Travel to…Formentera

The watershed moment en route to Formentera comes when a man changes his watch. As you slip the Rolex Sea-Dweller from your wrist and replace it with the Bulgari Carbon Gold on a woven strap – realising you’ll only be looking at it to see if it’s time to have that first drink – the will to recline into idle island life takes over.

Just as ritual dictates that you sniff a cigar before cutting it, to really savour the swap, wait until you’re aboard the 25-minute water taxi from Ibiza to La Savina. Let the other guests take the public ferry; you, my friend, are in a rush to unwind.

After you’ve been handed a cool towel by a deckhand, as the stress of the airport fades from memory and the 12-mile stretch of land comes into view, that’s the time to make the switch. The contentment you feel in that moment is what holidays to Formentera are all about. Well, that and lunch.

Often referred to as Ibiza’’s hippy “little sister”, the smallest of the four major Balearic Islands has been a place of elegant escape since the Sixties. Titans of chill from Bob Marley to Jimi Hendrix once flocked to Formentera. There’s even a rumour that Bob Dylan watched the sunset over Africa’s Barbary Coast from the Cap De Barbaria Lighthouse – although reports that Zimmy was sporting a pair of cyan Vilebrequins at the time are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Still, it’s not the affection of musical legends that’s made Formentera the coolest holiday destination in the Mediterranean since Jackie Kennedy went to Mykonos in search of her tan lines. For this, the blame must be laid at the door or, rather, the boot and heel of the Italians.

The Italians adore Formentera like Italians adore bad techno. During high season, as much as 75 per cent of the population is from the land of the passionate hand gesture and the island has become a bolt hole for wealthy Italians looking to avoid crowds of their countrymen on the beaches of mainland Spain. From slick lunch spot 10.7 to our favourite beach shack (or chiringuito), Lucky Beach Bar, co-owned by Bolognesi gentleman Davide Busi, half the bars and restaurants are run by Italians who live here year round.

Ask any of Formentera’s Italian devotees why, and you’ll hear the same thing. That it looks more like the Maldives than the Mediterranean aside, it’s because this tiny utopia just doesn’t change. Ibiza’s superclubs and megahotels are yet to arrive in Formentera – developers have been stopped from doing almost anything at all by the iron fist of the authorities, who have strict aesthetic criteria for new structures and, most significantly, a blanket ban on beachfront buildings.

“Unspoilt” might be one of the most overused words in the history of travel writing, but there’s no other way to describe Formentera’s postcard #nofilterneeded beaches, whitewashed villages, heathery scrub, salt plains and sand dunes. As the island’s website says, this is “the last paradise of the Mediterranean”. Modern tourism hardly exists in Formentera. There’s no airport, very few hotels (though no shortage of luxury villas), no designer shops and no American fast-food chains. Many of the roads are dirt tracks, much of the pine-covered countryside protected and areas in the north part of a World Heritage Site. The Ses Salines Natural Park safeguards a Unesco-protected seagrass, posidonia, that’s one of the oldest living organisms in the world and which filters the water offshore and keeps it crystalline.

But the Italians’ best-kept secret is almost out, thanks to the likes of Cara Delevingne and Leonardo DiCaprio. Claims that the island was planning on banning selfies and man buns may have been wildly under-reported, but British interest has been piqued by increasing reports of celebrities descending on Formentera.

Package tour operators are now attempting to cash in on the tranquillity, and the possibility that the island may be only one summer away from ruinous change – of morphing into a grotesque Majorcan mini-me – seems increasingly plausible. Let’s face it, we know what the infatuation of our compatriots can do to Iberian idylls. If there was ever a time to soak up Formentera’s restorative “time stands still” vibe it’s now.

Swim, eat, drink, repeat: this is the format for Formentera’s golden days. This is a destination for people who like the good things in life, sure, but aren’t taken in by bright lights and flashy fanfare. Yes, it’s luxury, but it’s laid-back luxury. Think stealth wealth – nothing more ostentatious than a creased white linen Sunspel shirt, say. Be prepared to feel like your wallet has undergone open-heart surgery – even the supermarkets are extortionate. Two weeks in Formentera would be enough to make Warren Buffett’s eyes water.

For the moment, holidaying in Formentera is a sign of good taste. That and solid evidence that you like a beach. Even those steadfast sunbathers who usually refuse to waste a minute of tanning time get tempted into the cerulean sea, especially at Platja de Ses Illetes, a long sliver of white sand on the island’s north coast with ocean on each side.

Close to the port of La Savina, Illetes is where the Ibiza crowd comes to play. The number of -billion-pound boats dropping their anchors here in high-season rivals the Monaco Yacht Show, with hordes of beautiful people -disembarking to spend an afternoon at the obscenely expensive Juan Y Andrea. Barefoot waiters serving champagne sangria and lobster risotto will entice day visitors, but you’ll find better food in the Italian -restaurants of Sant Francesc Xavier, the island’s miniature capital, and especially at Il Gioviale, a trattoria run by a trio of Italians. Macondo Pizzeria in the nearby village of Sant Ferran de Ses Roques is also worth a visit and yet another example of the Italian influence over the island. Barely a minute on the island’s only major road goes by without an Italian on a moped zipping past, typically with a woman sporting little more than a mahogany tan, intricate tattoos and a Chloé string bikini sat behind them.

They’ll be heading up to Es Pujols, the most resorty town and a hotbed of Campari-quaffing Italians. The hottest haunt here is People Bar. The smell of grilled fish mingled with Marlboro Lights and the constant chatter of bosomy old Italian ladies can get a bit overwhelming.

The beach to spend the bulk of your holiday on is Platja de Migjorn. This 6km stretch of sand and sea is where you’ll find the best chiringuitos. Start at Kiosko 62 before sauntering all the way down to Flipper & Chiller, a Mediterranean restaurant with an unbelievable terrace owned by Nacho Vidal, Spain’s most famous porn star, via a cocktail stop at Lucky Beach Bar.

Given the hedonistic, rosé-fuelled all-day lunches, this is generally a back-early-to-your-private-villa kind of an isle, but it’s along Platja de Migjorn that you’ll find somewhere to spend after dark. And if that after-dinner drink at Blue Bar turns into six, there are two (very casual) nightclubs where you can join the Italians for some fist-pumping before bed. It’s a very different sort of debauchery than the throbbing titillation of Ibiza. A couple of shots of Hierbas Ibéricas down and you’ll be ready to get back to the pad. Should said shots impair your memory, then rest assured your cab driver will get you to your villa even without the address. All you need is the name and one of the island’s white taxis will whip you back quicker than you can WhatsApp the babysitter. Just be sure to pronounce it right or you could end up on the other side of the island, scaring someone else’s wife.

You come to Formentera to make your own fun. With food, drink and scenery like this, excellent company is all you need to turn the island into your own personal paradise. Formentera feels conspiratorial. It’s one of those places you would rave about to your friends if not for the fear the wrong people might hear. If you’re not having a good time you’ve invited the wrong guests. Lucky for you the taxi (for them) is but a short Mehari ride away. After all, this island ain’t big enough for both of you.

How to get there

There’s no airport in Formentera, so you need to travel by sea from Ibiza. It’s a 12-mile boat journey that takes around 25 minutes.

Water taxi: The best way to get across to Formentera is to book a luxury water taxi through Ibiza Delivers, complete with sound system, onboard bar service (sponsored by Dom Pérignon) and room for up to eight passengers. ibizadelivers.com/water-taxi

Ferry: Regular ferries from Ibiza (Port d’Eivissa) to Formentera (La Savina) cost around £20 each way. There are four companies to choose from depending on what time you want to travel. In high season, play it safe and book in advance. directferries.co.uk
Yacht: Charter from Ibiza to Formentera. Smartcharteribiza.com

British Airways flies from UK airports to Ibiza, from £52. Britishairways.com

Where to stay

1) Gecko Hotel & Beach Club
If you’re going down the hotel route then book a beach-facing suite at this secluded, Balearic-meets-Rivieria-style boutique resort on Platja de Migjorn. Well-groomed but easy-going, big on yoga but with poolside cabanas made for nursing a mid-morning pick-me-up, Gecko’s got it all. It’s a ten-minute drive from Sant Francesc Xavier, but only a stroll along the sand away from most of the island’s most charming chiringuitos.
geckobeachclub.com

2) Cala Saona Hotel & Spa
If you plan on hitting up Formentera with your family, and big, ballsy luxury hotels are usually your child-friendly thing, this is your ultimate island base. Set just off the shoreline of Cala Saona – a small-but-splendid west-coast bay – you can see all the way to Ibiza from the rooms. The shallow waters are ideal for the children’s “beach to pool and back again” routine, while the beach bar’s killer Caipirinhas are enough to satiate even the most stressed-out parent.
hotelcalasaona.com

3) Es Ram
If a private villa’s more your thing, but you dig the easy-breeziness of resort life, head to celebrity bolthole Es Ram on the south side of the island. Nestled in a pine forest beside the cliffs of La Mola, the resort has six secluded “viviendas” – and chic doesn’t even begin to describe it. Expect canopied beds, a wood-heavy natural colour palette, swathes of white muslin and the bright pop of purple bougainvillea.
esramresort.com

4) Las Cabecitas
Less than a ten-minute drive from Sant Francesc Xavier, hidden among vineyards and olive trees you’ll find a Formenteran “finca” so perfect you’ll have a hard time hitting the beach. Suited to big groups of friends or several families, this elegant seven-bedroom property has it all: think infinity pool, glamorous outdoor eating area, impeccable design and an independent guest house ideal for stashing the couple you know will argue all week.
myprivatevillas.com

5) Casa Daisy
The smaller, four-bedroom Casa Daisy close to Cala Saona is the villa to rent for two families holidaying together. Completely private, with a pool facing the sea, watch the sunset every evening over magical Es Vedrà while enjoying a Copa de Balón on the garden terrace. A beautifully furnished sanctuary split across two structures, if the Balinese bed doesn’t keep the children occupied, the charming attic entertainment den will.
decodeformentera.com

Where to eat and drink

1) Kiosko 62
Little more than a shack, this rustic wooden chiringuito on Platja de Migjorn is basic in the best way possible – expect Formentera’s typical barefooted bliss. The vibe is relaxed and friendly, despite the first-class cocktails and excellent potential for people watching. Head down late in the afternoon for a sundowner (or several) and watch the skies turn pink from this prime coastal spot.

2) The Blue Bar
Also situated on the sandy stretch of Platja de Migjorn, this has been a hippy hangout since the Sixties. A mecca for musicians, legend has it that Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix frequented this trippy bar. The Mediterranean menu makes for a laid-back lunch, but the big draw is still the music. Stop off after drinks at Lucky Beach Bar to hear owner Kaya play one of her ambient after-dark sets.
bluebarformentera.com

3) 10.7
One of the few places in Formentera where you won’t feel out of place if you’re dressed up – by which we mean wearing a shirt – this sophisticated seafood restaurant is one of the island’s best lunch locations. Think expansive sea views and stunning sashimi (plus traditional Med cuisine) with a sublime symbiosis between the music volume and amount of alcohol consumed come sunset.
10punto7.com

4) El Gioviale
There’s no shortage of Italian food in Formentera, but if it’s unpretentious yet perfectly executed pasta your heart desires, head here. Served straight from the pan, the seafood spaghetti is worth rhapsodising over, as is the service. Request the table under the canopy of the fig tree. If you’re in Sant Francesc Xavier for breakfast, then around the corner is the brilliant, child-friendly Ca Na Pepa.

5) Beso Beach
Spend an idle afternoon at Beso Beach eating out-of-this-world paella with your feet still in the sand. The palm-lined roof fosters an unpretentious beach-chic vibe, but don’t be fooled, as one of the best restaurants on Platja de Ses Illetes, with a menu by famous Catalan chef Carles Abellan, this is still billionaire territory. Arrive for your reservation by yacht and the club will send out a speedboat to bring you in.
besobeach.com

This piece was published in the June 2017 issue of British GQ

Damn. Kung Fu Kenny killed it

Society, politics, religion, fame and identity. Damn. gets deep – and from Kendrick Lamar, the current king of complex, meaningful rap, we wouldn’t have expected anything less. The wildly anticipated follow-up to To Pimp a Butterfly is a sprawling, complex and ambitious album. There’s so much going on, but together the fourteen tracks still feel like a cohesive body of work. It’s just one you need to listen to several times to get your head around.

The tracks are all so different and all so individually powerful that to single one out as the strongest feels almost counterproductive. But hey, we’re still going to call it, and it’s got to be “Lust”. The eerie guitar with the heavy and reversed drum samples give the production a rhythmic flow, allowing Kendrick’s clean vocals to cut right through. It’s the kind of track you’d catch yourself bobbing your head to on the tube without meaning to, or that you’d blast while nudging your whip right up to the top end of the speed limit. What you’d think is at first another typical rap song lyrically – “I just need you to want me” – actually ridicules the repetitive, obviousness of being a rapper: “I know the perks of bullsh** isn’t meant for me”.

He talks about Trump and election morning, “We all woke up, tryna tune to the daily news / Lookin’ for confirmation, hopin’ election wasn’t true / All of us worried… Stealed and sad, distraught and mad” before pulling a classic Kendrick and getting all philosophical, commenting on how political action falls back into apathy because of the human tendency to revert to introspection and our own selfish needs: “Parade the streets with your voice proudly / Time passin’, things change / Revertin’ back to our daily programs / Stuck in our ways, lust”. It’s thoughtful, it’s serious and it’s still a great beat. It reminds you of why To Pimp A Butterfly was canonised by Harvard and of why every serious rap lover rates King Kendrick (or “Kung Fu Kenny”, as he refers to himself throughout the album) so highly.

The next track, “Love” is a bit of a curveball, but it’s still solid. Every song title relates to the individual theme of the track, and this is a proper, smooth love song. The hook by Zacari is soft and airy, with light drums and more melodic vocals. There’s none of Kendrick’s usual straight up real-talk, but it’s an easy listen, and we like it a lot. It’s very Drake, with a chilled pop, R&B sound.

“Loyalty” featuring Rihanna is equally as radio-ready. Slower and lazier, with none of the rapid-fire verses we hear elsewhere on the album, the song reflects on fame, asking “tell me who you loyal to”, stating “it’s so hard to be humble”, with an infectious hook courtesy of Rihanna. This album around, Kendrick seems pretty preoccupied with being humble. The teaser track “Humble” is one of the best, with a video that sent the internet into overdrive when he dropped it back in March.

In typical complex Kendrick style, quite a few of the tracks feature full-on narratives, from the opening track “Blood”, an experimental track with vocals that sound like spoken word and a sample of Fox News reporters discussing Kendrick’s song “Alright” about police brutality (“‘And they hate popo’…ugh, I don’t like it”), to the closing track “Duckworth”. Fox News reporters are also sampled in “DNA” – a heavy trap beat where Kendrick’s relentless flow about heritage is more Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. than TPAB – saying “hip hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years”.

There’s a lot of self-reflection going on in the album, “Feel” is like a stream of consciousness, while “Pride”, with its warped guitar riffs and varying pitches – Kendrick’s falsetto vocals on the chorus would make Andre 3000 proud – imagines a utopian world where he’d “make schools out of prisons”. There’s all the heavyweight political commentary we’ve come to expect from Kendrick. XXX, the U2 Track, opens with “America. God bless you if it’s good to ya.” Gun control’s a major theme – “Ain’t no black power when your baby killed by a coward” – and although harder to digest compared to some of the smoother, more aurally cohesive tracks, it’s still one the coolest things U2 have done in the last ten years.

One song after XXX comes “Fear”, the opus of the album that encompasses the album’s larger themes in the same way that “The Blacker The Berry” did in TPAB. It’s melancholy, brutally honest and unashamedly vulnerable. That’s the thing about Kendrick, he’s not afraid to shy away from the scary, the unspoken and the strenuous. His music isn’t “rap” in the inane bitches-money-club-way we’ve become so accustomed to hearing, and it’s why he’s seen as a poet and a visionary as well as a rapper.

Intelligent, contemplative, and intricate, Damn. is Kendrick Lamar proving once again why he’s the only rapper who really matters right now.

This review was published on GQ.co.uk

The Vault at Milroy’s is the best subterranean spot in Soho

You’d be forgiven for assuming that Milroy’s on Greek Street,Soho is just another shop. Sure, the fact that it’s the oldest whisky shop in London gives it that extra bit of pizzazz, but a quick glance inside reveals nothing more than a decent off-licence-cum-tasting-bar packed with whisky connoisseurs catching up over a glass of single malt.

However, head to the back of the shop and you’ll see a large bookcase. Press a button, and said bookcase swings open to reveal the blue-lit stairs that lead down to The Vault – a hidden 55 seat basement bar where you can find some of the best cocktails in London. The dimly lit, cosy little room feels like one of London’s best-kept secrets, despite the fact that this established bar is usually packed with the same sort of clientele as every other London haunt – city boys, well-dressed couples and plenty of media types. One of the house rules is “no d*ckheads allowed” – stag parties are (also) banned – so you won’t find any unpleasantly raucous behaviour here. The vibe is relaxed, friendly and cheerfully intimate. This speakeasy-style bar feels like a little clandestine world of its own, a den of debauchery far removed from the bustle of the cobbled streets above.

Superb atmosphere aside, it’s the new cocktail menu by bar manager Chris Tanner, who joined the Vault from another of Soho’s speakeasies (Milk and Honey) that’s really worth rhapsodising over. Classics are often best left untampered with, but the smooth, subtle Coconut Butter Old Fashioned (£9.50) – featuring cardamom in the place of orange rind – tastes even better than a perfectly made original. The Porter House Punch (£9.50) is fruity and refreshing, as is the tropically flavoured Kingston Cocktail (£9.50) – made from kummel, Jamaican rum, allspice orange juice and lemon. If you’re the kind of man who, prefers a long drink after a long day, then we’d suggest the delicious Echo Park (£9.50) – gin, ginger, saffron, fennel and honey blended and served in a tall glass with lots of ice.

The standout drink however is the Japanese Rose Garden, made from Nikka by the barrel, cocchi rose vermouth, mirto rosso and chambord (£11.50). Not one for the faint hearted, this utterly fantastic, lethally potent cocktail’s ingenuity lies in how well the specific blend of ingredients showcase the Japanese whisky. Hardly a surprising achievement from a specialist whisky shop and bar, but impressive all the same. The bartenders are also happy to go off menu, and can whip up any conceivable cocktail if you so wish, but this just isn’t the kind of place you’d order a mojito in. The staff are in general very attentive and keen to help with the menu, but the only minor criticism we’d charge The Vault with is the amount of time you have to wait between ordering and receiving your drink. This isn’t the bar for the sneaky after-work “quickie” type of tipple.

The Vault is intimate, unpretentious and feels refreshingly authentic in a city of cookie-cutter cocktail bars. This is the place to take a date or to catch up with friends over a conspiratorial cocktail away from the frenzy of London. Just don’t expect to be able to stand up straight after sampling several of Tanner’s whisky wonders.

3 Greet Street, Soho, London W1D 4NX. thevaultsoho.co.uk

Get turned on by Chaos’s super sexy tech-accessories

Something big is happening on Instagram. From Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin toand Hailey Baldwin to GQ Style’s Fashion Director Elgar Johnson and shoe king Patrick Cox, everyone who’s anyone in the world of fashion is being snapped (or snapping themselves) with a leather personalised phone case by luxury accessories start-up Chaos.

The brainchild of fashion editors and super-stylists Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall, Chaos may only be a mere three months old – but it’s moving up from the inside fast. As is the way with the vast majority of successful start-ups, the project was conceived out of practical need. Stockdale and Lyall, who have worked together for the past 15 years and have a CV that reads like an issue of our magazine (they’ve worked with everyone from Fendi – they style the runway shows – to Gucci and Louis Vuitton, plus numerous stints at titles including Vogue, i-D and their current gig at Garage), realised that there was a gaping hole in the market for fun, luxury phone accessories.

It all started with the zip – with what Stockdale calls “our desire to be hands-free” and the all-to-familiar First World menace of “putting your phone down somewhere you’re not going to pick it up again”. When they turned their attention to the handsets themselves, the pair realised that “there was nothing out there that we wanted…nothing in the middle” that hit the sweet spot in between extortionately expensive alligator accessories and fun, near-novelty cases that tend not to last too long. Fast forward to the present, and as well as personalisable deerskin cases – which come in a kaleidoscope of colours and feature bold, pop-arty graphics – accessories and charms, Chaos is making luggage accessories and soon-to-be-released silk tracksuits, as seen on best buds Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne at the Suicide Squad premiere after-party.

That’s the thing about Chaos – it feels conspiratorial. From the telling use of the world “club” – you’ll find Chaos at http://www.chaos.club – to the millennial marketing tactics the brand has so wonderfully deployed to get the products seen on the right people, the #ChaosClub is like an inner circle of fashion’s biggest influencers. The supermodel squad came out in force for the brand’s promo video, which Lyall calls “the funnest two days of shooting I’ve ever had”, where Taylor Hill, Stella Maxwell, Barbara Palvin, Karlie Kloss, Edie Campbell and Jasmine Saunders – to name just a handful of the models involved – cover one another in kisses, cuddle giant teddy bears (which are actually part of Chaos’s product line, by the way) and seductively unzip their tracksuit tops, all while showing off the bold, ballsy phone cases and luggage tags.

The branding is nothing short of genius. It’s loud, it’s lurid, it’s in-your-face-fun and it taps into the the obsessions in fashion for technology, for customisation and ultimately, for being a part of a cool and cutting-edge collective. Like any good lifestyle brand, Chaos is about more than the products it sells: “it’s all about working and having fun and looking good,” says Stockdale. And it’s the chaos itself that makes it so attractive, from the mishmash of merchandise Stockdale and Lyall are producing to the glorious union of fashion and function that defines the accessories themselves.

On the subject of whether Chaos will expand into menswear, both women stay relatively tight-lipped. There’s talk of “gently rolling out on both sides [accessories and clothes]” and “a few more very specific clothing categories”, but “it will never be a full collection” says Lyall. For now, it’s the phone cases that seem to be grabbing the most attention. The cases aren’t gendered, “girls go bonkers over the bright colours, but there are a lot of men buying them too,” according to Lyall. Both women are quick to point out that well-made, fun phone cases for men were few and far between before Chaos, and based on the popularity of Chaos among guys already, it clearly wasn’t for a lack of want.

For the gentleman that leans towards the sartorially serious, a pop-luxe tech accessory is a way to add humour and personality to a professional wardrobe. While you might assume that the personalised cases would prove to be the most popular among men, Lyall explains that actually, “guys love the broken hearts and the pills”, with Stockdale adding that where a lot of men “have gone for those two designs, lots of women have gone for the ‘blah!’ and the ‘ergh!’”. Read into that what you will.

The vortex of fun and disorder from which Chaos was born is now it’s very essence. True to its name, the brand’s trajectory is ruled by the Chaos Theory – underneath the seemingly random (“it might seem like a real leap from a phone case to a silk tracksuit,” says Stockdale, “but not for us”) there’s still a pattern, a purpose. “Because at the moment our categories appear quite disparate and we’re building our brand image, we have to go quite carefully into places and make sure that we’re presented in the right way for people to understand and for the brand message not to get lost,” Stockdale explains.

They may only just be in the first round of securing investment (the project has so far been self-funded), but brand expansion has been carefully thought through, with huge importance given to pop-ups after the success of Chaos at Selfridges and at Dover Street Market. Lyall sums the future of Chaos up succinctly, when she says “as we pop up in different places around the world, we’ll continue to tweak the way we look and it won’t always be the same. It will always be recognised as Chaos, but you won’t know what to expect.”

This piece was originally published on GQ.co.uk

How to get rid of unwanted gifts

We’ve all been there. It’s Christmas day, you’re slurping some champers while opening your gifts, and you’re presented with a pair of bike balls – or else something equally as obscurely and useless – by your brother-in-law. Alternatively, you might be given something that you know someone, somewhere would love and cherish, but it is absolutely and resolutely not “just what you’ve always wanted”. Thousands of unwanted gifts will be thrown away over the festive period, but here at GQ, we don’t believe in wanton waste, which is why we’re recommending reassigning your refuse. Before we begin, we must remind you that the cardinal rule is this: never, ever let the giver of the gift know that you plan on getting rid of it. Turning a crushing Christmas disappointment into a wily win is an art, and we’re here to teach you how to master those wicked ways without causing irreparable offence.

Return it

Let’s start with the obvious one: take your bad gift back to the shop. If, by some miracle, the unwanted present in question has been given to you with the gift receipt tactfully included, then this should be mercifully straightforward. Although retailers are not obliged by law to take purchases back unless faulty, most shops operate a kind of “good will” returns policy over the Christmas period where you can get a refund, an exchange or a credit note. If the gift was paid for by card, then only the cardholder can get the refund, so if you want to keep the reject status of said gift a secret, we’d advise going for the credit note.

If you don’t have proof of purchase, this is where it gets much trickier. Some places, especially where clothing is concerned, will allow you to exchange your unwanted gift for something of the same current value, providing all labels are still intact. Make sure you return it as quickly as possible – ideally on Boxing Day – if you want to stand a chance of replacing the reject with something of similar original value. Otherwise, you’ll only get the measly equivalent of the item’s sale price, which is likely to tumble with alarming haste in the mayhem of the post-Christmas cut downs. If you want to return a gift online, then check out the seller’s T&Cs first, as different retailers have different policies. Amazon’s online return centre allows recipients of gifts to return them anonymously, even if the purchase wasn’t originally listed as a gift, but you will need the order number or buyer’s name, email address and phone number. (To find out more about your consumer rights as the recipient of a gift, check out which.co.uk.)

Re-gift it

“Is it ever okay to re-gift a present?” You may ask. We think that yes, committing this perfect crime can be completely acceptable, as long as you’re subtle about it. If you haven’t already got one, create a communal christmas gift repository immediately. Whether that’s with your family or your housemates, this is going to come in handy throughout the year for those inevitable occasions where you’ve forgotten to buy a present. As far as the obviously Christmassy gifts are concerned, save ’em for next year. BUT make absolutely sure you keep a record of who gave them to you. The rudest and most mortifying thing you could do is re-gift the offending pressie to – or in front of – the person who originally gave it to you. You must also make sure that, when re-gifting or, as we prefer to think of it, considerately reassigning one’s gifts, you pick suitable recipients so that you can at least appear as thoughtful.

Sell it

If you can’t quite face dumping your duds on someone that you know, sell unwanted gifts to those who’ll show them the appreciation they (don’t always) deserve. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? If you’ve been given a great gift that’s just not to your taste, or if you’re in it to make some mula, then this is an especially good way to get rid of items that were clearly quite expensive. eBay is the biggest and best website for selling on unwanted stuff, and every year, come 26 December, the site is flooded with thousands of brand-new items.

Alternatively, there’s eBid, a smaller site that stays a little less crowded than eBay, plus it’s worth remembering that Gumtree has an “unwanted gifts” category. Given that more than 450 million people now use Facebook groups to buy and sell items – from Wavey Garms to Buying and Selling Raf Simons – it’s unsurprising that the site has recently launched a new feature, Facebook Marketplace, which allows you to connect with people in your area to buy and sell a whole host of products.

If you’ve been bought a bit of luxury fashion that, although not to your taste, just doesn’t deserve the brutality of bidding, thenVestiaire Collective is an excellent place to sell your more high-end gifts. Grailed is another community marketplace specialising in menswear, with a wealth of brands from Rick Owens to Ralph Lauren on offer.

Switch it

If you haven’t been blessed with a gift receipt and can’t swap in-shop, then try online. Sites like swapz.co.uk will do the job nicely, and there are also plenty of specialist sites devoted to swapping, from readitswapit.co.uk for books to titletrader.com for DVDs.Game offers a comprehensive trade-in service where you can switch unwanted games, consoles and other bits by using the handy online value checker. Argos is another good place to take the festive season’s spurned items, as the retailer allows you to trade-in unwanted tech for vouchers. If your unwanted present already takes the form of vouchers, then you need Zeek – the app that allows you to make money from the vouchers that would otherwise sit in a drawer and collect dust until you decide to move house, which is when you realise they’ve all expired anyway.

And when all else fails, give it away

If, try as you may, you just can’t find a way to profit materially or monetarily from your outcast of an offering, then embrace charitable giving and just donate it. Most charity shops will be delighted with a brand-new item, so either pick a cause or pick somewhere round the corner and do the decent thing. Alternatively, if you think that even the organisers of your children’s primary school tombola (who, let’s face it, are going to be pathetically grateful to get anything that hadn’t been heading for the bin) may turn a proverbial nose up at this stinker of a gift, whack it on Freecycle. You’ll have people queuing up to take it off your hands, and it’s all in the spirit of seasonal giving, so you ought not to feel like too much of an ungrateful arsehole.

This article was originally published by GQ.co.uk on 20 December 2016

Isaac At Review

The concentrated number of eateries in Brighton & Hove never ceases to amaze me. And yet, in the six years I have been dining out in our seaside town, I have never had a culinary experience quite like Isaac At.

Serving up contemporary British food, this new fine dining concept offers so much more than just dinner. Eating here is an entire food event. The brainchild of 23-year-old head chef Isaac, the restaurant popped up on Gloucester Street last year. The focus is provenance, with a menu that showcases seasonal, fresh ingredients. The label attached to each menu describes the food as “inspired by the agricultural bounty of the Sussex Downs and beyond”, and if the food mileage list provided is anything to go by, they’ve totally embraced this ethos.

The restaurant space itself mirrored the food that we were served. Small, elegant and yet un-fussy, the minimalist décor was light and modern. At the centre of the 32-seat space is the open kitchen. Food is prepared in front of diners, giving guests and chefs the chance to interact. In keeping with the intimate and informal environment, each course is announced to the room by the chefs themselves. Upon arrival, the wonderful restaurant manager Sophia showed us to our seats at a communal table. Although we were a little hesitant about this ‘social’ aspect at first, it actually worked really well. Given that all of the guests are enjoying the same dishes from the set menu, chatting about it with other foodies made for a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The effect was akin to being at a fabulous dinner party.

We started the evening off with an aperitif, a glass of the local Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury Sparkling Brut (£8.50) for myself, and a Silly Moo Cider from East Sussex (£4.90) for my partner. Both were light and lovely. When the time for wine came around, the assistant chef himself, George T, came to aid us in making our decision. He suggested the Sedlescombe Biodynamic 2013 from East Sussex (a very reasonable £31, considering that’s the priciest white on offer), which turned out to be an excellent choice.

The pre-starter was one amazing mouthful of pure deliciousness. Isaac’s take on a mini smoked salmon sandwich – complete with miniature cubes of cucumber – was delicate and expertly executed. Also worth mentioning was the freshly baked bread, served with slab of Ringmer butter.

Next was the asparagus, egg yolk, pork scratching and locally foraged scurvy cress. The crunch of the pork scratching offset the richness of the yolk, and they both made a great accompaniment to the British asparagus.

The cuttlefish, smoked apple, bok choi and cauliflower that followed was, I must admit, not really to my taste. Call me a philistine, but I like my squid-like fish battered and fried. However I can appreciate that the dish was very refined, beautifully presented and definitely rather different. Isaac At is all about showing diners new ways to enjoy unusual ingredients, and it was good to see the dynamic young chefs embrace experimentation.

The main course of pork neck and belly, ratte potato, smoked broccoli and goosefoot was also a delight. We were a little disconcerted when we first saw ‘goosefoot’ on the menu, but actually it was tasty cress, also locally foraged. The pork neck was cooked to perfection, beautifully pink and velvet soft, whilst the belly was salty and crisp, reminding me of a fantastic bit of bacon.

The palate cleanser of blackberry and cucumber ice that followed did just that, as even after four courses we were still able to find room for dessert. The lavender ice cream, chocolate, lime and rapeseed was a pleasant surprise, given that lavender has the potential to taste like potpourri. However this was very subtle, and paired with the aerated chocolate it made a refined yet relatively light ending to our meal. I say ending, although it actually wasn’t, as we still squeezed in a final course of two charming little petits fours.

All in all, this is the type of fine dining that even the most hardened of sceptics could get behind. The team had clearly meticulously considered every aspect of the evening and aside from the food itself, the service was outstanding. What makes Isaac At unusual is the pairing of high quality food with a casual environment; something Brighton had previously lacked. At £45 per head on a Friday evening and £47 on a Saturday, a night at Isaac At is also unlikely to break the bank.

This piece was published in the June 2016 issue of BN1 magazine.

www.isaac-at.com

The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ album has landed and I’ve got it on repeat

The Weeknd has been making waves since way back in 2011, when he dropped House of Balloons as a free download to great critical acclaim. The mixtape’s dark, alt-R&B sound was somehow gritty yet smooth at the same time, so listenable and yet nothing like conventional pop music. In those days, the man the entire world now knows as Abel Tesfaye was an anonymous enigma. Fast forward five years and The Weeknd’s third studio albumStarboy, which landed today, has been one of the most eagerly anticipated records of 2016.

Luckily for The Weeknd devotees, this 18 track behemoth doesn’t disappoint. Prior to today, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Interest levels have been piqued pre-release by the drip-dropping of four tracks off of the album, including title track “Starboy” – a collaboration with Daft Punk. Given how radio-ready “Starboy” sounds, we were a little nervous as to whether the album would retain the roughness that makes Tesfaye’s music so unique. Sure, it’s a good song, but the essence of dissent and debauchery that made the early stuff so appealing appeared to have been diluted to make it more popularly palatable. On reflection, there was nothing to worry about, Starboy is every bit as sexy, as soulful and as packed full with banger after banger as 2015’s Beauty Behind The Madness.

The track after “Starboy” is “Party Monster”: a dark, synth filled track co-written by Lana Del Ray that features the smooth, at times heavily processed, vocals typical to Tesfaye. Here, The Weeknd once again returns to his favourite themes – intoxication and women – in this deliciously sordid song; the “bump a line” lyric is even accompanied by a sniffing sound. The catchy hook “Woke up by a girl, I don’t even know her name” complements the production’s heavy base and looming guitar perfectly. “Reminder” is more of the same, but in a good way. The electro-R&B sound is slick and silky, with memorable melodies and lyrics that encapsulate the the amusingly contradictory nature of The Weeknd’s popularity: “I just won a new award for a kids show/ Talking ’bout a face coming off a bag a blow/ I’m like goddamn b*tch I am not a Teen Choice” is an obvious reference to the Teen Choice award he won for the 2015 hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Tesfaye is one of the only hugely successful mainstream artists at the moment who isn’t conventionally cookie cutter, and it’s this dichotomy that characterises him as an artist. The Weeknd oscillates between pop-gloss and grit, between futility and meaning and between exposure and mystery. His smooth, soulful voice, which has so often been compared to that of Michael Jackson (who he continuously credits as a key influence and whose impact is unequivocally audible in “Rocking”), almost obscures the fact that, more often than not, he’s singing sexually explicit lyrics laden with references to drug use, with more than a small side of brooding desperation and nihilism. “All I Know”, featuring the rapper Future, is (another!) standout track that typifies The Weeknd’s ability to make seemingly polar pairings work. The track is a kind of confessional lament-cum-club banger, the potentially depressing lyrics are offset by the heavy sub bass line typical to the trap music that has dominated the American hip-hop scene recently. It’s the kind of song you want to blast at full volume while driving a Bentley Mulsanne.

Much of his subject matter used to be the reserve of rappers, and yet The Weeknd has now pioneered a kind of sub-genre of R&B that feels uncompromisingly authentic. “Six Feet Under” is a case in point. The worn out tropes of “b*tches and money” somehow feel subversive again, thanks to the experimental production and Tesfaye’s crooning vocal. Where this kind of content would usually feel sleazy or sordid, The Weeknd manages to get away with it; the lyrics feel like an uncompromisingly realistic reflection of his reality, and the aggressiveness is tempered by the smoothness of his sound.

Pop music that truly speaks to people is a rare thing these days, but this album is so magnetising because it feels so distinctly personal. “Sidewalks” featuring Kendrick Lamar details Tesfaye’s rise to the top, from “homeless to Forbes list”, and is illustrative of Starboy’s credentials as a cohesive body of work. While the unique productions overlaid with eerie soulful vocal are of course a unifying thread, the narrative of Tesfaye’s grappling with success is at work throughout the hour long album. In an age where popular music has become increasingly bland in order to appeal to as many people as possible, his music is vividly honest – it’s not just about getting drunk in a club, it’s about the horrors of hedonism too, from come downs to regret to psychological turmoil.

He’s cut his hair, broken up with Bella Hadid and has burst out into the mainstream, but Starboy is still The Weeknd doing what he does best. It’s a rare thing for an artist to be able to shape popular music, instead of being passively shaped by it (Tesfaye even managed to make his explicitness mainstream with “Earned It”, the single from the film 50 Shades of Grey). The album’s title is a nod to David Bowie, who Tesfaye calls “the ultimate inventor”, and this reference is telling in terms of his aspirations. “Starboy” is a solid sign that The Weeknd, like Bowie, is pushing the boundaries of what we consider to be “popular”. Whether his legacy will be half as enduring remains to be seen.

Originally published at GQ.co.uk (25 November 2016)

The Pirelli Calendar 2017 strips 15 beautiful women bare

This year’s eagerly anticipated calendar by Peter Lindbergh is all about exposing the women it features, but not in the way you’d expect.

Back in 1964, the Pirelli Calendar was just a bit of eye-candy, kindly provided by the Italian tyre maker to be hung on the walls of car mechanic garages far and wide. Forty-four editions later, and the trade calendar has become a kind of cultural barometer through which societal perceptions of beauty are reflected, examined and contested.

This year’s calendar, presented on Tuesday in Paris, is perhaps the farthest away from the original format as you could possibly get, with not a naked bottom or heaving bosom in sight. The world famous photographer Peter Lindbergh made the 2017 calendar about what he calls a “different type of sexy” to “high heels and bikinis”. 2016’s calendar, shot by Annie Leibovitz, represented the first leap away from the carefully curated, impossibly glamorous images of half-naked models for Pirelli, and the 2017 edition is in a similar vein.

Sorry gentlemen, but this year’s nakedness is purely figurative. The 14 internationally renowned actresses – hand-picked by Lindbergh, who believes them to be “the most talented women in the world” – are presented in minimal makeup and fully clothed. Instead of focusing on perfect bodies, Lindbergh conveys his idea of natural beauty and femininity by “stripping down to the very soul of the sitters, who thus become more nude than naked.”

Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Charlotte Rampling, Lea Seydoux, Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Kate Winslet, Robin Wright and Zhang Ziyi, as well as a professor of Political Theory from Moscow University who Lindbergh met at a dinner, are presented across forty black and white photographs that are the very antithesis from the digitally enhanced, commercial images we see everywhere today.

This calendar is still at it’s core, a celebration of beauty, but about what Lindbergh sees as a “different beauty, more real and truthful – not manipulated by commercial interests”. Bemoaning the “blank faces” of the the “retouched, photoshopped woman you see everywhere today”, Lindbergh chose to present these actresses, some of whom are notably older than Pirelli’s previous women and all of whom in his eyes “stand up for something”, in a completely natural, unpolished and un-airbrushed format, and the results are pretty spectacular.

2017’s images are more sensual than overtly sexy – the calendar as a whole feels like the artistic equivalent of waking up next to a beautiful woman. You know that moment, when a woman is wearing no makeup and is at her most natural and vulnerable? The subjects have been captured in exactly that kind of a guise. The images are strikingly honest and stunningly personal; Lindbergh was all about getting the actresses to be themselves. Penélope Cruz spoke of how different these portraits are from any other photos you’ll see of the 14 actresses because their inherent intimacy: “it’s just us, we don’t have this other character protecting or covering us.”

From Cruz, who has photographed in New York after a knackering night of child care, to the image of Kate Winslet’s hands, which celebrates the grace in getting old, the kind of beauty celebrated here is a far cry from your typical glossy shoot. Nor are they anything like what Helen Mirren calls “red carpet faces” – the actresses all stare down the lens with unflinching eye contact. The images are sensuous because they feel so real, from the carnal close up of one actress’s lips to the wide shot of the House of Cards actress Robin Wright, it’s the sort of sexiness that we come across with the women we interact with in everyday life that’s celebrated here.

By rejecting impossible beauty standards, Pirelli has shown once again why, despite the fact that you can’t even buy the iconic calendar, it remains relevant today. Speaking at the press conference today, Helen Mirren argued that the 2017 calendar reflects a “cultural shift” towards widening conceptions of female beauty and spoke of her hope that young women could find solace from societal pressures in this year’s calendar. In the same way we’ve been trying to redefine masculinity in the modern day by asking “how to be a man”, this calendar is about restrictive notions of femininity and of female beauty. Lindbergh’s rejection of popular representations of beauty emancipates the women it features from rigid cultural expectations in a move Uma Thurman calls an act of “human empowerment”.

Speaking at the launch, Nicole Kidman reasoned that “being yourself is the epitome of confidence and power” and that’s precisely what this year’s photographs are all about. In our age and appearance obsessed society, Lindbergh’s cry against “the terror of perfection and youth” is one of resonance. It might not be the kind of Pirelli calendar we’re used to, but this is a format we can certainly get on board with.

This piece was originally published on GQ.co.uk

Brighton’s Best Beer Gardens

Surprisingly enough, it can be a tricky process trying to find the perfect pub garden for soaking up the sun in this seaside city. Brighton & Hove may be famed for their beaches, but the relatively small number of south-facing gardens means you can often end up spending a warm afternoon chasing the sun around the city.

This summer, we’ve done the ‘hard work’ for you, and have compiled a handy list of Brighton & Hove’s ultimate pub gardens, for when only a cold pint in the sunshine will do.


THE SETTING SUN

This little gem on Windmill Street in Hanover has arguably the best beer garden in the city. The small, low-walled garden provides breath-taking panoramic views of Brighton & Hove and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see all the way to Worthing Pier, 12 miles away. The view also includes a lot of ocean, so much so that on a hot day with a glass of rosé in hand, you’d be forgiven for feeling as though you’re sat somewhere in France. With a friendly, intimate atmosphere and good food to boot, it’s well worth hiking up the hill to visit The Setting Sun. Just make sure to get there early, as this local favourite fills up fast!

1 Windmill Street, Brighton, BN2 0GN


THE CONNAUGHT

Situated just up from the seafront in Hove, The Connaught Pub & Kitchen boasts a beautiful, secluded beer garden with plenty of cute picnic tables. Far more spacious than many of the more central establishments, The Connaught’s garden gets plenty of sun and has a chilled out vibe. There’s both a patio area and plenty of grass, as well as lots of lovely plants scattered around the edges. The pub is dog friendly too, so you’ll often find a couple of adorable pooches catching some rays alongside their owners. Aside from the garden, the real clincher is that The Connaught does fantastic food, most notably the mountainous roasts served on a Sunday. Be sure to book in advance though, as they do get very busy.

48 Hove Street, Hove, BN3 2DH


THE CRESCENT

This lovely pub in Seven Dials boasts a brilliant sun trap out at the back. The paved garden is spacious and ideal for larger groups. The space is furnished with wrought iron tables, umbrellas for those rare occasions when it gets just a little too hot, and plenty of seating. The Crescent serves locally sourced food every day, and has great selection of world beers. They also have an impressive range of spirits, especially gin and vodka, perfect for those days when a beer just won’t do. Situated on Clifton Hill, The Crescent is out of the way enough that it rarely gets rammed, but also central enough so that you can pop up there from town in a matter of minutes.

6 Clifton Hill, Brighton, BN1 3HL


13220610_940424139388372_8624335300180148278_oNEIGHBOURHOOD

This Kemptown institution on St James’s Street has a big paved garden perfect for a summer of revelry. Neighbourhood is staunchly independent, which explains why this popular spot has such eccentric décor. Inspired by dive bars with a strongly artistic vibe, this two-floor venue is bursting with mismatched furniture, locally produced artwork and vintage nick-knacks. There’s plenty of seating outside and, although walled on all sides, the garden still gets sun all afternoon. You can even book one of their cabanas, should you and your friends want to make like you’re in Miami for the evening. Well, not quite, but hey there’s palm trees! Live music means that the garden – complete with BBQ and brightly coloured furnishings – is an ideal place to kick back and relax on a warm evening.

101 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1TP


HOVE PLACE

Hove Place is a casual ‘bistro pub’ in the heart of Hove, just off Church Road. A firm favourite with locals, their stunning Italian garden is a welcome sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Their modern British food comes highly recommended and, separated into bistro, pub and deli menus, caters to all sensibilities. The garden is beautifully furnished, complete with heaters for those days when there’s no choice but to submit to our typical English weather. The garden is lovely at any time of day, but if it’s hot and sunny it’s best to head there early as once you’ve got a seat you won’t want to leave! They even have an outdoor TV screen for those of you who just can’t miss out on the summer’s sporting events.

First Avenue, Hove, BN3 2FH


THE BRUNSWICK

The Brunswick is an independently owned pub in Hove, just off the seafront on Holland Road, known primarily as a live music venue. The pub itself is huge – there’s the main room, the basement and the music and arts room dubbed ‘The Venue’ – but so is the garden. This space is undoubtedly one of the biggest and sunniest in all of Brighton & Hove, with plenty of picnic-style benches and larger tables perfect for groups. They do a good range of drinks (including some great craft beers) and serve food by Gorilla Grill & BBQ, which features American-style pub grub such as burgers and hotdogs. Word on the street is that the garden may be refurbished soon, so keep your eyes peeled, as it may be even better!

The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, BN3 1JF


hampton-arms-brighton-02THE HAMPTON ARMS

The Hampton is a cosy pub just a few minutes from the centre of town in the Clifton Hill area. This little place has a good food menu and a nice selection of cask ales, ciders and wines. The pub is fabulously intimate and makes for a great winter watering hole, but The Hampton can also be an ideal summer spot as the south-facing garden gets a lot of sun. The little courtyard out the back is compact but as the pub is hidden away behind the back of Western Road, you can often get lucky and find the garden rather empty.

57 Upper North Street, Brighton, BN1 3FH


THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

Just up from Brighton Station on Guildford Road, The Battle of Trafalgar is a great back-street spot for pub traditionalists and sun worshippers alike. A world away from some of Brighton’s more pretentious establishments, it’s the locals that largely frequent The Battle of Trafalgar. A real hidden gem, from the front you’d never guess that this pub boasts one of the loveliest beer gardens in Brighton. It’s surprisingly large with lots of seating, and although rather urban in feel, there’s a still lot of greenery. This old-fashioned pub has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and serves a range of ales. Lynsey’s Kitchen is responsible for the traditional pub grub served here, with a focus on providing vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

34 Guildford Road, Brighton, BN1 3LW


1371044877_good-companion-42-625x417THE GOOD COMPANIONS

The Good Companions on Dyke Road is another pub in the Seven Dials area that boasts a large garden. Recently refurbished, The Good Companions has both a paved front area complete with enormous benches and a large decked courtyard out back. The back garden is kitted out with panelled booths (each with a very handy heater) and plenty of picnic-style benches, should you be unlucky enough to miss out on a booth. The Good Companions serves great, locally sourced food and offers a combination of real Sussex ales and world beers. The pub tends to be at it’s busiest on Friday afternoons, and thanks to the buzzy, friendly atmosphere, it’s an ideal spot to meet mates for an after work drink in the sun.

132 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3TE


REVOLUTION

Formerly known as Vodka Revolution, this is undoubtedly the nicest place you’ll find on West Street. Although not strictly speaking a ‘pub’, this bar boasts Brighton’s biggest outdoors drinking area (with the exception of the beach of course!). Beyond the courtyard space used primarily by in-and-out smokers, you’ll find a sprawling area filled with plush sofas and wooden spaces, ideal for parking yourself all night long. With a giant drinks menu and a mouth-watering food menu to boot, you could spend all evening here after the sun goes down. As well as the nicely finished garden and the main room, there are bars both upstairs and down, meaning there’s never a dull moment at Revolution.

77 West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RA


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATHE SIDEWINDER

The Sidewinder on Upper St James’s Street boasts not only one but two huge beer gardens, giving you ample amounts of room in which to catch those precious summer rays. As with the majority of venues on this list, those kind people at The Sidewinder have very sensibly kitted out both gardens with heaters, for those days when even in the sun it’s a little chilly. The kitchen is run by Smokin’ Gringos, serving up Mexican street food every day with the exception of Sundays, where roasts and a build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar take centre stage. Oh, and there’s also a multi-award winning hair stylist running a shabby-chic salon upstairs, because you know, it’s Brighton, after all.

65 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1JN


PATTERNS

OK so admittedly, Patterns is also not technically a pub, and nor is their terrace a beer garden, but it’s a bloody great place to have a drink in the sun. Open all year round and with views of the pier, the terrace is kitted out with wooden panelling and furniture so brightly coloured it screams ‘summer’. Line your stomach with hot dogs and chips from The Dog Haus whilst enjoying one of Patterns’ many cocktails and by night, if you’re still standing, head inside for tunes provided by a live DJ. Also worth mentioning is the weekend brunch, which includes unlimited Bloody Marys and Prosecco. Need we say more?

10 Marine Parade, Brighton, BN2 1TL

This piece was originally published in BN1 magazine- July 2016

Festival Fashion Guide 2016

Packing for a festival is a demon that most of us must face. Beyond trying to squeeze as much booze into your rucksack as humanly possible, as Brits, we also have to bear in mind that any attempt to look even vaguely stylish may result in pneumonia.

Beyond the whims of the weather, festival fashion is about nailing summer trends, despite the fact that you probably won’t have showered nor looked in the mirror for days. There are now some looks that are so out-dated you’d be forgiven for thinking festival sites have become time warps. You can pretty much bet your last bottle of mixer that at any festival in the UK, you’ll see flocks of young women adorned in floral headbands. The summer nymph look is inoffensive, sure, but it certainly won’t win you any praise from the fashion powers that be.

I’ve established the top fuss-free festival trends for 2016, together with some handy advice on how to embrace practicality whilst looking the part.

Do…

  • Turn to Coachella for inspiration, as the stars at this American extravaganza set festival trends for the year. See the next point.
  • Incorporate fringing. Ideally in the style of festival bag of the moment: the tan crossover Hudson by Chloé. Ditto two pieces or anything crochet.
  • Pack shoes that will keep your feet dry. It’s tempting to bring sandals, yes. But don’t. Even if the weather verges on the miraculous, your toes will thank you when they’re not being trodden on at every step.
  • Bring wellies. Hunters may have been around for years, but they’re still the ultimate festy footwear.
  • Pack a good pair of sunglasses. But not so good that when lost to a squelching mud pit you’re left feeling as though you’ve just been made bankrupt.
  • Remember your waterproof jacket. The puffa, as seen everywhere during fashion week, is very in this year. As is the bomber jacket. Be warned, if you don’t pack a coat, you may well end up wearing a bin bag as a poncho. Just saying.

Don’t…

  • Wear any expensive jewellery or your posh watch. Crawling around on the floor in a dark tent filled with hundreds of people is not something you want to be doing. Embrace cheap and cheerful costume jewellery as an easy way to spice up an outfit. If you (ladies) want to be on trend, you can’t go wrong with a choker or a body chain.
  • Dismiss fancy dress completely. As much as you probably won’t feel like ‘going all out’ when you’re battling a three-day hangover having slept in a field, fancy dress can have its uses. Take inspiration from Miss Kylie Jenner and wear a wig, it’s a great way to cover up unwashed hair. Chaps: some face paint, glitter or even an ostentatious hat will do the job nicely.
  • Risk a Native American style headdress. Sure, they look cool, but now they’re just plain tired and predictable. Plus, wearers have previously been blasted for cultural appropriation. Just steer clear.
  • Wear a onesie. The preserve of drunken male festival-goers everywhere, avoid at all costs if you’d prefer not to look like a giant baby.

Follow these golden rules, and you’ll spend the weekend channelling your inner Kate Moss or Idris Elba. And you never know, if you do play your sartorial cards right, you may even get featured in a promotional video for a cider with a name you can’t pronounce.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.58.13

Originally published in BN1 Magazine, June edition.