Freelancing has many perks, that I cannot deny. However, freelancing, for me, has one big downside: loneliness. Some days, when I am not shooting, will be spent at home, alone, staring vacantly at my computer whilst half heartedly watching ‘The Good Wife’. Now that I have painted this depressing tableau, let me tell you my remedy for it. Lunch. Lunch with another human, preferably a freelancer.
With this in mind, last week, my dining companion was one of my favourite freelance humans, Rosie Spinks. A hugely talented writer, self proclaimed Mouthy Woman (if you don’t know what that is then I strongly advise clicking the link) and a fantastic meal mate.
I suggested Polpetto for our lunch date, a small restaurant in the middle of Berwick St, and was overjoyed when Rosie told me she had always wanted to go there. I love Polpetto. Walking in through the heavy red velvet curtains feels like entering some secret place, chancing upon an intimate little world. Dimly lit, with candles on every table, it could easily be mistaken as a place just for dates. Do not be fooled, this restaurant is for everyone.
As it was National Pizza Day on our lunch trip, we of course chose the pizette; small delicious ovals of joy. Rosie’s choice won by a mile, the white pizzette with a beautiful combination of sweet caramelised onions and fresh, punchy thyme. To feel ever so slightly healthy we accompanied these with the Cavolo Nero Caesar and a broccoli, feta and pine nut salad. To feel ever so slightly naughty, I indulged in a cocktail; Rosie a glass of wine.
I am a huge fan of Polpetto because it embodies everything I desire from a meal. Simple, flavoursome food made for sharing, wonderful drinks and the feeling of being somewhere special (without spending a fortune).
I am a hopeless romantic. I suffer from this affliction as a direct result of my father. He is one of the soppiest people I know. Since I moved out of home (which is nearing the ten year mark), he has sent me a blank Valentine’s Day card every single year without fail. I know it’s him because of the handwritten scrawl on the envelope and because he usually calls to ask if I have received it (I never said he made a great romantic).
Now the mantle has been well and truly passed to my (long suffering) S.O. Thankfully he too is a master of romantic gestures and I returned home today to find the most beautiful flowers from Bloom & Wild waiting for me. I love having flowers in the house, so for me this is the perfect V Day gift. To lessen the cheese element, there was a card which lets just say contained the words ‘booty’ and ‘Steven‘, which had me giggling to myself as well as feeling incredibly sorry for the person who had to type it out.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and in my case this statement could not be closer to the truth. The way to my S.O’s heart is through cake, specifically from the Primrose Bakery (or should I say BAE-kery). I purchased the two most embarrassingly romantic cupcakes on offer and I can say with certainty that there is no better gift for my beloved; and I know that we are meant to be because my card is equally as silly as his was to me.
There is no better way to beat the January blues than a weekend escape. With that in mind, we skived off on Friday and took a drive down to Thyme. Over the last 12 years, the Hibbert family have lovingly restored the estate’s cottages and barns to create a stylish, comfortable and unpretentious hotel that showcases the stunning stone built architecture that is so quintessentially Cotswolds.
Everything about Thyme is personal, from the welcome note and biscuits in our room, the friendly and attentive staff (especially barman Connor who makes a mean Espresso Martini), to the hot water bottle we found in bed that evening. I am not sure if it was sheer coincidence or that it was obvious how much we love a good drink, but I have to make a special mention of the home infused blood orange vodka nightcap left out for us after dinner! Two of my favourite things in life are puns and cocktails, so I was overjoyed to find The Baa at Thyme, complete with sheep seats to rest weary limbs after a country walk. All cocktails at the bar are seasonal and created with homemade syrups, bitters and infusions. Purely in the name of research I may have drunk one or two … (several), but the winner by a mile had to be ‘Thyme Goes Sloe-ly’, a perfect blend of sloe-gin, St Germain and house made ‘Winter Bitters’.
It may sound as if we survive solely on a diet of alcohol, but thankfully for our livers this could not be further from the truth. The Hibbert family also own a picturesque country pub, The Swan, approximately five minutes’ walk away. Armed with an umbrella and a lantern (kindly provided by the Hotel) we wandered over for a beautiful dinner of scotch eggs, veal pappardelle and pheasant breast, washed down with a bottle of white wine (of course).
At breakfast, in Thyme’s grand dining room, we had baked ham with fried eggs and portobello mushrooms, alongside a selection of homemade preserves and freshly baked sourdough bread. I wandered into the kitchen where I was warmly greeted by the chef, who obliged my request to take pictures as he prepped freshly picked herbs and vegetables from the farm.
After breakfast, we took a walk around the grounds and found Thyme’s farm. During a lengthy debate about whether it would be ok to climb the fence for a closer look, we bumped into Jerry Hibbert, who gave us a personal tour and a fascinating insight into Thyme’s produce-to-plate approach. The farm has chickens, quails, indian runner ducks, more chickens, pigs and two vegetable poly tunnels, all of which supply the majority of the hotels fresh produce. The proof is in the eating. Thyme’s enthusiasm for homemade, home grown food (and drink) creates a unique and perfect example of how to do country escapes.
Last night I joined thousands of Londoners to protest Theresa May’s lack of condemnation of President Trump’s Muslim Ban. I met a group of friends and together we bundled into the crowd. The atmosphere was electric, from the more humorous chanting “You can’t build a wall / Your hands are two small!” to the less “Shame on you Theresa May!” as well as witnessing all types of people coming together to stand for what they believe in.
I am not a hugely political person but I do believe that no person should be singled out for any reason based on his or her sexuality, race or gender; that is why I felt compelled to join in.
The world stage feels like a chaotic mess right now, but huddled in the cold, chanting and talking to everyone around me, my gaze and camera only being met with smiles made everything feel a little less overwhelming for a second. I have to confess I didn’t take a huge amount of pictures as I struggle between the need to document and the desire to experience what is happening in the present moment. However, here are my favourites and if you wish to see more, I recommend checking out the Facebook page for the event where lots of wonderful photographers have added their images.
I met Harry and Leah on a beautiful summers day at a friend’s lunch. They burst in like a whirlwind with a bag of fresh oysters and more Riesling than I thought humanly possible to drink. Between shucking and drinking, they told us about their plan to open a pop-up restaurant on a boat, serving seafood paired with wine. Being an unashamed opportunist, I told them if they ever needed pictures taken, I was their girl.
Two boats and many evenings later they have found a home aboard the Prince Regent and I cannot recommend a more delicious or fun experience. I have shot for them on many occasions but my all time favourite was spending the day documenting every detail. Armed with my trusty Bronica, we set off to Billingsgate at some ungodly hour in the morning. We spoke to fishmongers, drank cups of tea and ate bacon sarnies. We bombed it back in the van to the boat where chef Tim prepared for the lunch service. At lunch excited diners embarked, ate and drank to their hearts content as we floated along the canal. We docked back in Camden and after the last tipsy guest left I took a portrait of this amazing brother and sister team, beaming with pride at their well-deserved achievement.
So I strongly recommend that after reading my post you visit https://www.londonshellco.com and book in for an unforgettable experience.