Archive | November, 2011

Attacking Fine Dining

30 Nov

Something of a quiet revolution is occurring in food-obsessed Sydney.  The fact it’s seen as stuffy compared to the ‘always social’ Melbourne has irked a new generation of young chefs – who are flicking the finger and fighting back.

TOYS (The Taste of Young Sydney-  is a new gastro movement founded by Kiwi chef Morgan McGlone – a self-professed ‘immigrant of intent’ – who has captured the eyes, ears and palettes of local fooderati.  The collective hosts alternative dining events, serving up the likes of macaroon desserts served in dog trays and liquid petits in skincare bottles.  The plat de resistance in their inaugural event was fried chicken with sweetcorn custard, foie gras and watermelon, blooded with beetroot and strawberry in homage to the life and murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Taste of Young Sydney (

From the culture created by Jamie Oliver (does he  really need to go around Britain again?) and the reality chef genre something cooler and harder was certain to rise to the surface.  Media coverage of TOYS is more suggestive of hip-hop album covers than ‘the chef in the kitchen’  – these guys are tattooed, studded and brimming with some serious attitude. 

A aggressive affront to the Old Guard and their tired view of ‘fine dining’, TOYS’  inspiration comes instead from neighbouring Asian cultures, ‘old man cuisine’ and contemporary fast food. The experience of eating in the real world is their material, rather than the world behind the cloistered walls of 4 star restaurants.  Founder Morgan asks, “Who can be bothered with fine dining, really, food is for enjoying.”

And the word is catching on – Morgan is off to launch the Collective’s ideas in Manhattan, and the ‘small plates’ makeover of London’s Soho suggests that ‘cooking without rules’ is taking flight.

University Chic

23 Nov

With rising university fees in the headlines, a plethora of brands seem to be using overtly scholarly imagery.  The icons of public school and elite university education are everywhere.

Canterbury Shop (

Jack Wills  ( pull no punches with their ‘University Outfitters’ claim and sponsorship of the Varsity Polo match, but other brands are playing the same card game. Images of rowing oars, college scarves, blazers and cricket whites abound. Even Kiwi brand, Canterbury (, is using an image of the Rugby School rule book on its website and a Cambridge college crest as shop décor. Hackett ( have gone so far as to launch a range of clothing branded ‘St Edmund Hall,’ after the college of Oxford.

Hackett's St Edmund Hall (







Does this give us an indication of what kind of education experience students  are now expecting? Are the days of living off baked beans and slobbing in an old jumper long gone? University appears to have become aspirational and even stylish. Perhaps, with fees of £9000 a year, young people are now demanding the fully-fledged Brideshead  experience. And if you were paying that much wouldn’t you be expecting the ‘real thing’ too?

Here Come the Books

17 Nov

Over 2010 we became used to images of women, striding sassily down the road in shrill packs of four. The high street version of Sex and the City was used by everyone from Boots (‘Here come the girls)’ to M&S (Twiggy and Friends) and beyond.

But recently we’ve noticed a new aesthetic. Brand after brand seems to be using images of libraries and books in their marketing to women. Radley, Clarks, Gap, Cath Kidston and White Stuff, to name a handful, have featured women browsing shelves or relaxing next to dusty piles of books, with even the bags and shoes actually being advertised resting on heavy tomes. Are books the new fashion accessory?

Radley Advert (

Cath Kidston (

What does this say about how brands are talking to women? Are they out to flatter women’s intelligence as well as looks, showing respect for discerning consumers rather than patronising ‘the girls’? Perhaps with more graduates than ever, and women being found to read more avidly than men, many women are more likely to feel connected to a brand that shows intellectual, bookish females. We think the gigging shopaholic girl has had her day.

Event Cinema

9 Nov

There was once a simpler time, when watching the latest blockbuster with a hotdog and bucket of popcorn was all we thought to wish for. But now it seems that merely viewing a film is barely worth going out for –  instead, cinema needs to be a fully immersive, unique and bizarre cultural occasion.

It is possible now to watch a film in a silent crowd with headphones on (, in the fresh air on a high rise rooftop (, in a narrow boat on the Thames (, projected onto a stack of discarded fridges  (, or even powered by your own pedal-work (

Films on Fridges (

But whatever happened to simply enjoying a film, not the surroundings? Does something always have to be happening off screen as well as on nowadays? Continue reading

The Pressure of Craft

3 Nov

The V&A exhibition, ‘Power of Making,’ launched in September. As a joint venture with the Crafts Council, it presents an eclectic selection of crafted objects, ranging from a life-size crocheted bear to a ceramic eye patch, a fine metal flute to dry stone walling. It describes itself as a “cabinet of curiosities,” showing works by both amateurs and leading makers from around the world.

V&A Power of Making (

Craft seems to be everywhere, from kitchen table Etsy sellers to the plethora of classes and clubs to attend. They even have a social twist – the Make Lounge ( hosts hen nights, and Drink, Shop, Do ( runs a bar and gallery alongside classes. There is even a website dedicated to celebrating DIY, handmade weddings (
Continue reading