The look of luxe
We meet the husband and wife team behind luxury brand Sleepy Wilson
Experience gourmet dining at Thackeray’s restaurant in Tunbridge Wells
How to ensure your home sparkles for the festive season with our top decorating tips
ALL FIRED UP FOR CHRISTMAS LOCAL FOOD GURU MANDY MILLER SIMMONDS SHARES HER INSPIRING STORY AND DELICIOUS RECIPES FOR SEASONAL SUCCESS…
ell, December’s finally here – and we’re definitely in the party mood at SO magazine. Present ideas, delicious food, great cocktails and tips on how you can make your home look as fabulously festive as possible are all to be found in the pages of your Christmas edition. As usual we also have plenty of interesting stories to bring you including that of our cover star Mandy Miller Simmonds. The mother of two has always loved cooking and creating healthy and delicious dishes for her family to enjoy. But when she discovered that a lot of her friends were struggling for inspiration, she decided to do something about it. In July 2018 Mandy chose to put her foodie passion into the little squares of Instagram under the moniker Simply Food By Mandy and now she boasts thousands of followers – including a certain Gordon Ramsay – and often finds herself in the company of esteemed chefs such as Raymond Blanc. Read all about her success story on p14. We also meet the husband and wife team behind luxury ethical PJ brand Sleepy Wilson. Tom and Paula Wilson may have only moved to Tunbridge Wells a few months ago and just launched their first collection in November but it’s already garnering plenty of attention. Flick to p11 to find out why and how they decided to dream up the idea for sustainable silk sleepwear. Another great read is the story
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contents December 2019
Culture vulture: our round-up of where to go and what to see this month
Hairstylist Rosie Saunders reveals how she won a prestigious award from L’Oréal
The luxuries in life you can’t live without this Christmas
We’ll drink to that: Grub & Liquor’s George Kainth talks cocktails
Social scene: a taste of Spain comes to The Kentish Hare
of Annabel Davies, who decided to start her own jewellery line Bella Jane after a crafting afternoon with one of her sons. She may have upgraded Hobbycraft beads for sterling silver and gold ones and created an enviable collection of stacking bracelets, charms, necklaces and rings but the fact she’s translated such a simple idea into a thriving business is an inspiration. You can see her gorgeous designs and read all about her on p20. With fashion tips from local stylist and blogger Lynne Meek (p24), a trip to Thackeray’s (p38), an alternative Christmas gift guide (p47) and a visit to The Ned (p59), which is the perfect place for some festive fun, we’ve pretty much got Christmas wrapped up for you...
Mandy Miller Simmonds tells us how she became a famous foodie
Why The White Bear is now a roaring success in Tunbridge Wells
Paul Dunton shares his top must-see gigs this December
Crystal clear skin: We try out Mirror Beauty’s amazing
A glittering success We meet the founder of Bella Jane Jewellery p20 Game on: why traditional charades and children’s plays are perfect pastimes p46
Season’s greetings to you all
Give a gift that will last – and be kind to the earth
Style queen: local stylist Lynne Meek reveals how she set up her business
A hotel you can bank on: We pay a visit to The Ned Natural selection: forage festive finds from your garden p48
Editor Eileen Leahy
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Taste sensation: why Thackeray’s is still a cut about the rest 18 years on p38
Dreams do come true: we meet the founders of luxury PJ brand Sleepy Wilson p11 SO Magazine | DECEMBER 2019 | 3
CULTURE HUB Our edit of the most entertaining events happening this month...
WORD UP! On December 18 The Forum will host its Word Up! Slam Final for 2019. Word Up! Is the venue’s regular spoken word evening. As well as a guest poet, each event has a slam competition, where the public get their chance to read their work in a lighthearted competition and ultimately choose an overall winner. Hosted by Dwella the evening, which is seated, includes tunes spun by DJ Karl Quinn. Tickets cost £5 on the door and £3 to ‘slammers’. Entrants must be aged 16 and over. Meanwhile Kung Fu Slipper with special guests Bombay Monkey, Duch Jo and DJ Karl Quinn play on Sunday December 22. Tickets cost £7 each and are available from www.twforum.co.uk
PETER PAN WILL HAVE YOU HOOKED
CAPTURING THE CASTLE
It wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing a panto, would it? And this year both the Assembly Hall and Wicked Productions over at EM Forster theatre will both be putting on their versions of Peter Pan. At the Assembly Hall you can catch Tunbridge Wells’ favourite dame, Quinn Patrick, alongside Art Attack’s Lloyd Warbey who plays Peter while Nick Jr’s Holly Atterton is Tinkerbell. Running from Saturday December 7 until Sunday January 5 show time and ticket prices can be seen at www.assemblyhalltheatre. co.uk At the EM Forster, Tom Swift and his team will also be telling you the story of Peter Pan with amazing effects and costumes. They kick off their run on December 13 and will perform daily (apart from Christmas Day) until January 5. For more details visit www.emftheatre.com
This Christmas Chiddingstone Castle is the place to go for all things fabulously festive. Jo Banks from Alive With Flavour will be running her popular kids’ Christmas cookery club on December 19 where she’ll teach budding young chefs how to make and bake seasonal gourmet goodies. The pop-up event, which is suitable for children aged eight to 13, is on from 10am-3.30pm and costs £52 each plus booking fee. Visit www.alivewithflavour.com for more info. On December 11 there will be a wreath making event hosted by Enfleur Flower School from 10am2pm with a special lunch prepared by Jo Banks. Tickets cost £68 per person and can be booked at www.chiddingstone.org
CHRISTMAS CHAOS LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE Another place that will be lighting up for Christmas 2019 is Bedgebury Pinetum courtesy of its stunning illuminations. Visitors can walk around a special one-mile trail which winds through Bedgebury’s National Pinetum capturing the sights and sounds of Christmas. There will be a number of breathtaking features such as a dynamic Vortex Tunnel and hundreds of colourful boats bobbing on a shimmering lake. See more at www. christmasatbedgebury.seetickets.com 4 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
DID YOU KNOW? When The Nutcracker was first performed in Russia in 1892, critics were not impressed. It wasn’t until George Balanchine’s production of the ballet in 1954 that the show began to gain popularity.
Over the weekends of December 7-8 and 14-15 Penshurst Place is the place to be for lots of family fun. A rather naughty elf has been playing havoc with the festive organisation at Christmas HQ in the North Pole, and Mother Christmas needs to work quickly to fix his playful antics. Go along and see how she manages to set things straight again – with a little help from Father Christmas himself – courtesy of this delightful interactive storytelling performance which encourages lots of playful shouts and giggles from children of all ages. For more info visit www.penshurstplace.com
Quality Serv ice
A WINTER’S TALE
NICE ICE BABY Ice skating is once again happening in Calverley Grounds every day throughout the festive season until January 5. This year there’s also a special parent and toddler rink and a Bavarian curling one too. Live music sessions happen every Thursday courtesy of The Forum from now until Christmas. Tickets cost £12.50 for an adult and £8 for children aged between four and 15. GO cards are available for £5. For further information visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.com
CHRISTMAS CAROLS There will be a number of places you can hear traditional seasonal songs being sung throughout December. On Sunday December 8 Create Choir will be at the Hub at Grosvenor & Hilbert Park for a seasonal celebration while over in Penshurst at 6.30pm you can join in the carols by candlelight in the local church. There will also be readings and refreshments on offer. On Saturday December 14, Tonbridge Philharmonic will host their annual celebration of family festive favourites at Tonbridge School Chapel from 4pm.
DID YOU KNOW? Pantomimes originate from 16th Century Italian street theatre known as Commedia dell’arte. The artistic genre first surfaced in London theatres around the 17th Century.
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DID YOU KNOW? The earliest record of occupancy of Scotney Castle dates from 1137 but from 1778, it was the Hussey family who were in residence there until it was left to the National Trust in 1970.
Father Christmas will be in residence at Scotney Castle over the weekends of December 7-8 and 14-15 so children and their parents can get into the festive spirit. In a group of 12 you’ll visit Santa and his elves in the castle’s beautifully decorated hall then enjoy a special Christmas story before receiving a gift and having your photo taken. Tickets cost £10 per child. For more details visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
FESTIVE FEAST Salomons Estate will be hosting a threecourse meal with Father Christmas on Sunday December 8 and 15 which will give little ones the chance to tell the main man all about their seasonal wish list – and whether they have been naughty or nice this year. Tickets cost £13 for children and £26 per adult. The estate will also be hosting a special breakfast with Santa on December 23 and 24. See www.salomons-estate.com for more information
STAGING A COMEBACK Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing a performance of The Nutcracker and the good news is you can catch the classic Royal Ballet’s version at Trinity Theatre on December 17 at 7.15pm. Tickets cost £20 per adult and £15 for children from www.trinitytheatre.net
ALL THAT JAZZ Hotel du Vin is hosting a series of relaxing jazz music sessions during the festive period. So if you want to take respite from all that hectic Christmas shopping then why not pop along to the hotel on December 6, 13 or 20 to see pianist Grant Sav perform. The talented musician, considered to be one of London’s finest, regularly performs at prestigious venues like The Savoy, The Dorchester and Waldorf Astoria hotels as well as 10 Downing Street. Visit www.hotelduvin.com for more details.
SNOW BUSINESS This year Trinity Theatre’s Christmas show, will be a stage adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Running from December 13 to 31 it is a timeless tale about friendship and bravery in the pursuit of adventure, with a magical setting in Lapland. This is the first show by the theatre’s new artistic director Kezia Cole. Children’s tickets are priced £19 and adults cost £23. See www.trinitytheatre.net for more information.
SEASONAL SOUNDS EM Forster theatre will be hosting a Christmas Spectacular on the evenings of December 5 and 6. Visitors can expect to enjoy an array of music from Tonbridge School’s musical outfits including its Big Band, Percussion Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. There will also be a performance by the school’s choir alongside pupils from Kent College. A seasonal extravaganza not to be missed. For tickets and timings visit www.emftheatre.com
WINTER WONDERLAND This season historic Hever Castle boasts a seasonal Alice in Wonderland theme for its many visitors to enjoy during December courtesy of an interactive fun trail which all members of the family can enjoy. There will also be plenty of exquisite Christmas decorations and log fires to enjoy inside. Alternatively you can see the estate illuminated after dusk courtesy of the magical light shows the castle will be putting on. For further ticket details for both daytime and nocturnal visits see www.hevercastle.co.uk
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ALL ABOARD FOR SANTA Father Christmas will also be making an appearance at the Spa Valley Railway every weekend in the lead-up to Christmas Day. Train journeys will take place three times a day and include face painting, mince pies and a special visit from Santa. Tickets cost £17 per person and can be booked from www.spavalleyrailway.co.uk
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SO Magazine | December 2019 | 5
LUXURIES Here’s our edit of this month’s covetable collectables to enhance your life this Christmas and beyond…
Check mate Hanover leather chess case, £4,500, Asprey, available from www.asprey.com and www.mrporter.com
Fragrance house Venetian Blue Gift Set: Eau De Parfum Intense (100ml) & After Shave (100ml), £180, available from Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and Selfridges
Lighten up Set of three Union vases, £250, Arteriors, www.arteriors.com
Festive Fancy Keswick console table £785, Kimmeridge Hurricane £40 & tealight holder £20, all Neptune, www.neptune.com
Soft touch Tropical Riverside 50x50cm Linen cushion, £109, Mind The Gap Vintage, www.mindtheg.com
Sofa so cosy Slim Jim corner sofa, £2,645, Loaf, www.loaf.com
6 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
A TASTE OF SPAIN COMES TO THE KENTISH HARE The Kentish Hare in Bidborough hosted the final dinner of Estrella Damm’s series of regional meals celebrating the best of the UK’s gastropubs last month. The supper featured the culinary mastery of The Kentish Hare’s owners and brothers Chris and James Tanner who curated a menu that not only showcased a slew of seasonal ingredients but also perfectly complemented those found in a number of Estrella Damm beers too. Top London-based chef José Pizarro, from Pizarro Restaurants in Bermondsey and Broadgate, was also in attendance along with many local restaurateurs and foodies to appreciate the Spanish brand of beers being matched to the Tanner brothers’ gourmet offerings. Guests dined on canapés of confit duck and blue cheese choux balls, squid ink tapioca crackers with smoked tapioca and lemon and Estrella BBQ glazed chick wings before sitting down to a three-course dinner prepared by the talented Tanner brothers and their team. With each course a different Estrella beer was presented. For the crab, pear, coriander and smoked almond starter an Inedit Damm beer was served. Then the main dish of short rib of beef with turnip gratin was matched with a glass of Estrella Daura Damm Marzen while the delicious dessert of delice of chocolate with malted milk ice cream and a cocoa nib tuile was paired with Damm Complot IPA. Pictures by Carl Sukonik
8 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
Sweet DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS Local entrepreneur Paula Wilson launched a luxury pyjama brand called Sleepy Wilson with her husband Tom just last month. Here she tells Eileen Leahy how they went into business together and why their sleepwear line is so unique So can you tell us about the concept of Sleepy Wilson? I have generally always had a love of pyjamas and also battled with sleep issues since I was a teenager. When our two children came along, like a lot of other new parents, we experienced a whole new level of sleep deprivation and started looking into ways to improve sleep for the whole family. Having a background in textiles and fashion, I was able to draw on my experience of fabric technology and factory sourcing to ensure we developed a product that not only has performance benefits but is beautiful and sustainable. Our eldest son really struggled with eczema and was generally a very hot and sweaty little boy so we started to investigate fibres that might be gentler on his skin and to make him more comfortable in bed. We were really
drawn to the inherent natural properties of silk. It’s temperature controlling, breathable and hypoallergenic, making it brilliant for sufferers of many skin irritations and allergies such as asthma. We discovered that a lot of high street pyjamas are made from synthetic fibres such as polyester, which traps heat and is a perfect environment for dust mites. Our main objective with Sleepy Wilson is to create a product that is truly ‘fit for purpose’ and produce it in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable way to help people get a better night’s sleep. How did you come up with the brand name? When it came to dreaming up a name for our PJ brand for both adults and children, it was fairly simple. Our surname is Wilson, and for a long time we were
The fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to the global climate crisis, therefore we are committed to using biodegradable materials across all of our products, from pyjamas to packaging
pretty much always very, very tired! We wanted something that was personal to us and that people could relate to and understand so Sleepy Wilson was born! Are you both working full-time on the Sleepy Wilson brand now? Yes we are. After initially working from home, we’ve been based in a studio at The Pantiles Chambers in Tunbridge Wells for the past year. Prior to that we ran a fashion consultancy for four years helping other brands design and manufacture their clothing ranges, so it was a natural progression to finally do it for ourselves! Tell us about the pros and cons of working together. . . Well, being in the business every day together means we both know what’s happening in every aspect, but thankfully
we have very different personalities and can tackle different issues. As our business and family are completely intertwined, we know where we have to balance work with home – on occasions one will take precedence over the other and we are able to separate and deal with it, as and when that happens. On the other side of that there is never any real break from work, which can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. 2019 has been a massive year for us, so going forward achieving balance is something we will be working on! You’re based at The Pantiles Chambers, what’s the benefit of not commuting to London? Having a young family means working locally is great as we can react quickly if anything should happen at school. However, we do visit London frequently SO Magazine | December 2019 | 11
Interestingly, we are also getting enquiries from women experiencing hot We have no flushes associated with toxins, harmful the menopause. Silk is chemicals or single use naturally temperature plastics in our regulating so it can production and promote help the body cool full visibility of our down when it supply chain from overheats and our PJs raw material to are also moisturedelivery wicking and hypoallergenic.
and love being able to get there in under an hour, it gives us so much more flexibility to meet with suppliers. We also travel quite a lot to our manufacturers so being within 45 minutes of Gatwick allows us to fly to Portugal, for example, one morning and be back that evening or the next day. What’s your USP in the luxury sleepwear market? For us, it’s no longer enough to just make a beautiful product, the fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to the global climate crisis, therefore we are committed to using biodegradable materials across all of our products, from pyjamas to packaging. We have no toxins, harmful chemicals or single use plastics in our production and promote full visibility of our supply chain from raw material to delivery. Even our mailer bags are fully compostable and biodegradable. We are also part of ‘Fashion Revolution’ and ‘Labour behind the Label’, who campaign globally for garment worker’s rights, transparency and a fair wage for all concerned. Going forward we are working with DHL on their Go Green campaign and Trillion Tree Campaign to help neutralise our carbon footprint. Do you source your fabrics from the UK? We produce a heritage collection from a blend of woollen yarn and silk which is manufactured in a 10th generation, family owned mill in Sudbury. However, our top grade 19mm charmeuse has been specifically and directly sourced from Huzhou, in China, the original birth place of silk. Sadly there is no silk spinning or weaving in the UK, all of the raw materials come from China, India and Brazil. What inspires your designs? The metamorphosis of earthly caterpillar into beautiful butterfly, after a good night’s sleep is the inspiration of our prints and colour palette. We generally take hues and shapes from nature and then work them into various sketches/ artworks before translating them onto the computer. Looking at the 12 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
structures of a butterfly or a caterpillar in close-up is fascinating, teamed with the vibrant colours of their habitat. Inspiration for our designs is always based on comfort and practicality. For example, we have added some stretch into our silk, to make it easy to turn over in bed or stretch out like a starfish… which is the position our children like to sleep in, especially when in our bed! Having worked in fashion for over 15 years, I am a perfectionist when it comes to garment construction and feel clothes should be as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, so French seams and concealed hems are also woven into all of our pieces. Do you hand-draw any of the prints? Yes, the initial design direction and development starts with lots of doodling at the kitchen table, mood boards and fabric manipulation, but once we’ve gone through the process of what works and what doesn’t, defining the colour palette against our market and trend forecasting, we refine it on the computer and get it ready for printing. What are the key benefits of running your own business? Having the flexibility to work around family life. If we are not with the children, we are generally working, it is definitely not a 9-5 job but one that allows us to drop the kids at school in the mornings, do their homework with them in the evenings and all sit down together for dinner. It’s something that takes 100 per cent commitment, along with boundless perseverance and confidence to keep going, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t change it for the world. How has your debut collection been received? Well we launched on November 8 after a short lead-up on Instagram and have been delighted that a lot of initial enquiries have turned into sales! We’ve had a lot of interest from press on the product side, but also on sustainability and the well-being side of getting a good night’s sleep – which is what it’s all about really!
How have you marketed Sleepy Wilson? So far, we have been lucky to have features in local press and used mainly social media and influencers. We are, however, working on our marketing plan for next year which will help us firmly establish Sleepy Wilson in the luxury sleepwear market. Have there been any challenges so far? Our main challenges have been co-ordinating all steps of the process and managing the individual suppliers and compliance associations involved. We are very conscious of overproduction and overconsumption and therefore want to produce our collections carefully and sustainably. This however has an impact on price points as smaller quantities take more time and effort to produce. We are also keen to work on a zero waste policy where our off-cuts are used for other items such as eye masks or padded hangers, pillowcases etc. These can then be sold to raise money for charity but, again, coordinating lots of small pieces with main production can cause confusion. We are steadily making progress though!
SLEEPY WILSON ON SOCIAL MEDIA Has social media played a big part in establishing and promoting your business? Yes, a huge one! Everyone seems to direct so much of their life on their phones these days, so ensuring you have an active profile on social media is crucial. The rules for Facebook and Instagram seem to change so frequently, though, it can be hard to keep up with and not get lost in all the noise… What are your top tips for using influential apps like Instagram? We are far from experts at social media, but I think it’s best to say what you feel at the time based on the image you are posting – that way it’s always authentic. Then post every day for a week or two and see what times you get the most engagement, so you can start to see if you are connecting with your target audience or not, and think about what you need to do to fix it or do it differently. You have worked with a few local influencers such as Rebecca Doyle from The House Build to launch Sleepy Wilson. How does this type of collaboration benefit both you and them? We were incredibly lucky that Rebecca had recently decided to promote her beautiful home as a photoshoot location, which is how the collaboration came about. We had been looking for a suitable space to photograph our collection, so the opportunity to work with Rebecca came along at just the right time. We had ten child models on the day of the shoot, along with some adult models, a stylist and a photographer. It was rather scary knowing what a pristine
home we were in! Thankfully there weren’t any catastrophes and the results were fabulous. Rebecca was an absolute pleasure to work with. Do you find there’s a good local support network of influencers here in Tunbridge Wells? Definitely, we have been really well received over the past few months leading up to launch. It’s really important to us that people fully understand our brand ethos, otherwise there is little authenticity for them or their following. Influencers in Tunbridge Wells have a great grasp of the local and regional market, and some work internationally, so there’s great variety in terms of demographic versus aspirations. It’s really nice to see what product works for different people. What do you enjoy about being part of this community? We only moved here in August last year, but from the outset we have been truly overwhelmed by the friendliness and generosity of people. Tunbridge Wells is home to such an array of creative professionals that we have been very warmly welcomed, from our children’s school to the people we meet through work on a daily basis. There is such a community spirit and starting up a new business can be a very lonely, daunting task, so we are very grateful. Do you have any celebrity clients yet? Well it’s very early days, but yes there are a couple of very exciting ones in the offing! That’s all I can say for now as I don’t want to jinx it!
COOK whoâ€™s found the perfect recipe for success
Our SO Christmas cover star is the talented and totally self-taught cook Mandy Miller Simmonds. Here the local foodie who has more than 23,000 followers on her Simply Food By Mandy Instagram account tells Eileen Leahy about her love of food, glorious food, especially at this most wonderful time of the year
14 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
I focus on nourishment from within and have no interest in omitting food groups or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest in-vogue diet
andy Miller Simmonds is the perfect person to feature in our December issue of SO magazine as she’s a fantastic font of knowledge when it comes to creating sensational food where the focus is all about the flavour – and not the fuss. That’s particularly useful given we’re entering into the culinary calendar’s busiest time of year with plenty of Christmas and New Year celebrations to cook for. The married mother of two from Hildenborough is the face and force behind the enormously successful Simply Food By Mandy Blog which on Instagram now boasts more than 23,000 followers and sees her regularly working with some of the industry’s top chefs and gourmet brands. In fact the day before the SO team went to photograph Mandy at home she had just spent a day with the legendary French chef Raymond Blanc at his magnificent hotel Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons in Oxfordshire. “My day with Raymond was definitely a bucket list dream ticked off,” laughs Mandy, who established Simply Food by Mandy in July 2018. “He was an absolute delight and brilliantly passionate. But I also love Gordon Ramsey – who now follows me on Instagram – and Jamie Oliver for his fuss-free attitude to cooking.” Scroll through Mandy’s Insta account and you’ll be treated to a series of her mouthwatering dishes which range from exotic curries to healthy Mediterranean inspired quiches, deliciously colourful traybakes and indulgent puds – with the odd cheeky cocktail thrown in. So in short it’s fair to say that Mandy covers all areas of the food spectrum but the emphasis is very much on making it stress-free. “Each week on my blog I hope to share a vegetarian meal, a mid-week budget option, a family friendly pleaser, a minimum washing-up dish, something spicy on a Friday and the odd treat here and there,” adds Mandy.
Keeping things simple
“I focus on nourishment from within and have no interest in omitting food groups or jumping on the bandwagon of the latest in-vogue diet. I cook for pleasure and health and I am an advocate of promoting wellness through the varied meals I create. My focus is on food for the family and recipes that aren’t overly complicated but are always full of flavour. My favourite meals to create are those that you may think have taken hours and are way too complicated but actually they are straightforward and simple to make.” And judging by the number of followers she has online it’s clear that her varied selection of inspiring recipes
HOW TO BE SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY:
How useful is social media for you? It’s all about having an audience and social media has such reach – it’s amazing Which platforms do you use most and why? I use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter but most of my customers favour Instagram as it is a very dynamic platform Do you collaborate with any other influencers? I have become friends with many different influencers and have had the privilege of meeting some of them at various events I attend. Occasionally we’ll collaborate with cross promotion things. It’s funny, we all hear a lot of negatives about social media, but on the whole I have found it a very positive and supportive platform are a bit hit. “I absolutely love sharing my recipes and I enjoy the feedback I receive. I like to feel I help others who lack imagination in the kitchen or are open to trying something new. I cannot explain the pride and joy I feel when people try my recipes and they not only work but become regular features on their weekly menu. I am a self-taught home cook and I create and prepare achievable meals for real people.” So as Mandy didn’t do a conventional chef’s training course how did she get into the world of cooking? “In a previous life I was a professional dancer and travelled the world whilst pursuing my dream job as a performer. I taught ballet for a few years which was fantastic, but I knew I had another itch to scratch in a totally different world. I come from a foodie family – both of my parents are brilliant home cooks – and we have always enjoyed eating out and trying new things. I definitely have my parents to thank for my love of food!” Although Mandy didn’t have a problem coming up with a variety of simple but deliciously nutritious meals for her children Toby, 16, and Charlie, 11, lots of her friends did. “It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut cooking the same thing every week. Cooking and sharing the results of my time in the kitchen with my friends and then on social media really started as a hobby. I think because I’m not a trained chef and because I intentionally keep things simple people believe they can do it too. For the first year it was hard to make a living, but as my online following has grown brands have approached and want to work with me.”
A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AT THE MILLER SIMMONDS: Describe your perfect Christmas Day?
We wake up at 7.30 and start bubbling the stock for the gravy – turkey giblets are perfect for this. We light a fire and open presents from under the tree. Toby (my 16 year old) is normally in charge of breakfast. It’s smoked salmon, salmon roe, sliced avocado and scrambled eggs with a slice of toasted sourdough. After breakfast, hopefully we can squeeze in a lovely walk with Hamish the Springer Spaniel. Our family arrives at 1pm and the fizz is cracked open shortly afterwards! My mum and I will potter around in my kitchen and then lunch will be served at 3pm. We’ll enjoy a gorgeous feast, followed by a game of Monopoly. Hopefully all of the clearing up will have magically disappeared and we can sit on the sofa in front on the fire watching Christmas television.
Mandy’s top tips for a stress-free Christmas in the kitchen are:
• Plan: Write a list and a schedule. I find working backwards helps. Decide what time lunch is and go from there. •D elegate: My family are brilliant at this and I actually think friends and family love to be involved. If I’m cooking the turkey then my mum will be in charge of starters. My auntie always makes some homemade sausage rolls, and my mother-in-law often brings a superb selection of local cheeses.
WHAT’S ON MANDY’S MENU ON DECEMBER 25? Mini Yellowfin Tuna Poké bowls, Seared scallops, pea purée and black pudding — Bronze turkey I quite like the idea of a goose or a sixbird roast, but my boys (including my husband) love a traditional turkey with all the trimmings, that’s why I go to town with the vegetables and give them a little twist . . . I’ll serve rose harissa heritage carrots, spiced red cabbage and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and pomegranate seeds. In addition to this there’ll be goose fat potatoes, parsnips and Sauternes gravy — My mum’s Christmas pudding and homemade chocolate log — and of course some Champagne!
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 15
MANDY’S FESTIVE FEAST
My family absolutely love a delicious chocolate log. There is something gorgeously retro about them and it makes a beautiful centre piece for any Christmas spread. For a lovely light and fresh filling I decided to use thick and delicious Greek yogurt combined with a little icing sugar. It made a lovely change and meant I didn’t have to whip any cream.
Art Direction: Lee Smith | Photography: Craig Matthews
And how did she manage to attract their attention in what is a pretty saturated market with all manner of foodie influencers out there? “First of all I approached the brands I love and genuinely used on a regular basis. In the beginning some of them sent me wonderful ingredients and equipment to try, and when I reached over a certain number of followers on social media platforms I began to be approached to create content and sponsored posts. I love working within such a creative industry and today’s technology makes our reach so much wider.” Now Mandy works with more then 20 PR companies including Tim’s Dairy, Saint Agur and Lindt Chocolate and brands as both a content creator and brand ambassador. This means that Mandy will often create dishes using a brand’s ingredients or a piece of kitchen equipment and then tag them into those specific posts so that her followers can
My steer is on food for the family and recipes that aren’t overly complicated but are always full of flavour Roast Turkey
discover the companies Mandy likes using. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that applies to a number of influencers and helps to drive that all-important cyber traffic into real term sales. After achieving her goal of working with some of her favourite brands in the sector, what has Mandy learnt from running her own business? She says: “To be driven by your passion and then the rest will follow.” And as for Mandy’s plans for 2020? “I plan to keep growing my following and write for magazines and newspapers and hopefully publish something in hard copy one day too.” Given her natural cooking flair and genuine passion for producing fad-free tasty food we somehow know that her next dream will come true for Mandy soon . . .
Follow Mandy Miller Simmonds at @simplyfoodbymandy
Where is your favourite place to shop? I love Fenwick’s, Hoopers and the lovely small boutiques on the High Street: Tunbridge Wells definitely has a little London feel about it
WHY I LOVE TUNBRIDGE WELLS Mandy Miller Simmonds
And to eat out?
I love having the chance to get dressed up when I go out so places like The Ivy, The Beacon and Thackeray’s are perfect venues. For amazing food in a more relaxed atmosphere I’d have to say The Kentish Hare in Bidborough is a favourite.
And for coffee – or cocktails?
I’d recommend Juliet’s and Hattons of Tunbridge Wells for great coffee, lunch and beautiful salads. But if I’m going out for drinks then I’d head to The Wine Rooms on The Pantiles.
Finally, where’s the best place to go locally at Christmas?
A walk through The Pantiles followed by something to eat at The Beacon or The Ivy will definitely get you in the Christmas mood!
16 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
This is a very simple turkey recipe, but feel free to add a few extras to upgrade your bird. Often I like to completely cover the turkey with streaky bacon, 2 packs will do the job. I also like to stuff the turkey with a sausage and chestnut stuffing mix. To do this you will need to carefully place your hand under the skin of the breast and lift the skin away from the breast meat. Spoon the raw stuffing inside and fold the skin underneath the bird. Remember to weigh your stuffing and add that to the weight of the turkey to work out timings. Serves 8-10 INGREDIENTS 1 Turkey (mine was 4.5kg) 3 small onions or 6 shallots – peeled and halved 4-5 carrots – roughly chopped 1 garlic bulb – top chopped off horizontally 1 clementine – halved METHOD • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or regular 180 degrees fan. • Remove the giblets, set aside and use for gravy. Add the clementine, 1 onion and the garlic to the carcass. • Add the carrots and onions to the pan and sit the turkey on top. Drizzle with a little oil, season generously and cover loosely with foil. A higherwelfare bird will take less time to cook - about 30 minutes per kilo. A standard bird will take about 40 minutes per kilo. As a guide a 3.6kg5.4kg turkey will take 2 hours, a 5.4kg-7.25kg bird will take 21⁄2 to 3 hours. Plus resting time. • Remove the foil for the last 45 minutes. Test in between leg and breast with a meat thermometer. The turkey is ready when the temperature reads 74 degrees. Rest for at least an hour.
INGREDIENTS Sponge 3 eggs 85g caster sugar 75g plain flour 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoons baking powder Filling Greek Style yogurt 3-4 tablespoons icing sugar Icing 50g butter 140g dark chocolate 1 tablespoon golden syrup 248ml double cream 200g icing sugar METHOD • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees fan • Beat the eggs and sugar together using an electric whisk. Keep going until it’s thick and fluffy. Sieve the dry ingredients together into the egg/sugar mixture and fold in carefully, trying not to lose any air. • Line a 23 x 32 Swiss roll tin with parchment paper. Pour in the mixture and spread into the corners and sides by tilting with your hands. Into the oven for 10 minutes. Place another piece of parchment paper over the sponge and flip over. Peel the parchment paper off and roll into a tight roll and allow to cool completely. It’s important to do this while hot. • Mix the filling ingredients together and keep cool. • Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water. Remove from the heat and add 4/5 tablespoons of the cream into the chocolate. Beat in 200g of the icing sugar until smooth. Stir in the rest of the cream until it’s the right consistency. • Unwrap the Swiss roll and spread the filling on to the rectangle – you may not need it all. oll back up into a log. Slice a quarter •R off at an angle and place as a branch on the log. Spread with the icing, keeping the ends free from icing. With a fork draw texture to look like bark. Dust with icing sugar.
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18 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
E D I U G G I G L A I T N E S YOUR ES S A M T S I R H C FOR d truly in full swing Paul Dunton heigcehmligbhetsr ason well an ffer during D o se n e o iv s st rt e fe c e n o th c With s and y excellent gig n a m e th f o e som
Paul Dunton Music Editor
Follow Paul @PaulDuntonmusic
HEAD TO THE FORUM The Tunbridge Wells Forum always delivers the very best in cultural music from local to across the globe and the brilliant Britpop darlings Echobelly perform a special acoustic set on December 4. The following night Love Island headline and they’ll have support from Dead Ceremony. Ladybird take to the stage on December 19 and The Anti Nowhere League will be rocking out on both December 20 and 21. Get your tickets while you still can as they are flying out! If you fancy a night out just before New Year’s Eve then The Modern Strangers headline on December 28. For more information visit www. twforum.co.uk FOLK ROYALTY AT THE ST EDITH Folk enthusiasts can catch
none other than Seth Lakeman at St Edith Folk Club in Kemsing on December 6 and Tonbridge Folk Club host Alan Richardson on December 16. Blues fans should definitely catch Jimmy C and The Blues Dragons at The Anchor Inn, Sevenoaks.
Crisp performing on the 20. Expect some uplifting acoustic vibes with plenty of Christmas singalong favourites, fabulous food and beverages to quench your thirst.
POP ALONG TO PENSHURST On December 8 the Penshurst Choral Society present a festive concert by candlelight with an array of carols old and new and some seasonal readings at St John The Baptist Church. For more details go to www. penshurstchoralsociety.co.uk/concerts. If you fancy some more carol singing then soak up the Christmas atmosphere in front of the stunning Scotney Castle on December 15.
FOR LOCAL & LIVE LOVERS For fans of Local & Live, look out for local songstresses Hannah Richards and Sorrel Nation who are performing at The Grey Lady on December 8, and 18 respectively. On December 17, The Tunbridge Wells Forum hosts a rocking night of Local & Live with local rockers Cyrano headlining and support comes from The Charlie Rivers Band and Storm Engine. All three bands are very popular in their own right and have wowed audiences all over the local area and beyond, including the Local & Live Festival at Calverley Grounds this summer. Expect a lively mix of pop and rock with some funky vibes thrown in for good measure. Other Local & Live shows to look out for are Plato and Common Buzzards on December 23 and the Alternative Local & Live Christmas Party on December 27 featuring All The Above, Black Gabanza and Night Without Sleep.
WE DIG DELANEY’S Delaney’s on Camden Road are now regularly putting on live music and have two festive nights in store on December 6 when they’ll be welcoming Mike Wilton with Paul
GROOVE ON DOWN AT THE GREY LADY This Pantiles premises hosts a full month of live music during December but my pick of the month for the shows that haven’t already sold out is
THE BEAU NASH TAVERN IS TOP This popular pub has a very busy programme during December with a host of fantastic local bands to enjoy, who will have you singing along in no time! Look out for Kharma & The Devil on December 7, Rooster Tail on the 14, J.E.M on December 21 and Acoustic Atlas on December 28.
the superb Lipstick & Beatniks on December 21. TRINITY BY CANDLELIGHT The internationally acclaimed guitar virtuoso Richard Durrant returns to Trinity Theatre for his annual candlelit Christmas Concert on December 19. Durrant’s guitar skills are simply breathtaking and to see him perform in the stunning setting of Trinity Theatre is quite something! BEST OF THE REST The Sussex Arms Basement have a belter of a show on December 20 with The Orange Circus and popular local band The Patinas will be at The Bedford Pub on December 7. PARTY LIKE IT’S 2019 New Year’s Eve is always a tough one with so much going on across the borough but the annual Hug-Many event on The Pantiles is a fantastic spectacle with lots of fabulous live music and fireworks to see in the New Year. The atmosphere is wonderful and it helps raise money for a great cause. Visit www.hug-many.co.uk for more information. And finally I just want to say thanks for all your support in 2019. It has been a great year for the local music scene, which continues to flourish and develop. See you in 2020! SO Magazine | December 2019 | 19
Annabel Davies runs the Bella Jane Jewellery brand from her stylish studio in Tunbridge Wells. Here she tells Eileen Leahy how a craft afternoon led her to create a gem of a business
Meet the jewellery designer who knows all about silver linings
o, firstly can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I’ve lived in Tunbridge Wells for over 30 years, I live in a male dominated household with my husband, three boys...and our dog, who’s also a boy! I own my own jewellery business as well as help to run a training business in London. How did your Bella Jane Jewellery venture come about? Entertaining one of my boys in the summer holidays, when he was about five or six, I took him to Hobbycraft to pick an activity for our afternoon together. He chose jewellery making! We spent the afternoon making beaded creations to give to the grannies and I think they were suitably impressed. I absolutely loved it and so decided to
20 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
creating something of my own? So I create a few pieces for myself over the decided to set up a website and see next few weeks. Not being much of a what happened. With a lot of hard costume jewellery fan I decided to work and determination the create some stacking soon started to bracelet designs in sterling Up until now business blossom, and it seems that silver….and the rest, as they say, is history! the main focus stacking has now become a has been the bit of a ‘thing’! And how did it transform itself into bracelet and What were your key aims when you came up the successful business ring stacks but with the idea for Bella you run today? I think it would be true to expect to see Jane Jewellery and have you achieved them? say that I have an some necklace My key aim was to create entrepreneurial spirit and having completed a stacking next luxurious jewellery using fine materials that could be sold at management buy-out and year too! guilt-free prices. I have always worked with venture loved jewellery and wanted capitalists for several years my pieces to be affordable enough that in London, I thought why not apply people could collect items in order to what I’ve learnt along the way by
create their own unique ‘stacks’. I like to think that I have achieved this. What have you learnt from running your own business? I have learnt so much from running my own business – but if I had to pick one thing I would say that customer service is everything. Right from the outset I have always treated customers as I’d like to be treated – something that for many of us is second nature. However, in business this is often not the case. Do you make everything yourself by hand? Yes I put all the jewellery – bracelets, rings and necklaces – together and hand-make each piece. And I get all the individual components such as the beads and charm trinkets made for me.
Art Direction: Lee Smith | Photography: Craig Matthews
Find out more about Bella Jane Jewellery at www.bellajanejewellery.co.uk
“I have always loved jewellery and wanted my pieces to be affordable enough that people could collect items over time in order to create their own unique ‘stacks’”
Festive fix: HOW TO BE SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY:
What inspires your designs? So many things! I love fashion so always keep an eye on current trends, and I’m inspired daily. I’m always thinking of new ideas but above all, I tend to just make what I like. There’s nothing on my website that I wouldn’t wear myself.
spotted wearing my jewellery. But I try not to think of them as any different to my lovely regular customers. I try to be as proactive as I can with my PR, but as with any small business, making time for this is always a challenge.
You’ve been featured in many national titles – how have you achieved this? I have been very fortunate in that I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing influencers and have been lucky enough to have a few ‘pinch me’ moments where celebrities have been
What are your plans for 2020? I’m already working on the first collection for 2020, which will feature lots of fabulous new pieces and will be launched in January. Up until now the main focus has been the bracelet and ring stacks but expect to see some necklace stacking next year too!
How useful is social media for you? Social media is such a powerful marketing tool for small businesses. It gives small businesses a voice and a shop window to reach a wider audience. Which platforms do you use most and why? I use pretty much all of the platforms but Instagram and Facebook are my favourites as they are more visual and as they say, a picture can paint a thousand words! These platforms also give me the opportunity to interact with customers in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise.
Where is your favourite place to shop?
WHY I LOVE TUNBRIDGE WELLS Annabel Davies
It’s no secret to anyone I know, that I am a self-confessed beauty junkie, so if I could only pick one shop to go to, SpaceNK would win the race! Running my business alone means there’s little time for shopping. However, if I do get time to indulge, there’s nothing I love more than a mooch around the independent boutiques on the High Street – something unique and quirky is sure to brighten my day.
And to eat out?
I think it’s no secret that we’re thoroughly
Do you collaborate with any other influencers? I have collaborated with a few wonderful influencers, some of whom I’m lucky to be able to call my friends. I also collaborate with other small businesses so that we can support each other. Do you find the local Instagram community supportive? It is incredibly supportive and it’s fabulous to be able to support other small businesses and charities in the community too. I loved working with, and raising money for West Kent Mind last year.
spoilt for choice in Tunbridge Wells for places to eat and there are too many to list that I love! However, for the ultimate indulgence you can’t beat brunch at Hattons on The Pantiles.
And for coffee – or cocktails?
I love nothing more than a slice of cake and does anybody in Tunbridge Wells do better cake than Juliets?!
Finally, where’s the best place to go locally at Christmas?
To get everyone in the Christmas spirit you can’t beat a family trip to the ice-rink.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT CHRISTMAS DAY? As one of my bracelets says, ‘Family is everything’. We always spend Christmas at home with both close and extended family so it tends to be pretty hectic – but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I adore the Christmas period so we enter into the festive spirit whole-heartedly in our house. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR STRESS-FREE CHRISTMAS PRESENT SHOPPING? For me it’s all about the list! Obviously, the run-up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for my business, so there’s definitely not a huge amount of time to be browsing the shops looking for inspiration, so I tend to make a list of all the people I need to buy for with suggestions next to each, and then armed with this, I go off and don’t come home until I’m sorted. This way, I avoid the thing – please tell me we’ve all done it – where you buy something because you like it and then when you sort out the gifts, it’s not quite suitable for anyone…apart from you! WHICH OF YOUR DESIGNS WOULD MAKE THE IDEAL GIFT FOR A MOTHER/ DAUGHTER/BEST FRIEND? The beauty of having over 150 timeless designs to choose from means that there is literally something for everyone. My top picks this Christmas would be: MOTHER – Family is everything or Serenity bracelet DAUGHTER – Initial bracelet or if you really want to spoil her, the Bella stack FRIEND – Friendship bracelet featuring the words ‘My world is a better place with a friend like you’ SO Magazine | December 2019 | 21
CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE It’s easy to take mobility and the ability to move for granted, not realising how much our lives rely on it, until it is restricted.
hen injury strikes, usual movements can become difficult and sometimes impossible and we have to rely on friends and family to do everyday tasks. The activities that you once enjoyed become problematic to undertake and start to affect your lifestyle.
Nuffield Health Hospital Tunbridge Wells are proud to introduce the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence, with a team of world class specialists, surgeons and nurses dedicated to getting patients back to health and enjoying life once again. They offer complete healthcare by combining hospitals, health clinics, fitness and wellbeing gyms, diagnostic units alongside a wide range of treatments into one complete health and wellbeing service. Their end to end care includes hip, shoulder, knee, spinal, hand, foot and ankle surgery with physiotherapy included for most surgery too. If you need specialist care in one of these areas then there is no better place to come than the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence. All of their consultant surgeons and specialist clinical staff are at the top of their profession, passionate about what they do and have met stringent standards to allow them to be part of the Centre of Excellence. The Centre of Excellence also boasts a full Orthopaedic children’s service with leading Paediatric surgeons and a dedicated children’s ward with specialist nurses. The safety of patients is paramount to providing a high quality service. Supporting open and transparent reporting of events, Nuffield Health use a number of indicators to benchmark themselves both nationally and against competitors. Recovery plus is Nuffield Health’s flagship recovery programme, available free of charge to private patients. The optional programme brings together a spectrum of healthcare services and provides you with a personal recovery programme, health check, exercise and diet advice, together with a three month membership at a Nuffield Health Fitness and wellbeing gym and your own recovery coach. Nuffield Health hospital has also been named Private Hospital of the Year at the Health Investor awards and for the third year running, they’ve also won the LaingBuisson Private Hospital Group award. You can be confident that you will receive the highest standard of consultant-led care. If you’d like to know more about Nuffield Health’s Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence, please contact us on 01892 888199.
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 23
“I HAVE FINALLY FOUND MY NICHE, MY PASSION IN FASHION AND IT FEELS AMAZING” Every month we invite a guest expert from Wellness HQ’s specialist directory to talk about their particular field. For December – and just in time for the party season – we speak to stylist Lynne Meek from The Meek Boutique about how starting her own business pushed her out of her comfort zone and why looking good can boost your self-esteem SO LYNNE, HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE WORLD OF FASHION? In 2010, after a lengthy career in the corporate world, I was becoming jaded and unfilled. I was in my late 40s, our sons were in their teens, and I felt if I didn’t make a change then I never would. So I seized an opportunity to join a designer and vintage dress agency that had just opened in Tunbridge Wells. The next two years were the steepest learning curve of my life! I learnt about clothing brands from high street to high end, fit, fabric, styles and colours, how to run and market a business, put on events, network and how to go out of my comfort zone.
Most importantly I learnt all about women; their body shapes, colouring, style personalities, proportions, clothing that worked and why, and how they felt about their image. AND HOW DID THIS INTRODUCTION TO FASHION TRANSLATE INTO A CAREER AS A STYLIST? I had finally found my niche, my passion and it felt amazing! I was doing what I loved and was making a lot of women happy in the process. My reputation soon spread locally that here was a woman who would give an honest opinion about how clothes looked on them, suggestions for clothing they may have never tried on, and styling ideas to make the clothes look even better. Unfortunately it had become apparent that the writing was on the wall for the dress agency, but I had started to get so many requests from customers to come and sort out their wardrobes and go shopping with them that it was the perfect segue into a new career as a personal stylist. HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE DID YOU FIND IT LAUNCHING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
24 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
Why personal styling can have such a positive effect
STYLING MATTERS IN 2012? We were still in recession in the UK at the time I launched Styling Matters. My husband was selfemployed, and it was a gamble. But I hit the ground running and have grown a successful business since then helping hundreds of women all over the South East
with their image and wardrobes. A few years ago I started a profile on Instagram – mainly to help my clients by sharing photographs of myself wearing my outfit of the day. Before I knew it I had a following of over 25,000 and was invited to work with lots of independent and nationwide brands and retailers as a fashion influencer. I was
A large proportion of my personal styling clients and boutique customers are at a similar stage in life. They are often focused on their families, careers and homes and have little time for themselves. Most women are very good at putting themselves last, and in the process have lost some of their identity. Having multiple demands can make it difficult to move with trends, cope with changes, understand why colours, shapes and styles work (and don’t work) and to know how to evolve their style through each decade. The vast majority of the women I know through the business are extremely time poor and as a result, clothes shopping is stressful. I hear the same problems time and time again. Women find the shops overwhelming, with too much stock, they don’t know what they are looking for, and can’t find it when they do know. The changing rooms are often cramped and too hot, with bad lighting and unflattering mirrors.
amazed to discover how many clothes were being bought by my followers because I had been wearing them. At the same time I was finding personal shopping was getting harder and harder. My client base was mainly aged 35 to 60 and they wanted a capsule of cool, contemporary, comfortable, staple pieces of clothing that were well made but not too expensive. The shops were full of clothes but not the right clothes for them, and they often didn’t have the right sizes in stock. It felt like they were
looking for a needle in a haystack. AND THEN FROM THAT HOW AND WHY DID YOU GO ON TO LAUNCH THE MEEK BOUTIQUE? In the autumn of 2018 in response to what I felt was a healthy demand, I launched The Meek Boutique with my husband. This online boutique was initially intended to be a small collection of clothes, run as a cottage industry from home, and alongside Styling Matters. However it became immediately apparent that our stock was
hitting the nail on the head and the business grew fast! The boutique’s niche is that every single item is hand-picked by me for style, price and quality and means our customers don’t have to wade through thousands of items to find their key pieces. They really enjoy being able to engage with me with their queries, and because I’m an experienced personal stylist there is a huge level of trust and support there. In spring 2019 we took on stock room premises locally. An added bonus was a beautiful
styling room where we’re able to photograph the clothing. I am also able to offer hourlong styling appointments where ladies can try on any of the clothes in a relaxed, calm environment and I can help them on a one-to-one basis. This has been such a game changer for the business – and the hourlong session is free! My husband closed his business earlier this year so he could work alongside me in the boutique full-time, and we are loving every minute of this new life. We have to pinch ourselves every day!
Lynne’s top shopping tips: ✮ Think about how that article of clothing will work in your wardrobe. Make sure it will go with lots of clothes you already have. Don’t just buy something because you like the colour ✮ Never buy something to slim into. Only buy what fits and looks brilliant right now ✮ Set aside time if it’s an important purchase. The phrase ‘I had an event but no time and bought that in desperation’ is a comment I hear far too often! ✮ Only buy something if you really love it. Don’t buy something you quite like, or because it’s the best of a bad lot, it’ll just hang in your wardrobe ✮ If you’re not sure which colours suit you the best, spend most money on neutrals like navy, black, grey, khaki and ivory. You can spend a smaller amount on a scarf or a top in a pop of colour to lift your outfit and try out different colours that way
THE MEEK BOUTIQUE’S USP: ■ I spend a huge amount of time searching for the clothes women need, so they don’t have to. I know what women are looking for: I know the colours, styles, fabrics and shapes that are the most flattering to the majority of body shapes, and I know that most women want to look current and contemporary rather than being a cutting edge trend-setter. I’m also hugely aware that nearly everyone wants to feel comfortable, so fabrics that can stretch are very high on the agenda.
■ Being in a position where I can work with women on a one-to-one basis in a quiet, calm environment is such a pleasure, and adds a unique service to The Meek Boutique. One of my customers told me that she had only seen such a service at high end designer level, never at our reasonable price point. At these appointments I can advise on body shape, colours, styling tips and putting outfits together from our range of stock. An hour is an efficient and workable amount of time to get the pieces our customers need and is a
massive time saver in the long term. And for most women, an hour when it’s all about them is a rare commodity indeed! ■ For those who are unable to get to Tunbridge Wells I can still offer a free hour, but over the phone instead. We both sit in front of a screen with The Meek Boutique website up, and after asking several questions about sizing and lifestyle, I can make suggestions as to clothes that would fit the brief.
Lynne Meek The Meek Boutique www.themeekboutique.co.uk For more information on Wellness HQ visit www.wellnesshq.co.uk
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 25
PURE COLLECTION Toccato slipper, £85 www.purecollection.com
OLIVER BONAS Camel slouchy jumper, £65 www.oliverbonas.com
FAT FACE Weston soft jogger, £36 www.fatface.com
gentle touch THE
ACCESSORIZE Bea oversized cable knit scarf, £25 www.accessorize.com
MARKS AND SPENCER Rosie for Autograph cashmere dressing gown, £200 www.marksandspencer.com
WHITE STUFF Cashmere Clarissa Cardi, £110 www.whitestuff.com NEXT Ginger star sparkle pom hat, £12 www.next.co.uk
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to stay in and stay warm, says Charlie Bond
n the lead-up to Christmas, we get very excited about doing ‘stuff’. We decide to go for drinks with people we haven’t seen for a whole year, we trudge around Christmas markets, winter wonderlands and anything else remotely festive, and we wear sequins and glitter a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the festive season and all the merriment it brings, but there’s also a lot to be said for remembering to pause, relax and take some time to yourself in an otherwise mad month of Christmas shopping queues and boozy gatherings. This month, rather than putting together an edit of partywear or gifts, I’ve chosen to focus on cosy loungewear and items you can relax in. While I appreciate the frenetic festive season doesn’t bring with it much down-time, some of you will have that lull between Christmas and
New Year where the kids are off school, you’re not really sure what day it is and the only food in the cupboards is Quality Street. Typically, I’ve always seen any time off work as time I need to cram in as many plans as possible – and naturally every year I go back at the start of January feeling frazzled rather than refreshed. So, this year I’m going to try to hibernate…a bit. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching Love Actually on repeat while dressed in cosy cashmere or a chunky knit. At this time of year, loungewear gets overlooked in favour of all that glitters, but I think there’s a lot to be said for investing in a great collection of it. Not only will it keep you warm, it’ll help you feel relaxed, which is what we all need a bit of at this time of year! If your plans include binge-watching Christmas films, you might as well do it in style!
The key to nailing the luxe loungewear look is to invest in a range of textures from open weaves to herringbone, and choose muted tones, like greys, browns, lavender and cream. Scarves and hats are totally acceptable as indoor accessories, and for a real Pinterest-worthy vibe, light a wintry candle and have a warm coffee with you at all times.
SOHO HOME Harrison slippers, £38 www.sohohome.com
Have a wonderful, warm Christmas!
Charlie Bond Fashion Contributer Follow Charlie @Girlaboutkent SO Magazine | December 2019 | 27
28 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
Charlie Bond selects the key makeup trends you’ll want to try for yourself this party season
hen it comes to preparing for a Christmas party, we spend so much time thinking about finding the perfect outfit that sometimes we forget the fact that makeup can really enhance and accessorise a party look. I tend to be one of those people who’s always in a rush and thinks a slick of red lipstick will cut it as a ‘party face’, but this month I’m going to try and follow my own advice and embrace some of the trends around this winter. From catwalks to celebrities and blogs to influencers, these looks are big news this season – so it’s time to put down your age-old smoky eye palette and get the glitter out!
Voluminous lashes Understated, barely-there eyelashes have been a trend over the past few seasons, but the good news is, just in time for the festivities, bold, lush lashes are back in. To achieve this look, use a lengthening mascara and apply multiple coats, combing in between each to remove clumps. Keep going until you could give a 60s supermodel a run for her money!
Glitter eyelids This season it isn’t about playing it safe with soft bronze or silver hints: glitter is big news for party looks – and more really is more. If you’re going heavy with the shimmer, choose muted tones for your lips and cheeks to really give the glitter full impact.
Coral lips Red lips are the go-to at this time of year, but switch up your regular rouge for a pop of coral instead. Because there are so many shades of coral ranging from orange-tinged to pinker hues, it’s a universally flattering look that works well with most skin tones.
Peach palette Got a lot of parties to go to? Hide that fatigue with an all-over peachy glow – we’re talking lips, cheeks and eyelids all in the same shade. Not only does this create a healthy flushed look, it also really stands out against a little black dress while staying understated.
HOW TO AVOID ANY PARTY PANICS
Top tips for last-minute slips:
Glossy lips Another 90s trend that’s made its way back into our makeup bags for the party season is the glossy lip. From bold berry hues to subtle shimmers, it doesn’t matter which shade you opt for, as long as you go for maximum shine.
Charlie Bond Lifestyle Contributer Follow Charlie @Girlaboutkent 30 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
Bronze glow If you’re going to go for bronze then the key is to go all out. As well as copper eyelids, apply bronze to cheeks, forehead and even to lips. This look is all about the maximum glow, so don’t be afraid to really go for gold!
Coloured eyeliner It was a thing in the 90s and now bright shades of eyeliner are back for this Christmas. Try electric blue to really make a statement, or jewel shades of red, green or yellow work really well for the festive party season.
Deodorant marks on your LBD Got white marks all over your party dress and no time to change? Don’t stress – rubbing a sock over the deodorant mark will make it invisible in seconds! (I know it sounds mad but trust me, it works.)
No safety pin For gaping necklines and mysterious holes that appear halfway through the evening, just use a stud earring to hold everything in place. More stylish than a safety pin, and more likely to be on you in a time of crisis!
Red wine spillages It happens to the best of us (some more than others!) but if you happen to spill red wine down your outfit, find some soda water and soak the stain – it’ll be lifted out in no time.
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 31
THE BEAUTY TREATMENT WITH REAL
The new Crystal Clear COMCIT facial promises to treat and transform tired, dehydrated and aging skin courtesy of bursts of cold oxygen, giving you back your glow – in just over an hour. Ahead of the party season we tried it out at Mirror Beauty to see what this groundbreaking treatment is all about THE LOWDOWN: Mirror Beauty is located on Nevill Street near The Pantiles and is the only local salon where you can experience the Crystal Clear COMCIT facial. Owned and run by Chrissie Bailey (mother to Paralympian tennis table gold medallist Will) for the past 12 years, it offers a number of treatments. In addition to facials you can have your eyebrows and nails done there as well as a variety of massages, lip enhancements and makeovers, and there is also a hair salon. THE TREATMENT – STEP BY STEP: The aforementioned Crystal Clear COMCIT facial involves freezing cold oxygen being piped on to the skin via a special tube attached to the COMCIT machine. At the same time hyaluronic acid serum is also applied using a special roller which helps to stimulate skin cell production, working deep down to the epidermis to nourish. This powerful combo also helps to plump and rejuvenate the complexion. On arrival at the Mirror Beauty salon I’m greeted by Chrissie, who will be carrying out the facial. She’s warm and friendly and immediately I feel relaxed – and ready to be pampered.
32 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
STEP 1: Chrissie ushers me into her treatment room where soft music is playing and a very inviting heated bed complete with cosy fleece blanket awaits me. This is wonderful respite after having traipsed through the miserable rain to get here! Chrissie starts with a gentle soapy cleanse of my skin to ensure that the product can work its magic as efficiently as possible. After removing any traces of makeup and patting it dry with a towel my skin feels smooth and perfectly prepped for the next step. STEP 2: Chrissie spritzes one side of my face with the ice cold oxygen and I have to admit it does feel a little strange due to the short, cool blasts squirting out but I soon get used to it and have to admit that Chrissie’s technique is expertly delivered and deft. She then does the other side of my face and once this process has been repeated she gets to work with the special COMCIT roller applying a powerful hyaluronic acid serum. Again, because of the tiny needles on the roller it does feel slightly odd and prickly but before I know it I’m drifting off courtesy of Chrissie’s rhythmic technique.
Chrissie ushers me into her treatment room where soft music is playing and a very inviting heated bed complete with cosy fleece blanket awaits me
STEP 3: The aim is to get those pesky aging skin cells to start producing more collagen and elastin which in turn results in a younger, smoother-looking complexion. Here’s hoping! Once Chrissie has worked her magic I’m treated to a stress-reducing foot and hand massage, which definitely helps to release any tension from my limbs. I feel all the relaxation vibes going on by now, and am really enjoying the pampering session.
THE RESULT: Before I leave, Chrissie gives me a small bottle of Vitamin C serum, which is included as part of the package, and advises me to apply it at night just before I apply my moisturiser for a little extra boost. After a week of using it I truly am delighted with how fresh and frazzle-free my skin looks due to this unique treatment. I’ll definitely be going back for more ahead of the party season!
STEP 4: Finally Chrissie spritzes on a refreshing toner to really ensure good glow and by now I can almost hear my skin thanking Chrissie! My complexion feels like it’s had a wonderfully thorough MOT and it feels squeaky clean and really soft too. I take a look in the mirror on leaving the salon and sure enough, I spy a glowing and rejuvenated me staring back.
The 75-0minute COMCIT Crystal Clear H20 Glow facial costs £95 at Mirror Beauty. If you book a course of ten you will receive two complementary treatments. For more details visit www.mirror-beauty.co.uk
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hair stylist THE
WHO’S PROVED SHE’S HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST Rosie Saunders, a senior stylist and colourist at Leigh Roberts salon, recently won a coveted place on L’Oréal’s ID Artist programme which scours the country to find the future stars of the hairdressing world. She explains what such a prestigious win means to her
“It’s a really fun time of year with party season upon us. Being a colourist I get to play more with some of the temporary fashion colours and I can be more creative with my toners and tinted conditioners. What’s great is that clients are more open to being a little more creative this time of year as well, what with their Christmas parties and everything. It’s quite good fun to have your blonde highlights or balayage toned with a nice soft pink or even a beautiful teal green, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be back to normal in a couple of days. If that’s not enough, how about adding an awesome jewelled hair clip like we saw on the runways at Chanel, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana for that added bling”...
34 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
for it. He said that he had total faith in me and MAKING THE CUT would help me through it from start to finish. I took an apprenticeship in Tunbridge Wells Well, what could I say? We just got on with it. It when I was 17, whilst I was finishing my A Levels. was really hard work over many months, but I continued in the industry for a few years after our preparation was so unbelievably thorough completing my apprenticeship, but became that by the time I actually got to the audition, disillusioned with the company I was working for although extremely nervous, I felt that I had and actually decided to make a career change. given it everything and was very confident with I worked as an estate agent in the Sevenoaks my presentation. area, but after one year I realised how much I The competition is judged by an esteemed missed the hairdressing industry. I became panel of leading industry names in a live increasingly aware that I needed the daily audition. During this audition you have to give a creativity and energy that hairdressing gives you. I presentation, showing your completed made some enquiries at some good model and taking the panel of judges salons and was grateful to get through your journey, from initial some good offers but I’d always I’m so concept and how you then had my heart set on working at excited to researched and developed your Leigh Roberts. I always used to drive past the have my eyes theme using mood boards and digital displays. salon on my way home and opened to Winning it still hasn’t sunk in. When thought how great it looked and I Leigh called me to tell me the news I knew of their amazing reputation. I whole new truly thought he was winding me up, decided that this was the salon techniques and he was so calm while telling me. He where I could really further my I could do it and he wasn’t career. So I took the plunge and inspiration knew surprised that I had won my place on called Leigh and the next thing you which I can the team whereas I still can’t believe it. know, I had an interview, then a never dreamed I would part of the trade test. bring back to IL’Oreal ID Artist Team and I’m just When I was offered the job I Tunbridge very proud that I have achieved it. was so proud and happy - and a I can’t wait to experience first hand bit nervous - to be part of such an Wells and use what goes on behind the scenes in amazing team in this incredible salon. It’s very different to other on my clients the hairdressing/fashion world as well as to meet some of the biggest names salons. It’s hard to explain. I love it. in the industry. I’m so excited to have my eyes opened to whole new level of BECAUSE SHE’S WORTH IT inspiration, which I can use to propel myself The ID Artist programme from L’Oréal forward in my career. I’m working backstage at Professionnel has one goal: to find an elite team of exceptionally talented individuals who could be the Central Saint Martins graduate show which I’m really looking forward to, and then soon the future stars of the hairdressing industry and after that I’m off to Barcelona to work on stage work with them to further develop their talent at a big hairdressing event. It’s going to be a lot and help them to discover their full potential. of hard work but a lot of fun too... Following in the footsteps of legends such as I love that my job is constantly changing and Chris Appleton and Sophia Hilton, both former challenging me all the time. I’m learning ID Artists, the team has access to an intense high level education programme and are mentored by something new on a daily basis and that can be very rewarding. I work with a fantastic team in a some of the leading names in the industry. This is very cool, creative and inspiring environment education that you just can’t buy. and I get to meet new people every day. I love The L’oreal ID Artist Team was something I had thought about a lot before, but I was always the fact that what I do can make a real difference to my clients and how they feel too nervous to audition for it. One day Leigh about themselves.” just said to me that he was putting me forward
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SO Magazine | December 2019 | 35
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 37
Food & Drink
A TRUE TASTE OF
Thackeray’s restaurant is known as one of Kent’s finest. After it celebrated its 18th birthday last month Eileen Leahy decided to pay it a visit to see if it still makes the gourmet grade
THE LOWDOWN Situated in the oldest and quite possibly the most charming building in Tunbridge Wells, Thackeray’s is considered as one of Kent’s finest restaurants. It was opened in 2001 by Richard Phillips, who trained under the famous Roux brothers and managed along with his team to gain a coveted Michelin Star not once but twice, as well as numerous AA Rosettes. Although Thackeray’s was stripped of its Michelin Star in 2016 this has not seen the quality of the upmarket restaurant’s classic with a contemporary twist style of cooking – or superbly loyal clientele – dwindle. If anything since Patrick Hill took over as head chef there has been quite the culinary buzz about the place once again. Ever since Richard opened the doors his aim has always been the same: to shine a spotlight on the wealth of fantastic local ingredients, promote provenance, and please the discerning palates of TW and beyond with an unforgettable gourmet dining experience. As well as the traditional à la carte and prix fixe lunch menus, there are also gourmet tasting and meat free ones to enjoy here. THE VENUE The distinctive white and wonky weatherboard building with its Number Ten style front door and fairytale character is nestled on the pretty green just off London Road in Tunbridge Wells. It was once the home of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, which obviously inspired its name. As well as two sizeable dining rooms
38 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
and a bar area downstairs, there are numerous private dining rooms upstairs, all beautifully appointed, where guests can enjoy a more intimate or special gourmet occasion. Outside is a small but appealing terrace which is busy during the summer months. Richard and his team also provide an external fine dining catering business. FIRST IMPRESSIONS On entering Thackeray’s it feels immediately welcoming. The lighting is low and ambient and the décor elegant yet understated, presumably not wanting to take too much away from the building’s charming period character which boasts sloping ceilings, panelled walls and creaking floorboards. Thackeray’s Director Gary Beach warmly greets us on arrival before ushering us into a cosy snug bar. It’s a Friday night
and there’s a steady flow of customers happily dining in the main restaurant. My husband and I enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail expertly mixed by barman Nelson, who appears to know everything there is to know about spirit matching and mixing – just what’s needed when you fancy a change from a regular G&T. While we peruse the menu, carefully curated by head chef Patrick Hill, we’re impressed by the various flavour combinations proposed. For starters you can feast on poached brill – enhanced with a lobster and carrot cream sauce, spiced red lentils, yoghurt and soused raisins (£14). Or how about a serving of traditional old spot pork loin braised and glazed, which is given an intriguing contemporary twist courtesy of its accompanying pickled radish, mint and English feta cheese (£27). If the food tastes as good as it sounds we’re in for a treat.
Suffice to say they both complement UNDER STARTERS ORDERS our dishes perfectly. Gary shows us to our table and after being served a delicious amuse bouche THE MAIN EVENT and a selection of fresh bread he asks if As we wait for our principal plats to arrive we’d like to see the wine list. As you’d expect from this calibre of establishment the restaurant by now is buzzing. Patrick dashes in and out of the kitchen to chat to it’s a pretty comprehensive one, which roams from sturdy old-world French and guests. Some are feasting on his tasting menu (£78), which is a gourmand grazing Italian terroir to local English wines and of all of Thackeray’s trademark dishes. It’s a then on to some intriguing new-world nice touch to see him engage with diners terrains like China, Slovenia and Judea. and wax lyrical about his ambitious Gary, who is also a highly qualified sommelier, clearly senses our trepidation approach to cooking. For my main I’ve opted for the roast at picking out something and so suggests he pairs a wine per course for us. For my John Dory, which is served with golden beetroot, parmesan gnocchi, poached pink indulgent foie gras parfait, which is onions, soused shallot rings and exquisitely presented and a superbly velvety soubise sauce comes served with a rich Head chef (£29). Visually speaking it’s a confection of roasted Patrick work of art and tastewise it’s a Concorde pears, Macadamia frequently clever riff on serving white fish. nuts, pear gel, confit duck leg and truffle popcorn (£15), he dashes in and The soft, pillowy John Dory filets are silk-like on the palate and the suggests a glass of Grunhauser out of the texture and taste of the plate is Riesling Mosel 2001. Usually kitchen to chat further enhanced by slivers of this would cost £42 a bottle to guests flavoursome onion and sweet but as Gary explains, it is now and smoky gnocchi gems. My possible to serve it by the glass, wine partner for this dish is a heavenly along with a host of other fine wines, glass of Swiss Domaine du Daley Blanc de courtesy of a clever gadget called a Noir, which has just the right amount of Coravin which enables ‘access’ to wines citrusy kick to complement the John Dory. without actually breaking the seal cork. My husband has decided on the sirloin For my husband’s starter of confit of Dexter beef, which has been aged for a Loch Duart salmon, which comes with lengthy 50 days and comes with a range of smoky aubergine caviar, nuggets of intriguing ingredients such as salt-baked apricot, enoki mushroom, heritage celeriac, braised brisket rosti, lovage pesto, radish, soy and an earthy mushroom fermented garlic and oxtail salad (£33). broth, Gary proposes a glass of 2013 Gary stays with the same Swiss wine Pinot Blanc Bourgogne. Both our wines producer to complement the beef but this offer a little pleasant twist on the usual time it’s a glass of their Gama Nera Grand pairing of, say, a Sauternes with the foie Cru. Its robust and intense peppery red gras or a Muscadet with the salmon.
berry character is a match made in heaven for the beef, which has been pressed into little rectangles of perfection. It’s sweet and unctuous and the indulgent side of roasted creamy, cheesy cauliflower sets the seal on this perfect partnership. THE FINISHING LINE Although we both feel suitably sated after a triumphant main course, we still can’t resist a peek at the puds on offer as so far we’ve been very impressed by Patrick’s clever flavour combinations. My husband’s favourite ice cream is pistachio so he’s taken with the Matfield honey parfait with a sprinkling of roasted pistachios, pistachio sponge, honeycomb, poached black fig and bee pollen (£11). It’s a joy to savour and is light enough so as not to feel totally full to the brim. However, I can only manage a few bites of the utterly indulgent and divine dark chocolate pavé with peanut butter, baby banana, rum and coconut (£12) I chose. Despite it being heaven on a plate – and the palate - it proves to be just a little too much after my two previous courses. Again Gary has matched our puds with wines that are little bit offbeat – a Chinese dessert wine for my husband and a sweet red Italian sparkler for me. Tonight has been a really enjoyable evening savouring quality food in the most pleasant surroundings. The attention to detail on all levels – not to mention real passion and knowledge expressed by all team at Thackeray’s – is palpable. It has set this fine establishment apart for nearly two decades, and it’s clear that it will continue to do so for years to come... www.thackerays-restaurant.co.uk SO Magazine | December 2019 | 39
Mix it up
THIS CHRISTMAS We’ll start you on a negroni and have you finishing on our candy pants cocktail by the end of the night
George Kainth at Grub & Liquor tells us why cocktails have now become the popular party drink of choice... Every single cocktail on our menu is of our own design; we have shaken up the classics with our own unique twists
So George, please can you tell us what you have in store for Christmas at Grub & Liquor? We’ve got a lot happening this Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Each weekend in December we have DJs playing 80s and 90s hits till 1am, kicking off after your meal so you can make sure the party carries on. With our bottomless prosecco and wine offers all night it’s the perfect place to enjoy well priced drinks. A lot of guests who have booked meals elsewhere are coming to us for the after party! Can you give us an idea of the number of cocktails you have on your menu? We have approximately 35 to 40 different cocktails on offer at any one time. Our menus change seasonally and our fantastic staff have their own hand-crafted concoctions up their sleeve, which they shake up for their favourite customers!
Are there any cocktails that are unique to you and that you won’t find elsewhere in TW? Every single cocktail on our menu is of our own design; we have shaken up the classics with our own unique twists. You won’t find our cocktails anywhere else. We love our guests’ reactions to our version of the espresso martini... What’s the most popular cocktail on your menu and why? It has to be our version of the Porn Star Martini. You’ll have to try one for yourself to find out why! Do you like to experiment by creating your own recipes? We are constantly producing new cocktails every week. We have a master cocktail list of more than 400 tried and tested recipes. We love testing new mixes and flavours with our clientele and on many occasions we give these experimental cocktails complementary to our loyal customers for feedback. Which creations do you enjoy making the most? We love making drinks that make our customers light up with excitement. Cocktails have moved away from being simply a mix of spirits to complete showmanship in terms of how they are made, how they look, taste and make you feel when you take that first sip!
40 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
What in your eyes is a classic cocktail and why? In my opinion classic cocktails are those drinks you have always known. It isn’t about a cocktail from the 1920s or 30s but from what resonates with customers and what they enjoy drinking. We have developed many of our own classic cocktails that customers really enjoy. Have you seen more people making the switch from drinking wine and prosecco to choosing cocktails instead? Our guests usually ask for cocktails over anything else. We have built a very good reputation for our cocktails so people know where to go for something unique. And finally, should we stick to drinking one particular cocktail or dare we mix drinks? Dare to mix, of course. We’ll start you on a negroni and have you finishing on our candy pants cocktail by the end of the night whilst you’re having a boogie! On New Year’s Eve Grub & Liquor will be offering a complementary bottle of prosecco and free buffet to every six guests who book a table. There will also be a DJ playing 70s, 80s and 90s tunes until 2am on New Year’s Eve
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
SERVING UP a recipe for
Christmas Day success
When it comes to cooking up a festive feast sometimes you need a bit of a helping hand if you’re not confident in the kitchen. So who better to ask than Chapter One’s chef extraordinaire Andrew McLeish for a little advice? So Andrew, what do you look forward to most about getting into the kitchen at Christmas? Even though it’s one of our busiest days of the year, there’s always a lot of excitement in the kitchen. The energy is high and everyone’s on top form – we all work hard and look forward to going home after service to spend time with our families. What’s trending on the menu at Chapter One for the 2019 festive season? It wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey! Our guests love a slice of tradition so we’ll be serving beautiful roast black-feathered turkey with chestnut stuffing, chipolatas and bacon. Another favourite is smoked salmon; this year we have a lovely tartare starter served with crème fraîche, Atilla Oscietra caviar and sourdough croutons. Would you describe your diners as being adventurous in terms of their palate? Yes absolutely – we change our menu regularly because most of our diners return to us time and again. They love variety and the chance to try something new. We also balance this with traditional dishes that appeal to the less adventurous who are still looking for a perfectly executed meal and the highest quality ingredients. Can you tell us what the Christmas Day at
Chapter One experience is like? Busy! We start the day nice and early to get on top of all the prep. There’s a full briefing for the whole team – kitchen and Front of House – to ensure everything runs smoothly. The restaurant is always fully booked and it’s a fantastic atmosphere. Everyone’s dressed up for the occasion and the Champagne is flowing. It’s full of families celebrating together and enjoying the day and we’re only too pleased to make sure their entire experience is memorable. What’s the inspiration for your menu this year? Like all the food we serve at Chapter One there’s a real modern European flavour. Dishes are inspired by the finest ingredients and cooking methods from across Europe and further afield with nods to traditional French, Italian and even Arabic cuisine with dishes like celeriac and truffle gratin with apple purée, Dukkah spice and bitter leaves.
Which dishes tend to be most popular during December and why? Rich, comforting ones. December is all about indulgence – no one is counting calories until January! A couple of favourites on our current menu are red wine-braised beef cheek with potato purée, savoy cabbage, crispy shallots and a red wine jus and a starter of pressed chicken and oyster mushroom terrine. Dessert is a must at this time of year, and we’ll be serving traditional Christmas pudding all month long – it’s very popular – with vanilla ice cream and brandy sauce, – because it is Christmas, after all! Do you stick with tradition and serve up turkey at home or do you prefer to mix things up? We have turkey, very traditional but true. It goes handin-hand with the whole Christmas experience so why rock the boat? We add variation by serving different vegetables each year. Can you please give us some tips on how to keep your cool in the kitchen when preparing Christmas lunch? Plan ahead! Write your menu and do the food shopping in plenty of time. There’s nothing worse than nipping to the shops with everyone else on Christmas Eve for last-minute ingredients! Prep veg and anything else you can the night before so you’re not under too much pressure on Christmas morning. Lay the table while the meat is in the oven. Then relax and enjoy yourself – after all, it’s Christmas! www.chapteronerestaurant.co.uk
42 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
TREAT YOURSELF WITH A VISIT TO THIS...
The White Bear is back in Tunbridge Wells and everyone is raving about its stunning interiors but is the food and drink offering just as good? SO magazine went along to find out . . .
couple of decades ago, in order to run a successful establishment you needed to offer little more than a few decent beers, some wine, a traditional selection of crisps – oh and perhaps a jukebox in order to get the party going on the weekend. But how times have changed! Nowadays going out is a full-on social ‘experience’ where pubs, bars and restaurants, both big and small, require a variety of exotic sounding craft ales, a funky cocktail list – including spirits preferably sourced from a local distillery – and a list of dining delights that sounds more like you’re reading a florid foreign novel 44 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
than a menu. And as for the ambience? Well that’s now just as crucial as the food and drink served up in order to entice clients to come back time and time again. It’s fair to say then that the basic drinking dens of yesteryear have well and truly been usurped by a new breed of bijoux boozers. So when The White Bear suddenly reappeared on Tunbridge Wells High Street at the end of the summer after 20 odd years, its new owners Young’s had obviously done their market research in order to bring back a much loved local – but with much, much more to offer than just a pint, a packet of crisps and a great night out.
Food & Drink
brimming cocktails list. The impressive curved bar counter is still in place but there are now lots of little snug areas to sit and sip as well as a couple of squishy sofas, positioned by a spectacular open fire that’s bound to be a much coveted spot over the winter months. The delightful orangery area towards the back of The White Bear is just as appealing thanks to its cool décor and multifunctional nature. Not only does it boast a garden grill kitchen, there’s also a magnificent walled garden and an outside bar with retractable roof. We’re told by our attentive waiter as we head towards our table that the orangery wants to appeal to everyone and everything – a place to brunch, have a cocktail, or enjoy dinner.
THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL When I visited it with a friend recently it was immediately clear on stepping inside The White Bear just how much creative effort has gone into revamping the visual appeal of the premises – which was, until a few months ago, still trading as The Tunbridge Wells Bar & Grill. The redesign is a million miles away from the pub’s original character, sporting a hip Hoxton style vibe these days – think bare brick walls enhanced by hits of funky florals and fairy lights festooned about the place. Add the aesthetic Instagram-worthy mix of vintage seating, ornately tiled floors and statement lighting and it’s clear why The White Bear’s transformation has earned it thousands of likes and shares on social media. The main entrance, which under its former Bar & Grill guise was largely given over to dining tables, is now totally opened up for discerning drinkers who’ll love the huge array of local artisan beers and spirits as well as a
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD First glance at the menu and we’re suitably impressed. There’s a good offering of solid pub classics such as the White Bear burger (£13.50), beer battered fish and chips (£14) and sausages and mash (£12), but the majority of it is dedicated to the finer things in life including Aberdeen Angus steak tartar with bone marrow and ale bread (£8) and roasted plaice with sea vegetables and caper berries (£13.50). Prices are reasonable too with perhaps only the steaks being a tad expensive – a 26oz Côte de Boeuf sharing platter costing £60 with only fries to accompany it does seem a little disproportionate. To start I choose the vanilla and Anno (local) gin cured trout with caper berries (£6) while my friend opts for the roasted Scottish scallops and blackberries (£8). The latter comes on its cute coquille St Jacques shell and certainly tastes as good as it looks. My friend Cat says the scallops are plump and perfectly chargrilled while the blackberries add an interesting intense fruity twist. My generous slivers of trout are anointed with just the right amount of lemon juice and are taken to another level thanks to the deliciously soft and fresh homemade white bread served alongside. As we’re both having meat mains, Cat and I decide to share a bottle of red but as we ponder the choices our waitress suggests we taste a couple to see which we prefer. Eventually we decide upon a bottle of Finca La Colonia Colección Malbec (£31), a gorgeously rich and complex wine with rich spicy tones. It proves to be the perfect accompaniment to the butter soft grilled flat iron steak (£22) and half charcoal chicken (£12.50), we’ve ordered, subtly picking up the earthy flavours found in my sides of red cabbage and onion slaw and tarragon pesto. Dessert choices keep The White Bear’s fine-diningwithout-the-hefty-price-tag vibe going. You can finish up with a Kent blue cheese honey cake and caramelised figs (£4.50) confection or go light with a lemon and thyme posset (£4). But we don’t and instead choose to share the decadent chocolate fondant with a blood orange sorbet (£4.50). Yes it tasted as good as it sounds – and as fabulous as this place looks for that matter. The White Bear is definitely a roaring success . . . www.thewhitebear.com
It’s fair to say then that the basic drinking dens of yesteryear have well and truly been usurped by a new breed of bijoux boozers
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 45
IT’S GAME ON THIS LET’S PLAY Lots of families have traditions that they protect and practicse every year. Playing Monopoly, or getting in touch with your inner Dali at the annual Pictionary competition with your grandparents, is as traditional for some as roast turkey and stuffing at Christmas. With the ever-present screen (in the form of mobile phones, tablets and TVs wired to Fortnite) it’s perhaps more important than ever to revive or restart old family traditions such as charades, the post-it note game or even the home produced pantomime . . . In our house, my daughter Zoë and her friend Lottie were so enchanted by Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker story, they started an annual performance of the ballet, complete with a dancing Rudolf and a manic Santa. The girls take great delight, on the last day of term, to perform the whole story, using the French windows and curtains as their changing area and acting and dancing the play in front of the Christmas tree. Our tiny lounge has played host to this extravaganza twice now, and despite it being a bit of a squash and a squeeze, we’ve managed to cram in together to watch what’s fast becoming a magical annual treat. Preparations are in full swing now for this year’s performance where they’ll be joined by another friend, Arabella, and we’ve been promised a host of new characters… THE HISTORY OF PARLOUR GAMES On Christmas Eve each year, friends of ours drag willing participants out of the local pub and invite them home to act out the nativity. They’re given a script and a makeshift costume and everyone throws themselves into their 46 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
s a m t s i r h C
respective roles with vigour. And while this might sound less traditional than watching the school nativity, Christmas plays at home were actually initiated by none other than King James 1 himself in the 17th century. In the early 1600s he introduced the tradition of a play to his court at Christmas. Actors were assembled in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace (among them a certain William Shakespeare) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed on New Year’s Day. King Lear was performed on Boxing Day in 1606 in the Great Hall and Twelfth Night in1618 and 1623. Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were very fond of treading the boards at Christmas time and would perform pantomimes for their parents during the festive season at Windsor Castle. They took it upon themselves to write and perform the nativity and also their own versions of Aladdin and Old Mother Red Riding Boots. NOW DO IT YOURSELF We are lucky in this county to have so many pantomimes and Christmas plays to draw inspiration from. It’s also not too difficult to take the train in to London to see the English Ballet’s Nutcracker, which runs across the Christmas season at The
Coliseum in the West End. However, if you don’t have plans to see a panto this year, then why not put one on yourself at home? It doesn’t take much to dance like the Sugar Plum Fairy in your lounge, or transform your dad into the Wise Man. As many a mum can attest, a tea towel and a piece of cord does a shepherd make, and your cracker hat can double as a king’s crown. If you’re not up for performing the nativity, then your own take on Aladdin or Babes in The Wood might even extract a teenager or two from their Wiis or PS5s this Christmas Day.
Try these traditional Christmas games:
CHARADES: This is an absolute must at Christmas time. We like to play using a theme, but then anything goes with charades. LIE DETECTOR: This can be played straight after the Christmas meal when you’re still sitting at the table. Taking it in turn, each player volunteers three pieces of information about themselves; two must be true and one must be false. The other players get five minutes to interrogate the player, asking questions about the statements and trying to ascertain which is true or false. Once the group has reached a consensus, the player must tell the group which statement was a lie. DR DR: One of the group is nominated as the doctor. He or she must leave the room then the remaining members of the group decide what ‘ailment’ they are suffering from. The doctor must return and deduce the condition from the answers to his or her questions.
Photography: Laurent Liotardo
As screens begin to take over everyone’s life – grandparents included – are we at risk of losing our traditional Christmas games? Vikki Rimmer decides to investigate...
Eco-friendly seasonal gifts Looking to invest in a present with a purpose? Here’s our pick of the best ideas for all the family
TAKE THE LEAD Dog knitting kit, £38, We Are Knitters, www.weareknitters.co.uk
LIVING COLOUR Kids mini paint project pack, £29.95, Annie Sloan, www.anniesloan.com
AND SO TO BED... Loom & Last Frida French Grey Linen bedding set from £170
SWEET TREAT Love Cocoa Truffles are vegan-friendly, organic and Fair Trade, £15, Royal Opera House shop, www.shop.roh.org.uk
GEM OF A GIFT Bohemia+BeadWORKS Ngare Earrings, £24 each, Bohemia Design Ltd, www.bohemiadesign.com
ETHICAL ELF ON THE SHELF Handmade crochet cotton elf, £18.99, Best Years, www.bestyears.co.uk
BEAUTY SPOT Treat the person who has everything to a pampering session at Serenity Therapies in Tunbridge Wells, www.serenitytherapies.com
BROUGHT TO BOOK Peter Pan hand numbered vintage book, £140, SP Books, wwwspbooks.com FLOWER POWER Choose from one of Serenata’s beautiful seasonal bouquets available at a range of prices, www.serenataflowers.com CHERRY PICKED Rent a fruit tree for a season from Bentinck Farm in Tunbridge Wells. Prices start at £30 for an apple tree or £45 for a cherry tree and includes a gift certificate. More details at www.bentinckfarm.co.uk
STATEMENT NECKLACE Multi-bead necklace, £65, available from Desirable Designs on The Pantiles, www.desirabledesigns.co.uk
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Harlow wreath £125, Browning medium lantern £41, Browning small lantern £31 all available from Neptune, www.neptune.com
BRING THE OUTSIDE IN THIS
GILT TRIP Silver birch branches can be used to make wreaths and entwined with holly for garlands. Wrap fairy lights in and around the branches and conceal the battery pack behind ribbon. Glitter spray could be used on the branches and small baubles twisted onto the wreath using florist wire, or leave it beautifully simple as is. Painted gold berries and pears mixed with seasonal foliage also make for a fabulous table centrepiece dotted with candles amongst the foliage in long candlesticks. Other plants you can use to help decorate your home this Christmas include eucalyptus, berried ivy, ruscus, robusta, pittosporum, eryngium, roses and nerine. And if your Christmas tree feels a bit sparse pad it out with additional foliage, such as eucalyptus and snowberry inserted between the branches.
Christmas Our gardening expert Victoria Truman tells you how to bring in a little Christmas cheer from nature’s rich seasonal bounty
Victoria Truman Garden Designer
Berry reds and greens take centre stage in December in the garden and in turn these colours can be brought inside and used to add to your Christmas decorations and festive cheer. Here are my favourite tips and tricks for making your home a beautifully natural winter wonderland courtesy of the seasonal gems in your garden:
house as you would in your garden. Mistletoe (viscum album) is a great centrepiece for kissing under! Make this extra large and tie with a big red bow to hang from the ceiling. The cheeky evergreen is as much an emblem of Christmas as the tree itself. Buy fresh and also use some poked into your wreath, following the theme through into your house.
RED HOT A favourite of many is the rich red euphorbia pulcherrima, better known as poinsettia; the colour sings with Christmas cheer and, with it being a time for entertaining, these plants also make great hostess gifts instead of bringing the traditional bottle of wine. Have a few in stock to give to loved ones and it makes for a nice break from the oodles of sweet treats we have at this time of year.
GOOD GOLLY IT’S HOLLY Holly (ilex aquifolium) is perfect for wreath and garland-making; a favourite of mine is the Silver Queen, which has a cream margin on its leaves, making it look frosted. For an option which is not as sharp as traditional holly, choose Alaska, which also bears beautiful red berries over winter. Place holly behind picture frames, and foliage and candles on the sideboard. Add some pine cones and spruce along mantlepieces with fairy lights strung along the branches. Bare winter branches have a delicate look, so use small baubles that catch the light dotted along them for a more modern and contemporary decoration.
MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOE Keep your schemes bold and full of impact by using plenty of the same type of plant around the 48 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
TOP TIPS for December: 1
Dig over empty borders and prepare your soil for next year’s planting Group potted plants together in a sheltered spot in the garden to protect them from the harshest winter weather
Get pruning – wisteria, fruit trees, roses and Japanese maples are just some of the plants that benefit from a winter prune
Look after the birds – clean feeders, stock up on fat balls and make sure that they have access to fresh water
Prune climbing roses now, removing diseased or damaged growth and tying in any new shoots to their support. Prune older flowered sideshoots back by two thirds of their length
Leave the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until spring, as they provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems If any of your rose bushes suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, gather up and remove any fallen leaves to reduce the chance of infection next year
Lift and store dahlia tubers once their leaves are blackened by frost
Move containers of shrubs or bedding planters to a sheltered spot; clustering them together helps protect the root systems from suffering frost damage
Check that climbers are securely attached to supports with ties
Prune Japanese maples (acers) and vines if needed, as they will bleed sap if pruning is done any later www.victoriatruman.com
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TIS THE SEASON TO MAKE YOUR HOME SPARKLE It’s the most wonderful time of the year so make sure your home looks the part courtesy of a more contemporary colour scheme says Eileen Leahy
ong gone are the days when it was perfectly acceptable to hang up the same ragged tinsel, chipped baubles and dodgy fairy lights you’ve had for decades in order to ‘decorate’ for the Christmas season. Now it’s more a case of ensuring your home looks perfectly dressed and photo-shoot ready for the season courtesy of a chic and considered colour scheme and lots of ambient illumination. Blame it on Instagram or brands like John Lewis and The White Company upping their seasonal game but for anyone who’s passionate about their home then decorating for Christmas has now been taken to a whole new level. Tatty tinsel and multi-coloured fairy lights will no
longer do if you really want your home to shine over the festive period. Red, gold and green is of course a classic colour combo as are glimmering all-metallic themes but over the past few years there have been a number of other looks creeping in which are well worth considering such as turquoise and silver, or rich navy accents paired with gold. But for 2019 the emphasis is on lots of pale pinks, soft peach and bronze tones as seen here in this exquisite John Lewis image. Combined all together not only do they infuse effortless glamour into a space quicker than you can say ‘Merry Christmas’, they will work brilliantly in any style of home – whether contemporary or classic. Just about everywhere is offering up their take on this pretty pastel style
this year – which, by the way, looks really great with the odd copper tone thrown in along with some warm, white lighting. In addition to John Lewis you can seek out glass, metallic and frosted bits and baubles from places such as Next, Wilko, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer. The key is to keep to this particular theme and not throw everything you already own into the mix as the only thing you’ll achieve is overkill. Always put on your fairy lights first as it makes life so much easier. For a great selection of different styles head to specialists such as Cox and Cox or Lights 4 Fun. Complement your tree with clusters of votive and pillar candles dotted about the place as opposed to more full-on Christmas glitz. An instant way to create impact
For 2019 the emphasis is on lots of pale pinks, soft peach and bronze tones
with candles is by placing a variety of metallic offerings in different shapes and sizes together on a mirrored tray as that will help to beautifully reflect light around the room. If you don’t have space for a tree you can still infuse a little festive spirit courtesy of swags of green fern or eucalyptus enhanced with glittering decorations on banisters, mantelpieces or shelving. Pick up real foliage from a florist or the faux varieties from Hobbycraft, Home Sense and The Range. It’s up to you whether you decide to keep things minimal by just adding some pin fairy lights to your foliage or whether you weave in some glittering embellishments too. It really doesn’t take much effort to create a stylish winter wonderland no matter how big or small your pad. SO Magazine | December 2019 | 53
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he Christmas shopping is all done, the food preparation is under control and the wine is chilling in the fridge. But have you given any thought to how your table is going to look? If you haven’t, don’t panic because there are a few ways you can transform a lacklustre table into a luxurious one. Nothing sets the scene for an elegant yuletide table like a crisp, snow-white tablecloth or table runner. White crockery is another essential as it suits all decorating styles. If you are planning a last-minute jaunt to the supermarket, keep an eye out for the great bumper value packs of plain crockery available from the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda. And keep an eye out for fancy glassware which will add a polished finish. When it comes to your festive flourishes, how about embracing a Nordic style with lots of green foliage such as stems of fragrant eucalyptus and swags of fern. Enhance and embellish with lots of twinkling pin fairy lights and votive candles and a sprinkling of pine cones. Or you could embrace the trend of recent years by suspending a branch from your ceiling and decorating it with baubles and lights. The effect is simply stunning. To prettify chairs, why not hang oversized baubles or even sprigs of mistletoe on the back of each one? Now all that’s left to do is welcome your guests and enjoy your festive feast. Merry Christmas!
GET THE LOOK...
Winter Lake Christmas Dining Room Branch & Bauble Lifestyle, courtesy of Lights4fun, www.lights4fun.co.uk
TURN THE Set the scene for your festive feast by following these simple styling tricks says Eileen Leahy
tables Table Arrangement White, £99, Berries & Baubles, www.berriesandbaubles.co.uk
Finishing table touches, from £1.50, Marks and Spencer, www.marksandspencer.com
Decorative green baubles, from £3, Next, www.next.co.uk
Pair of vintage style champagne saucers, £29.99, Historic Royal Palaces, www.historicroyalpalaces.com
Stag Head Salad Servers, £37.95, Annabel James, www.annabeljames.co.uk
Gold and silver charger plates, £2 each, Dobbies, www.dobbies.com
100 per cent natural Beatitude limited edition Winter Comfort Candle, £12 (small) and £30 (large) available from www.beatitudeproducts.co.uk
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CELEBRATING A SPECIAL FIRST ANNIVERSARY To mark a year since the arrival of Court of Protection specialist Martin Terrell and his team, Warners Solicitors invited other professionals, who work with elderly and vulnerable clients, to join them for an informal drinks reception at Tonbridge Old Fire Station. Martin is a well known and well respected expert in Court of Protection matters. He is also recognised as a leading individual by the legal directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.
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YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE
s a m t s i r h C s i h t y l e Lon FEELING LONELY?
Then why not try the following groups: Meetup: This hosts loads of local groups like Funberries and Tunbridge Wells Socialites that people can join which are activity or interest-based. Making connections with those who you have something in common with is an easy way to start reaching out and finding somewhere to belong or fit in (www.meetup.com) Nextdoor: This is a community forum where information and points of view are exchanged amongst neighbours who may never otherwise have contact with each other (www.nextdoor.co.uk)
Hypnotherapist Karen Martin runs a busy practice at Salomons Estate, helping adults, children and teens change their lives for the better. This month she writes about the issue of loneliness at Christmas
In Choir: Joining a local choir is a joyful thing to do at this time of year when carol concerts abound. I would highly recommend this particular one where the music is both uplifting an local. It welcomes anyone, including those who only dare to sing in the bath or inside their heads (www.inchoir.co.uk)
of shared happiness and so much more isolation or exclusion leads to social anxiety, oneliness is a taboo subject. The meaningful than a texted emoji. When you which puts all but the bravest off confidently sufferer is often regarded with smile at someone it activates a switch in their getting out there to meet new people and suspicion or as someone to avoid. brain which makes them smile back. This, in make friends. The Bisto ‘spare chair Sunday’ After all, only the unpopular have turn, stimulates feel-good biochemistry like advertising campaign offers some kind of no friends, right? Wrong. As the dopamine and oxytocin which relieves solution by encouraging families to party season kicks off with a vengeance, there emotional stress and the physical invite lonely neighbours to dine are growing numbers of people who never go inflammation it causes. Most with them. That’s all well and to the ball. This social exclusion is a hidden Looking out for friendships start with a hello good, except that the traditional epidemic which creates misery and ill health. strained relationships can sometimes the lost, lonely or smile and recent research family sitting down around a According to the British Red Cross, more break. Then there’s the overindulgence disadvantaged discovered that the loose table and eating together is fast than nine million of us are lonely in the UK. that leads people to my door for help with is a collective connections created by smiling becoming a nostalgic fantasy of These lonely souls aren’t always obvious. They having a dry January, shedding excess responsibility we’ve at passing acquaintances during cosy bygone times. And that’s may be a single mum sitting at home night pounds or quitting smoking. I will always kind of forgotten our daily routine are also part of the problem. We don’t after night while the children are sleeping greet them with a smile to put them at about important for well-being and a tend to have these kind of because she can’t afford a babysitter. Or the ease and help them be hopeful that their sense of community. In other words, a ‘gatherings’ that often any schoolboy who doesn’t like football and best intentions are achievable. smile is a gift that gives back, a simple more. And the less time we has no one to talk to at break times Wishing you a festive season filled expression that costs nothing and creates a sack spend socialising, the less socially or hang out with after school. with friendship and fun, whether According to the load of goodwill. confident we become. Bullied children are often you’re a party animal or a homebody, British Red Cross, This is a busy time of year for my clinic when all Looking out for the lost, marginalised or isolated and and a year ahead when all your best kinds of pressures heap on the anxiety and more than nine lonely or disadvantaged is a that’s the worst kind of bullying intentions are fulfilled. collective responsibility we’ve because it creates a state of million of us are kind of forgotten about. It’s not loneliness which can stay with lonely in the UK about not caring, it’s about not them all their lives. How many FOMO vs JOMO noticing those not directly young people are working so hard Everyone is familiar with the fear of missing out, or FOMO, which can often lead involved in our lives. We have on their careers that they’re too to the forced jollity of an evening out you feel obliged to enjoy. I confess to being cognitive filters which edit out things exhausted or don’t have time for a social a fan of JOMO. The joy of missing out is a pleasure that comes from having the around us that don’t require our immediate life? And then there are the elderly, who confidence to say no to an invitation to somewhere you don’t want to be. The constitute the saddest statistic of all, with more attention or safeguard our future well-being. Christmas advert that celebrates this, free of mawkish sentimentality, is for Life can be pretty overwhelming without than half the over-75s living alone and 40 per Domino’s Pizza. It depicts staying in as the new going out. I’ll vote for that, with cent of older people reporting that television is worrying about other people’s problems. or without the pizza. There’s a small thing we can all give their only friend. generously at any time of the year: a smile! A We can all do our bit, even if we’re feeling www.hypnotherapykent.co.uk proper in-your-face smile is a priceless sparkle lonely ourselves. The trouble is that social SO Magazine | December 2019 | 57
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WHY YOU CAN BANK ON this hotel
for a capital stay Tis the season to go Christmas shopping and we’ve found the perfect place to stay if you’re in London for a few days. The Ned, a hotel steeped in wealthy history, has all you want in terms of a stylish, comfortable and relaxing base after all that retail therapy. Eileen Leahy reveals all...
Located in the heart of the City of London, right around the corner from the Bank of England and a minute’s walk from Bank Station lies The Ned hotel. And its location couldn’t be more relevant given that it occupies the former Midland Bank’s HQ. Seven years ago the colossal 320,000 square metre space was acquired by the Soho House group and a five-year project was undertaken to transform the Grade I listed building into one of London’s most upmarket heritage hotels. Located on Poultry, just next to the impressive Royal Exchange, The Ned’s setting is perfect if you want to indulge in a spot of seasonal shopping as it’s located right in the heart of the retail mecca of the Square Mile. It opened in April 2017 and with 250 bedrooms, 11 restaurants, a spa, gym, private members’ club, rooftop pool and premium fashion line Net A Porter on speed dial to guests, The Ned pitches itself as the place to cater for all your needs.
All in the detail:
Thankfully all the heritage hallmarks of the former Midland Bank are still very much in evidence post the building’s renovation and none more so than on arrival at The
Ned. The banking hall’s original 92 magnificent verdite Art Deco pillars are a sight to behold – the ceiling was cleverly raised to make the most of their majestic presence. Back in the day the verdite columns separated the various counter areas of the Midland Bank but now they section off a number of chi-chi dining areas which include the wood-panelled Lutyns Grill, Parisian inspired Café Sou and trendy Malibu kitchen serving up healthy Californian food. Other original features successfully brought back to life include the double height wrought iron arched windows (which The Ned’s logo is based on), domed glass chandeliers and marble stairs giving the whole place a distinct gentleman’s club feel – in a good way. Every Sunday The Ned hosts its popular Sunday Swing jazz evenings and I would heartily recommend a visit – just remember to bring your dancing shoes!
What’s in a name?
The Ned’s setting is perfect if you want to indulge in a spot of seasonal shopping as it’s located right in the heart of the retail mecca of the Square Mile
The Grade-I listed, 11-storey building was designed in 1924 by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The architect’s nickname was ‘Ned’ – hence the hotel’s moniker – and a portrait of him sits proudly in the concierge area. Indeed throughout the hotel there are examples of Lutyens’ designs including the Chairman’s private lift, which would whisk him up to the top floor. Then there are the cute bowler hat walnut cabinets where Midland employees would stow their headgear at mealtimes and for meetings. Down below there’s the original bank vault, which is only accessible if you’re a member of Ned’s Club. But guests can still catch a glimpse of its 20-tonne metal door.
Kick back and relax:
Whether you’ve been busy shopping, taking advantage of the hotel’s busy basement gym or pampering yourself in its spa which boasts a 20-metre indoor pool, Moroccan hammam and eight treatment rooms, The Ned will certainly help you to relax. Rooms are beautifully decorated in keeping with the building’s original Art Deco theme – think dark panelled walls, glittering chandeliers, sumptuous swagged curtains, statement Persian-style carpets and huge beds fashioned out of oak. When we arrived a complementary afternoon tea was awaiting us along with a silver tray full of spirits if we fancied a pre-dinner tipple. When it comes to drinking and dining there are numerous options with eight public eateries and three Ned Club member options to choose from. We
enjoyed a superb meal in Cecconi’s Venetian brasserie, feasting on grilled tuna steak and robust wild boar ragout but you can eat Japanese, classic French and NYC deli delights too.
Join the club:
The hotel runs an exclusive membership scheme which gives access to some of The Ned’s most impressive areas. These include its über-cool Roof Bar, which has a retractable roof and commands the most spectacular views over the City and St Paul’s. It also means you can swim in the Italian marble outdoor pool or sip a cocktail or two in its Princes and Poultry converted ‘dome’ bars. Becoming a member means you can also enjoy the hotel’s super cool underground vault bar complete with 3,800 original silver safety deposit boxes still on the walls. Talk about silver linings... Rooms at The Ned start from £250 and more information can be found at www.thened.com SO Magazine | December 2019 | 59
Saint Lucia’s luxury
This classic Caribbean winter sun destination has lots of new treats in store, says Erin Cardiff
60 | December 2019 | SO Magazine
s I zip up the man-made causeway joining Saint Lucia’s mainland to Pigeon Island National Park, the pulsating bass cuts through the hum of the rainforest. It’s Saturday night, and as the cotton candy sunset turns to dark, I’m on my way to the island’s Roots and Soul Festival. Hosted by Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA), the festival (tickets from $20/£15), now in its third year, sees both local artists and international stars take to the stage to perform reggae, hip hop, jazz, folk-rock and poetry. This year, it’s been extended to another site, Rodney Bay Ramp, which holds
Friday night’s stripped-back answer to the high-octane shows held on Saturday and Sunday. At Roots and Soul you float around, sipping rum punch, drinking in the sights (plush greenery) and smells (sizzling pork and fresh seafood).
Rocky road to paradise
Saint Lucia may not be the first destination that springs to mind when you think of festivals. But things are changing. All over the island, new attractions and ways to take in the classic highlights are springing up. I started my trip in Soufriere, home to the sulphur springs, Toraille waterfall and cinematic views of the famous Piton mountains. My home was the spectacular Jade Mountain, a sister resort to Anse Chastanet. After weaving through Soufriere’s maze of corrugated iron roofs and pastel-coloured facades – via its new town square, just a stone’s throw from
the ocean – my driver turns to me. “Hold on,” he says. “It’s a rocky road up to Jade Mountain.” For the next two miles, we bounce our way along a jagged track, climbing higher. Then finally, the road smooths. We’ve reached paradise. For me, that 20 minutes of off-roading perfectly sums up Saint Lucia. Blending chaos with calm, it’s a place where the stormy Atlantic meets the peaceful Caribbean waters, where remarkable beauty was born from a furious volcanic eruption, where the road to true tranquillity is rough and unpaved. Designed and built by architect Nick Troubetzkoy, Jade Mountain opened in 2006 and lies on the same 600-acre estate as Anse Chastanet, which he has owned with his wife Karolin since 1974. Anse Chastanet celebrates rustic Caribbean charm from the bespoke art adorning its walls to the locally sourced furniture; Jade Mountain is ultra-luxe, a futuristic design marvel. I am staying in one of the property’s
24 sanctuaries, with a private infinity pool and open fourth wall looking out over the ocean. From jungle biking to snorkelling, morning yoga sessions to sunset sailing, there are plenty of ways to fill your day. Guests can also sit down with a hiking concierge and explore a menu of unspoilt trails to find one that is tailored to them, as part of a hiking butler service which launched earlier this year. Walkers are also given a champagne picnic to enjoy en route.
Glorious mud and beaches
On day two, fuelled by avocado toast and iced coffee, I rise bright and early to head over to Soufriere’s Sulphur Springs Park. Having opened in the early-1980s, the park now attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, who pay $10/£8 each to soak in a pool of volcanic mud, as well as massages from $10/£8 and photo-shoots from $50/£40.
The most Instagrammed spot on the island, it is hardly a hidden secret – but now, after undergoing a renovation project, three new mud pools have been constructed, meaning there is even more to see and snap. One of the most remarkable things about the park, though, is that it lies in the very heart of a dormant volcano. “That’s right – you’re now in the world’s only drive-through volcano,” my guide tells me, as we stand on a viewing platform overlooking a cauldron-like caldera which is dotted with belching pools of mud. After a tour, it’s time for me to take a dip in one of the new pools. Lowering myself into the warm, black water I eye the rugged landscape that towers over me and think once again about the wonderful contradiction that is Saint Lucia’s blend of wildness and serenity. Back at Jade Mountain, I enjoy dinner at Anse Chastanet’s new vegan restaurant, Emerald. As with all of the
eateries on the estate, much of the tree-lined hills on one side and the organic produce served up comes from dramatic peaks of the Pitons on the their very own Emerald Farm in the other, it’s easy to see why. nearby Soufriere hills. Next it’s up to Castries, Saint Lucia’s Carefully curated by chefs James capital, which is now easier to explore Beard, Allen Susser and Frank Faucher, than ever thanks to City Walkers’ new the menu features a variety of delights range of walking tours, from $20/£15, such as cauliflower tacos, freshly where you can sample mouth-watering harvested vegetable soup, breadfruit treats, walk the corridors of time gnocchi and grilled through history-steeped aubergine with braised and even get some The wonderful streets black beans and salsa. help picking out the Before leaving Soufriere contradiction ultimate souvenir. to head north, I make one I spend the remainder of that is Saint my trip at East Winds, a last stop off at the new destination beach. Lucia’s blend tropical garden by the sea Following a major with its own spa, yoga of wildness and pavilion, pool and swimrenovation project, Hummingbird Beach – up bar, and secluded serenity which almost has a public beach. Here, your time is resort feel to it thanks to yours. Hike the fitness the presence of the new on-site trail, stroll around the on-site vegetable restaurant, spa, pizzeria, smoothie bar garden, take part in some watersports, and souvenir shop – is already attracting or simply enjoy a cocktail as you watch its fair share of visitors. And with lush, the sun set – it’s up to you. As I prepare to head home, it seems fitting that one of the last things I pass before getting to the airport is the Royal Saint Lucia Turf Club’s new horseracing track. Officially opening this month to host the Pitons Cup, there are whispers all over the island of how it will transform the sporting scene, bringing a whole new wave of visitors flooding over. Granted, a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean isn’t where you’d expect horsey crowds to head for race day. But that’s the thing about Saint Lucia – it’s full of surprises.
How to get there Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.co.uk; 01342 886 941) offers a 10-night twin centre in Saint Lucia from £3,199 per person, including five nights in a standard room at the four-plus star Anse Chastanet and five nights in a superior cottage at the four-star East Winds. Price based on two adults sharing on an all-inclusive basis, travelling in June 2020 and including return flights from London Gatwick and transfers. For more information on the island of Saint Lucia, visit www.stlucia.org
SO Magazine | December 2019 | 61
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WHAT IS IT? Crossovers are all the rage in the new car market, and the race to electrification is seeing a world of hybrids and EVs coming to the fray. But the, er, crossover between the two has been rather minimal so far. Sure, you can buy an electric MG ZS and a variant of the new Peugeot 2008 will be battery-powered too, but those seeking a more ecoconscious option from their pseudo-SUV have been largely restricted. There is an alternative, however – one that’s led the way in hybrid within its segment – the Toyota C-HR, which has featured an electrified variant since its 2016 introduction. Shifting 14,600 in its first year on the UK scene, it’s been far from a flop, though this does include pure internal combustion choices. Keen to build on its success, Toyota has refreshed the car for 2020. But is it enough to grab a stronger hold in arguably the most competitive new car arena? WHAT’S NEW? Toyota is proud of its ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrains, and has decided to offer only electrified units in the refreshed C-HR. The previous 1.8-litre option remains with a little bit of fettling
Toyota has updated its popular C-HR but can the now hybrid-only crossover remain a key player in the market? Ryan Hirons finds out to boot and now lines up with a fresh 2.0-litre alternative drafted in from the Corolla hatchback. Examples powered by the latter see some suspension and soundproofing tweaks too. Visual changes are subtle but certainly present, with a little bit of a touch-up to the front and rear bumpers while headand taillights receive updated LED tech. Rounding out notable changes is a (much-needed) upgrade for its infotainment system, which now also boasts support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET? We’re behind the wheel of the refreshed Toyota C-HR with the new 2.0-litre unit sat underneath its bonnet. The fourcylinder unit is linked to a 650v electric motor, with the two combining to produce 184bhp. Power is fed to the front wheels via a CVT transmission. As a result, 0-60mph takes eight seconds with a top speed of 112mph said to be possible. Toyota claims the C-HR returns 49.6-54.3mpg in mixed driving conditions with emissions weighing in at 92g/km. Those looking for an engine that’s effortless and efficient should fix their eyes this way. It’s happy to sit in EV-only
mode for most lower-speed driving, with the transition to using its petrol engine seamless. Power does thin out early in the rev band and its CVT does result in a fair bit of noise under heavy throttle usage, but low-end torque makes for a smooth driving experience. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? If there’s one thing Toyota didn’t need to alter about the C-HR, it was the driving experience – and fortunately it hasn’t. Town capabilities are impressive as ever, with the car taking the difficulty out of driving thanks to its well-judged steering and compact dimensions, which is sure to win buyers over. Visibility is still compromised as a result of its unconventional styling, though. Its strengths as an urban runaround don’t compromise its capabilities elsewhere, either. A supple ride and low wind noise make it relaxing at motorway speeds, while a keen chassis means there’s fun to be had on twisty roads. HOW DOES IT LOOK? Admittedly, your only way of distinguishing a new C-HR from an old one would be by lining up the cars side by side and having someone who already knew the difference pointing it out to you. That, or by looking for a post-69 registration plate. Very subtle tweaks come to the front and rear bumpers of the car, while Toyota proudly boasts new LED tech in its head and tail lights. Fresh alloy wheel designs are introduced as well. Though perhaps not as opinion-dividing as the previous Nissan Juke’s aesthetic, the Toyota C-HR certainly has a bolder approach to design than most conventional crossovers. WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE? The theme of changes being minimal but effective continues into the C-HR’s cabin. It remains spacious up front, with an impressive deployment of premium-feel
materials around the cabin. Build quality continues to be impressive too, with the sense that nice stuff is built to last. Boot space hasn’t altered, remaining at 377 litres with all seats in place. That puts it well below the new Nissan Juke’s 422 litres, giving its key rival a leg up. The main change inside is the new infotainment system. It’s an updated version of Toyota’s existing set-up rather than a total overhaul. It’s certainly better than before, but we think it’s time for a ground-up rethink of Toyota’s software.
FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Toyota C-HR Orange Edition Price: £32,595 Engine: 2.0-litre fourcylinder hybrid Power: 184bhp Torque: 190Nm (engine) 202Nm (electric motor) Max speed: 112mph 0-60mph: 8.0sec MPG: 49.6-54.3 Emissions: 92g/km
WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE? Pricing for the refreshed Toyota C-HR kicks off at £25,625. As standard, it’s offered with 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, the firm’s new infotainment system and LED reflector headlights. There’s also Toyota’s Safety Sense package, bringing tech highlights like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, automatic high beams and automatic emergency braking. We’re behind the wheel of the car in an equivalent spec to the Orange Edition – a limited run of 500 units in the UK – which comes in at £32,595 and is only offered on 2.0-litre engined cars. We’d look to drop to a lower-spec model. VERDICT Tweaks to the new Toyota C-HR may be minor but they enhance the overall package without compromising much. Its new powertrain immediately stands out as the sweet spot in the line-up, though its high price point will likely steer buyers toward the smaller-capacity unit. The model is showing its age, though, with its boot capacity now outclassed since the car’s original 2016 introduction. More needs to be done infotainmentwise to keep up with the times as well. With that in mind, however, the C-HR continues to be an effortless drive, looking exceptionally stylish and offering a lot of equipment. SO Magazine | December 2019 | 65
THE LAST WORD
Wicked Productions are putting on their version of Peter Pan pantomime at the EM Forster Theatre from December 13 to January 5. Here SO magazine chats to the popular theatre troupe’s founder, Tom Swift, about this year’s show and why it’s going to be the best yet
We have some great comedy routines, epic musical numbers and special effects including a giant crocodile
“Our show has great ingredients for panto... silly pirates, a fantastic baddie and a flying hero in tights” So Tom, this year Wicked are taking on Peter Pan – can you tell us a little bit about it please? The last time we performed Peter Pan was the final ever performance at the beloved Royal Victoria Hall Theatre in Southborough back in 2014. With a rewrite and new routines it’s a really funny show and I think one of our best. It’s such a great story and full of magic. Are you phased that the Assembly Hall are also doing a version of Peter Pan? I have a very close relationship with the Assembly Hall and have had the pleasure of producing our Easter shows there for many years. When deciding on Christmas productions myself and the theatre manager do liaise with each other but this year we just settled on the same production. Hopefully this won’t happen in the future and we’re already planning different titles for next year. I wish them all the success with their run as I’m sure it will be great. When did you find out that you were both putting on the same pantomime? We found that out back in November 2018
Lauren Brindley and David Young
What are the fundamental differences between your production and theirs? Well I’m not sure till I go see it, but I guess we have more local talent in ours with 90 per cent of the professional cast coming from Tunbridge Wells and surrounding area. I don’t really want to compare our style of pantomime with theirs as we are both very different. We aim to make our pantomimes a little more affordable for local people as we know Christmas can be a financial burden on some families. Our scripts are very comedy driven as we love a funny show! Tell us about your version of Peter Pan – who’s in it? Our version fuses the original story with traditional pantomime. We have a wonderful Dame AKA Michael Fenton
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Stevens, who is back for his third year playing a saucy pirate called Sea Dog Sally. He’s wonderful and we’re having a lot of fun in the rehearsal room. We also have a great baddie in Chris Ellison playing Hook. He’s known for his film work and playing DI Burnside in the long running series The Bill. We have some great comedy routines throughout the show and some epic musical numbers and special effects including a giant crocodile. It really is a great script! You’re working with Michael Fenton Stevens again – what do you like most about your partnership? He just knows panto inside out. With his experience in comedy it’s just easy. He knows what I’m thinking on stage and is always up for improvising when things go wrong. We really do work so well together and I love him dearly. Tell us a little bit about your character Smee Well in our version he isn’t too much of a baddie. I can’t give anything away but he might help in some way to defeat Captain Hook. It’s a great fun part and I get to be very silly in this one. What attracted you to doing this particular panto? Who doesn’t love a story about not growing up and being a child forever and having fun? It has great ingredients for panto. Silly pirates, a fantastic baddie and a flying hero in tights. Any challenges involved in doing it? So many! It’s the most technical show we do and takes a long time to rehearse all those aspects of the show. We also built new scenery and effects and repainted everything ready for this season. Do you still try and weave in a little current news angle or two into the script and if so does this mean you’re editing up to the wire? We do have references to some big news articles from this year – you’ll
have to come and see the show if you want to find out what they are... Do you adapt and update your script during the run? Every single time, yes. Improving our shows and making them more current for our fantastic audiences is a must-do for us. What do you think your audience will enjoy most about seeing your version of Peter Pan? The comedy! We always get families getting in touch saying they all had tears of laughter throughout and that we made their Christmas! If you could sum up your Peter Pan in three words, what would they be? OUR BEST YET! For tickets and timings on Peter Pan at the EM Forster Theatre see www.emftheatre.com This year the charities benefiting from bucket collections at each performance of Peter Pan are Taylor Made Dreams and Sustain foodbank in Tonbridge.
December’s finally here and we have all you need to create a perfect Christmas for your family and friends. From original present ideas and...
Published on Dec 3, 2019
December’s finally here and we have all you need to create a perfect Christmas for your family and friends. From original present ideas and...