Where We’ve Been Staying
Titanic Hotel Belfast
Formerly the headquarters of Harland & Wolff, the Titanic Hotel in Belfast is a real architectural gem. With some parts of the original building constructed from materials used to produce the firm’s ships, the hotel is quite literally built on the rich history of Belfast as an internationally prominent port city. The Titanic’s Drawing Office bar, with its parquet flooring, arched ceiling and skylight windows, follows an Art Deco style as the bright, grand hub of the hotel – nautically themed but not to the point of overkill, a monochrome meeting of history and innovation. On the doorstep of the Titanic Visitor Centre, which in 2016 was named the world’s leading tourist attraction, the Titanic Hotel is revitalising the city of Belfast and celebrating its unique cultural heritage.
What We’ve Been Watching
By turns deeply funny and wholly serious, Hail Satan? chronicles the rag-tag rebels of The Satanic Temple and their quest to establish a sociocultural counter myth to rival the theocratic dominance of Christianity throughout the United States. Unravelling the odd untruth of the US’ by-the-grace-of-God, monotheistic constitution (the US is, in fact, constitutionally secular) makes for some pretty compelling viewing. Yes, it’s chock full of mascara, pentagrams, and more than a few questionable pseudonyms, but Hail Satan? Is an enriching, illuminating, and above all entertaining little foray into grassroots political activism.
What’s On Our Coffee Table
My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making by Jay Rayner
Turning an otherwise morbid thought (You’re about to die. What would your final meal be?) into an almost academic exercise, Jay Rayner’s My Last Supper sees the long-standing and ever-acerbic Guardian critic embark on a journey through his life in food in pursuit of the meal to end all meals. Shot through with Rayner’s infamous wit and candour, My Last Supper is both a hugely entertaining account of a life built around mealtimes and a fascinating global (not to mention death-defying) exploration of our relationship with what we eat.
Who We’ve Been Talking To
Adam Rawson, Isla & Double Standard
Boasting not one, but two superlative food menus across both its ground floor restaurant and bar, it’s clear that The Standard London has hit the ground running at quite the pace upon its international debut. We managed to grab executive chef, Adam Rawson, between courses at Isla to get the lowdown on his story so far. EJ
So tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 29 years old and I’ve been in the kitchen since I was 14. I’ve done a bit of everything, ranging from pubs to street food, fine dining & popups. I’m now overseeing both restaurant spaces here on the ground floor of The Standard, London.
Both Isla and Double Standard have two very different vibes. Is that reflected in the food?
Oh yeah! Both spaces offer a totally different dining experience. Double Standard is comfort food done well. You know, the kind of food you want to eat when drinking. Here in Isla, it’s all about lighter options. We serve light, coastal-inspired, seasonal dishes that are meant to be shared. We currently lacto ferment a lot of vegetables for Isla, as well as our chilli sauces & mustards. Lacto-fermented foods are not only delicious but are nutrient-dense, enzyme-rich and alive with probiotics. They definitely fit with the Isla ethos, so expect to see us expand on them as we go.
Running two restaurants with such different identities must be quite the challenge. What’s your secret?
It keeps me busy, that’s for sure. But it’s really fun to create two very different menus. The real trick is simply keeping things organised and sharing the workload effectively. Clever menu planning is key across each outlet.
As far as names go, Isla certainly evokes a certain sense of locality. Is the idea of local, seasonal produce important to you?
Absolutely. After a fair bit of travelling over the years, I’ve discovered that the most interesting and classic dishes seem to stem from simple ingredients. I also believe that keeping food seasonal makes life as a chef much more interesting. It keeps the creative process exciting.
You say you’ve done a bit of travelling. Do you have any favourite places amongst those you’ve visited?
I love Japan. I learnt so much whilst I was there. Peru and Mexico are high on my list of favourite places too. In Europe, Croatia took me by surprise in a big way. Still a fair few places on the list though.
Do you work with any local producers or suppliers? Can you tell us about any interesting suppliers from further afield?
I work with some very cool meat suppliers. Our beef is from the guys at Txuleta. They specialise in older, retired ex-dairy cows as they make for a uniquely rich flavour. I also use Wild Room for local, foraged ingredients. Our olive oil is imported from Croatia after discovering it on my travels. Not to brag, but it just might be the best olive oil ever.
You probably get asked this a lot, but can you tell us a little about your fabled, award-winning, signature burger?
Sure. I learned the technique whilst overseeing Lucky Chip, and since went and created my own. I can’t say too much, but I will say that it’s important to have the right meat blend and a bun that steams well. I won London’s best burger in 2015 and 2016, and I then served them in various popups for a year or so afterwards.
And finally, burger aside, do you have any personal favourite dishes from the menus?
The fried chicken in Double Standard is amazing, but I really think that both menus as a whole are super strong and offer something for everyone. We’re off to a great start, and it will only get better over time.