Thought up during the bleak days of the pandemic, when dinner at the tiny table in her rented flat was one of few daily joys, Bre Graham's debut cookbook, Table for Two, is a culinary sonnet to cooking for, and eating with, the ones you love.
"I live in a bizarre north London building that has a restaurant, Oslo Court, in the lobby," Graham explains. "The view from my balcony is of the most perfect table for two. The whole restaurant hasn't been updated since the mid-80s. It's kitsch and romantic. Couples, friends, mums and daughters: they all sit at that table, and seeing those moments made me realise how important those intimate meals are in our lives."
The Aussie-born author grew up in Singapore, but has lived in London for over 10 years, running supper clubs, writing for publications and food companies, and hosting podcasts and panels. Throughout that time, she's cooked and captured recipes to share on Instagram and in her weekly newsletter, Dishes to Delight, too. Her cookbook, out now, offers the same nostalgic, approachable recipes she's become known for, and celebrates the romance of sharing a meal both at home and in a restaurant. Recipes for collapsing chocolate cake and stuffed cabbage leaves sit beside short essays on food and love, all interspersed with photos of her oh-so-chic white tablecloths, vintage glassware and tiptop tablescaping.
Bre Graham, left, and a recipe from her debut book. | Photo credits: Sophie Davidson; Issy Crocker
Feeding our love for all things romantic in swooning season, we caught up with Graham to hear her tips for a perfect London date night, whether you're heading out with a fling or a friend.
Love in the city: a romantic guide to London with Bre Graham
Where's best for a dinner date in town?
For a casual date night, I love Quality Wines in Farringdon. It's cosy and candlelit, serving small plates and amazing wines. You can finish the meal with some of the best cannoli in the city. They're so, so good.
For a romantic date night that's a little bit fancier, I'd head to Andrew Edmunds in Soho. I think you want an intimate vibe on a date, and you want to be able to hear each other talk - just soft murmurs and soft lighting.
You love oysters - and their romance. Where do we find the best dozen?
Robin Gill's Darby's has an oyster happy hour - £1.50 oysters. A-mazing.
Somewhere for a post-dinner cocktail?
I'm quite happy to cook dinner at home and then grab a cocktail out. I love Sweeties at The Standard - gorgeous views and such good cocktails. They almost don't taste like alcohol, which is dangerous. I also love Scarfes Bar in the Rosewood. Many hangovers have been caused by that bar. Go there on the nights when it has music.
Anywhere for some late-night food?
London is terrible for late-night eating. It needs to up its game. I'm a sucker for Five Guys, but they close weirdly early, so head to Chinatown.
Favourite hotels for a city staycation?
I'm a hotel obsessive and I've stayed in quite a few London spots. Again, for the view, I'd say The Standard. The Rookery [Clerkenwell] is absolutely gorgeous, too. It's really small, old-school, very British eccentric; being there feels a bit like being at someone's house. I used to live around the corner from it and when I came home at night, I'd wave at the cat in the lobby.
Room(s) with a view at The Standard in King's Cross. | Photo credit: David Cleveland
What about a Sunday breakfast?
As an Australian in London, Granger & Co. is like a homesickness cure. I also like Sam's in Primrose Hill. For bagels, I love Panzer's. You can get them to go and head into the park in summer. I'm lazy, so all my favourite breakfast spots are local to my flat.
In Table for Two, you say romantic meals can be for friends as well as flings. Where do you go in London for a date with a mate?
Cooking for someone says "you mean a lot to me" and "you are special in my life". It's a really lovely thing to do for a friend. It was important, for me, that this book was useful for someone who isn't in a romantic relationship. I wasn't in one for a portion of my 20s and I would have loved something like this that made me feel I could have fun dinners with my best friend, and cook a meal together, and make that part of our friendship.
When I'm meeting up with friends in London, I love to go to Spring in Somerset House for a special meal. It's light, airy and feminine. Rita's in Soho is fun, too. Just order everything off the menu and enjoy the best cocktails and the best food. It's a good place to have a really long catch-up.
Marylebone's Granger and Co. serves up Aussie-influenced brunches. | Photo credit: Petrina Tinsley
Tell us about your gorgeous homeware collection…
I need to stop buying homeware. My flat is the size of a matchbox and 90 per cent of it is occupied by glassware, tableware and linen. I live in St John's Wood, which has the most useless high street, but five of the best charity shops in London. A lot of my tableware comes from those charity shops. I can't go into them anymore. Every time I look, I have to get a new set of martini glasses that I definitely don't need.
When I travel, I always save room in my luggage for flea finds. No matter where I am, I'll find a way to smuggle something home. One of my favourites is the Central Market [Varvakeios Market] in Athens. I have a Greek enamelware salad bowl that I sacrificed a bathrobe for so I could bring it home in my suitcase. I can buy a bathrobe anytime, but I would never have been able to buy that beautiful salad bowl again.
Any other romantic holiday destinations on your list?
Rome is my number one. I went there when I was writing the book early last year. It's a walkable city, with the best food and good light, too.
Bre Graham's debut cookbook Table for Two is available to order from bookshop.org
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