Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

The best bottle to come from the Gigondas

One needs wine more than ever, yet when imbibing, it can be hard to concentrate. So much is going on. We were at table and the news came through about Slovakia. Was this an obscure incident, regrettable but below the level of geopolitics? Or would it become a second Sarajevo? Fortunately, that seems unlikely. In

Lara Prendergast

With Tim Hayward

44 min listen

Tim Hayward is an award-winning food writer, a broadcaster, and proprietor of the bakery Fitzbillies in Cambridge. He writes regularly for the FT Magazine and often appears on BBC Radio 4. Following the bestsellers Food DIY, Knife, and Loaf Story, his eighth book, Steak: The Whole Story, is out on the 23rd May.  On the podcast, Tim tells Liv

Olivia Potts

‘Terribly chic’: how to make chouquettes

I have become obsessed with the French idea of goûter, the time in the afternoon when French schoolchildren have a sweet treat to tide them over from the end of the school day until dinner. It’s just teatime, really, a pause for an afternoon snack – my kid has the same, but we don’t have

The food trends that need to die

Jacques – a tiny French restaurant in Finsbury Park – was the very first posh joint I ever ate at, back in 1987, and I have fond memories of it. The proprietor, Jacques, was a flamboyant 40-something: very gay, extremely rude to his customers (did I mention he was from Paris?) and partial to drinking

Gus Carter

The paradox of a novelty doughnut

There are moments when you realise the world is a more complicated place than you had previously thought. I had such moment earlier this week when I saw a new doughnut at a concession stand in Hammersmith station: a Krispy Kreme x Pretty Little Thing doughnut. Sure, you could probably get one in a town

How to become an old soak

Drink and longevity: there seems to have been a successful counter-attack against the puritans, prohibitionists and other health faddists. Indeed, there is virtually a consensus that red wine has almost medicinal properties. That said, a confusion about so-called units remains. When the measurement was explained to me, I said that it sounded adequate. ‘Really?’ ‘Yes,

Lara Prendergast

With Michael Zee

28 min listen

Michael Zee is an author, cook and the creator of SymmetryBreakfast, which started as an Instagram account, before amassing over 670,000 followers and becoming one of the ‘most popular food books of 2016’. He is now based in Italy and known for his particular brand of British-Chinese fusion food. His third book, Zao Fan: Breakfast of

The great posh food con

I had taken a friend out for a significant birthday, to a high-end French joint in London. We ordered the tasting menu, an eight course extravaganza with wine pairings. It was not a cheap date, but a special occasion. The third course was a tiny bowl of herb risotto, and as it was served, a waiter appeared

In praise of the 1/3 pint

The worst thing that happened to me over the pandemic was I got ‘really into beer’. I was already into it in the most straightforward way: I liked drinking it and I liked getting drunk. I liked the ceremony of it: walking into the pub, ideally at noon on a balmy Saturday, inhaling that rich

Damian Thompson

The real reason I don’t drink

It’s been 30 years this month since I last touched alcohol and I still can’t face the prospect of a social event without drinking. Other people drinking, that is. I’m terrified by the thought of going back on the sauce again, but that doesn’t mean I want to hang around with teetotallers who’ve never had

Tanya Gold

‘Vital but fraying’: Five Guys reviewed

Five Guys is a burger house from Arlington, Virginia, based on the premise that if you can serve a drink, cut a fringe, or make a hamburger, you will always make money in America. Thirty years and 1,700 restaurants later, it sits on Coventry Street off Piccadilly, soaking up the alcohol of a thousand British

Olivia Potts

How to make ham and parsley sauce

Poor old parsley sauce. As someone who writes regularly about old-fashioned food, it often feels that we are living through a golden revival of vintage dishes. You can’t move for cookbook concepts pinned on comfort and nostalgia, or restaurants attempting to take the diner on some kind of Proustian journey. Whether it’s nursery food, school

Why we love hideous food

I’m sitting on a stone terrace in the winsome south Breton port of Sainte Marine, which oversees France’s prettiest river (the Odet), and I’m excitedly tucking into a dozen gleaming Morbihan oysters. I am doing this partly because I am writing about travel in Brittany and oysters are very much part of the package here

The case for Churchillian drinking

Churchill. No disrespect to Andrew Roberts’s more recent work, but I set out to look up a point about drink in Roy Jenkins’s biography and ended up rereading it. I think that it is Roy’s best book and extremely well written. There are also passages where he slips in points from his own experience of

Lara Prendergast

With Joel Golby

39 min listen

Joel Golby is a journalist who has written for – among others – Vice and the Guardian, where he has a regular column, the watcher, reviewing television. He has since translated his skill for wry observations and self-reflection into the new book Four Stars: A life reviewed which hilariously grapples with our fascination with opinions On the podcast Joel tells

Melanie McDonagh

The young are missing out on a proper breakfast

More proof, if it were needed, of the gastronomic generation gap. It seems one in ten young persons has never had a full English/Irish/whatever cooked breakfast and one in five only has it once a year. They are, of course, missing out on one of the pleasures of life. The cooked breakfast and afternoon tea

Olivia Potts

How Linzer torte stood the test of time

Linzer torte has quite the claim to fame: some assert that it’s the oldest cake in the world; others that it’s the oldest to be named after a place. It feels churlish to split hairs, but those two assertions are quite different, aren’t they? In any event, it’s certainly very old. For a long time

Tanya Gold

‘Five stars, no notes’: Arlington reviewed

Arlington is named for the 1st Earl of Arlington and his street behind the Ritz Hotel. It used to be Le Caprice, which was opened in 1947 by the Italian Mario Gellati, who would not, by the new rules, get into Britain now, but this is not a column about pain. In 1981 Le Caprice

Italian food purists need to calm down

Last year, a large group of young people gathered outside the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most popular attractions, to protest against ‘food crimes’ committed by tourists in Italy. Armed with signs reading ‘No more cream in carbonara’, ‘No more cappuccino with pasta’, and ‘Putting chicken in pasta is a crime in Italy’, they drew the attention of

The glory of German wines

I have had three recent conversations, all lively if unrelated – and all well lubricated. The first concerned Anglo-Saxon England around ad 700. Recent discoveries of coin hoards suggested that economic activity during that period of the Dark Ages was more extensive than had been supposed. Without damaging the coins, it had been possible to

Thank goodness pubs shut at 11

A group of four stagger out of a pub in Britain at around 11.20 on a Thursday night. The search begins for somewhere to have one more drink without a £20 entry fee. Men on doors say no by shaking their heads. Pubs show their appetite for more visitors by turning their lights up a

Lara Prendergast

With Anna Jones

25 min listen

Anna Jones is a food writer, food stylist and author. She is known predominately for her focus on vegetarian cooking, and her new book Easy Wins celebrates a capsule pantry of twelve ingredients.  On the podcast she tells Lara about her way in to becoming a food journalist, cooking vegetarian at home, and her desert island meal. 

Why celebrity restaurants so often fail

London has seen a string of celebrity restaurants, mostly with disappointing results. David Beckham and Guy Ritchie opened a pub in 2018 – the Walmer Castle – but it didn’t last. They handed it on in 2022 and the pub has changed hands three times since its opening. Ed Sheeran set up his grastropub, ‘Bertie

Stop worrying if your child is a picky eater

One parent in our class WhatsApp chat raised a pressing concern: her daughter was coming home every day with a full water bottle. Were other parents faced with the same unsettling discovery? There followed a lengthy discussion of how much water was left in each child’s bottle. Some children, when confronted, testified that they had

Olivia Potts

Tricky but delicious: how to make the perfect pretzels

My husband is obsessed with pretzels. The joy that a slightly warm, soft baked pretzel brings him is disproportionate. And, unlike in Germany and the States, where soft pretzels are ubiquitous, they are hard to come by here. So, for a while I have been trying to perfect the pretzel. It has not been smooth

The sad decline of BYOB

London’s food scene is a Petri dish of Michelin-starred bistros, gastropubs, and overpriced tourist traps where waiters crouch by the table and call you ‘bud’. The days of staying at home, watching Raffles, and eating tinned fruit with evaporated milk are long gone. London’s new culinary culture is an expensive one. But one institution has

Which came first? The egg, obviously

‘We English prefer brown eggs,’ wrote J. B. Priestley in the 1970s, ‘they seem to us to have a more reliable look of rusticity.’ The mottled chestnut shell of a Burford Brown is surely more genuine than the clinical, white-shelled variety favoured by the American market. It’s a charming point, but there’s really no relationship between