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Anonymous Clerkenwell Boy is the messiah of London’s food scene. What he snaps one evening, you eat the next. With a 150,000-strong Instagram following, the faceless food critic has already shot SUITCASE food guides to Hong Kong, Florence and Sydney. Having just won further recognition as Best Instagram Feed at Observer Food Awards 2016, he let us in on his restaurant savvy food forecasts and how to cure a hangover.
First off, do you actually live in Clerkenwell?
Yes! I’ve lived in Clerkenwell ever since I moved to London.
Why do you think you have become such a huge persona?
I’m honestly not sure. Perhaps it’s because I genuinely love and eat everything I post.
Can you give us any social media tips?
Find your niche. Follow people who inspire you, interact with others and develop your own style. When taking photos, always try to shoot in natural daylight – but avoid direct sunlight. When you’re out, grab a table by the window and never use flash!
What are the current food trends?
There’s a huge trend for regional cuisine and street-food stalls becoming bricks and mortar restaurants: Hoppers brought Sri Lankan cuisine in Soho; som saa with its unusual Thai dishes in Shoreditch and Breddos with their amazing tacos, just down the road. A lot of super-healthy restaurants have also opened such as Deliciously Ella’s Mae Deli and the Hemsley + Hemsley café in Selfridges. There’s also increasing focus on sustainability and less food waste – it’s something I really want to promote.
Which chefs are hot right now?
Nuno Mendes of Taberna do Mercado and Chiltern Firehouse, James Lowe of Lyles and Andy Oliver of som saa. Newbies to keep an eye on are all those shortlisted by the Young British Foodie awards – they’ve got their finger on the pulse. I’m set to judge its Food Sharing category.
And which are your favourite restaurants?
What about bars?
Zetter Townhouse – my local.
The Good Egg in Stoke Newington. It serves amazing babka and (unsurprisingly) lots of egg dishes.
Give us a tip for getting the best out of eating out.
Go early on a Monday night – you’ll get the best service and many restaurants allow you to bring your own wine without any corkage.
And an insider tip for London?
Rochelle Canteen is the go-to for a sunny, al fresco weekday lunch. Get some wine from Leila’s Shop around the corner, grab some sunnies and a hat and chill out over amazing food for the rest of the day.
What’s your favourite country and why?
Australia – that’s where I grew up so I have a lot of friends and family there. The weather is great so there are plenty of al fresco dining options. In the evenings, I tend to go for authentic southeast Asian food (Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese). But I love living in the UK too. I’ve been in London for over ten years now and love the diversity of cuisines here, especially Indian, Sri Lankan and Middle Eastern food.
Where’s next on your list?
A relaxing weekend in the English countryside. I want to cycle, explore some local pubs… I’m also hoping to squeeze in a few more cheeky weekend trips around Europe before heading to Sydney for Christmas.
Best meal ever?
A meal in the kitchen of a 70-year-old chef on a Tuscan hillside. We had hand-rolled pici (pasta) tossed in a sauce made from anchovies, cauliflower puree, saffron and lemon.
And the worst?
It was at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant where I wasn’t allowed to take off my jacket during our four-hour meal even though it was unbearably hot.
Can you cook and, if so, what’s your signature dish?
Yes, I love cooking and make a mean pasta. Carbonara is my favourite, made using ingredients from the local delis around Clerkenwell.
Is there anything you refuse to eat?
No, I’ll try everything – at least once anyway.
How do you stay so trim?
I have no clue. A fast metabolism, I guess? I should probably start playing more tennis – which I love – but I’m always injured.
What do you think of the ‘wellness’ trend?
I think as long food tastes good and it’s consumed in moderation then just go for it. I don’t believe in cutting out entire food groups or extreme diet fads.
Usually a bloody Mary the morning after. Failing that, I drink lots of water, filtered black coffee and a take couple of ibuprofen.
If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive) who would they be and why?
Presidents and prime ministers currently at war with each other. I’d get them sat down together so they can sort shit out.
What’s next for Clerkenwell Boy?
I’m judging the Restaurant Awards and curating content for Velocity, a brilliant (and free) restaurant booking app. Plus a lot more travel.
I’m also working on #CookForSyria in aid of UNICEF’s Children of Syria Fund with SUITCASE Magazine and NextGen. As part of the initiative, top chefs and restaurateurs create dishes inspired by Syrian cuisine and donate £2 to the charity for each dish sold. It’s launching in November across the UK and we’re hoping it will spread worldwide.
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