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Etiquette: a very British art

This week saw a new documentary about life at Tatler magazine – one of the most striking things we learnt watching it is that all staff at the title are given a copy of Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette when they start.

Which got me thinking about manners in the modern age…

In a digital age, you might be forgiven for thinking that etiquette is dead. Certainly not, says Tatler magazine – the focus of a new TV documentary, Posh People, which follows the outrageous exploits of the upper class – where all new recruits are given a copy of the Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette.

In the first episode we learnt, from Tatler newbie Matthew Bell, that the best way to eat a pear is with a spoon; how to navigate the social minefield of public kissing, aka the new handshake (FYI – very slight contact is best, with no sound effects or salvia needed); and editor Kate Reardon’s personal favourite Debrett’s rule: a gentleman is never rude unintentionally.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” said Bell, “but I’m thrilled to be working somewhere that expects this of their staff,” he said, referring to the weighty tome on politeness and appropriate behaviour in social life.

“Although some of the information might be a bit arcane, mostly the Debrett’s Guide is just basic good manners – don’t be late, always say thank you, always be respectful of other people and the effort they have gone to, to entertain you,” explains Tatler’s Deputy Editor Gavanndra Hodge.

“Being polite, saying thank you, listening when someone else talks are especially important in a digital age, we are doing things at such speed, and the computer interface makes it really easy to forget there are real people on the other side of it, so an important rule is never say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.”

Indeed modern technology is one of the biggest challenges to etiquette. In an infamous case last year, one cashier at Sainsbury’s politely refused to serve 26-year-old Jo Clarke from Crayford until she finished her mobile phone conversation. While Sainsbury’s apologised to the rude customer and admonished the staff member for poor customer service, they were later left embarrassed by the backlash from the public at the absurdity of condoning such shockingly bad manners. Public sympathy lay with the cashier, not the customer.

Social media brings with it an array of dilemnas: is it okay to ask for selfies? If having your mobile phone on the dinner table is rude, how do you instagram everything you eat without looking impolite?

In a case of thoroughly modern manners Nigella Lawson tweeted her apologies last month for NOT posting photos of everything that she ate at a restaurant – ten years ago polite society wouldn’t dream of photographing their food, let alone using their phone to tweet about it. Now, it is the new normal. In fact, it is so expected that we feel compelled to apologise if we don’t do it.

As for selfies, while I still cringe with embarrassment about the thought if asking for one, spare a thought for today’s celebrity who are so narcissistic that it would, in fact, be rude not to ask for a snap. So much so that Russell Brand practically forced one journalist, Lucy Kellaway from the FT, who was interviewing him into having a selfie taken with him (she didn’t even ask for one).

Over at Tatler, other new social scenarios to be deciphered include internet dating and modern romance – “we have declared that this is now okay,” Hodge informs me, “but if you’re thinking of having a threesome at a country house weekend it is very bad manners not to invite the host to join in.”

And as for instagram, smug posts are the height of rudeness. “We did pronounce that you shouldn’t post pictures of a green juice or shots of you and your pals on your private jet,” says Hodge. Well, yes, how vulgar?

So if you ever find yourself drinking a kale and celery smoothie on your private jet, think twice before you reach for your phone.

 

This feature appeared in Metro on 27 November – to see the newspaper article visit http://e-edition.metro.co.uk/2014/11/27/

 

 

 

Woody open studios

I’m  a huge fan of artist Zara Wood, aka Woody, and follow her to art and craft fairs all over the place (one of her little Pirates prints hangs in my daughter’s bedroom).

So the prospect of a pop-up shop in her Brighton Studio is too good to miss, and a brilliant Christmas present pit-stop, too.

I love the naive, almost-Victorian style characters that she creates – the Little Treasures collection of miniature works of art housed inside vintage jewellery has been top of my Christmas wish-list for about the last five years!

The workshop is open for the next three weekends (28-29 Nov, 6-7 Dec, 13-14 Dec) as part of the Brighton Christmas Art Trail, when artists open their homes and studios to the public.

www.zarawood.com

www.openhouseart.co.uk

Last days of Pisco

This feature appeared in Metro on 25 November…

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 15.15.53

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 15.16.36

 

Forget the Negroni, ditch the Aperol Spritz – the new drink du jour is the Pisco Sour. Velvet-y smooth, complex and bursting with citrus-y flavours, this grape brandy from Peru is taking the bar scene by storm since Martin Morales opened the UK’s first Pisco bar two years ago. “When we opened in 2012 we were the first Pisco bar in Europe and we only sell pisco – no gin, vodka or rum. Back then only 500 bottles of pisco were sold through restaurants and bars in the UK each year. Now, in 2014. it is 40,000,” says Morales.

Everyone from Kate Moss to Mario Testino has been spotted there sipping the new tequila, and with the growing trend for Peruvian food it was only a matter of time before Pisco began popping up at all the hippest parties.

“Pisco is the perfect drink because it has the soul of cognac, is as versatile as vodka, has the complexity of gin, the smoothness of tequila and as much history as whisky,” says Peruvian Pisco connoisseur José Francisco-Modonese, who is about to open London’s first private members’ Pisco bar, with a menu of rare Piscos and a Bolivian DJ spinning South American tracks till the sun comes up.

The trend is not just reserved to fashionable bars and clubs either. “The rise of the Pisco Sour has helped to drive sales of Pisco,” explains Guy Topping of drinks retailer Amathus. “The diversity of the fantastic grape spirit means that Pisco will be huge in 2015 – we now sell more Pisco than Cognac.”

So if you want to be in with the “it crowd” this party season, order a Pisco Sour.

Martin Morales of Ceviche and Andina, who opened the first Pisco Bar in Europe in 2012
Martin Morales of Ceviche and Andina, who opened the first Pisco Bar in Europe in 2012

Pachamama

This bijou 16-seat cocktail bar has only been open for a few weeks but already it’s making a big noise on the scene, combining Peruvian classics with British ingredients. With the feel of an eccentric, faded colonial home, you can expect home-infused Piscos with seasonal berries, herbs and fruits – try the Mama’s Pisco, a blend of Pisco, fresh raspberry, mint, orange juice, or the Piñamama, a pineapple-infused Pisco with Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters, orange curaçao, maraschino cherry.

www.pachamamalondon.com

Pisco infusions line the bar at Andina
Pisco infusions line the bar at Andina

Andina

Peruvian Martin Morales was inspired by his native Andean cuisine to open London’s first Pisco bar in 2012, and he hasn’t looked back. His second super-hip eatery and basement bar, has jar upon jar of different Pisco infusions, including elderberry, cat’s claw, pineapple, chilli, and even cep mushroom. The Amantani – vanilla-infused Pisco, gin, goji berry and passion fruit juice – packs a superfood punch, and the Pisco moonshine four-shot special, four sipping shots of strawberry, plum, pineapple and blueberry Pisco, is a great way to test out the varieties.

The free Pisco Sour masterclass with bar manager Miguel Arbe on the first Wednesday of every month at 6pm, is a must!

www.andinalondon.com

 

A pisco sour from Andina
A pisco sour from Andina

Bodega

With a bright, favela-chic interior, this Birmingham restaurant and bar has a South American flavour that runs to the killer cocktail list, which has eight different Pisco-tails. The Pepino – fresh cucumber, Pisco, pear syrup, elderflower and lime – is cool and refreshing.
www.bodegabirmingham.co.uk

pisco embassy jars

Pisco Embassy

London’s first late-night members-only Pisco bar will open from midnight till 5am every weekend and centres around a 12-strong cocktail menu of beautifully-prepared classic and rare Piscos, bespoke cocktails and home-made infusions such as physalis, kafir leaves, orange and citron, created by head bartender, Lima-born José Francisco-Modonese. He visits Peru during the Pisco harvesting and distilling months each year, touring the vineyards, bodegas and specialised Pisco bars to find inspiration and exchange new ideas and concepts to bring back to London.

www.piscoembassy.london

A PIscoffee cocktail from Pisco Embassy
A PIscoffee cocktail from Pisco Embassy

Pisco Bar at LIMA Floral

This stylish new basement bar, that fits 30 people, offers an array of Peruvian-inspired cocktails including LIMA’s signature Pisco Sour made with Pisco, lime, sugar, egg white and Angostura bitter. You can also customise your Pisco Sour with a range of home-infused flavoured Piscos including rocoto pepper, huacatay herb (an Andean mint), orange and lemon peels, and rasisin and cinnamon. Or go upscale with an El Senor de Sipan – Prosecco, apple juice, raspberry syrup, Pisco, Campari and Pisco foam.

www.limafloral.com

The Pisco bar at Lima Floral
The Pisco bar at Lima Floral

 

Above Audio

Brighton’s buzziest cocktail bar makes drinking a serious business, with a classy drinks list that’s as long as your arm. Their Pisco Sour combines the spirit with a simple base of sugar, lemon juice, bitters and orange zest, for a classic, grown-up take on the trend.

www.audiobrighton.com

Lima pisco sour

Senor Ceviche

London’s hottest pop-up ceviche bar, which puts all its energy into serving the best ceviche and Pisco, and nothing else, has finally found a permanent home in Soho this month (and they’ve even broadened their menu a little). Owner Harry Edmeades went out to Pisco to source their house drink direct from the vineyard, and eight of the bar’s ten cocktails are Pisco-based. The freshly shaken Pisco Sour is still the signature drink.

www.senor-ceviche.com

senor ceviche 1

Black Dog Ballroom

Manchester’s New York-style speakeasy cocktail bar is championing the return of the Pisco Sour, which it describes as “one of the greatest drinks of all time, sadly lost to many of our generation.” The Little Bird is a tall cocktail of Pisco ABA, maraschino cherry liqueur, citrus, and ting (a fizzy Jamaican grapefruit juice), topped off with crème de mure.

www.blackdogballroom.co.uk

Pisco Infusion (3)

Pisco Bar at Coya

Head barman Jun Narita has been mixing seasonally changing PIsco cocktails as well as home infusions since this Peruvian bar and restaurant opened two years ago. Try the latest Blackberry Pisco Sour or sign up for one of the Pisco masterclasses and learn to mix your own at home.

www.coyarestaurant.com

 

Las Iguanas

With three outposts in Bristol, and others around the country, this bright and breezy South American chain serves up a mean Pisco Sour using Pisco, triple sec and lemon juice, with egg white and bitters.

www.iguanas.co.uk

 

To see the original feature in Metro, visit e-edition.metro.co.uk/home.html 

Hello…

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Thanks for stopping by – this is my hub for all things British, beautifully designed and generally great!

I wanted a place where I could bring together interiors and design, great gardens and homes, fabulous food and restaurants, hidden-gem hotels and wild weekends, and simply gorgeous fashion and beauty finds…

My work as a features journalist means I am always on the look-out for the latest trends and stories. Over the years I’ve been a travel editor, a beauty editor and a style editor, launched arts and culture magazines, edited property and interiors titles, and written about some of the most exciting new restaurants and chefs.

Here I write about this seemingly eclectic collection of ideas, all sewn together with one thread – made in Britain, designed in Britain, or something that is happening right here in the UK.

If you want to find out about my travels and adventures further afield, I am also starting a family travel blog, with a luxury twist, called Escapade.