Articles written on assignment for The Review:
http://www.thereviewmag.co.uk
The Red Rooster, Shoreditch.
The original New York Red Rooster is the legendary soul food hotspot from the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan. Have you ever dreamt of comfort food so delicious that the 44th president himself, Barack Obama, once salivated to a succulent tune of $30,800 for a single seat at a charity fundraiser? Then look no further, your time has come. The second iteration of The Red Rooster has landed with a trendy ‘swoosh’ in East London and it’s finger lickin’ good.
The celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson has injected the ambience of Harlem's African-american heritage directly into the ventricles of Shoreditch. And, importantly, the artistic movements of the United States in the 20th century, a product of The Great Migration and The Harlem Renaissance are thoughtfully considered in the basement settings aesthetic. But not without a great British twist. Above our table, a large photographic print of the ‘Godfather of Ska’ Laurel Aitken at his home in Leicester, taken by British documentary photographer Janette Beckman, sits prominently alongside other pivotal black musicians of the time. The Red Rooster in Shoreditch not only succeeds in diversifying its offering for the British market but also stays true to its Harlem routes.   
It is, however, much more than just a hip chicken joint. It’s an immersive dining experience that combines a slick interior with hearty nosh, quality live entertainment and bucket loads of atmosphere; the sum of which was not overly ostentatious. By all means, go ahead and pickup that mouth-watering thigh with your bare fist whilst the other fondles a Morningside Mimosa; it’s informal, anti fine dining, fine dining at its best. During our Sunday lunchtime reservation, the contagious gospel choir played an energetic set of house music accompanied by a traditional gospel repertoire. The set climaxed with the entire room boogying along with just a few notably awkward dance moves. I recommend making an advance booking to get a good table near the performers. My only gripe here is that it was a tad too short at just half a dozen songs. Encore please.
To understand The Red Rooster, we should first understand Samuelsson; before harlem, the award winning restaurants, the tv-show and Obama. Kassahun Tsegie was born in Ethiopia in 1971 and at just three years old he was adopted by a pair of Swedes who took care of him when he tragically lost his mother to tuberculosis. Marcus went on to graduate from Gothenburg’s Culinary Institute. After this he apprenticed at Aquavit, a Scandinavian restaurant in, you guessed it, Harlem. In ‘The Red Rooster Cookbook’ Samuelsson describes how this fusion of cultures: the spices of Ethiopia; the simplicity of Scandinavia’s traditional dishes and the heart of The South are all present in this latest offering.

“I offer the food I grew up with, big dishes that make you suck your fingers. Good lumpy gravy with odd shaped kroppkaka, swedish potato dumpling. But my food also comes out of church cooking, home cooking, diners and the Southern tradition of meat and three. It’s black culture, but it’s for everyone. It’s the bird and the pig. It’s bourbon”.  
I just recommend you wear clothes with a little give because nothing on the menu screams skinny jeans. We ordered the glorious Bird Royale Feast for two (£44.00) that comprises of belt unbuckling waffles, southern biscuits (that’s dumplings to you and I), mac ‘n’ greens, red cabbage and a dreamy rooster sauce. To top it off, our bird was paraded to our table with an indoor firework protruding from it. It spouted a dramatic flurry of sparks several feet into the air that illuminated many envious faces as it made its way towards us. Once the sparks subdued, the attentive service team whipped it back to the kitchen to be expertly prepared.
As we are about to inhale the beast before us; that is a ginormous, deep-fried bird split into convenient, hand-sized pieces. We glanced at each other with wide gluttonous eyes. Each bite is an explosion of flavour that shattered any pre-existing notions of what I somehow thought I knew about chicken. Yes, it’s always been good but this is something unworldly. Perhaps it was the hangover speaking or the cocktails that were flowing but the light and crispy batter was so sweet with hints of honey, and the chicken so remarkably tender, that we experienced a collective epiphany. My fiancé, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of comfort eating made the unprecedented declaration: is this the best fried-chicken in London? I expect that she might just be right.
The Curtain Hotel and Members Club
45 CURTAIN ROAD, LONDON

From the outset it commands attention, a behemoth of a complex in a street of otherwise uninspiring architecture. Upon entry we are greeted by a sleek industrial aesthetic complete with exposed brickwork, steel girders and large floor to ceiling windows. Think leather upholstery, bare lightbulbs and staff with trousers rolled above their ankles. If we were to then personify The Curtain, it would be Justin the slick newcomer to town. The impeccably dressed entrepreneur at the hotel bar; who donns a pencil moustache and Macbook. Takes elongated sips of Talisker between conference calls to Sydney and Montreal. Perhaps you even know Justin? Perhaps you are a Justin? Either way, this rambunctious membership club in the heart of London’s most creative district will surely woo you into parting with your well earned bangers and mash (that’s cockney rhymin’ slang for cash, governor). But is it worth the £1,000 per annum price tag? I had the gruelling job of investigating the matter.
Hotelier Michael Achenbaum is the mastermind behind Shoreditch's latest membership club. He is, however, no newcomer to the membership game. With $1 billion worth of property under his belt, his impressive portfolio includes the distinctly exclusive Meatpacking District’s Ganseveroot Hotel in New York, where the likes of Rihanna check in on a regular basis. Though the phrase ‘membership club’ may remit antiquated connotations of yesteryear, I found The Curtain to be a breath of fresh air in this respect. I asked Jordan Ayoola, Head of Membership, to tell us about who and why we should consider applying.
“Creativity is at the very heart of what we offer, regardless of what industry you work in, and this is proudly reflected in our incredibly diverse membership base. We are a members club with a strong focus on inclusion and creating a sense of community; a space where innovation, social connections and collaborations thrive. And we do this well. As part of our unique offering, we give our members access to an extensive events programme, from educational talks and wellness-focused events, to parties in our very own nightclub. The Curtain is also one of the few members clubs where guests can enjoy late night live music seven days a week, including secret gigs, DJs and acoustic performances by some of the music industry’s biggest names”  - Jordan Ayoola, Head of Membership,
So it seems you don’t need to be chums with a Kardashian or the CEO of FTSE 100 firm to be admissible. My observation it that it offers patrons the opportunity to be part of a vibrant community of ambitious entrepreneurs, digital nomads and creative types who share the same ethos: a hunger to succeed and to do so tastefully.
A cutting-edge co-work space called The Design Studio accommodates those with a desire to work in architectural splendor. Inside, we are greeted by desk spaces that complement an array of comfortable seating areas, with more power points than a University library. Equally important is the boardroom that provides a space to present and conduct face to face meetings. You may decide to announce that new innovative product from the private, fully serviced screening room with leatherbound sofas and a 2AM license. The options are numerous and the appeal is quite frankly irresistible. The added benefit of being able to order your lunch or barista coffee direct to your desk, armchair or boardroom is of course a necessity that The Curtain has accounted for. How about a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel with gin & tonic infused cucumber, while you continue to deliberate which of the club’s restaurants you will be acquainting yourself with this evening?
The Lido is East London’s favorite pool touting, top floor restaurant with stellar views. First off, I should make you aware that the pool isn’t proportionate enough to start that olympic training regime you announced to everyone at NYE. Whilst this may remain true, you should still pack your Speedos. After battling the crowds at Harrods, retreating back and surrendering to a G&T in this rather exclusive pool, might make it one of London’s best kept secrets. Did I mention that it’s heated? We enjoyed breakfast in The Lido each morning and found the sufficiently varied buffet to include all the regulars. Or, if you fancy something a little more distinct, you could try the green pea pancakes with spinach from the made to order menu. We found the coffee to be spectacular, the buffet to be perfectly adequate and the addition of a heated pool, highly desirable.
When it comes to wetting the palette, the unapologetically audacious Billy’s Bar comes with a letter of recommendation. Combining elements of old and new with unambiguous eloquence, it’s the ultimate space for the well-heeled to mingle, schmooze and kickback in. For a pretty penny vintage bottles of Dom Pérignon are on offer and the cocktail menu is not to be overlooked. Sharp service prevails. Contemporary pieces of art such as an original Banksy hang from the wood paneled walls that propels the space into the 21st century. Another string of The Curtain’s bow is the critically acclaimed soul food hotspot, The Red Rooster. Opened by Obama’s favorite celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson. It’s so good it got its own review in this issue. And, if you’re missing some home comforts, why don’t you waltz on over to The Imperial for what I hear is an unforgettable Sunday roast. One final but unmissable course of action persists, the recently opened The Green Room is a sleek new cocktail bar adjacent to the hotel’s lobby. With street access and a late night license that is open to the public, you can expect things to get wild in the evenings and members to get a considerable discount.  
In addition to the facilities on offer to members, The Curtain includes a five star hotel barraged with sharply decorated suites. Our fourth floor stronghold was enveloped in exposed brickwork with emerald green upholstery, custom made artworks and a street facing floor to ceiling window. One of my favorite features of the room was the spacious bathroom with double vanity. I had no complaints about the walk in shower either which comfortably accommodated two. And, to sweeten the deal, with just one quick touch of the control panel the shower unit transposed into our own private steam room. This well-considered feature left us feeling both rejuvenated and poised for yet another day battling through London’s throngs of tourists. The Curtain accounted for all of our needs with such finesse, you might find yourself asking the same question that we did: is there a valid reason to actually leave?
Eagle Brae, the highlands.

Teetering along the aptly named River Glass, the glen before us exhibits a complex palette of auburn hughes; reflections of the highlands shimmer in the coal coloured waters. Pulling into the scenic grounds of our stay, my partner - who by the way is ever so proudly Scottish; have you ever met a Scot who’s not - spots a magnificent Red Stag standing before us. In a fleeting moment lengthened by the excitement of witnessing one of Scotland’s most iconic mammals: it pauses and turns, fixing its beady black eyes upon us. I can’t help but deliberate if it somehow knew what we had planned for dinner.
I of course know all about the first bronze age cabins and how the Swedes took the idea to North America during the years of colonialism and such, but I needed a refresher so it was time to break out the internet. A log cabin is a simple form of shelter comprised of roughly stacked tree-trunks joined together with interlocking notches. I was intrigued to learn that the cabins at Eagle Brae adhere to the same basic principle. The cabin itself is constructed from Western Red Cedar which originates from British Columbia. The hallmark characteristics of this reddish-brown tree are its girth and natural durability, which led to Native Americans coining it ‘The Tree of Life’.
All the work has been carried out by the master log-smiths at Pioneer Log Homes, who you may recognise from the popular (US) TV show Timber Kings. Quite miraculously, each log is carved, fitted and tagged by hand before being internationally shipped and reassembled on-site. It’s hard to deny that Eagle Brae really does deliver an authentic experience. Strong cabin game Bra.

Nestled on the hill with unhindered views of the glen beneath, each lodge is named in Latin after a bird of prey. We had the pleasure of staying in ‘Butuo’ as I’m sure you know translates to buzzard. At less than an hours drive from Inverness Airport, there is a total of ten cabins to choose from; three of which are brand spanking new for 2019.
It certainly caters to the upmarket eco-trend by boasting impressive credentials like being completely carbon free. As you crank up the underfloor heating, you’ll be relieved to hear it is at no cost to the environment as all the energy is generated on-site by a hydroelectric dam. I recommend taking the half-hour trail to the top to see where your crystal-clear drinking water is coming from and to enjoy the picture-postcard view. Don’t forget snacks for the perfectly placed picnic table half-way up.  
Inside the cabin awaits a handy boot room which is a thoughtful addition to any outdoor retreat. The the open-plan living-kitchen-dining area adjoins the first of two sizeable bedrooms; the same rustic charm continues throughout. Once opened, the westerly facing French doors reveal a secluded decking area, ideal for Al Fresco dining in the warmer months. Given the right conditions you may even be presented with the opportunity to spot the elusive Northern Lights.
I was equally impressive with the interior. It’s like a Scotsman, Canadian and an Indian walked into a distillery and had a long conversation that concluded in Eagle Brae. The bannisters of the staircase are adorned with ornate Himalayan hand-carvings influenced by both Celtic and Indian tradition. This audacious mix of styles is a recurring motif throughout.
A comfortable set of leather sofas surround the log burner forming the crux of the room. We spent our evenings cooking up banquets worthy of Mary Queen of Scots herself; followed up with a dram and board games as we relished in our lodge’s unique ambience.
On the first floor there is a multi-functioning living space comprised of a small office and three charming single beds hollowed out into the log walls. With individual privacy curtains, they should be a great hit with kids and grown-up kids alike. Then there is an additional bedroom with en-suite. The freestanding bath and sizeable walk-in shower are perfect for those pampering sessions after a long day out exploring the countryside. A handy feature after walking so many miles is the ability to book in-house spa, massage and therapeutic treatments. How could you resist Gerard’s Glycolic Acid Facial Peel?
The open-plan kitchen is well equipped with high quality appliances that will impress all but the most experienced chef. There was however one niggling problem - where was the coffee machine? A percolator? Even a lowly cafetiere would have been better than the sachets of gag inducing powder left in the pot. When will hospitality outlets realise that small touches like this go a long way in today’s competitive market.
I absolutely recommend the online concierge service. It gave us both the opportunity to browse and pre-order a wonderful selection of produce from locally sourced game to scrumptious local blends of whisky; all available at the touch of a button. We ordered in succulent cuts of wild red venison to make a stew and washed it down with the complimentary Black Isle ales; completing the quintessential highland experience. Just don’t watch Bambi before unless that’s your jam.
One morning as I sat with a cup of tea looking out over Loch Affric, the serendipitous song of a tiny bird carried my thoughts to a place of contemplation. The vista stretched so far into the distance it fused itself with the morning sky. The appeal of Eagle Brae is not just in the quality of the hospitality but in its proximity to vast quantities of natural splendour. Venture outside and you will be rewarded with a plethora of activities destined to fulfil the needs of even the most adventurous of us; for example you might decide to give dog sledding or deer stalking a go. Once you’ve finished with your day and you’re sat with a cigar on the decking of your Highland lodge, it’s easy to see why some consider Scotland to be the most beautiful country in the world.  



Batty Langley’s
12 Folgate St, Spitalfields, London E1 6BX
For the inquisitive Batty Langley was a prolific Writer, Architect and Landscape Gardener. An eccentric chap who formulated his career during the 1700s, who is perhaps best remembered for his books providing insight on how Georgian’s should decorate their stately homes “in the most Grand Taste’”. He also continued the family tradition of appointing rather absurd names to a few of his fourteen children such as Vitruvius, Archimedes, Hiram and Euclid. Alas, life for Batty didn’t end so well. He went to prison in Newgate for unpaid debts before writing one final bitter memoir titled ‘An Accurate Description of Newgate’ expressing his views on “the Cheapness of Living”.
Upon entry, we are greeted by two large portraits of Mr & Mrs Langley. On the right, our first glimpse of the hotel’s namesake, Batty. To the left his second wife, Catherine. Together the duo dutifully emblazon the foyer like two angels guarding the gates to heaven. Decadent silk sashes drape from windows; oil paintings purposefully hang from walls dressed in Georgian wallpaper; the ceiling secured by large marble column. With lashings of flamboyance, it somehow avoids being overbearing or pompous. Instead, the assortment of antique ornaments on display position as a stately home. Not our home, I may add. It's more like your estranged aunts rather vivacious country estate than a modern hospitality outlet but is this besides the point? Absolutely.
This popular bijou hotel was opened in 2015 by ‘Two Old Gits’, as they like to put it. The outlandish pair claim they are just ‘Two old buffoons with a good idea’ but don’t let their wry sense of humour raise question to their appetitude. They have an insatiable appetite for opening well-received boutiques in London. Go and check out their other two smouldering options, Hazlitt’s and The Rookery. An appreciation for the romanticization of history is imperative. The hotel in question was not a rush job either, having reportedly taken twenty years to accumulate all of the original antiques and fittings within. It’s hard to fully realise the level of thought that has gone into making your stay an authentic one.
Littered throughout the ground floor are comfortable living spaces for guests to kick back in. With a charming library, two lounges and a well equipped honesty bar to contend for your attention, it won’t be long before you've picked your favorite room for your statutory afternoon tea and cake. Fortunately, these shared spaces couldn’t be further from your days galavanting around Thailand in a pair of elephant print trousers. I can safely report there wasn’t an acoustic guitar anywhere in sight. You can, of course, request for a bottle of your favorite bubbly to be delivered to any one of these exquisite rooms or indeed, your private quarters.
On that note, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Did we find it to be unsatisfactory that the hotel didn’t provide a seated restaurant? Let me first explain. With the hotel being strategically positioned in the heart of Shoreditch, there are numerous options for guests to wine and dine just a stone's throw away. One of which is the The Water Poet just across the street. If you fancy eating in, you can of course pick any one of the hotel’s living spaces to have your breakfast, lunch or dinner in. Batty’s on-site kitchen offers a delicious menu of home cooked options like a pot-roast chicken casserole, available to order around the clock. Whatever titillating morsel grabs your attention, it inevitably arrives on a silver tray with rather righteous looking chafing dishes that keep things warm and discernibly tasteful.  
This is takes me on to one of my favorite features of our stay. On the first morning we decided to have breakfast from our four poster bed. All we had to do was fill out the form and leave it on the back of the door and attentive staff sorted the rest out. The following morning, we pulled short straws to make a dash to collect the silver tray brimming with crispy bacon sandwiches, warm pastries, freshly squeezed juice, homemade muesli and breakfast treats. Just try not to get any crumbs in sheets. On the second morning we enjoyed breakfast in the Library which was a rather civilised start to the day.
The interior of each room is a unique take on the same exploration of the mock-1700s theme. Our room, The Langley Suite, can be best described as if you have stepped through the easel of a Marie-Gabrielle Capet painting. Inside, an original Georgian four poster bed is carved out of dark hardwood that made us feel like the Duke or Duchess of Sussex. Ranging from suites with freestanding bathtubs and private courtyards to the single-bedded Box Room, there are twenty-nine lavish options to pick from. Batty Langley’s succeeds at proving its promise of ‘civilised surroundings, old fashioned hospitality and friendly efficient service’ and that it does with style.
If you’re looking to substantiate your experience and immerse yourself further into the history of the Georgian era, why don’t you pop down the road and visit Dennis Sever’s residence. It’s a portrait of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers that can only be described as a ‘still-life drama’. It is well worth the visit. My stay at this characterful hotel was so tranquil it instilled a sort of carthaic ambience in me from start to finish. The type of peace akin to being at home; not a hotel. At a time when old fashioned service is often second place to scale; where you can feel more like a number than a guest. I found Batty Langley’s to be a breath of fresh air in the gradually stagnanting waters of mediocrity.


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