Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 19, 2014

Recently Published: The Guardian, Tastes of home in Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth is something I’ve been reading for quite a few years. With the move to Australia it’s been a link back to the UK and great food and drink writing. So, I was pretty chuffed to write about my tastes of home as I was headed back to the UK. There’s no better place to think and write than hotels, departure lounges and planes, To be honest (and slightly vain) I’m chuffed that it seemed to strike a chord with those in the same position. I’ve not yet read all the 1000+ comments but what I get from the ones that I have is the fact that the tastes that we crave are simple, homely and linked to memory, which is where I was coming from. You can read it here.


February 15, 2014

Recently Published: The Guardian, Perth Cheap Eats

The Guardian’s travel pages are some of the highest read of any travel website, anywhere. So this kinda adds some pressure when putting forth a 10 best list. Inevitably when you make a list of places to eat there’s going to be plenty that get missed out. Add in the criteria of budget and there’s added complication and objection. So as a precaution I left Australia on the day that the Perth list was published. Just in case the angry mob came banging at the door, demanding to know why I omitted the Red Teapot. Anyway here it is.

February 15, 2014


In the last of the four Perth films made with Tourism WA and Taste Master, Rich Keam, we go from beachside breakfast to the ‘burbs to a decadent Chateaubriand lunch in the city. Whitney Ng is Rich’s expert guide and proponent of #yolkporn. She does an excellent job and you must check out Dine Whit Me to get more of Whitney’s take on all things food. This series has been an eye opener. I already knew that Perth folk loved their city but it’s taken me by surprise that pretty much all feedback has been positive. The snide and the snark has been nowhere to be seen. A welcome and all to rare occurance online.

February 2, 2014


Ok folks, turn away now if you’re irritated by trumpet blowing, gloating and oh how great is this type posts… in equal measures this may be it. To the rest of you, check this out it’s great. I’ve written here qute a bit about the journey I’ve taken over the past 4 or 5 years. I started writing as a way to flex my brain in more than corporate thoughts. It worked, as all these years later I’m writing for a living and beyond that working with great people to produce things like the Perth series I’ve been posting over the last week or so. This one you may have guessed is quite close to my heart… it’s about BEER!

Hope it made you thirsty, or craving a trip to W.A. If it did and you love craft beer, do me a favour and share this one… you know it makes sense.

January 31, 2014


When I first came to Perth, about 4 years ago, there was a feeling that a shift was underway in the city. Not just in eating and drinking, but across the arts and the mindset of the people. I’d hear comparison to other cities; a sign of a wannabee if ever there was one. I’d also hear plenty of trash being talked about a place that I fell in love with. It’s always the way that you can knock your own city, but woe betide an outsider who tries. Fast forward to 2014 and Perth is a different place in my mind. I’m now a resident, passionate about telling those who’ll listen about this sparky city sat alone on the side of a huge continent. The mindset is different. I don’t hear the comparisons as much anymore. i still hear bitching (sometimes from myself) but that too has subsided. Perth isn’t the wannabee. It’s arrived; recognised by the likes of the New York Times as a must see destination. Carving it’s own place without comparison, there’s things afoot.

So, I feel privileged to be part of a team that is bringing positive stories about Perth to the fore. I posted #RottnestLobster the other week. Now I’m posting #EatPerth, produced by Offshoot Creative for Tourism WA, it features Rich Keam, a winner of Best Jobs in the World and our very own Taste Master WA.

Rich’s guide is Laura Moseley. It’s difficult to describe Laura, but lets’s just say she’s an elegant, effortless, eating machine. I’m sure she’ll hate that description and I’m also sure it doesn’t quite explain the dynamo quality she posseses. Anyhow, that’s enough gushing… enjoy a view of Perth and see you soon for a Danny Zuccho.

January 18, 2014


The week before Christmas, while most were panic buying those last presents, getting sloshed at the works do and generally winding down, I was having an altogether different experience. We’ve been making some short food films with Rich Keam, who as part of Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs in the World, won the prize position as Taste Master WA. He’s been eating and drinking his way around Western Australia, for nearly 6 months now. If he wasn’t a fellow Englishman, sporter of a Beard and jolly good chap I could take a dislike to him purely on the grounds of envy. But luckily we (Offshoot Creative) were along for part of the ride. In the first of four Rich heads to Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth. Guided by Kiren Mainwaring, one of W.A’s top chefs  they’re on a mission to catch, cook and eat what the locals call Crayfish (AKA Western Rock Lobster). Enjoy!

You can catch up with Rich’s adventure at his blog. On Twitter @richkeam or Instagram @tastemaster_wa

December 31, 2013

Ending on a High: Gin & It, 6 ‘O Clock Swill

As befits the time of year, or rather the end of it, I’m thinking about what has passed. Not to bore with a list of my highs and lows, I’m simply posting my writing high. This piece appeared in Gin & It, the short lived sister publication to Fire & Knives. Both sadly folded this year, but seeing this piece in wonderfully bound print was my high.

I visit my fair share of galleries but often feel a fraud. My mind wanders into places where perhaps it shouldn’t be if I were truly appreciating the art. Transfixed by a single colour or an image in the periphery, I soak up the small details. It’s rare that I can say that I fully understand the abstract as I’m more about the literal. An exhibition ends with my loitering by the gift shop, my wife emerging 10 or 20 minutes later.

A discussion on what we’ve seen follows and then I invariably say, ‘Fancy a quick drink?’ That was London. Standing in The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne I’m repeating the routine, moving from painting to painting, lingering at each long enough not to not betray myself as a complete philistine. Until I reach The Bar.

Not an actual bar, mind, but John Brack’s painting, described as ‘stepping away from the gum tree idyll to an urban, postwar view of Australian life’. Painted in 1954, it’s a depiction of what became known as the Six O’Clock Swill. Across New Zealand and many Australian states, public bars in taverns and hotels would be forced to close at 6pm. The temperance movement had campaigned hard from the late 19th century against the demon drink and took further hold during the first world war when it was widely thought that home-front temperance (albeit not complete) was another step closer to victory.

Brack nods towards Manet’s A Bar at the Folie-Bergère but the grey, sallow- faced drinkers and ageing barmaid staring out from The Bar tell me it’s far from Montmartre. The men are oblivious as they smoke and drink; she, by contrast almost Technicolor in her mustard blouse, grips the bar, a thin sliver of a smile on her lips and darkly ringed eyes that tell their own story. It’s gritty and austere but doesn’t tell the full story of the Six O’Clock Swill.

It’s a familiar scene throughout British pubs to see a last-orders rush. You slake a pint to get in another, or simply line up your next with your unfinished, to beat the bell and the landlord’s call. One more drink before closing time and then the wobble home. The Swill was so much more. Men hurriedly clocked off work and headed for hotel bars where they’d dive into a destructive race to inebriation. It was a culture of hard drinking, and the environments were modified accordingly. Where bars
 were once
 divided into 
rooms they
now became
open and
Every inch 
of standing 
room used,
 furniture was
 stripped out,
 walls knocked 
through and what remained were tiled for the proceeding Seven O’Clock Sluice.

Up to ten bar staff would sate the punters’ thirst as the clamour grew, filling glasses with spigot guns on hoses. Rapid and dextrous service was essential, and technique was honed both sides of the bar to ensure that drinking was maximised in the allotted time. Men would line up their drinks five at a time to be inhaled before closing, placing them between their feet for safe keeping – a crowd of men protecting their amber nectar like male penguins guarding their eggs. They’d become adept at fending off jostles and wayward feet as spillage could mean joining the bidding at the bar once more. The apparent compromise of the Six O’ Clock Swill, far from promoting a degree of temperance, supporting family stability, and getting men home to their wives (women, with the exception of barmaids, all but absent from pubs), instead fuelled a culture of

speed drinking that bound the working man’s ability to drink to the hands of the clock. Either that, or togooutofthe law and turn to ‘sly grog’ – bootleg liquor or alcohol sold without licence. A correlation between the this culture and incidences of domestic violence has been made many times: it’s not to say that these would not have happened without the Swill, but it’s fair to say that it was a source of misery for many families. Those teetotal campaigners became known as ‘wowsers’, an expression of a deep-rooted contempt held by drinkers for individuals who felt it their duty to inflict their own morality on the public.

With a thawing of post war austerity, and factors such as the new wave of European immigration, the Swill started to fade as State bodies reformed licensing laws and allowed bars to stay open late into the evening. New Zealand and South Australia were the last to fall, hanging on until 1967. The public bar became more than just a beer trough; it was now a place that husbands would gladly take their wives.

Almost 50 years on and the Swill is a memory only for some, but the wagging finger of the wowser (as opposed to a sensible dialogue) is still alive and well. It’s a Friday night and as I ascend the escalators at Sydney’s King Cross station, a billboard with bold, oversized letters spell out

‘BINGE DRINKING. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF?’ The message is plastered from the concourse to the street. An exuberant teen well into her binge yells her response: ‘Getting f***** up.’ It seems the hangover of the Swill is still pounding in our heads. If (the now late) Brack were to re-imagine The Bar and our drinking habits today I wonder whether the cue taken would be from Hogarth not Manet and with a nod towards Gin Lane.




November 22, 2013

Fire & Knives / Gin & It: Raising a glass

There’s much been written and spoken about the future of publishing, the march of digital platforms and how print can survive. We think of the monolithic print empires in the discussion and not the smaller publications. Yesterday, an email dropped into my inbox from the Editor of Gin & It, Kate Hawkings with an attached press release from Tim Hayward, Editor of Fire & Knives and founder of both publications. From it, I was sad to hear of the demise of Fire & Knives and Gin & It.

The email outlined the vision of what they’d started, how far it had come, the great work put in by a passionate team of collaboraters and the ultimate realities of this kind of enterprise. I say enterprise. It wasn’t necessarily a commercial venture, with the aim initially to cover costs. What Tim descibes as - a brave experiment in uniting writers and readers at a chaotic time in publishing.

For those who haven’t had the chance to hold these publications in your hands, I say seek them out. For a lover of paper publishing, everything feels just right. The paper stock and weight, the illustrations and absence of advertising. Picking up a copy, you treat it with reverance. Like a favourite book; taking care not to crack the spine or mark it with greasy fingers. And this is before even getting to the content. This was the food and drink writing that many crave to read – and to write.

Fire & Knives ran for fourteen quarterly editions, with its younger sibling just two boozy editions, of which I featured in the second and sadly last. It’s no secret that you wrote for free. I’ve been advised many times by writers that this is something they will not consider. That they should be paid for everything they do and if you think otherwise, you’re a schmuck. If everyone took this view, publications like Fire & Knives would never have got off the ground. For me personally, seeing my piece on the Six O Clock Swill in Gin & It was a defining moment. It was a validation that I can do this. Further commissions came from that piece. Paid commissions and a piece in future editions of Fire & Knives and Gin & it. They won’t be seen in print, but it again gave me that boost that everyone needs who spends their days in front of a backlit screen. In Tim’s words – we were pioneers in what has turned out to be a fertile and growing corner of the publishing world. We’ve championed great work and seen many of our writers go on to more mainstream acclaim. I can’t claim great acclaim, but I’m glad to have been inspired and been a very small part of something that will be remembered. This isn’t an obituary, maybe more a written wake… If that’s the case, I’m raising a glass of something appropriate and wondering whether there’s an afterlife.

November 16, 2013

Eat. Drink. Blog 2013: Fear, food and thought

I’ve always had a fear of public speaking. Faced with an audience or a boardroom full of people. The staring, scribbling, yawning and muttering of an assembled group causes my heart rate to peak, my palms to dampen and my brain to think strange paranoid thoughts. So imagine being at a bloggers conference. The audience with iPhones grafted to their hands and last on the bill before the promise of free booze and food… this is my version of terror.

On Saturday last week I took to the stage at Eat. Drink. Blog in Perth. Speaking on a panel about my experiences, how I’ve ditched the corporate job and transitioned into freelance life. While they say there’s safety in numbers and that a panel discussion gives you some back up this isn’t always the case. When your fellow panel members are  Emma Galloway and Adam Roberts it kind of ups the pressure. Emma, is the writer of My Darling Lemon Thyme,  a staple of my blog reads. A trained chef, her knowledge and passion comes through in everything she does. With a book on the way next year, it’s sure to be a must have. Adam, it’s fair to say is part of the blogging elite. From starting Amateur Gourmet back in 2004 he’s gone on to book deals, the Food Network and more. He attributes part of his success to Janet Jackson’s nipple (yes you read that right), but really it’s down to his appetite to live a good food life, even if he just wants a tuna sandwich. And then there’s me. I’m not being all British and self deprecating but I got that moment of thinking, am I the weak link in this programme of speakers? The other sessions were a veritable who’s who of top-notch blogging. I rarely blog these days and feel a little unconnected from it. I’ve got over that feeling of insecurity. I didn’t have them rolling in the aisles, wiping tears away or whooping Oprah style, but I did get some great feedback and no one booed (a result!). It made me realise that we start out blogging. Some continue, some don’t, some move into other areas and interests. It’s a start so many things and shouldn’t be dismissed or simply boiled down to pageviews.

What it has really done is reinforced a few thoughts that have been with me for a while now. The whole blogger, journalist, Urbanspooner debate is useless. Not from the point of view that they all sit in a hierarchy and can be taken with a degree of seriousness as to where they sit. For me there is no hierarchy of position or platform. My hierarchy is one of quality and relevance. Bloggers on balance are as relevant as food journalists. The quality bloggers I read, write with an agenda based on opinion and not commercial pressure. Many are as or more passionate than a paid journo. I’ve met my share of food obsessed journos, but I think it takes a certain passion to get up at 5am and write a post before heading off to a full-time job. As for the ongoing debate about the reviews on Urbanspoon, Yelp et al, I think it’s becoming less and less compelling for restaurants to complain. Yes, it can be a business that grinds the soul and the ill thought out rant of a disgruntled customer can be sharper than any cut, but never have restaurants been able to gather so much information on what customers like and don’t.  It’s a valuable commodity that should be used. As with any platform where content is user-generated you chose whether to be swayed by comments. There are Elite Yelpers for example, whose verdict I’d take over many professionals. So for me, as with food, it comes down to the quality, authenticity and provenance of the writing and opinion. I weigh them all, no matter who you are and where you proffer your opinion.

September 25, 2013

Recently Published: Box Magazine, Calorie Sacrifice

The new issue of Box has two pieces I wrote for them. One about eco-superyachts and the other on the 5:2 diet. I’m no oligarch, my sailing experience extends to smaller craft, half a crew qualification and the odd row boat. I do however know a bit more about the 5:2. I make the point in the article that diets have never really been my bag. I was for a time, shall we say, a little bigger than I am now – pushing 17 (and a bit) stone – before I quite literally got off my arse and did something about it. Back in London this involved swimming at the Lido, well into October, a couple of years in a row. Those early morning icy plunges became my morning wake up call. I continue to look for things that can make the difference and the 5:2 is one of those.


It’s not easy, as at times you really want that baked treat someone has brought to the office. And it’s worth saying that I work with some exceedingly good bakers… damn them. Somedays you fall off the wagon and the fast is postponed but usually you get through and interestingly food becomes more of a treat. Never being hungry and having food in abundance, I think dulls the senses somewhat. Going without, albeit for a very short period, sharpens the anticipation and the taste buds. You savour longer. It’s more of an event, you become inventive with the ingredients, to make your 600 calories not seem inadequate. I’m going to put a few of the meals on the blog. Don’t worry, beer and all that other stuff will still feature, it’s just that I’ve had surprising feedback on those wanting to know more and this is as good a place as any.


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