Francesca (‘Frankie’) Reddin is the Communicator // Founder of A+F Creative and Black Book. Frankie is a media consultant with a background in restaurant PR- she weaves cultural histories travels the world via ingredients, dishes and voices. She is focused on a ‘smart lifestyle’ which sits at the intersection of food, design and literature and searches for projects that share diverse stories and champion the personalities. She thrives on connecting the dots between people and the audiences craving to hear about them and mapping the journey a campaign will take. She is dedicated to engaging both traditional and digital media platforms to make the lesser-known voices heard. This is her guide to eating, drinking and being part of a cultural movement in London and beyond.
1. Island Social Club (London, UK)
Marie Mitchell and Joseph Pilgrim have become very dear friends since I pushed my way into their lives after reading about Island Social Club online. Their restaurant and bar is part of a wider concept which centers on a space aimed at filling the void left by the erosion of London’s once thriving Caribbean social scene. As a Londoner – yes I am a rare breed, there are only few of us left – who works predominantly within the food and drink world in London, it was refreshing to see myself presented in such a culturally intelligent way that was both exciting, engaging and delicious. They brought the London vibes with a Caribbean twist, not from my parents generation, but mine. A generation that lived and breathed the capital city and by way of life experience, formed our own genre and era, if I am to be that bold. ISC hosts great parties, a supperclub series, Nyamming, that explores the diasporic community further through poetry, arts, music and collaboration, and will be popping up in the next few months with various events. If you ever get to experience ISC, make sure you order Marie’s rotis and her aubergine curry and ask Joe for something rude and naughty – usually a Scotch Bonnet Margarita or Ti’Punch. Cheeky.
2. Ombra (London, UK)
For four years running, about the same time that Head Chef Mitshel Ibrahim has been at the helm, Ombra has been my favourite Italian restaurant in London. To the naked eye, it can look a little dive bar-esque, especially in winter, which to me makes it even more precious. The Venetian bacaro and outside terrace sits alongside the Regents Canal in Hackney and serves up super sexy plates of pasta amongst other wonders. It’s the kind of sexy that is cerebral, stimulates your tasetbuds, and keeps you up until the early hours delving deeper into the wonders of textures and flavours. Mitshel cures all of his meat in house, forages for herbs locally, curates the wine list – all natural, and always greets me with a gnocchi fritto & mortadella which melts in the mouth, just like it did when I was kid.
3. Singburi (London, UK)
I was introduced to Singburi by a friend. It’s a tiny Thai restaurant and takeaway in Leytonstone – a far away ungentrified place in East London. Family run but now taken over by the son of the family who’s culinary intelligence is phenomenal. I honestly haven’t had Thai food like this in London before. The dishes are chalked on the blackboard everyday and there are some staples like the Moo Krob – bitesize crispy pork belly tossed in fresh chillies, garlic and coriander which are so so naughty and moreish – and a whole bunch of specials depending on chef Siri’s ingredient list that day. There’s no holding back with spices, flavours or ingredients. The last time I was there, it was the baked glass noodles with smoked eel and foie gras that tipped me over the edge. It’s BYOB and on Monday’s the restaurant fills with all of East London’s hot young chefs and their teams who muse over the dishes in between gulps of natty wine.
4. La Buvette (Paris, France)
I have a silly tradition when I travel: my last meal should always be a McDonald’s. I love trying each country’s ‘own’ burger and put it down to anthropological research. A few years back when I was in Paris, a city I visit at least once a year, I decided to mix things up and go to La Buvette. Long story short, I missed my Eurostar back to London. The reason? The smallest wine bar offering a list of low-intervention wines, intimate hues of soft pinks and mirrored glass, plates of bergamot-zested giant white beans doused in new-harvest Sicilian olive oil, charcuterie and wine, wine, wine. I stayed in Paris an extra night.
5. Aux deux Amis (Paris, France)
I’ve had some great nights here, the first of which I ended up meeting two household names (in France), a French rockstar and a French actor who I then had a whirlwind Parisian love affair with. It’s a great bar. 70’s décor, formica tables, crazy wine list, amazing cheeses and charcuterie if you want to enjoy your apero there. The clientele is super cool, the kind of place the people who don’t want to be seen are seen and hang out undercover in plain sight. This is perfect place to go to after dinner too as it’s usually a launch pad for the next party…
6. Mei Mei Market & Deli (London, UK)
Borough Market is one of the most iconic places in London and within it is a Singaporean food stall specialising in Hainanese chicken rice and Singaporean Nanyang Kopi – Mei Mei. Mei Mei means ‘little sister’ in Chinese, and is an ode to the chef, Elizabeth Haigh’s, Southeast Asian heritage, as well as her home of London, and brings to life the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s Kopi Tiams of her childhood memories. Elizabeth has a Michelin background, earning the restaurant Pidgin Hackney, a couple of years back, so you already know what you’re going to have is something above and beyond. There are two things on the menu here that I literally salivate over (and also have to curb my cravings and limiting myself to only one monthly visit): the Kaya Toast and the Fried Chicken. The Kaya Toast is traditionally a breakfast dish and consists of a thick layer of Kaya spread in between two thickly cut slices of sourdough, lightly toasted with wads of salted butter lathered on each side, served with a soft boiled egg that you can then dip the toast into. Honestly, I can’t explain the euphoria you feel when you have it in the morning as the first thing inside your mouth! It has a cult following of its own – cue endless reels of Instagram photos. The great news is, throughout lockdown, Elizabeth pivoted and now you can BUY KAYA JAM ONLINE. So you can feel euphoria without anyone watching.
7. Diogenes The Dog (London, UK)
Diogenes The Dog is a new-wave wine bar and shop in Elephant & Castle inspired by the infamous Greek philosopher who founded the philosophy of Cynicism. This guy Diogenes apparently questioned everything, lived his life in a huge amphorea, drank wine constantly, ate raw meat with his bare hands, while stumbling around the village naked and taunting people. Quite a guy. Of course, I had to check it out. Sunny Hodges, the owner, is perhaps not as uncouth as Diogenes but definitely has a character to match. (He’s the son of an
Olympian and Commonwealth Games Silver medallist, Graduate of Mechanical Engineering
from UCL, author, survivor, explorer, award-winning Front of House professional, and drives a motorcycle). Sunny shares the same challenging and inquisitive nature of Diogenes, questioning what we know about wine, discarding common trends and bringing to the table lesser known and better drunk alternatives. It’s here that I tasted a Hibernal 2017 from Winnica Turnau from Poland, Messina Hofs Blanc du Bois from Texas, and an Ixe Tempranillo, a grape usually found in Spain, from Tuscany.
9. PROJECTS & COMMUNITIES
Sourced Journey’s (London, UK)
SOURCED is a public research project founded by Dr Anna Sulan Masing (my work wife) and Chloe-Rose Crabtree, both of whom are writers and academics with experience in the restaurant industry. They believe that food and drink are biological and cultural rights and want the global food and drink systems to reflect that through empathetic, transparent and inclusive practices; and they’re seeking to decolonise culinary experiences. They are dividing the year up into ‘seasons’ to focus research on specific ingredients, with reading lists, monthly tutorials, articles and commissioned research so others can have access to the learning. You can support their project and the research through their paid for newsletters at £3.50 a month.
10. Black Book (London, UK)
At the end of June 2020, myself, Zoe Adjonyoh and Dr Anna Sulan Masing founded Black Book: a global representation platform for Black and non-white people working within hospitality and food media. With a mission to inspire and empower through enhancing visibility, equality, equity and wealth creation worldwide within these communities, Black Book will raise global consciousness of the issues affecting their ability to thrive in these industries. As a team, we will do this through representing emerging talent; offering consultancy services to companies and brands wanting to align better with a vision for a more inclusive industry; securing brand partnerships around Black Book content; and building a holistic mentorship programme.
We’re about to host our second series of events celebrating Black History Month, which will take place every Tuesday throughout October. There’ll be a full day of workshops, masterclasses, cook-a-longs and discussions that explore the four pillars of Black Book in meaningful and dynamic ways. You can see the full line up and grab tickets here. We’ve also signed our first client within the representation arm of Black Book – the wonderful, Elainea Emmott who is a chef and photographer. Her website is here. We’ll be launching our Crowdfunder campaign at the end of the year that will act as a springboard for our mentorship programme launching in 2021. Plus there’s talks of Black Book memberships, podcasts and global outposts… you’ll have to sign up to our newsletter to keep abreast of all the news!
11. Flock Together (London,UK)
I found this group on Instagram, like most things these days. But Flock Together isn’t like most things. A bird-watching collective founded in London which serves the BIPOC community, it is as much about the actual past time of bird-watching as it is about making a statement about reclaiming space. There is a destructive narrative and assumption that PoC are not meant to be seen in public and if they are, they are automatically deemed a threat. There are so many examples in the past 6 months alone that validate that. As a closet birdwatcher myself, Flock Together is a thing of beauty and a symbol of progression and power. I joined a walk in Epping Forest and after 5 months of lockdown and hardly seeing a soul (IRL), cycling up to the edge of the forest to be greeted by 50+ brown smiling faces, binoculars in tow, still fills me with all the sensations of overwhelming pride and joy. The two pioneers/founders, Nadeem and Ollie, are in the process of launching chapters globally so give them a follow on IG and read up about them here:
Liha Beauty (London, UK)
I have bought so many of the Queen Idia candles I’ve lost count. For myself, girlfriends, family, they’re beautifully scented. It’s made with a coconut wax blend with base notes of Geranium and Frankincense, top notes of Lavender and hibiscus invoking the fragrance of soft African Moss. I’m yet to try the Idan Oil which is cold-pressed coconut oil into which a Tuberose flower has been immersed, so that you have the wonderful scent of the night-blooming flower, naturally absorbed naturally into the oil, all over your body. Ultimately an aphrodisiac! Idan is the Yoruba word for magic, and amongst the other products that Liha Beauty sells, I think their whole offering is simply ethereal.
Golden Editions (Ghana + France)
This is my sisters company and I am super proud of what she has created. The aim of GOLDEN is to work closely with makers to create contemporary pieces that pay tribute to timeless craft in Ghana and beyond. Sara has always wanted to create something that resonated with her childhood and her mother’s passion for crafts, who was born in Ghana. Sara’s light collection, which was the first to launch, is made by skilled weavers based in Bolgatanga in the North of Ghana. A team of which she found on her many personal travels and research trips across the country. The Lamps are carefully hand-woven using Elephant Grass grown in Ghana, dyed naturally and then hand-twisted. The shapes are evocative of colours and forms seen on road trips through Ghana; the rich red colour of the earth, pots stacked along the roadside, traditional houses with thatched roofs. Sara’s always had an eye, and her Golden Editions perfectly encapsulates her admiration for subtly, gentleness and elegance offset by her practical and grounded character.