Ellen Parr spent her formative years working at Moro (you
can still taste the Middle Eastern and Spanish influences in her
food). Today, she heads up two food-focused companies: Lucky &
Joy and The Art of Dining. The latter is co-led by set
designer Alice Hodge, whom Parr met at university in Glasgow.
From National Trust houses to the Dalston
Boys Club, the venues for Parr and Hodge’s pop-up feasts are as
variable as their thematic suppers – which have ranged from wartime
rationing to dining on the moon.
The daughter of widely celebrated British photographer Martin
Parr, Ellen collaborated with her dad for a one-off Art of Dining
event in Tokyo
titled “Say Cheese – The Photography of Martin Parr in Five
Courses”. Having been served fish and chips in a Tesco bag and
lurid orange fairy cakes (which were in fact moist carrot cakes
served with a fragrant chai), diners departed with a signed set of
Martin Parr postcards depicting the meal they ate. Family fame
considered, it’s perhaps surprising then to learn that Ellen
doesn’t travel with a camera, “just an iPhone”.
While wittering away, we pinpointed why the best holiday
destinations are those dictated by food, shortlisted the leading
restaurants in London and decreed edible souvenirs the matchless
Where are you from and how has that shaped and inspired
I’m from Bristol,
which is now a great foodie city – it wasn’t so exciting when I was
growing up. I have spent the majority of my adult life in London
and can’t think of a better city to inspire me creatively and
Tell us about The Art of Dining; what is it and how did it come
The Art of Dining is a concept that pairs art, set design and
food together to give the customer an exciting themed experience.
Alice Hodge and I started out doing one as a fun experiment – eight
years later we are still going strong.
What is your first food memory?
I remember having a goats cheese tart in Galway when I was
really young and loving it so much. I still think about it all the
If you could go anywhere in the world for dinner tonight, where
would it be and what would you order?
I’d go back to the night market in Xi’an in China and order
signature dishes from every stall.
What destinations inspire your culinary creativity?
What have been some of your favourite projects to date?
My favourite Art of Dining project was a 70s-themed affair based
on Abigail’s Party. I loved everything about it – the set, the
music and the fun things we could do with the food. Working with
the National Trust was also memorable. It was amazing to cook in
such beautiful settings and design menus based around the history
of the houses.
The best London boroughs food wise…
Your top three restaurants in London…
1. Silk Road in Camberwell serves the most amazing Xinjiang
2. The Dusty Knuckle Bakery has the best
3. The Heron near Paddington plates up some of the
best Thai food in London.
What are you working on at the moment?
A few different things. We are already planning a big Christmas
party called Merry Miami. We’re thinking about running pop-up
master classes and I am also in the process of opening a restaurant
with my other company, Lucky and Joy.
You mentioned you grew up in Bristol. Where should we head when
What’s your take on souvenirs?
My souvenirs are usually edible. Recently I’ve got super in to
bringing home good dried oregano from wherever I go and putting it
Do you travel with a camera?
I don’t travel with a camera, just an iPhone unfortunately. I
always say I want to change that and get a camera, but I have been
saying that for 10 years so who knows if I ever will…
What guides your holiday selection?
Definitely my number one is good food. I obsessively look for
the places where locals eat and spend way too much time
What do you think makes a good hotel?
Nice breakfast, big beds and somewhere to swim nearby.
Where’s your next adventure?
I’m off to the
South of France to drink rosé and eat cheese.
Have you any in-flight rituals?
Love a bloody mary.
What are you reading at the moment?
Something to Live For by Richard Roper.
Your favourite apps…
CODE app is great for
One piece of travel advice…
Go to gay bars – they are always the most fun and coolest
And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?
I seem to always pack all the clothes that I never wear at home
and still don’t wear on holiday; I’m determined to master the art
of packing light.