Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

Lara Prendergast

With Tara Wigley

32 min listen

Tara Wigley is the in-house writer for the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, she also has a weekly column in the Guardian and a monthly column in the New York Times which she shares with Yotam Ottolenghi. On the podcast she reminisces about her father’s ‘egg in the cup’, the secret to a great Ottolenghi recipe, and takes Lara and Liv

What’s wrong with eating dog? 

From my desk, as I write this, in a lofty room in a soaring new hotel in Phnom Penh, I can look down at the bustling streets and see the concrete, mosque-meets-spaceship dome of the Cambodian capital’s famous Central Market. Which also happens to be the place where, 20 years ago, I ate the single

The Swiss appetite for wine gives them a good name

A friend was in town, who rebuts two instances of dull conventional wisdom. The first is that although Swiss Germans may have many qualities – they make excellent bankers – they have no joie de vivre. The Calvinist heritage persists. Second, that the Swiss are an implacably martial race. Other armies, especially the British, use

Britain’s curious pub naming conventions

The big London restaurant opening of the autumn has been The Devonshire in Denman Street, Soho, close to Piccadilly Circus. There was a run on bookings as soon as the reviews appeared. Giles Coren in the Times wrote: ‘What a place. What. A. Place.’ Jimi Famurewa’s review in the Evening Standard appeared under the headline: ‘Nothing beats a good

Admit it, there’s nothing worse than restaurants at Christmas

We’ve all been there, dragged along to the office/company/feminist protest group/a cappella throat-singing-society Christmas meal out. The idea of sitting around a huge table eating bad food with a group of people who either bore you rigid or who you actively dislike doesn’t seem particularly appealing. Why will the food inevitably be terrible, wherever you

The despair of Deliveroo

Self-pity and Deliveroo go hand in hand. You can’t have the latter without the former. It’s impossible to watch a rain-drenched driver fight with his moped’s side stand – while you sit torpidly in your pants by the window – without the heavy feeling of self-loathing. There’s something shameful about it, something pathetic. If Dante

Why Russell Norman was a restaurant genius

Polpo, Russell Norman’s celebrated and original Italian restaurant in Soho, was in full flow when I visited for the first time: busy, loud, glasses full and meatballs rolling. I had returned to London after some years away in my early twenties, and had little money. Polpo welcomed diners with its buoyancy and affordability. It was

Introducing my manic Christmas tradition

It is a truth universally acknowledged – at least by anyone with a developed frontal lobe – that seasonal enjoyment and growing up are inversely proportional. As the stranglehold of middle age tightens, I am incapable of conjuring the Christmas excitement I felt as a child. And it seems to have been replaced with intense

Lara Prendergast

With Celia Walden

17 min listen

Celia Walden is a journalist, novelist and critic whose most recent novel, The Square, is out now. On the podcast she tells Lara and Liv why lentils are her ultimate comfort food, explains the joys of a buttered scotch pancake and discloses her husband Piers’ signature dish, ‘spaghetti Morganese’. 

In praise of the pickle

Have you taken the pickle pill? Pickles and the liquid in which they often come are proliferating across western cuisine. They have been praised for their health qualities, with gut-pleasing, sodium-rich pickle juice becoming a post-workout favourite in Britain and America. It’s even being incorporated into cocktails and beer. ‘Putting a pickle in cheap beer

Would you drink fermented horse milk?

To my great disappointment, I was never (knowingly) fed qarta – a popular dish of boiled and pan-fried horse anus served without sauce or spices. I did, however, get to try the next best thing – kymyz, mares’ milk fermented in a goatskin. It was the second day of a horse trek in Kyrgyzstan and

The Welsh Marches: England’s foodie frontier

I’m in a car embarking on a road trip through one of the great foodie regions of the world, charged with the onerous task of scoffing and boozing my way through five days of epicurean heaven. But where am I? Trundling along the Rhone valley from Lyon to Provence? Barrelling down the autostrada to Bologna?

Julie Burchill

Ignore the food bores 

I like the Art Deco apartment block where I live; the building is beautiful and the neighbours are nice. Just one thing; they keep having their old kitchens torn out and new ones installed – two of the three nearest flats to me have done this in the space of six months.  I don’t complain

How Vegemite took over the world

Vegemite is 100 years old. The first yeast paste, Marmite, was introduced in the UK in 1902, named after the French cooking pot; New Zealand Marmite, currently a quite different product, emerged in 1919. The mite suffix had nothing to do with might, but the association was irresistible, and Vegemite was created in Australia in

The world is a mess. Why not find escapism through wine? 

In most children’s stories, the good characters live happily ever after. Works suitable for older readers tend to greater realism. Even ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’, that most joyous of drinking songs, presses the case for carpe diem. ‘Get stuck in to your pleasures laddie,’ it seems to be saying, ‘before it is too late.’ With the world

James Heale

Life behind bars: so long to Westminster’s favourite landlord

If you work in politics, chances are you have drunk in the Westminster Arms. Located just off Parliament Square, every night it hosts the collection of hacks, wonks and mandarins that comprise the SW1 bubble. For 30 years, Gerry Dolan has run the pub with his mix of Irish humour and no-nonsense determination. When we

Melanie McDonagh

How to make Irish barm brack

Those of us who grew up with a traditional Halloween, that is to say, in Ireland, don’t have much truck with the contemporary version. The pumpkin-coloured, gore and chocolate fest that has come to Britain via the US is gross by comparison; we had a simple version. We dressed up, but in masks and any

It’s time to ban balsamic

Balsamic vinegar, according to a recent poll, is now considered an essential store cupboard ingredient by a quarter of all Brits. I detest it. This dark, syrupy fermented grape juice is like Marmite – you love it or hate it. Partly because it is overused, and also the numerous versions produced, I find myself flinching

Save our unmessed-with pubs!

From the outside, it appeared derelict – not an uncommon thing to find when visiting an unknown establishment based solely on a listing in an old copy of ‘The Good Pub Guide’. But a chap walking past with his labrador reassured us: ‘She usually opens at noon.’ When we returned an hour later it was

It’s time to take Italian wine seriously 

Tuscany: earth has not anything to show more fair. The landscape is charming. The gentle hills seem to smile down upon humanity. The inhabitants give the impression that they were already civilised when we British barely had enough woad to paint our backsides blue. There are also the grapes. From early on, Tuscany sent its

Tanya Gold

‘Well-priced and skilful’: Masala Zone, reviewed

There are cursed restaurants and cursed women, and this makes them no less interesting. One is Maxim’s in Paris, which knows it – it gaily sells ties in a charnel house decorated for the Masque of the Red Death – and another is the Criterion at Piccadilly Circus, which doesn’t. One day it might meet

Olivia Potts

Glorious and nostalgic: how to make corned beef pie

A few weeks ago I was at the super-market juggling a toddler, several heavy bags and, it transpired, no pound coin to insert into a trolley. A kind employee came to my rescue: on her key ring was one of those little keys you use to open tins of corned beef, which she deftly inserted

The sweet temptation of scrumping

In autumn when apples cascade off the trees and bedeck the orchard’s floor with fields of red and gold, thoughts naturally turn to an ancient survival instinct: foraging – or, as we tend to call it in my part of the world, scrumping. Yet although scrumping seems as English as Shakespeare, conker fights and Bonfire