Quarantine Creatives: Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant joined me from the comfort of his home in South London with a beaming smile and a special guest, Odin. Odin the cat saturated my conversation with Jamie with much entertainment and magnified the wholesome energy that was felt through the screen, in what felt like a chat with an old friend. As Odin sashayed past Jamie’s camera, it was interesting to see this young comedian off stage and in the contentment of his bed surrounded by his well-kept house plants.

Born and raised in West London, Jamie always had a creative flair. From his school productions and acting to his first stand up experience, Jamie always put his creativity at the forefront. Before life as a comedian, Jamie initially went on to pursue his career path in acting. Going on to study drama at the University of Exeter, Jamie excelled during his time there and revealed that a memorable moment was his involvement in the play Trainspotting. “Like 1000 people auditioned for that and I got into that and that was probably the biggest bug for me, the acting bug in moving forwards and feeling like yeah I can do this”.

“I’ve always wanted to do drama”

Having graduated from the university with his drama degree in hand, Jamie went on to work in a bike shop to earn money whilst working in his first paid outdoor theatre project for a show called Child’s Play, at the same time.   This was a learning curve, as he quickly learnt that his input wasn’t as valued here as his work on productions during his time in his Exeter “bubble”. Jamie admitted that after a series of rejections and little input here, from not only himself but his team, he left with a feeling of “what’s the point”. After two or three months of working on Child’s Play, Jamie moved on to his next steps after recognizing that he was “enjoying the bike shop more than the acting”.

After revealing that his initial first step after graduating was sending “about 150 letters to agents in London”, and “hoped for the best. One agent “wrote back to me and said “let’s set up a meeting”. This was great for commercial work for Jamie, but still kept his foot in the door at the bike shop.

With theatre work not fulfilling Jamie in the way he thought it would, he decided to brave an open mic night and try stand up. What began as a dabble, then became addictive for this comedian and got him thinking “how can I get better at this and write better jokes and I was really determined to get better”. Jamie divulged that this was the first time he felt this strongly about something.

Jamie built up a series of comedy shows under his belt, learning to perfect his craft and even went onto win a New Act competition for comedy. He was then “roped into the sales team” for a credit card company. This made his regular input on the comedy scene reduce significantly and he saw that the comedians who he started with “were gigging like machines” and progressing fast whilst Jamie’s stagnation was prominent. Recognising that working in the credit company was stunting his creativity and his ability to get better as a comedian, he left after two years of service.

 “I really enjoyed it, but I definitely knew this isn’t something I wanted to do forever”

Sandwich deliveries is what was next on the cards for Jamie Oliphant, this ensured that his evenings freed up for his pursuit in the comedy world. Of course, financially he took a toll, but this accelerated his skill set and gave him more platforms as a comic.

From doing 5-minute open mic nights and working small stages and audiences, Jamie has now graced Edinburgh Fringe and sold out comedy clubs in London, with his storytelling style. Fuelled by his experiences working in the variety of jobs, including that of a Teaching Assistant. I personally went to see him in Waterloo and loved his animation and almost childlike blanketing of his set and performance.

Being in a creative space doesn’t often pair with the notion and idea of stability and this was something that Jamie had to fight the grain with, especially with his parents. “Edinburgh Fringe was a way to show my progression with this, there was a room full of people who weren’t my friends”. It’s apparent that as a comedian, the harder you work the better you get. Jamie was absolute about putting the time in for anything you love and have a passion for. An inspiration for all creatives.

Interviewing Jamie Oliphant was a pleasure and during this uncertain time, he upheld his optimistic outlook which I have to say left me feeling encouraged myself. Also, the fact he still uses the same headshots from 10 years ago may be proof that laughter really is the best cure for ageing.

Quarantine Creatives: Pallika Sood

Pallika Sood

From the comfort of our Quarantine spots, I got into conversation with the gorgeous Pallika Sood. This young and upcoming fashion consultant has privileged London Fashion weeks with her garments as well as her following with the written word. Creating her own catwalk debut, under her own brand Narhari Quorum, Pallika went from a budding intern to being essential to the Qasimi team. It is apparent that her work ethos is encompassed by creating your own opportunities and working your arse off.

As we both sip our tea from our humble abodes, our virtual interaction almost made me forget this young entrepreneur was perched in Liverpool whilst I was braced in our beloved capital.  I dove straight in with the interview and this creative powerhouse was more than delighted to oblige.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Liverpool, Pallika was educated at Tower College, Rainhill before then making the transition into studying at Carmel college, St Helens. With fine art and textiles being primary to Pallika’s education choices, it was clear from a young age she wasn’t messing around when it came to doing what she wanted. Although her Indian Mother indulged in the textile world, her style was considered more “traditional” by Pallika. Pallika revealed that she sought a lot of inspiration from “nature and creating concepts around her works”.

“I like telling a story behind my work and always create a muse with that story”. For my own fashion show, I imagined a gangster who wasn’t about that life and wrote poetry”. Although Liverpudlian in background, Pallika’s time in London has laced her voice with a South London twang, which seems to make her magnetism even more appealing. It was clear to me that her conceptual approach when it came to fashion leaked into her own poetry that she kept private until this year when she decided to share her work online and “people are loving it”!

“I write a poem for every collection I work on”

It was almost animated when Pallika spoke about her poetry and talks of her future brand. It was clear she sought muse from the notion of working for herself. Using this lockdown as a way to cement and establish her own brand, she informed me of its inception.She sprinkled the brand name with her Indian heritage – Narhari meaning ‘man lion’ and Quorum referring to an important meeting. Quroum is a meeting that cannot happen unless all relevant parties are present, the brand is a collective of these strong minded ‘lion like’ characters”. I was rendered speechless by this concept and knew immediately this brand will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. The conception of her brand came whilst she interning in Copenhagen at the age of 20. “This was a turning point for me because it gave me a sense of independence and adventure”.

Following Pallika’s graduation from the University for the Creative Arts in Kent, she zipped straight to London where she worked in retail for the good part of a year and then began work as a Copywriter for Net-A-Porter. During this time, she knew this wasn’t what she wanted to do. “I wanted to be in a design house working with a brand”. Rejection after rejection because of lack of experience is something that so many young creatives face so Pallika decided to create her own experience and hosted her own fashion show in East London in the summer of 2017. “I’m still paying that off now, but it was worth it”.

“I’m gonna do a fashion show”

After showcasing a collection of her own, Pallika began her journey as a pattern cutter (the blueprint creator of clothing as it were) and garment technician at Qasimi. Seeing her work being used on London Fashion Week’s runways was a peak in Sood’s career and got the wheels turning for her to venture on her own and continue to establish Narhari Quorum. This was until tragedy struck the fashion house of Qasimi, when the founder and creative director Khalid Al Qasimi passed away. “I felt like I was staying there for him, I didn’t want to miss working on the last collection he was a part of”. Pallika worked on her final season at Qasimi this year and became an official freelancer about a month ago before the hit of Covid-19.

I tentatively asked where she saw herself in five years, and she told me “Narhari Quorum will be off the ground as a fully functioning e-commerce business, I will be working on my poetry, and writing a book about my Mum”. This affirmative response simply upholds her strength and self- belief.

I, for one, am looking forward the powerful anthology and ventures to come from Miss Sood. I am well aware that this is just the beginning for her.

Wannabe Foodie #11:Beijing Dumpling, London Chinatown

When it comes to dumplings, peoples’ experiences can often be hit or miss, but with this little gem in Chinatown you will be satisfied with these hand made bundles of joy.

Beijing Dumpling will probably catch your eye as you stroll through Chinatown because of the queue that is often seen outside the door and the window display that beholds the churning out of fresh dumplings. Once you are inside you will be seated quickly and given a paper menu on which you tick off what you want to try. The turnaround in here is pretty quick, so perfect for casual dinner.

Pork Dumplings

We went in as a group of four and decided on getting a range of starters (so we could try as many dumplings as possible) rather than mains, so we could try different bits and pieces.  In terms of dumplings we went for spicy pork and pork xialongbao (soup dumplings), sea food dim sum platter, pan fried pork dumplings and spicy chicken dumplings in soup. We accompanied this with crispy duck pancakes, hot and sour soup and tom yum soup.

With a focus on the dumplings themselves I would definitely go for the spicy pork xialongbao. With a light steamed pastry, juicy pork filling and broth inside, this dumpling is an absolute delight. If you prefer milder food then go for just the pork xialongbao for the same dumpling minus the spice.

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Alongside this pork delight, the pan fried options are also great, served on a plate rather than a steamer basket, these are great if you prefer a crispier outside. The chicken dumplings in soup, has a steamed outside and are served floating in a broth. For me the soup itself wasn’t really anything to rave about, but the dumplings themselves were yummy.

The other starters that we chose (the duck and soups), we lovely, but very standard. I would definitely pay Beijing Dumpling a visit if  dumplings are going to be the centre of your meal. Although I can’t attest to the rest of the mains on offer, I cannot stress how foolish it would be to not try the dumplings.

Considering the reasonable price range, you would be surprised that Beijing Dumpling has been awarded a Michelin Star. Coming in at around £8 for a basket of the more expensive dumplings, split between a group you will not leave hungry.

Paired with an ice cold green tea, this is great place to grab a bite to eat and leave feeling satisfied and your wallet not taking the heat.

Price: ££

Check it out:

http://beijingdumpling.co.uk/

Wannabe Foodie #10: You Me Sushi, Grays Inn Road

With sushi being a fresh summer favourite for a lot of foodies, You Me Sushi is an affordable alternative to eating in a restaurant.  They offer high quality selection boxes as well as the option to put your own together. I went into the Grays Inn road store, but there are also seven other stores around London and delivery is offered too.

I went for the Tokyo Roll Speciality Box, which came with edame beans, a piece of chicken tempura and the sushi roll. Sushi rolls typically have nori (seaweed wrap) on the outside and rice in the middle, but the Tokyo Roll has the rice on the exterior and a nori inside. The filling of this roll contains fresh salmon, spicy mayo, cucumber, avocado, flying fish roe and finely chopped chives. This sushi box came with a free side of miso soup and came to £7.95. It was delicious and definitely worth it!

In general I am not a huge fan of miso soup, so this was mostly left, but the sushi was fantastic. I tended to alternate my bites between the wasabi and soy as well as the side of pickled cabbage. It was fresh and filled me up (which was surprising). For those of you who enjoy miso soup, that’s a tasty little treat you can indulge in too!

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Tokyo Roll

The lunchtime service at You Me Sushi was great, it was quick and the staff were very polite. This, coupled with the price tag, you can’t really complain.

Price: ££/£££££

Check it Out: 180 Grays Inn Rd, Holborn, London WC1X 8EW

Wannabe Foodie #7: Dishoom, Carnaby

Having never seen this spot without a waiting list, I had to give Dishoom’s delights a try. I decided to opt for the Carnaby branch and it was not a disappointment!

As there was a lunchtime waiting list, we headed to the bar to try some of the infamous bottomless House Chai (until 5pm). The flavours of spice blend and warmth of was a perfect way to save us from the rain outside. We were seated fairly quickly and were seated under the skylight, on the lounge sofas. This spot is great for a lunchtime catch up and if you don’t mind a relaxed eating area, this is perfect!

We decided to order a selection of things so we could share and try different things. We went for:

Far Far is a crispy snack, that has the texture of a prawn cracker and salty too. This a a great way to start off the meal if you’re starving because they come out so quick, but if I was to skip something off the menu it would definitely be this. Compared to the rest of the menu this is not the most exciting.

Chilli Cheese Toast is exactly what is says on the tin. Delicious, melted cheddar cheese on a thick slice of white bloomer with the kick of chilli. This was a delight and a no brainer for veggies!

Paneer Tikka, is, straight up, the way to show that you cannot have enough cheese. Paneer is a milk curd used a lot in Indian cooking. It bears resemblance to the texture of tofu, but with subtle flavour. At Dishoom it is marinated and charred and served with green peppers. Delight!

Okra Fries in the house!! Taking lady’s fingers and turning them into a deep fried delight. Truly a display of finger food and how Dishoom make vegetables amazing. Try these dipped in the selection of sauces and chutneys that they give you.

Gunpowder Potatoes, I think were my favourite in this veggie feast. Taking the humble potato and grilling them with seeds, spices and fresh herbs, this is a gem. I could eat a whole plate of this on it’s own, and the heat of the aloo (potato) goes well with cooling raita.

Pau Bhaji continues to showcase the versatility of the aloo and is true that carbs are the one! Pau Bhaji is a bowl of mashed, spiced veg served with a hot, buttery roll, homemade of course. Great accompaniment with tea and if you want to nip in for a quick snack.

Although, you might be questioning the absence of meat, this vegetarian feast was fabulous and, being a meat eater myself, I did not feel its absence. Indian food is renowned for it’s flavour and flair with simple ingredients and Dishoom elevates that!

The service here was fabulous! Not only were we constantly topped up on out bottomless chai, but we were always checked on. The waiter was great at explaining what each dish was and recommended complimentary dishes.

Price: ££

Check it out: http://www.dishoom.com/

Wannabe Foodie #4: Honest Burgers

Honest Burgers, on this particular day, was a life saver! I was starving and on the hunt for a good quality cure. I strolled into Honest Burgers whilst roaming the streets of Covent Garden and was more than pleasantly surprised.

Considering it was a Friday night, I was seated immediately, which was a bonus, and was greeted with a cozy walkway and friendly staff. Immediately the music put you at ease, playing remixes and reggae. Once we were seated we got started with drinks and the beauty about Honest Burger was the small, quality menu.

I went for the classic Honest Burger which came with Rosemary Fries. The burger consisted of a beef patty, red onion relish, smoked bacon, cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce. This was served on a classic brioche bun. It was lovely. The patty was served medium rare and you can’t really go wrong with a burger and chips around the £10 mark.

Honest Burger with Rosemary Fries and a likkle bit of mayo

London which I’m sure will offer the same delightful experience.

Price: ££

Check it out here:  https://www.honestburgers.co.uk/

Wannabe Foodie #3: Brother’s Cafe

Leather Lane is abundant in  great food finds, so I decided to venture into Brothers Cafe which sits at the beginning of the street. There was no particular reason I was drawn to this place, aside from the fact that it had been recommended to me as a satisfying lunch spot.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with the food. I went for the small lamb wrap (and I’ve gotta say, it was not minuscule in any way) and a halloumi roll (halloumi wrapped in semi sweet pastry and deep fried). This all came to less than a fiver (take cash, unless you plan on spending more than that). Brothers also offers chicken, falafel, halloumi and salads too.

The Lamb Wrap was fab, served in a warm flatbread, the lamb was grilled on a skewer and served fresh after cooking. I had all the salad, hummus and chilli sauce to accompany my salad and I can confirm it was a good choice. Brothers offers a range of salad and you can choose exactly what you want. The halloumi roll on the other hand was good, but it was reheated in the microwave. The pastry was very similar to that of a samosa so goes a tad soggy when re heated in the microwave. I can imagine that straight out of the fryer, this side is an absolute delight!

Lamb and Salad Wrap

The shop front would not lead you to believe that the quality of wrap is as good as it is. It looks very old and the seating area is very basic. At the front of the cafe there is buffet of hot food and then at the front is where you can order your wraps. The service here seems very friendly as is very quick paced during lunch so try and have your payment ready to keep the line moving.

Don’t let the decor fool you, the wraps here are top notch!

Price: £

Check it out:

99 Leather Ln, London EC1N 7TS

Wannabe Foodie #2: Hakkasan

Wowwwiieeeeee. Ya girl went to Hakkasan.

As a group of three, we headed to the Hanway Place branch to get our dim sum on. There seems to be a recurring theme here, but I promise I do eat other foods!

THE TASTE OF HAKKASAN

Hakkasan is a contemporary Chinese restaurant and is not for those who are living the London broke life. However if you go before 18:30 you can enjoy a set menu for £38. So I guess that’s something… As we were going for dinner, we went for the after 18:30 menu that was £65 and we added extras on too. If you’re a total baller and going for A La Carte be prepared, as there are some dishes that you can pay up to 300 quid for.

With two London locations, Hakkasan offers contemporary Chinese cuisine. From delightful duck to stunning sea bass, Hakkasan provides the best Chinese flavors in a refined manner. I had the pleasure of dining in Hakkasan, Hanway PlaceT

Our meal began with a Dim Sum selection and this was delicious. With a prawn and chive filling, scallop and pork and prawn these mouthfuls were delightful. Following this I had a starter of hot and sour soup and chicken and sweetcorn. Hot and Sour was Peng! The chicken and sweetcorn seem pretty standard to me, you could probably pick this up for a fraction of the price in Chinatown and it would be fine.


Hakkasan
DIM SUM SELECTION

For my main, I had Spicy Prawns (with lilly bulb and almond), Peking Duck and Pancake, Sweet and Sour Pork and this was accompanied by rice and noodles. In comparison to the starters that we tried, the mains did disappoint. Although they were still tasty, next time I would happily exchange my main dishes with more dim sum or another starter. The meat was tender, however the noodles tasted like something I could probably remodel at home.

Finally, the dessert offered a different take on Asian desserts. Until my visit to Hakkasan I have never been impressed with Chinese desserts. We ended the meal with the Matcha Apple Custard Bun and the Jivara Bomb (milk chocolate and praline desert). These were a delight, they were not too rich and encompassed eastern flavours with a subtle sweetness. The Matcha bun requires an acquired taste, but I loved it. The pastry was lovely, and if you like green tea this will be a delight.

SERVICE

So the food ranged from delicious to standard, but I must say the service was notably mediocre. Considering the price tag of eating here, you would expect the service to be on point. Because of this we decided to remove the service charge ( which I don’t often do) and this caused all sorts of drama which cemented why we took it off in the first place.

Hakkasan is definitely worth going to and is perfect for a special occasion or date night as the atmosphere welcomes occasion, but better service would have made me more tempted to come back here. There are more places around London where you could have equally tasty dim sum.

TIP: Don’t over order (as there is no option to take away any remaining food). Order as and how you want more food. They bring it out quite quick and it’s better than wasting money.

Wannabe Foodie #1: London Cookery School

I love food and I’m sure people with a hearty soul do as well. It brings memories to people and brings them together. I myself try to eat as much food as I can as much and as many different types. I just wish I could cook as good as I eat!

This year, I had the privilege of being taken to learn to make Dim Sum and it was fantastic! I went to the London Cookery School in Holborn in London.

With Dim Sum being one of my ultimate go tos, what better way to indulge in these bite size delights than learning how to make them. With Chef Will at the helm, the class got to work.

Dim Sum translates as small heart, which refers to the bite size nature of these Chinese delights. From light fried pastries to steamed dumplings, dim sum is (as referred to in class) in a way Chinese Tapas. The techniques used to make dim sum have been around forever!

I attended this class on a rainy April morning, and I hadn’t even waltzed in yet and I was already starving! I walked into the class and was greeted with a selection of Chinese teas, including Oolong and Green, alongside a recipe booklet. This was a great way to ease you into the class and get you ready for lunchtime.

Once the class was settled, with their tea, Chef told us about the type of dumplings we were going to be making and the etiquette of dim sum. The dim sum we were making were steamed, but there are of course fried ones too. Chef proceeded to demonstrate each dumpling and then we weighed out our ingredients and got to work.

We were taught how to make three dim sum:

Pork Sui Mai: Open top pork dumplings

Har Gow (prawn dumplings)

Chiu Chow Fun Gwor (Steamed dumplings)

Once we had gone through each recipe, they were steamed and we could dig in! We were given chopsticks, dipping vinegar and soy sauce. As it happens, dim sum are not actually supposed to be eaten with soy sauce as the Chinese believe that each individual ingredient should be tasted for what it is. This style resonates throughout Chinese cooking, particularly with dim sum, the natural flavours of the meats and veg is what shines through! If you notice, it is not the done thing to cover Chinese food in lashings and lashings of sauce.

I’m trying!

Overall I would highly rate this experience, and Chef was fantastic. Not only did he show us step by step demonstration, but he came round and offered solo help to let us know we were doing OK. Chef highlighted the best accompaniments, dim sum eateries and facts about Chinese cooking as we went along.  He was personable and a great teacher!

Check it out:

https://www.londoncookeryschool.co.uk/


How to Academy: Peter Frankopan in conversation with Akala

I have to admit, I went to this talk because I low key want Akala to be my husband and wanted chance to see him provoke discussion in real life. Did not disappoint, but the star of the show was Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History at Oxford . My likkle brain cells were in for a treat.

Following his book The Silk Roads, Professor Frankopan gave an overview of how the history curriculum in the UK has been majorly whitewashed and even fabricated to paint certain European histories in a certain light. How are we missing such contributive parts of history? From my understanding, The Silk Roads are pathways that connect the East to each other and are representative of different routes in history that I know I didn’t have any clue about ( I haven’t read the book…).

Once the hall had been given this summary of Silk Roads, Professor Frankopan then conversed with Akala about how this applies to our society now and how Brexit has influenced the way and context we view things. For example, people are often under the impression that ‘ethnic minorities’ are a drain on resource, but are unaware that immigrants from Jamaica and India (who were British colonies at the time) had to pay for themselves, unlike the Irish and Polis, to get into the UK. This was primary around the idea of what ‘Britishness’ is and what cultures could be moulded around this. This was seen in history with the greeks and romans, they didn’t come to the UK and decide to build pillar and statuesque models statues, this was adopted by us later on. Not gonna lie, this point of view didn’t even cross my mind. 

We are so aware that the East offers some of the most richest economies in the world, and yet we still seem to think that we are globally indestructible.  It’s all a bit of a madness lol. 

I think I definitely came away from this lecture with a a more open minded view on things. Akala made it clear that in terms of the UK catering to multi ethnicities, we’re not bad, I mean we could be better, but we’re not the worst. I feel like I was ignorant to the contributions of other societies than my own because you become very accustomed to your surroundings. It was bought to light that Iran had a larger ratio of women to men in engineering and ‘Indian aunties in saris’ were able to build tech that was on par with NASA. 

Akala and I (Please appreciate the chisel)

I’m not going to pretend like I am now an expert in the current and future mindsets of our country, but I defo felt a bit educated. Made a bit of a change from binging on Netflix.  If you ever get an opportunity to go to talk or workshop that will help broaden your thinking, just do it!