Uncover a city through the eyes of its creative movers and shakers, courtesy of people who live and breathe their passions. Amelia Walker meets SideStory
SideStory offers a host of immersive experiences. Fashion, literature, art, or cuisine – which is your passion? Foodies, this is one for you.
Here I am on a grey Wednesday in one of the most expensive postcodes in the city, sampling cheese and wine in the small 25-odd-seat deli of La Fromagerie – one of London’s finest cheesemongers. Having just nibbled through four delicate morsels of farmhouse cheeses simply presented on a contemporary charcoal slate, we move on to discussing the crisp glass of wine that they have been paired with. Here at Moxon St in Marylebone sits a fully-fledged French wine list of the most carefully sourced grapes, specifically chosen to complement the tasting menus. I’m recommended a clean, refreshing Chignin La Marechale Chambery, Savoie, which impresses and works well with all four flavours.
I’m surrounded by wonderful chutneys and handmade French tableware, and, in addition to the restaurant, the shop floor showcases a vast array of well sourced produce – think seasonal fruit and vegetables, homemade jams, fresh baked breads, biscuits and cakes, extra virgin olive oils, vinegars and essential dry store ingredients – all with the aim of encouraging visitors to explore, enjoy and be inspired. There’s also a dedicated walk-in cheese room, a maturing cellar and an affineur, who is on hand to help with selections.
Opposite me sits Celia Brooks – a true foodie through and through. Author, TV chef and presenter, as well as SideStory Insider, she is renowned for her cookbooks and knowhow on all things food. Lucky me, I have her to myself for three hours as she takes me on a tour of the neighbourhood, away from the obvious emporiums, introducing me instead to special pockets of the locale. Grilling her on hidden haunts, recipes and new restaurant launches soon follows as we potter between boutique shops and various back streets. It is but a snippet of this marvellous part of London, but the experience opens your eyes to an area that has so much to offer. You’ll gauge a new appreciation of the addresses that make up this postcode.
“I fell into cooking completely by accident and spent a few years cooking as a private chef for film director Stanley Kubrick. He and his wife were really kind to me and let me just play around in the kitchen for a few years. I got to practise on them. I enjoy taking individuals such as yourself and getting to know them a little bit and connecting them with food.”
Throughout the afternoon we visit six different establishments, all of which I have never been to before in spite of regularly frequenting the vicinity. First is Rococo Chocolates to witness the various stages of chocolate making. The Japanese Knife Company and a Swedish food shop follows, and my favourite – Le Vieux Comptoir, a charming wine bar and shop, restaurant, deli and grocery, where everything sourced is from French producers. From the outside it looks like a Georgian merchant’s house but enter and you’ll find it brimming with delights. The seafood comes from the île d’Yeu, their cheese and charcuterie from farms in the French Basque Country, and their spectacular wine menu comes courtesy of the owner, Laurent. He tastes an incredible 10,000 wines a year in order to curate his cellar.
“Food has become such a big deal; it’s a sensory experience. This neighbourhood used to be really run-down. 15 years ago, this wasn’t a destination at all. Now look at it! The definition of quality in food is prominence. These experiences are good, as they encourage people to chase it right back to its origin by talking to people who truly know their products.”
So whether a visitor or a local, London’s eclectic array of photographers, artists, architects, designers, fashion experts and food and drink writers can offer alternative creative and cultural experiences to suit any preference. Spend time with novelist Heidi James and unleash that novel within you, explore the world of 20th-century design with expert Mark Hill, discover London galleries with artist Rosalind Freebon, or join fashion guru Hannah Teare and meet the people who stock the royal wardrobes.
If your company is looking for something different to create relationships with potential clients or enhance existing ones, then a memorable corporate hospitality experience such as these are the way forward.