw beauty launches and range extensions from H&M, New Look and Urban Outfitters among others.

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H&M’s beauty range, Oxford Street, London

A great beauty range can be found at & Other Stories… the Moroccan Mint hand and body collection is a must try…

The Verdict

H&M has done an excellent job of making its Conscious beauty range stylish yet responsible.

K11 Mall Shanghai

Retail

On a recent trip to Shanghai, I visited K11 Mall – a ‘museum retail concept’ which blends art, shopping, dining and leisure. The mall offers a truly innovative and unique experience..

Click on the link here to read my full post on the Mintel blog about why I think this combined leisure and dining experience would work well in the UK: Retail Innovation: K11 Mall Shanghai.

K11 is based on an ‘art x commerce’ model. The idea is to make art available to all and to support local, young artists by offering them space to display their works.

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The K11 brand can be summed up by its three core values: Art, People and Nature. As well as the artworks on display, the shopping centre has its own ‘urban farming’ area. At the time of visiting there were even live cows being kept in the ‘Dairy Cow Academy’… (no comment!).

Varied dining experiences, including a wine bar and steak restaurant:

HAY Mini-Market pop-up within K11:

The Verdict

A one-of-a-kind shopping experience that engages and excites.

See the full post here: Retail Innovation: K11 Mall Shanghai

Made.com says no to Black Friday

Retail

Online fashion retailer Made.com has created this funny video to show its disregard for the Black Friday promotional event that has been imported from the US…

The Verdict

It’s good to see retailers fighting back against the margin-eroding event which resulted in shoppers breaking out into a frenzy and even fights last year.