“Vegans make better lovers,” tweeted Californian Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson who has just celebrated tying the knot for the fifth time. “The cholesterol in meat, eggs and dairy causes hardening of the arteries (and not much else). It slows blood flow to all the body’s organs, not just the heart. You can improve your overall health and increase stamina in the bedroom by going vegan.” As an active vegan, the animal rights star has been researching her hypothesis for the last 30 years.
“I’m fairly confident in this statement,” she later tweets. “Although I think I’ve always had a lot of fun in that department. It’s a romantic way of caring about the world, about life and the environment. It’s another little perk to being vegan!” Not to be taken with a pinch of salt, while red meat eaters clearly don’t make for red hot lovers, vegetarians must surely pass the mustard in the sack, knowing their quixotic onions so to speak. Certainly food for thought.
Founder Marc Summers explains, “We’ve been inspired by our backgrounds and heritage. There are a couple of Jewish things on the menu which reflects the area we’re in – a century ago Spitalfields was very Jewish. My grandfather was born here, as was Helen’s grandmother, so the location means a lot to us. It took a long time to find the right location for Bubala, but when we found this place we knew we had to go for it.” The restaurant is a falafel’s throw from Christ Church Spitalfields.
“We’d had enough of dealing with meat on a daily basis,” Marc continues. “Sticking to vegetarian dishes means everything feels a lot more hygienic in the kitchen and it’s a nicer environment to work in. Our Head Chef Helen Graham was also getting a bit tired of seeing the amount of waste that can come from cooking meat in a restaurant so it was something we were both keen to focus on.”
“Meze has many iterations across the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa,” explains Helen. “Spanning such a broad region, it’s no surprise that the word brings conflict. ‘Meze’ is of Turkish origin, borrowed from the Persian ‘mazze’ meaning ‘snack’ or ‘taste’. Indeed, many cultures enjoy meze as an appetiser. Where the concept of opening your appetite is foreign, meze refers to the entire thing from the first scoop of hummus to the final button undoing bite.”
Televivian Journal is the magazine of choice for every cosmopolitan citizen of Israel’s party capital and a few savvy London subscribers too. Shalom! Lehitraot? What does Ruthie Rousso, food critic and contributor to the latest hard hitting hard copy edition of Televivian Journal, think of Tel Aviv cuisine and its emergence on the world stage? Or should that be world table?
“The complex Israeli identity is contained on every plate: in every tiny heirloom Palestinian bamya served with preserved lemon and brown butter served in ‘haBasta’, and in every steaming pita stuffed with roasted cauliflower, crème fraîche and local hot pepper at Eyal Shani’s Miznon… The Israeli chefs and restaurateurs continue to dare, insist on trying, are driven to create. If I had to put a finger on one characteristic of Israeli identity and cuisine, it would be this: it is a turbine, refusing to stop, pushing forward against all odds.”
Siberia isn’t only a bad table at The Ivy. Snow is gifting a temporary white delineation to the Queen Anne architecture of Duddell’s. Tonight’s table is in the gallery. We’re looking down on everyone. We’re looking up at the dentilled-egg-and-dart-and-paterae cornice. We’re looking across at the reredos for this was once a church. Understated interior decoration by Michaelis Boyd lets the architecture do the singing. We’ll be singing for our supper when the bill, £232.31 for two, arrives. That’s a lot of truffle. Are you having a cod? For certain, truffle roasted black cod with lily bulb and Nameko mushrooms.
Saul Church, also known as St Patrick’s Memorial Church, commemorates the Patron Saint of Ireland. It is built on the reputed spot of his first sermon and subsequent church in the country. When he came to Ireland in 432 AD, strong currents swept his boat along the southern tidal narrows of Strangford Lough. He landed off the River Slaney a couple of miles from Saul. Dichu, the local chieftain, converted to Christianity and gave him a barn or sabhal (pronounced ‘saul’ in Gaelic) for holding services. St Patrick famously used a shamrock from the fertile Saul soil to explain the Holy Trinity. He died in Saul 29 years after landing in Ireland and is buried in nearby Downpatrick.
When the Anglo Irish singer Chris de Burgh penned the words to “In a Country Churchyard” he might have had Saul Church in mind. It couldn’t be any more romantic in both senses of the word. A yew lined avenue leads to this tiny place of worship, spick and span, in contrast to the wild garden around the gravestones and remains of St Patrick’s Abbey. Its hilltop setting allows unbroken views across the rolling countryside of County Down. Unsurprisingly the church is popular for weddings led by members of the clergy from far and wide, including the Reverend Andy Rider of Christ Church Spitalfields. A dedication from St Patrick,
“Go forth, traveller | In the Name which is above every name | Be of good courage | Hold fast that which is good | Render to no man evil for evil | Strengthen the faint hearted | Support the weak | Help the afflicted | Honour all men | Love and serve the Lord | Rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And may the blessing of the Eternal God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you in your going out and your coming in.”
Hard edged dockside architecture meets playful futuristic design. Nowhere is the status of a city and its wellbeing better reflected in its music than Berlin. The two are intertwined. Think the Weimar Republic and its jazz cafés. Of course the legend of a libertarian culture destroyed by fascism was propagated by the film Cabaret. Fast forward a century and post war Berlin’s inherent appeal was again its openness. It was an anomaly, an oasis of extremity created by the Cold War. Here, anything could happen.
David Bowie arrived in Berlin towards the end of the 70s. He became immersed in the German music of the period. It was saturated in absence, loss and distance. Bands such as Kraftwerk influenced his craft, his work. Bowie’s piece V 2 Schneider reverberates to the rhythm of an S Bahn train. He recorded two thirds of his Berlin Trilogy – Low and Heroes but not Lodger – at the city’s legendary Hansa Studios. As the curtain fell on communism and the 20th century, techno music would emerge, climaxing with the euphoric blaze that was Love Parade.
Which brings us to right here right now. nhow Berlin is iridescently present, a tangible addition to the waterscape, a representation of contemporary immediacy. Its roots materialise from the city’s relationship with music – more anon. With the hotel’s opening, a new layer of meaning is added to the decadence and disharmony of the not so distant past.
Positioned along the River Spree, the old line between the East and West, nhow Berlin is a fusion of Sergei Tchoban’s architecture and Karim Rashid’s design. Russian born Sergei’s creation is a cubist arrangement of boxes piled high, the top one perilously cantilevering over the others by a gravity defying 10 metres. The underside is clad in reflective steel. Sergei says he is seeking to “convey the image of a ‘crane house’”. Other planes are covered by an aluminium or brick skin punctured by square windows. It’s all about clean lines, perpendicular angles and understated colourways. Enter the tinted glass doors – white outside; pink inside – and a whole new world unfolds.
New Yorker Karim’s interiors celebrate the German capital’s zeitgeist. He employs a progressive language to describe his oeuvre. The terms ‘infostethic’, ‘blobject’ and ‘technorganic’ are given three dimensional form. Karim says, “My vision engages technology, visuals, textures, colours, as well as all the needs that are intrinsic to living in a simpler less cluttered but more sensual environment.” Strata of irregular lines, asymmetric shapes and psychedelic patterns constantly redefine the hotel experience. Here, anything can happen.
Take the reception desk. It’s a pink amorphous sculpture with inset lighting. Beyond lies an expanse of white space stretching to a glazed wall overlooking the river. A giant continuous profile of Mussolini made of gold lacquered fibreglass hovers over the bar. Piped music radiates across the ground floor by day; live gigs rock it by night. Art or seating? The luminous voluptuous organic and ergonomic sofas are both. The restaurant is segregated from the bar by sheer curtains lined with a radio wave digipop pattern.
The hot pink rooms of the East Tower take their cue from sunrise. Sky blue dominates the rooms of the West Tower. The rooms of the 10 storey Upper Tower are calming grey to counteract the vertigo inducing views. Televisions double as radio wave shaped mirrors. Floors are acoustic friendly laminate painted with the digipop pattern. Guests can rent a keyboard or guitar in their room.
Two recording studios on the eighth floor of the Upper Tower are run by the co directors of the Hansa Studios. An adjacent music lounge is equipped with the latest multimedia technology – and a pink jukebox. The lounge, conference rooms and even the roof terrace are all directly wired to the studios. This allows for impromptu recordings.
It’s hard to believe that not much more than a decade ago Christ Church lay derelict, the congregation meeting round the corner in Hanbury Hall (where Charles Dickens once performed readings). The timely arrival of Reverend Andy Rider in autumn 2003 more or less coincided with the restoration of the church. At least from ground upwards. Christ Church the building was reborn. Then came the congregations. Plural. Now there’s an 8.30am Book of Common Prayer service for early risers (everyone heads to Spitalfields Market for breakfast afterwards), two hours later a family service, a Bengali service at 4pm and The Five for late risers. “It’s used a bit like a cathedral,” Andy observes.
The services become livelier, younger and better attended as Sunday progresses, culminating in a congregation of several hundred mainly 20 to 30 somethings by the evening. A lunchtime service for city workers is held every Tuesday. Diverse in worship and worshippers yes, but there’s a common thread: theologically sound, intelligent, life changing sermons. One service it might be Andy on “A Joyride through Philippians”. The next, Darren on “The Holy Spirit of Promise” (Ephesians) or Antje a German born lay preacher on “Sent to Make the Deaf Here” (Mark) or Pieter-bas a Dutch born lay preacher on “Sent to Change Hearts” (more Mark). In between Sunday afternoon services, the nave is open to the public. Described in the Evening Standard as “the best building in London”; breathlessly praised by historian Harry Goodhart-Rendel “it remains doubtful whether of its date and kind there is any finer church in Europe”; and haled by all as Hawksmoor’s masterpiece, it’s unsurprising this horizon piercing Grade I landmark is an international visitor attraction.
Christ Church has only taken three centuries to complete (usual build period of a contemporary London development rarely tops 24 months). Wren’s student Hawksmoor laid the cornerstone in 1714 but the builders focused on completing the above ground work. Below, throughout the passage of time the crypt remained a sculpted unfinished shell, a ribbed skeleton in need of fleshing out and dressing up. The guardianship of Reverend Rider and his accompanying holystic vision changed all that. Meanwhile, above the crypt, Europe’s finest baroque organ (once played by Handel) recently thundered one fine Sunday morning, notes marching ‘cross the aisle, filling the nave, floating up through the clerestory, ending four decades of silence after a multimillion pound restoration by the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields.
“The biggest challenge of the crypt project was having no obvious financial provision during the first seven years of my ministry here,” says Andy. Over £3 million was needed. “We still appointed architects and moved the concept towards design. It was when the finance became available through the generosity of The Monument Trust that our biggest challenge was overcome.” Nothing is incidental or accidental; minutiae were agonised over by Andy and the property team. Midnight oil burned in the Fournier Street Rectory while taps were chosen, lights selected and rugs argued over. “Above all,” he states, “I am proud of the church family members who gave themselves to the property team who I believe God deliberately brought to Christ Church for this chapter of its history.”
Dow Jones Architects were tasked with lending the labyrinth meaning, cracking the carapace, unleashing the dust of myriad wooden voices, listening to Andy and the property team. Wearing her erudition ever lightly, Biba Dow expounds on the challenge: “We began by stripping out all the partitions so that we were left with just Hawksmoor’s structure. We revealed the stone piers and beams. The brickwork vaults were limewashed to dematerialise the existing structure into light while retaining the form and texture of the material. Then we inserted a series of oak rooms into Hawksmoor’s space. We wanted to maintain a sense of the scale of the crypt. This is apparent when you walk down the ramp into the crypt and see along its length and then arrive in the café and see its width. We also wanted the windows to light the public spaces and connect them to the city outside. The oak rooms have an outer set of glazed doors and an inner side of oak doors. This allows them to be used in different ways… The oak walls to the main spaces have staggered boards – a contemporary version of plank and muntin panelling. The back of house spaces have narrower tongue and grooved oak walls.”
Another paragraph worthy quote from Biba, “Our concept came from the position of Spitalfields within the mythos of London. It’s a transitional zone, culturally and physically, beyond the city walls. Hawksmoor stacked two triumphal arches on top of each other to form the church’s west front. The city gate is an architectural type that reconciles the centre with the edge. Hawksmoor’s façade explicitly expresses this marginal condition. It’s a juxtaposition which has brought and continues to bring an extraordinary cultural dynamic to the neighbourhood. We wanted the crypt to be part of Spitalfields. The wide ramp entrance brings the York stone pavement down into the space to make a public place. Our idea for the oak panelling was to make something which defines the place in between the edge and centre. The oak sits within the structure of the church building, making a place of habitation. We wanted the new fabric to be clearly contemporary and reversible so that you understand the primacy of Hawksmoor’s space.” Metalwork is bronze. Fabric is from Bute.
Criss crossed crypticChristian chrysalis. A northern light, a southern kirk, an eastern revivification, a western Gesamtkunstwerk. Take the chapel door. Leading glass artist Nikki Cass was commissioned to create an artwork of fired coloured collaged glass to be inserted into the door of this thin place. “Your grace abounds in deepest waters,” goes the Hillsong hit Oceans. Biblical verses delivered divine inspiration as blues and greens and reds and yellows flowed. “The river of the water of life as crystal flowing from the throne of God” (Revelations). “Whosoever believes in the stream of living water will flow from within him” (John). “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit” (John again). Nikki’s artwork has even spawned an accompanying book. Then there’s the kitchen – a stainless steel work of art worthy of a double Michelin starred restaurant (Comme Chez Soi, anyone?).
“We cannot leave Christ Church without mentioning the curious detail of the windows (which is echoed in the street-facing wall of Truman’s Brewery, Brick Lane) – the pull that is set up by the sequence of small circular portholes above tall narrow lower windows. This is the symbol at the heart of Munch’s iconography – and relates to a whole chain of meanings and resonances – the grail-cup above the lance – the cauldron and the sword – female and male – the setting sun and the molten light over the waters – the pill about to be dropped into the test-tube – stylisation of the phallus and generative spurt – volatile/active – demanding the leap of energies – repeated symbols of the unconsummated – invitation.” Lud Heat by Iain Sinclair.