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 in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan. If you’ve ever dreamt of comfort food so finger lickin’ delicious that the 44th president himself, Barack Obama, once salivated to a succulent tune of $30,800 for a single plate 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 is good; real 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 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 trendy chicken joint; it’s an immersive dining experience that avoids being overly ostentatious. By all means, go ahead and pickup that mouth-watering chicken with your bare hand whilst the other cups 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 alongside a traditional gospel repertoire. The set climaxed in the entire room boogying along with a just a few notably awkward dance moves. My only gripe here is that it was a tad too short at only half a dozen songs. Encore please.
To understand The Red Rooster, we should first understand Samuelsson’ past before harlem, the award winning restaurants, tv-show and Obama. Kassahun Tsegie was born in Ethiopia in 1971, a young child who tragically lost his mother to tuberculosis at the age of three at the same time Ethiopian Civil War broke out. Him and sister were adopted by a pair of Swedes who took them home to start a new life. Marcus, as he then went on to be called, went onto graduate from Gothenburg’s Culinary Institute. It wasn’t long after that 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 at the Red Rooster Shoreditch.

“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 me), mac ‘n’ greens, red cabbage and a dreamy rooster sauce. And, to top it things off, it was paraded to our table with an indoor firework. Yes you heard that right.
As we are about to inhale the feast before us; that is an entire large - no ginormous - deep fried bird split into into convenient, hand-sized pieces; we glance at each other with wide gluttonous eyes. Each bite an explosion of flavour that shatters 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 succulent, that we experienced a collective epiphany. My fiancé, a self-proclaimed connoisseur of comfort eating makes an unprecedented suggestion: 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. Through the revolving doors, a sleek warehouse 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. As we know by now, we share the same unrelinquishing thirst for the finer things in life and fortunately for us The Curtain is by all accounts a five star thirst-quencher. In fact, it’s an apéritif for the soul.

If we personify The Curtain, it would be Justin, the slick newcomer to town. The impeccably dressed, notably distinguished, aloof entrepreneur at the hotel bar. Who donns a pencil moustache and Macbook. Knows the difference between porchetta and prosciutto. Takes elongated sips of Talisker between conference calls to Sydney and Montreal. Perhaps you know Justin? Perhaps you even are Justin? Either way, this rambunctious members club and hotel has numerous options to eat and drink, a private club, wellness centre, gym and co-working space that is destined to dazzle 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. Boo hoo.
Hotelier Michael Achenbaum is the mastermind behind Shoreditch's latest and most ambitious membership club. Also brains behind New York’s legendary Meatpacking District’s Ganseveroot Hotel where the likes of Rihanna check in. Though the phrase ‘members club’ remits connotations of elitism that may raise some eyebrows; The Curtain does well to denounces that stereotype. You don’t need to be celebrity or even the CEO of FTSE 100 to be admissible, or so they say.
“We're not about wealth and status. We don't care who your parents are. We want members that have something in common: namely, a creative soul”.

The Curtain offers the opportunity to be part of a vibrant creative community of entrepreneurs, digital nomads, influencers and everything in between. A cutting-edge co-work space called The Design Studio accommodates those with the desire to work in style. There are desk spaces, comfortable seating areas and more power points than a University library. There is also a handy boardroom for brainstorming sessions and face to face meetings. Apparently there is a cinema too. Winner. There there is the added benefit of being able to order your lunch of barista coffee direct to your desk, sofa or boardroom. It’s reasnobly priced too. How about a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel with gin & tonic infused cucumber, while you continue to deliberate which of The Curtain’s restaurants you will be visiting this evening?
The Lido is East London’s favorite pool touting, top floor restaurant with stellar views. The pool’s not big enough to start that olympic training regime you announced to everyone on NYE but after battling the crowds at Selfridges, heading back and surrendering to a long G&T in the rooftop pool will surely go a long way towards making your day a pleasant one. Did I mention that it’s heated? We ate breakfast in The Lido each morning and found the sufficiently varied buffet to include all the regulars. Or, if you fancy something a little different, why don’t you try the green pea pancakes with a spinach, apple and cucumber smoothie or something else from the breakfast menu. We found the the coffee to be spectacular, the buffet to be perfectly adequate and the addition of a heated pool, highly desirable.
In addition to the aforementioned option there is London’s critically acclaimed, soul food hotspot - The Red Rooster - opened by Obama’s favorite chef Marcus Samuelsson. It’s so good it has its own review in this issue. And, if that’s not enough, there is The Imperial, that I hear serves an excellent Sunday roast.
Then there is the decadent Billy’s Bar where elements of old and new are combined with eloquence. The space is designed for patrons to mingle, schmooze and kickback in. The ornate hand crafted bar made from mahogany looks like it was taken straight from a gentleman’s club of yesteryear. For a pretty penny, vintage bottles of Dom Pérignon are on offer but the 25 year Lagavulin caught my eye on this day. Contemporary pieces of art such an original Banksy bring this unapologetically audacious room into the 21st century. One final option remains, the recently opened The Green Room is a sleek new cocktail bar adjacent to the Hotel’s lobby. Having recently opened to the public, expect things to get wild in evenings and members get a considerable discount.   
Take a short ball and chalk from the hotel lobby and you’ll find yourself on brick lane, a microcosm of ethnic delights, eye-popping street art, seemingly endless curry houses, galleries and of course, more flat-whites that you can shake a ripe avocado at. Afterall, Shoreditch is London’s most creative district and the birthplace of hipsterism. In addition to the facilities on offer to members, a five star hotel complete 120 incredibly hip rooms offers regular guests and members a comfortable and stylish stay. Our fourth floor room had the same converted basement aesthetic, complete with exposed red brick, emerald green upholstery and large windows that revealed the street below. I was a big fan of the the large walk in shower, with the thoughtful feature of becoming a steam room at the touch of a button. It left me feeling cleansed and energised, ready for another day battling our way through London’s throngs of tourists.
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.  



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