Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Magic That is Borough Market: London

For those of you that don’t already know Borough Market but who, like me, love food and the hustle and bustle of everyday life around you; this is a jewel of a place not to be missed!

Situated on the south Bank of the Thames; London Bridge right next to Southwark Cathedral “lives” a market that has been at the heart of London for likely over 1,000 years and on the current site since 1755. The existing market buildings are however relatively modern having been erected in 1851 and appended to in 1860 in the Victorian Gothic revival tradition. An Art Deco entrance was later added in 1932. Indeed a Blue Plaque marks it as “London’s Oldest Fruit & Veg Market”.

It’s a place where people from all walks of life and social classes rub shoulders among over 100 stalls selling a vast array of foods from traditional fruit & veg and butchery through to artisan produces; cheeses, breads, sweetmeats and charcuterie to name but a few.

The place is alive with the heady mixed smells of street food cooking, the chatter of the crowds and the vibrant colours of the displays that play out before your eyes.

Many of the traders here make, grow or rear their own produce and the quality to be found here, in my book, is up there with Harrods’s Food Hall but a lot more accessible and down to earth. After saying that; it’s not a cheap place to shop for your dinner but as a place to come and forage for occasional treats and items to impress your guests, it’s a goldmine. Apparently the market association is so proud of what it has to offer that there is an elected food panel that constantly ensures the authenticity and sheer scrumminess of the food on offer here.

During the week it attracts many local office workers who come to seek out a quick and delicious midday repast and they are not to be disappointed as there is a host of quick meals on offer: Gourmet burgers, paellas, oriental foods and if you are a fan and feeling a little flush; fresh oysters.

If you fancy a sit down meal there are several good restaurants integrated into the external fabric of the building including a fish one and a steak one. The market is also well served by a number of good pubs, the closest and most vibrant being the “Market Porter”, which sports a glorious display of hanging baskets during the warmer months providing a colourful vista for the customers who pour out into the street to be closer to the buzz of the market immediately adjacent. However as a “West Country Lad” I'm usually well happy with a pint of dry cider from the New ForestCider Co. within the market itself.

So as summer slowly creeps up on us why not take yourself down to Borough Market on a lazy Saturday afternoon; soak up the atmosphere, grab a spot of lunch on the hoof and take a prize find home to be relished for supper? ENJOY!

All images and text copyright Andrew Hill 2013

More and larger Images may be found on the Revealing Light website.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Matt Weedon at Fallowfields - Shoot: April 2013

By watching too many TV food programmes you could easily be fooled into thinking that all great chefs may be a little in love with themselves, and at an extreme a touch “rude”…

Well having worked with Matt Weedon last week at Fallowfields, Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire I can assure you that there are certainly very talented cooks about who are humble and very pleasant to be around.

Matt won his first Michelin star at Scotland’s Glenapp Castle and in 2008 became head chef at Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire winning it it’s first Michelin star in early 2009.

Now, along with his wife; Rachel who runs front of house, he is the hope of Fallowfields owner; Anthony Lloyd to do exactly the same here.


Anthony told me that when Matt arrived back in mid March that he had asked Matt if he wanted his name above the restaurant entrance. Apparently Matt looked at him a little quizzically, responding with “I’ll let my food do the talking”. He also told me at our first meeting that the reason he is so passionate about what he does is that he likes to put a smile on the faces of his diners; delivering them excellence in exchange for their hard earned cash.

"Very Local" Pork

Matt is under played, softly spoken yet is clearly a thinker with compassion and a good sense of humour. I could tell from the enthusiasm that his assistant chef: Matt (yes Matt!) had that he is clearly inspirational to work alongside.

Sea Bass

It would seem that Matt coming to Fallowfields is the fulfilment of some kind of prophecy: Once when asked what his earliest memory of food was he responded with: "Grandma's Sunday Roast" - real tender beef with all the trimmings. I can still remember the great smell that came out of her kitchen”. He also commented that he would like his final meal to be “Rib-eye steak with Chips and Sauce Bearnaise”. Well at Fallowfields he now has his own small herd of Dexter cattle; as farm manager to rear and chef to serve up. Not only does he have excellent rare breed beef cattle to hand but Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spot pigs too.

"Very Local" Beef

If that wasn’t enough of the fulfilment of a prophecy Matt talked to me about his love of birds of prey and his fondness for photographing them…yes you’ve guessed it Fallowfields has it’s own falconry centre with over 60 birds and 30 species!

"Rhubarb & Custard"

The food that Matt prepared and I photographed on the day is perhaps best described as classically British but with inspiration taken from modern French food, making use of light reductions and foams that accentuate the food rather than drown it out. In fact Matt offered me the gravy to add to the pictured pork dish and we both ended up agreeing that it photographed better without it!
While Matt doesn't like, or attempt, to over complicate his dishes he certainly produces colourful works of art that beg to be eaten for the wonderful mix of textures that he brings to each plate: The eyes are captivated and the flavours do the talking.

Hand Made Macaroons & Chocolates

We didn't get all the dishes we had intended to photograph done during the shoot so I'm looking forward to going back shortly and capturing his wonderful sweet soufflé and chocolate dessert. I’ll also get some shots of the livestock, quails and the kitchen garden as it blooms during the warmer months. Watch this space.

All images and text copyright Andrew Hill 2013

More and larger Images may be found on the Revealing Light website.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Brutalist Sheffield: The Rebirth of Park Hill – Now & Beyond

Brutalist Sheffield: The Rebirth of Park Hill – Now & Beyond

Without doubt; modern Sheffield is lively and vibrant…a great place to both work and live. It has a steely determination about it; a city that has, like the proverbial phoenix, risen from out of the ashes of it’s heavily industrial past to be a beacon of optimism in the North of England.

Having gone to Leeds Uni, married a “Yorkshire lass” and had our first child born in Leeds, we have an affinity for this part of the world, and after experiencing the hope that is the new “Park Hill” first hand I can say that if I had the money to buy a “pied a terre” in the City I wouldn't hesitate to buy an apartment here.

Starting at just £90,000 with options also available to part-buy and rent, to someone that lives on the M4 corridor, they are an absolute bargain. I dare not think what such an apartment would cost in the South East! Indeed if this development was transported south it would no doubt be gobbled up by an army of property investors looking for a better return than money on deposit and a safe haven from the Euro.

You get the feeling that if you moved in here tomorrow you’d once again be living a part of history that the original development also was. You’d also be taking a bit of a gamble; that planning and maintenance lessons really have been learned and that Urban Splash, the developer, can remain solvent to see their vision through. Even with a small boost to the economy and the successful habitation of all the apartments, only a small part of the overall project will have been realised by the end of 2014.

Urban Splash has gone on record as saying: “we want to create a world class landscape, inside and outside its walls”. “The team are working to bring love; life and pride back to this iconic project and make it a genuinely vibrant and sustainable community for the 21st Century.” I personally have no doubt that they, SCC and their partners (Transform South Yorkshire, Homes and Communities Agency, English Heritage and Great Places) believe in what they are doing and are committed to seeing it through.

They have ambitious plans for the landscaping of the development and as in the original intention to bring “a real mix in the ingredients of a proper place for residents and visitors alike: a 'high street' of local services - butchers, newsagents, greengrocers, chippy- a doctor's and dentist's, a new home for the fantastic Grace Owen children's nursery, some great bars, pubs and cafes”. Their intention seems to be able to finally realise the notion of a “village” with a village hall and a village green complete with oak tree, plus new workspace for businesses, artists or students, as well as dedicated secure provision for car parking”.

If (and I genuinely hope…When), they pull this off the first buyers will be sitting pretty in an investment that will have risen in value as the dream unfolds. No doubt the final single bedroom apartment sold will proportionately cost considerably more than the first £90,000 one!

The apartments themselves are described as “spacious one and two bedroom, duplex, dual aspect apartments with floor to ceiling glazing”. The original “box” concept has been maintained while certain inner curtain walls have been removed to give a feeling of greater light and space. The use of the term “spacious” doesn’t really stack up on paper; a typical entry level one bed is just 547 sq ft and a two bed 767 sq ft. However with floor to ceiling glass running the full length of either aspect of the apartment, minimalist detailing, copious wooden flooring, white kitchen fittings and paint the “feeling” certainly has however been achieved.

There are nice touches; such as the inner lobby connecting doors which fold back flush into the walls, and with the doors in such an orientation the apartment “opens up” stretching from one wall of glass in the living area, through the lobby to the wall of glass in the adjacent bedroom. Much use has been made of bare concrete (which was fully plastered over in the original dwellings) which has been so well treated and sealed that it is impossible to rub your hand over any exposed surface and create even the smallest particle of dust.

The inner stairwells are given the steel and glass treatment with copious under stairs storage space. On the issue of storage space there is very little built in and free standing units would eat into the small rooms. That being said if you’re a hoarder; this really isn't a building for you. It demands a lifestyle to complement it. People who themselves are minimalist in all that they do: People who want to live out in the surrounding City, who want to be engaged in the community, not sat at home stuffing more and more needless “stuff” into ever decreasing spaces. It’s an environment for those who wish to be free of consumerism, for those who want to be people again.

One severe criticism of the “Streets in the sky” was that people didn't keep their front doors open as they had done in the terraces while the children played outside and the locals nattered and kept an eye on their community. Consequently crime and antisocial behaviour took a foothold, because the façades of the flats were flat, so that it wasn't possible to look out of the window and see up and down the street. The architects have rectified this elegantly by building an oriole window into the fabric of the façade to the side of the entrance to each apartment. It’s easy from the safety provided by a very substantial external door to peer through it in all directions out and along “the street”.

So Park Hill: I believe that you are a success in the making. However economic times are generally tough and Urban Splash struggle for profit so there are risks. That said; anything worth having is going to take some risk to achieve. My main concern isn't the development itself but the integration with the rest of the City and it’s acceptance as an alternative lifestyle venue as cafes, restaurants and shops open. Here the responsibility must rest with SCC.

There has already been friction with Network Rail, who wanted to close the public rail line crossing from its city entrance side over the rails to the Park Hill side as part of the stations “upgrade”. Luckily there was mass protest and the link looks safe. The tram way infrastructure provides a foot link over the bypass and it’s Goliath of a roundabout across to Park Hill, but there is not yet a Park Hill tram stop. This needs to happen not only as a practical measure but also as a way of clearly demonstrating the Corporation's commitment to its intentions and commercial partners.

I look forward to going back over the next few years and watching the story unfold further.

All images and text copyright Andrew Hill 2013

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Brutalist Sheffield: The Rebirth of Park Hill – Hope

1998 and Sheffield City Council (SCC) now has Europe’s largest listed building as its responsibility. English Heritage listed it Grade2* on the basis of:

·          Its shear scale
·          Use of “streets in the sky”
·          Overall architectural importance

The council was left with little choice but to be able to establish a redevelopment plan and by the end of 2003 people were being moved out of north block Park Hill, the part overlooking the city.

SCC wanted to maintain a “social housing” element within any redevelopment so, while realising the reality of the requirement for private sector investment, it eventually selected a partnership in 2004 to take things forward. The partnership consisted of A Registered Social Landlord: Parkway Housing (a subsidiary of The Manchester Methodist Housing Group) and the residential “redeveloper”: Urban Splash.

By 2006 Urban Splash made an application for outline planning permission to redevelop the site to offer a mix of apartments for; sale (approx. 580), rent and low cost ownership. The site to also have a mix of leisure and retail facilitates; a nursery, doctor’s surgery and landscaped open spaces.

Urban Splash appointed architects: Studio EgretWest, HawkinsBrown and GrantAssociates, in June 2007. Their detailed planning application for Phase 1 was subsequently approved in October 2007.

At this time approval was granted for 257 flats for sale, 56 flats for rent & 12 flats for shared ownership with the inclusion of the  GPs’ surgery, a nursery, retail and leisure facilities and “high quality public realm”.

The majority of the funding was to come from Urban Splash, with the remainder coming from a conglomerate of government and private housing agencies including the original partner: Parkway Housing (Manchester Methodist Housing Group). English Heritage made a grant towards specialist concrete repairs.

Preparation work on the site began in November 2007: Stripping out the flats, removing windows and brick infill panels, eventually taking the building right back to its core “H” frame structure. In 2010 the bright coloured anodised aluminium infill panels, that now make the new development “stand out”, were starting to be installed, their colours chosen to mimic the brick they had replaced.

All images and text copyright Andrew Hill 2013

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