Spectator Life

Spectator Life

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

Gus Carter

The Greggs delusion

Everything about Greggs is fake. You can smell it as you walk down any British high street. There’s an astringency, a hint that what lingers in those ovens is more than butter, flour, eggs and salt – that their food has been adulterated with something unnatural. What you’re smelling is an approximation of pastry, an

Port is fashionable once again

I once drank some excellent port at Ted Heath’s table. The invitation came as a surprise, but it almost certainly had nothing to do with the monstre (un)sacré. The dinner took place during a Bournemouth party conference at the Close in Salisbury. Ted had an unofficial PPS, a then Tory MP called Robert Hughes. Rob

Just say no to sourdough

One Sunday morning, in an upmarket bakery packed to the hilt with women clutching yoga mats and men proudly carrying papoose-swaddled babies, I glanced around in search of a fresh loaf to serve for lunch. I saw the myriad of shapes, sizes, colours and textures of the loaves on display, and then noticed something. All

In praise of white trash cooking

I’m a born and bred Minnesotan, a state settled by Norwegians, Swedes and Germans and a spattering of Finns, Poles and Russians. They recognised their homeland in the frigid winter tundra and bountiful farmland and their hearty culinary traditions prevailed just as the homesteaders did. Up until a few decades ago, before organised religion took

Olivia Potts

Pavlova: the crumble of summer

Whenever I tell someone that I’m making a pavlova the response is the same: sheer joy. Even the most fervent pudding-denier struggles to resist a slice of pav. It makes sense – fragile, crisp meringue with a tender, mallowy centre, soft waves of cream and some kind of fruit is such a brilliant combination. You

The real problem with Thomas Straker

Thomas Straker became famous for his TikTok recipes, although he doesn’t like it when people point that out. He protests that he’s a serious cook – he has worked at Elystan Street, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Dorchester – but most people know him as the butter guy. It’s hard to avoid that label

Save our takeaways!

Rishi Sunak’s strategy for solving Britain’s crippling housing shortage has been revealed: converting redundant takeaway restaurants into homes. It was a strange role reversal for Sunak, so recently cast as the potential saviour of many of these outlets during his Rishi’s dishes period. Yet fast forward three years and here he is as Prime Minister announcing

Jonathan Ray

Come off it, English wine is delicious

I hate to pick a fight with a fellow Speccie scribe but, as this august organ’s drinks editor, I must take issue with Dr Andrew Cunningham and his recent dismissal of English wine. Andrew lives in West Sussex and I live in East Sussex. He explains that he’s near Nyetimber, Nutbourne and Kinsbrook (not to mention Ambriel, Roebuck

The beauty of a serious Burgundy

It was the English summer at its most perverse. We were drinking Pimm’s while hoping against hope for better news from Old Trafford. As the clock ticked and the rain was unrelenting, one of our number emitted a groan which seemed to start from his boot soles. ‘Why can’t there be a bit of global

Admit it, English wine isn’t worth it

Sales of English wine are booming, soaring by nearly 70 per cent over the least two years, at least according to the industry body. There are now shelves devoted to English wine in just about every large supermarket.   I even tried a red wine by a local producer, who had better remain nameless. It tasted

Olivia Potts

French tomato tart: a simple celebration of summer

Last year, we grew tomatoes for the first time. And we did so with our characteristic enthusiasm, lack of knowledge and ignoring of instructions. So inside our raised bed we planted out radishes and beetroot, chard and kale, tenderstem broccoli and Brussels sprouts – and one very busy row of tomatoes. We didn’t let this

Hold the haggis: the changing face of Scottish food

Ask someone south of the border for their thoughts on Scottish cuisine and they’ll inevitably offer up thoughts of two Gaelic gastronomic inventions: haggis and deep-fried Mars bars.  Despite the wealth of produce available – and exported – from the country, Scottish fare has struggled to shake its tartan-clad clichés Despite the wealth of produce available

Olivia Potts

With Jimi Famurewa

36 min listen

Jimi Famurewa is a British-Nigerian journalist, writer, broadcaster and food critic. In 2020 Jimi became chief restaurant critic for the Evening Standard and he has also won the restaurant writing awards at both the Fortnum and Mason and Guild of Food Writers awards. On the podcast they discuss Jimi’s new book Settlers: Journeys Through the Food, Faith and

How chefs cut costs in the kitchen

My grandmother, and many like her, kept an account book for household spending. This was not the product of an overbearing marriage or mistrust on anyone’s behalf – it was simply how things were done at a time when habits had been formed during rationing after the second world war, and banking was manual and

Olivia Potts

If the choux fits: the secrets of perfect profiteroles

Choux pastry can inspire fear in even the most confident of cooks. There’s a good reason for it: it’s difficult to give a very precise recipe for choux pastry, as the amount of egg needed to create the correct texture depends on the flour you’ve used, how long the choux has rested, and how fast

The rise of the open-fire restaurant

Burn the formal white tablecloths and fling open the kitchen doors. The latest craze in restaurant culture is open-fire cooking – where chefs sweat it out over roaring flames in full view of their customers. And the simple, raw nature of this method of food preparation seems to have set diners’ imaginations alight.  ‘Cooking outside

Where to drink Tuscany’s finest summer tipples

Some subjects invite an eternal recurrence. One such is Tuscany. The other day, I wrote about that glorious region: its mastery of la dolce vita, its almost effortless command of civilisation. Indeed, Tuscan civilisation is a tautology. Since then, I have paid a brief visit. There was only one shadow. How can one find the

The insidious creep of plastic glasses

It was the afternoon of the first day of the second Ashes test at Lord’s. In the brief lull between overs, the camera panned, as it often does, to a recognisable face in the crowd: Jacob Rees-Mogg. The traditionalist Tory presented exactly as you’d expect: Savile Row suit, tie and cufflinks. But there was one

The best alternatives to Diet Coke

British media wouldn’t be British media without endless stories of possible health risks in food and drink. The news cycle turns and we land on whether butter is good or bad, or whether having a glass of red wine in the evening is toxic or therapeutic. Another long-running, oft-studied and frequently-discussed topic of debate is

My culinary journeys: restaurants worth travelling for

Whenever it is suggested travelling south or north of the Thames to visit an ‘amazing’ restaurant I usually start conjuring up excuses. Across London seems a journey too far for food – but going across an ocean for it can be worthwhile. In NYC last year, I found myself with an evening off and, staying

Olivia Potts

How to make proper vanilla ice cream

I could map out my life geographically and temporally in scoops of ice cream. From the oyster delights handed over in tracing-paper napkins from Minchella’s hatch in South Shields on the beachfront, to the little silver coupe bowls of ice cream we ordered every night on family holiday in France (always the same, one ball

Tanya Gold

A taste of 1997: Pizza Express reviewed

As the government withers this column falls to ennui and visits Pizza Express. As David Cameron, who left the world stage humming, said of Tony Blair: ‘He was the future once.’ So was David Cameron, and so was Pizza Express: I bet they meet often. It was founded in 1965 by Peter Boizot, who shipped

Where to find the best Michelin-starred meals on a budget

Even Michelin-starred chefs, it seems, aren’t immune from the cost-of-living crisis. In a bid to make fine dining more affordable, Jason Atherton has cut prices across the board at Pollen Street Social, his flagship Mayfair restaurant (the three-course set lunch now costs £49.50 – down from £75 – and wines start from £7.50 a glass).

Olivia Potts

With Amy Newsome

38 min listen

Amy Newsome is a Kew-trained horticulturalist, beekeeper and author of the new book Honey: Recipe’s from a beekeepers kitchen.  On the podcast, she tells Lara and Liv how beekeeping saved her mental health, why you should always keep at least four types of honey in your pantry and details her desert island meal. 

When is a martini not a martini?

Considering its status as the canon’s most iconic cocktail, it’s remarkable that the martini doesn’t have a single agreed upon recipe. Like many great drinks it comes with more of a template than exact specifications, which basically dares us to riff on the formula. Historically, this has meant altering the garnish – swapping the olive