The Coffee Lover’s Bucket List: SW London

The Coffee Lover’s Bucket List: SW London

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Megan’s On The Green

 

Throughout my three years at University, I have made it my mission to try as many of South West London’s quirky and cute coffee hot spots as my student loan would allow.

There’s nothing quite like stealing a few moments away in a cosy coffee shop with a mug of your favourite bittersweet brew for company – and luckily London is literally brimming with an ever-growing number of independent coffee roasters and cafés.

From the lanes of Richmond upon Thames to Roehampton’s hidden gems – These places have been home to endless catch ups, study sessions and quick cappuccino pit-stops.

So, if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, then look no further. Here is my tried and tested Coffee Lover’s bucket list for South West London…

THE HIVE - 29 Roehampton Ln, SW15 5PJ

The Hive is an ethical and environmentally conscious coffee shop, built from old shipping containers, and is nestled at the heart of Roehampton University. Created and run by the University’s sustainable food programme, Growhampton, The Hive is the campus’s only independent food outlet and the perfect destination for a quick working lunch or post-lecture catch up.

Choose from wholesome lunch specials, delicious gluten free and vegan cakes as well as triple certified coffee that not only tastes good but does good too.

Go and treat yourself to a herbal tea or a chai latte… and don’t forget your reusable cup!

KISS THE HIPPO - 50 George St, Richmond TW9 1HJ

Arguably one of my favourite places of all time, Kiss the Hippo is Richmond’s go-to coffee spot. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t taken a trip to Richmond just for a Kiss the Hippo oat cappuccino! Inside its minimalistic white and red exterior, the coffee takes centre stage as it is sustainably sourced and roasted on site behind a huge glass wall for all to see.

The interior is elegant yet cosy with a mixture of bar stools and arm chairs over two floors. They also offer a great selection of cakes and pastries as well as brunch and salads, which cater to vegan, gluten free and dairy free diets.

LUPO BROS. - 313 Upper Richmond Rd, East Sheen, SW14 8QR

Lupo Bros. is the cosiest brunch and speciality coffee shop located in East Sheen and is the perfect spot for a relaxing weekend breakfast with friends.

Their beans are sourced locally and each coffee is ground and crafted in store. They also have an excellent selection of food to enjoy alongside your coffee – all day American pancakes and avocado on toast? yes please!

Lupo Bros. also have a lovely little garden space outside so you can eat your brunch and catch some rays at the same time.

MEGAN'S BY THE GREEN - 57-69 Parsons Green Lane, SW6 4JA

Megan’s by the Green is one of 8 beautiful locations across London serving up a Mediterranean inspired brunch and dinner menu as well as excellent cake and triple certified coffee. If you’re looking for an instagrammable spot – Megan’s should be on your radar. Blossom flowers and fairy lights drape across the ceiling and up the trellis on the periwinkle blue walls.

A stones throw from Kings Road, Chelsea, it’s the perfect place to rest up after a busy day of shopping!

 

Instagram: @phoebeandthefroyo

Frozen Mango + Rhubarb Smoothie Bowl

Frozen Mango + Rhubarb Smoothie Bowl

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Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and usually porridge is my go-to. But this glorious sunny weather had me wanting to try something new this morning!

This mango and rhubarb smoothie bowl will ensure a super fruity and refreshing start to your day. It’s also so easy to whip up in a blender or food processor and uses just three ingredients.

I topped my smoothie bowl with rhubarb yoghurt, frozen blueberries, granola and a mixture of seeds and nuts. But you can decorate yours with anything – you could try sliced banana or even fresh passionfruit.

If only my breakfast looked this beautiful every day!

Smoothie Bowl:

125 grams of frozen mango

30 grams of rhubarb yoghurt

10 millilitres of almond milk or oat milk

Toppings:

rhubarb yoghurt

granola

mixed seeds and nuts

Frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries or raspberries)

Method:

First, add 125g of frozen mango chunks, 30g of rhubarb yoghurt and 10 millilitres of almond /oat milk to a blender or food processor.

Blitz the mixture together until you have a smooth and creamy sorbet consistency. You will need to scrape down the sides a few times in between blending to make sure all of your smoothie mixture has been incorporated.

Use a spatula to tip your frozen smoothie into a bowl. Top your smoothie bowl with a few more spoonfuls of rhubarb yoghurt as well as frozen berries and any mixed seeds and nuts of your choice!

Instagram: @phoebeandthefroyo

Bodega Cantina

Bodega Cantina

An animated South American hub in Leicester’s City Centre.

In a city famed for its curries, Bodega Cantina brings something new to the table. With its vibrant South American inspired food and drink that can be found hidden just a few streets away from Leicester’s bustling City Centre.

We stumble upon it completely by chance. It’s a bleak, drizzly evening and my friend and I are frantically peering into restaurant windows trying to find somewhere warm and inviting to eat. Even from ten feet away, the colourful lights and quirky character of Bodega draw us in like moths to a flame.

It’s a Saturday, but the evening has barely begun so we aren’t surprised to see that the restaurant is relatively quiet. However, the atmosphere gradually builds up and by the time we are ready to leave, the place is crowded. Couples cosied in corners share tapas by the candlelight, and students kicking off their Saturday night laugh animatedly over their cocktails. There is no clear-cut template for Bodega’s customers.

Bold oranges, pinks and blues flood the tables and seating areas, complementing the duller and rustic looking interior brick walls of the restaurant. Candles light up the smiles of happy customers and exotic plants drape around the tables. Huge monochrome prints of Lucha Librefill the walls and elegant paper garlands trapeze across the ceiling, making us feel like we’ve just stepped into the middle of a Día de los Muertos celebration.

A friendly waiter greets and seats us by the window. As we peruse through the menu it becomes evident how versatile the food is here at Bodega. The dishes all range in size which is great for us as we aren’t ravenous and could choose what to eat accordingly. The chefs are serving up everything from classic Mexican street food for around the £6 price mark, to more authentic Brazilian and Colombian dishes which are slightly more expensive at £11 each. Tapas is also an option, with an assortment of smaller plates ranging from £3 – £7. The pricing seems very affordable, similar to bigger restaurant chains such as Nando’s and Wagamama.

I decide to try the marinated pork burrito with rice, black beans, tomato and onion salsa, sour cream and avocado. My friend, who is feeling slightly more adventurous, opts for two of the smaller plates; the Colombian papas chorreadas which were potatoes in a creamy tomato and cheese sauce, and the vegetable Ceviche, a zesty salad of raw vegetables. We are both quick to comment on how delicious and fresh the meals are. There is nothing pretentious about the food, it is completely no-fuss and wholesome.

As I eat, I observe the couple seated next to us who are consumed by the huge plate of bright salads, pearly white rice and succulent steak in front of them. I identify it as the one of the larger plates, Peruvian lomo saltado, and it looks delicious. The main meals may be the more expensive option, but they are very generous servings.

We are enjoying the atmosphere of the restaurant so much that we decide to stay and have a few drinks at the bar. It is, after all, happy hour and drinks are two for £8. Bodega’s cocktail list is very vast and the majority are rum or tequila based. We are intrigued to try Bebito, a fusion of white tequila and aperol mixed with pineapple juice and fresh mint. It’s an authentic Mexican recipe and it may just be my new favourite cocktail. We also decide to try a delicious Blueberry and Elderflower Margarita with orange liqueur and fresh lime juice, which is boozy to say the least. Just how I like it. And at just £4 a cocktail, it is incredible value for money.

I am thoroughly impressed by the clear passion all the staff have towards the food and atmosphere they are serving up for their customers. From the bar staff and waiters to the brigade of chefs in the kitchen, the service is the perfect balance of efficient and relaxed. We were instantly put at ease and never made to feel hurried despite how busy it became throughout the evening. Bodega has a kind of blissful casualness that comes naturally.

 

The Art of Breaditation

The Art of Breaditation

Bake away your worries with a little positivity and creativity in the kitchen.

Mindfulness meditation‭ ‬is a great way to clear your mind and relax you body‭ ‬by thinking in a calm and focused way‭. ‬Sometimes, life gets us down and we feel sad, angry or worried. One thing that I’ve learnt is to just go with it‭, ‬rather than always trying to find an explanation or a solution‭.

Instead, put some calm music on and ‬channel your emotions into something that you love‭. And what better way to incorporate moments of mindfulness into your day, than by baking a loaf of bread. 

As you bake‭, ‬remember to pay close attention to your five senses‭; ‬sight‭, ‬sound‭, ‬taste‭, ‬touch and smell‭. ‬It’s also a good idea to have all of your ingredients ready in front of you before we begin‭.

Start off by weighing out the flour‭, ‬salt‭, ‬sugar‭ ‬and yeast into a bowl‭.‬‭ ‬Then combine this dry mixture with a wooden spoon‭. ‬Make a well in the centre with your fingertips‭, ‬then slowly pour in the warm‭ ‬water and oil‭, ‬incorporating it into the dry mixture bit by bit‭. ‬Notice how the consistency changes as the dry and wet ingredients merge together‭.

Some of the mixture might look stretchy‭, ‬and some might clump together‭. ‬keep combining until it has come together into a rough dough and tip out onto a floured surface‭. ‬

Knead the bread mixture‭,‬‭ ‬and‭ ‬allow yourself to think of nothing else except how the dough feels in your hands‭. ‬Is it elastic‭? ‬Is it soft‭? ‬Does it make your fingers stick together‭? ‬After kneading for about 10‭ ‬minutes‭, ‬shape the dough into a smooth ball‭, ‬making sure to tuck any untidy bits underneath‭. ‬Use any leftover olive oil to grease the sides of your bowl and place the bread dough in the centre‭.‬

The mixture will take an hour to prove‭,‬‭ ‬this is when the yeast comes to life and the dough doubles in size like a balloon‭. ‬The best place for your dough to prove is somewhere warm‭, ‬this could be by the oven or in a conservatory‭. ‬

Whilst your dough is rising‭, ‬take‭ ‬some time to clean up your workspace‭. ‬This is also a good time to preheat the over and prepare a baking tray with some parchment‭ ‬paper‭. ‬

Once the dough has finished proving‭, ‬gently place on your baking tray‭.‬‭ ‬If you are feeling creative you could mould your ball of dough into a heart shape‭. ‬From the top push in a downwards motion towards the centre‭, ‬then pinch the bottom section with your thumbs to create a point‭.‬ Your bread is now ready for the oven‭!‬

It should take 20-25‭ ‬minutes‭, but ‬keep an eye on how the bread changes in the oven‭. ‬The soft and bouncy dough will begin to form a golden crust‭. ‬What can you smell‭? ‬Hopefully it’s warm and comforting.

Be careful when taking your bread‭ ‬out of the oven‭. ‬Leave to cool on a wire cooling rack and after a few minutes‭, ‬tap the bottom of your loaf to make sure it is hollow and cooked‭ ‬all the way through‭.‬

Tear and eat while it’s still warm‭. I’d recommend spreading with heaps of salted butter and enjoying with a cup of tea.

THE BENEFITS:

Leave the kitchen with a clear headspace and a delicious loaf of bread to enjoy

Being creative, calm and focused often make you happier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supercharge Your Breakfast for Winter Wellness

Supercharge Your Breakfast for Winter Wellness

Take your breakfast staples to the next level by adding immune-boosting ingredients and some rather intriguing newbies on the superfood scene.

It can be really hard to leave your duvet behind on a chilly morning. And even though Spring is just around the corner, getting through the last few weeks of miserable winter can be hard. That’s why it’s really important to ensure that you set your day off to a healthy and fulfilling start with a wholesome breakfast. Changing up your breakfast routine and eating a varied diet ensures your body receives all of the correct nutrients. That’s why we’ve experimented with immune-boosting flavours and ingredients to give your breakfast staples a makeover. These vitamin-rich foods are essential to make sure you haven’t crashed by lunchtime.

ADD SOME SPICE TO YOUR MORNING SHOT

Honey, lemon and ginger has always been a popular detox trio to soothe sore throats and nasal congestion. Try our easy-to-make ginger elixir shot which combines these flavours with fresh grated turmeric, cracked black pepper and crushed cardamom for a zingy infusion. You are probably already familiar with both turmeric and cardamom from Indian cuisine, but they are more versatile than you may think and the perfect addition to your morning shot. Cardamom aromatic complexity paired with the ant inflammatory and digestive properties of turmeric, make them very beneficial to your overall health.

A SMOOTHIE STRAIGHT FROM THE SEA

Smoothies are refreshing, easy to make and great on-the-go. The deep green colour of our antioxidant blend speaks for itself. Combining fruity favourites like blueberries and banana with spinach and a splash of coconut water makes for the perfect dairy-free concoction. The addition of powdered spirulina, a nutrient-rich blue-green algae, gives this smoothie an edge due to its cholesterol lowering properties. This concentrated source of vitamins and minerals has become increasingly favoured with the health-conscious. Add 1tbsp spirulina to your smoothie to give your morning a super boost.

CHOOSE CALM OVER CAFFEINE 

A steaming cup of coffee can seem like a lifeline on a misty morning, but try swapping the caffeine for a herbal infusion to ensure a calm start to the day.

Peppermint tea is the perfect companion for your morning commute due to its gut-friendly properties that will aid your post-breakfast digestion. Our peppermint and nettle brew combines minty and earthy flavours and is naturally decaffeinated. Nettles have been used in herbal remedies since the Medieval era as a natural pain reliever. They are also very rich in vitamin A,B and K and therefore the perfect cure for your morning blues. Simply brew 1tsp dried peppermint and nettle leaves in hot water for 3-4 minutes.

Moringa tea has officially dethroned matcha as the new brew everybody’s talking about. Its slightly grassy flavour may not be everybody’s cup of tea, however it has amazing energy boosting properties. It also contains three times as much iron as spinach, and therefore works as an excellent source of nutrients. A comforting cup of moringa tea can be made using either fresh moringa leaves or powder, both of which can be found in most health food stores. Simply add to hot water with a dash of honey or agave for a sweeter flavour.

TRENDY TOPPINGS FOR YOUR OATS

Overnight oats are perfect for breakfast as they can be made the night before and leave you feeling full all morning. For the base, combine 50g rolled oats with 100 ml milk or any milk alternative, and leave overnight. Popular toppings include berries, seeds, nut butter, yoghurt and honey. We’ve combined classic toppings such as honey, chia seeds and watermelon seeds with, the less commonly known, maqui berry to give your oats even more of a health boost. Maqui berries are a rich purple in colour and bursting with antioxidants and heart health benefits. Simple sprinkle 1tbsp maqui berry powder over your oats and tuck in.

Alternatively, for a fibre fuelled breakfast top your overnight oats with sliced banana, chopped nuts and nut butter. Cashew butter is a popular choice for spooning over breakfast foods, however pili butter is the new fad that every foodie is talking about. The velvety pili nut, originating from the Philippines, made its way to the US back in 2015, but even then, it could only be located in the trendiest cafes and health food stores. Jason Thomas, founder of the nut’s brand Pili Hunters, played an instrumental role in bringing them over from the Philippines. He says consumers will soon be seeing pili nuts on supermarket shelves and ‘the market is going to explode.’ swirl in or dollop on top of your oats for a perfectly nutty breakfast.

EGGS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE

If you’re looking for something more substantial, nothing beats eggs for breakfast, they are easy to whip up and endlessly versatile. However, we’ve taken a step back from the fridge, and instead taken egg-inspiration from across the globe.

Seaweed has long been a staple in Asian cuisine; however, it has only recently been given its superfood status here in the UK. More and more recipes incorporate the underwater leafy green due to its beneficial minerals and vitamins. Also, it’s natural sea salt flavour and crisp texture make it the perfect partner for your morning eggs. Our reimagined Korean rolled omelette is a light breakfast that will guarantee to warm you up on a frosty morning. Simply add finely diced peppers, onions and mushrooms to an oiled pan. Once the vegetables have browned whisk two eggs and pour into the pan. As the omelette begins to form place seaweed sheets down the centre and fold into thirds, then serve and enjoy.

Having a diverse diet is really important. Don’t be afraid to change up your meals, experiment with the flavours and colours of different superfoods and bask in their nutritious rewards.

 

Exploring Wellness Through Food With SisterWomanVegan

Exploring Wellness Through Food With SisterWomanVegan

‘Wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m still learning, same as you.’ – Safiya Robinson, Founder and creator of SisterWomanVegan

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On the 3rd February, Safiya Robinson, creator of SisterWomanVegan, came to the University of Roehampton to explore wellness through food and share her knowledge about cooking and the healing properties it can have.

SisterWomanVegan is a plant based social enterprise exploring how food can affect the mind, body and soul. Safiya is also a mental health activist and encourages healing through natural and wholesome food inspired by her black heritage.

In collaboration with the University’s sustainability programme ‘Growhampton’, Safiya led a cooking workshop, teaching students to create a serotonin-boosting brunch alternative using a variety of plant based and vegan produce.

For a lot of students cooking can be both daunting and time consuming, especially when trying to maintain a nutritious and sustainable diet. Safiya’s mission is to equip everybody with the knowledge and skills needed to create delicious and nourishing food that makes them feel good. She believes that food isn’t just fuel, it’s one of life’s joys and should be celebrated.

At the cooking workshop, Safiya spoke so passionately about SisterWomanVegan and all of the brand’s aspirations. It was clear that first and foremost she wanted us to have fun and leave the session with a clear mind and a full tummy.

There was no recipe to follow – We weren’t even sure of what we were making as we were making it! Safiya explained that she likes to avoid the constraints and expectations of instructions as it allows us to be free to use our senses and create the perfect dish.

Laid out in front of us on the workbench were large bowls of mushrooms, spinach leaves, sweet potatoes, spring onions and smaller bowl of spices including paprika, cumin, garlic as well as nutritional yeast.

We began by peeling and slicing the sweet potatoes. Half were to be boiled to make potato hash and the other half were to be seasoned with olive oil and spices and left to crisp up in the oven. Next we chopped and fried the mushrooms with the garlic, adding the spinach towards the end to wilt.

Using chickpea flour, spices, nutritional yeast and vegetable stock we were told to whisk up a savoury pancake batter. At this point, we began to realise what our serotonin-boosting brunch was going to be!

After making the pancakes, we stacked them high with the garlic mushrooms, spinach and spiced sweet potato and finished off with a drizzle of hot pepper sauce to give our brunch a kick.

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As we all sat down together to eat, we could all agree that we felt so enlightened about cooking with natural produce and the flavours that could be created from just a few ingredients. Safiya talked us through the nutritional benefits of the meal we had created, it was full of protein, iron and vitamin d, and it tasted great too!

I left the class feeling really inspired to take the skills we had learnt and begin experimenting with different ingredients and flavours in my own kitchen. It was great fun cooking with my SisterWomanVegan and I would love to again in the future!

https://www.sisterwomanvegan.com

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Valencia

A Taste of Valencia

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I think it’s safe to say that so far my final year at University has given me more headaches and sleepless nights than I can keep count of. So when my boyfriend suggested a spontaneous getaway over reading week, it was hardly something I could turn down.

Valencia, in Spain, seemed the ideal choice. It would be warm but not sweltering and the perfect location for both exploring and relaxing in. We couldn’t wait to escape reality and immerse ourselves in Valencia’s turquoise skies and paella paradise.

After landing at the airport we hopped on the Metro and travelled all the way to Avenida del Cid. We decided to get off a few stops early so that we could begin to explore the area and find our way to our apartment on foot. We begun to navigate our way through a maze of crumbling walls decorated with the bold and colourful work of Valencia’s graffiti artists. Every street we turned onto was a sea of tangerine tiled buildings and palm trees.

The windows of our apartment looked down onto one of the city’s main shopping streets, Calle de Don Juan de Austria. It was nice to be in the middle of such a vibrant atmosphere, as the street was always bustling with late night shoppers and friends chatting over drinks. It was also the perfect central location, with easy access to all of Valencia’s spectacles.

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On our first morning we set off early and headed towards The Central Market. Inside of the impressive glass structure, food vendors were selling everything from fresh fruit to seafood and huge legs of Jamón which hung from the ceiling. We then weaved our way through Plaça de la Reina towards Valencia’s Gothic Cathedral. An audio tour led us around, stopping at specific points to describe the beautifully intricate architecture and the history behind it. It was such an interesting place to visit and definitely one of my favourite parts of the trip. The tour ended at the gates of El Miguelete, the Cathedral’s bell tower. After a steep incline and 207 steps, I just about made it to the top in one piece. The panoramic views from the bell tower were worth the climb, and with the sun shining down Valencia looked radiant.

Even with my very poor attempts at speaking Spanish and allergies to take into consideration, we had no trouble finding nice places to eat. And with a little research it was easy enough to find tasty Valencian cuisine amongst the tourist traps. 

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We had come across a tiny restaurant, dempanadas, that were claiming they had some of the best empanadas in the city. So we headed there to put them to the test. As we stepped inside we were greeted with a delicious waft of freshly baked pastry and displays of cakes, salads and rows and rows of empanadas. There was a really cosy atmosphere inside so we settled down at a table and ordered a selection to try as well as bottles of Valencian craft beer to wash them down. The food was priced very reasonably, and the lunch deal, which included two empanadas and a beer, came to €6.90. All of it was delicious, we loved the clasica Argentina, which was filled with beef, olives, onion and hard boiled egg.

After an afternoon wandering around the orange gardens and courtyard at the old silk exchange, we headed back to the apartment for a cosy night in.

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The next morning we headed towards Valencia’s famous Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, a complex dedicated to Valencia’s rich scientific and cultural background. The centre itself was architecturally spectacular and as we walked into the park, huge futuristic buildings towered around us, each one containing a different attraction. We had booked tickets for L’Oceanogràfic, an open air aquarium, so we followed the river down towards the waterlily shaped building. We spent hours weaving our way through and enjoying all of the sea life in the sunshine.

For lunch we stopped at Feliz, a restaurant down the street, for paella Valenciana. The food was delicious; perfectly tender pearls of rice with soft green beans, butter beans and crispy chicken thighs. Paella is one of my favourite things to eat, so I was happy to have found some delicious authentic Valencia paella, and in such a cute, cosy restaurant too!

After lunch we headed back up to the park for a quick trip around Museu de les Ciencies, Valencia’s science museum.

After an evening stroll and a bit of shopping we headed back to the apartment for our final night, bringing our escape to beautiful Valencia to an end.

 

 

A Fashion Epidemic: Is Looking Good doing Bad?

A Fashion Epidemic: Is Looking Good doing Bad?

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Dana Thomas and Lucy Siegle discuss the Era of so-called ‘disposable clothes’ and the negative repercussions of ‘wearing it for the gram’

‘Our cheap decisions have consequences,’ fashion journalist and author Dana Thomas declares to her audience at Wimbledon BookFest. She sits poised in an armchair on the stage across from leading journalist Lucy Seigle. The two of them begin to discuss fast fashion and the role it plays in Dana’s bestselling book ‘Fashionopolis,’ which looks at how we, as consumers, can reshape the clothing industry tackling its huge environmental and economic damage.

The book’s journey began, Dana tells us, with an investigation into the serious increase in demand for affordable, fashionable clothes. How were fast fashion supply chains coping with this? A visit to a sweatshop in Ho Chi Minh confirmed they were not coping. The working conditions were frightening, and nobody was being paid a living wage. Dana knew right then that she needed to find out why this was happening and begin a fight for change.

‘We live in an era where we are all micro influencers,’ Dana explains. Endless images of our favourite celebrities fill our screens, parading the latest fashion fad and never daring to wear it twice. They’ve influenced us that’s for sure, but who’s to say we needed to be influenced?

Our entire attitude towards clothes has changed. We no longer pine after them, care for them and find enjoyment in styling them. But instead buy impulsively and flaunt them on Instagram for compliments from strangers then reject them after one wear.

It’s a generational thing, Dana says. Look back 20 years when consumers bought six times less clothes than we do today. You wouldn’t shop the high street for a new outfit for every occasion, instead you would shop your closet and discover what could be reworn, reworked and restyled.

Now consumers want more. As the prices and quality of our clothes goes down, we attach less value to them and therefore buy more to compensate. ‘We shove clothes into dirty shopping carts like we’re shopping for groceries.’ Dana says, describing a scene she saw in a Primark store in Amsterdam. Don’t go for the impulse buy, instead invest in really good quality clothes, she suggests.

Take Catherine Middleton and Meghan Markle for instance, rocking the royal rewear and getting the most use out of their clothes. They are showing us that it’s okay to wear a piece morethan once, in fact it’s cool to do that; styling clothes in different ways and playing around with what you pair together, that’s what fashion is all about.

Dana Thomas will be touring around schools and universities with her bestselling book ‘Fashionopolis’ hoping to start a discussion which will go on to create a much-needed change in the fashion industry.

https://www.wimbledonbookfest.org

 

JC Stewart at The Islington

JC Stewart at The Islington

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The Islington is a quirky independent pub and live music venue a stone’s throw from Angel tube station in N1. It’s location and leisurely feel make it the perfect spot for rising stars, and tonight it welcomes JC Stewart to the stage.

I had unintentionally stumbled across JC Stewart when he performed at the O2 Empire as Lauv’s support act back in June. My friend and I had instantly fallen in love with his music, so I was looking forward to hearing him perform again on his own.

We arrive at the pub, which looks pretty unremarkable from the outside, and head inside where we’re greeted with a surpisingly homely atmosphere. Freebies have been scattered on the tables and bar so we pick up a few bits before heading over to the lounge area. With no more than 20 of us sat around in armchairs tucked away in a cosy nook chatting away and bonding over music, it feels more like a small gathering of close friends than a gig.

The pub gradually fills up, to the point where it’s no longer clear who is here as a fan and who is here to perform. We all swarm around each other in a haze of alcohol and music. JC himself saunters through the door and heads through the curtains to the staging area, but not before making a stop at the bar and to say hey to a group of fans who have sidled up to him. It’s this free spirited informality that I love most about smaller gigs. 

The velvet curtain is pulled back to reveal the other side of the room with a small stage in one corner. We grab our drinks and head over. Its all very relaxed, no screaming girls, no excessive queuing and waiting.

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The support act, Etham, takes to the stage, and I realise he’s the same guy who we saw in the wine aisle in Sainsbury’s an hour earlier. He’s the perfect warm up for JC, kicking things off with his soulful acoustic version of ‘I wish it was me.’

We’re stood so close to the front of the stage it feels like a personal serenade, causing even Etham to joke about the intimate feel of the venue.

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At 9pm JC makes quite the entrance in his double denim ensemble, whiskey in one hand, guitar in the other. He’s accompanied by his drummer and bass guitarists, with him switching between the keys and acoustic guitar between songs.

From the moment JC steps on the stage he has such a cool laid-back vibe and looking around it’s easy to tell everyone in the audience is mesmerised by him. He starts with some livelier songs before whipping out the acoustic guitar for some ballads, stopping throughout the set to talk to the audience.

‘I’m just a guy who sings sad songs and has a funny accent’ he tells us, in his not at all funny and actually very lovely Irish accent.

JC Stewart, or ‘Professional sad boy’ as he bears proudly on his merch, might look like another run of the mill wannabe with his guitar and good looks. However, he already has an impressive 700,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and a growing fan base including the likes of Lewis Capaldi who he co wrote ‘Hollywood’ with. His forte is mellow atmospheric music, not dissimilar to James Bay and Noah Kahan, and he creates the sort of sad and sorrowful lyrics that can only have come from a broken heart.

There’s no doubt, JC Stewart can put on one hell of a show! And I look forward to seeing him and more of my favourite smaller artists around London in the future.

Small gigs really are incomparable to huge arena concerts, so go support your local venues and smaller musicians!

 

The London Coffee Festival 2019

The London Coffee Festival 2019

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‘Coffee, cocktails, music and good times’

A little way down Brick lane, underneath the decorative arches and through the maze of East London’s groovy graffitied walls, you will find The Old Truman Brewery. The building is a spectacle in itself, with its industrial brick exterior and towering chimney, and was once London’s largest beer manufacturer. However for one weekend only, it plays host to more than 30,000 people from across the UK and Europe, all coming together for one shared passion; coffee. 

At the moment there seems to be a festival for everything, with hundreds of food and drink festivals taking place right here in London. Giddy for gin? bonkers for brunch? Vegan food more your thing? whatever your craze is, there will be something for you.

I’m a big coffee lover, my body runs on it’s bittersweet fuel. So as you can imagine, when I found out that there was a whole festival celebrating all things coffee, and that it was right on my doorstep, I knew I had to get tickets.

This unique festival has been running for nine years, and offers, what the team call, ‘an unparalleled playground for coffee aficionados.’ We bought our tickets online for £15 each, for those more spontaneous, you could choose to pay upfront on the day, but the tickets were a bit pricier.

On entry we were handed a limited edition tote bag filled with various bits of information about what the day would entail. At first glance the venue appeared to be just one large room with various stalls, with a seating area in the centre, bustling with people as they gathered round to enjoy the love music performances happening on the stage. However we soon identified that the TARDIS-like venue stretched on and on and there were in fact four huge floors of coffee shenanigans for us to enjoy.

Exhibitors and sponsors lined the walls, in front of them tables spilling with freebies and samples. Coffee was obviously the star of the show, however there were plenty of non- coffee treats too, including cakes, biscuits, energy drinks, and lots and lots of tea. Some of the stalls were being pretty stingy with their samples whereas other were practically throwing things at you.

We knocked back shots of coffee, as artisanal roasters explained their origins and what made them unique. For those proper connoisseurs, there was also a blind tasting room  with a lesson on how to detect the different notes and flavours of coffee. And on the Upper ground things got a bit more interactive at latte art live, where the audience’s barista skills were put to the test.

I was really impressed with how they made the expereince really inclusive to everybody, being a dairy dodger myself, and having a decaf drinking mum and a gluten intolerant older brother. There was still loads for us to try, and we fell in love with the gluten free coconut passion cake from Cakesmiths.

Needless to say, after all those samples we left on a crazy caffeine and sugar high!

I loved that there was no cookie cutter mould for what the Coffee Festival’s visitors looked like; everyone from professional baristas and coffee companies to families and young couples were there.

The London Coffee Festival will be back again next year, and regardless of you’re a coffee maestro or a complete novice I’d highly recommend it!