England

The Grower

Yesterday morning we dropped into London Bridge’s Borough Market to pick up a few things for the weekend. The market has been gradually expanding into new areas as the local phase of the Crossrail project nears completion. It’s become such a beautiful market, each stall now finally has the space to display their products without compromise. While Borough Market has become quite touristy and, some say, overpriced over the years, it’s still one of the most enjoyable food markets in London.

We ate delicious garlic prawn wraps from Appleby’s fish restaurant and filled our bag with Chorizo sausage, strawberries, raspberries and avocados. My own favourite purchase was refillable bottles of red from Borough Wines. They have a fantastic concept where you buy the empty bottle for £2.50 and fill or refill it yourself for £5 a time. I’m no expert, but this wine tastes far better than anything I buy at Sainsbury’s for the same price; so fresh and so fruity, it’s like blackcurrant jam! Borough Market is full of people passionate about a specialist niche of produce. Fitz for example is where you can find the most incredible French pate and terrines from France but actually Noel Fitzjohn himself makes the most beautiful mustards. And if the season is right I can definitely recommend his beautiful, fresh homegrown horseradish sauce.

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Japan, Travel

390 Metres

You don’t necessarily think of Japan as a place with a particularly abundant market culture. Of course there are the big operational fish markets but I mean like London’s historic food markets, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Malaysia’s big night markets packed with hawker stalls and so on. Japan does of course have incredible fresh food and a real variety of delicate and distinctive flavours; flavours that we miss terribly while we’re in London.

For over 700 hundred years, Kyoto’s Nishiki Koji, a covered street lined with specialist food shops and stalls, has been a bustling centre for fresh local ingredients and delicious cuisine. Atsuko especially couldn’t wait to wander the street and try some of the foods. It was a place that, despite extreme cold, had a warm sense of community and I enjoyed watching the people as much as I loved exploring produce, seafood and pickles. We particularly loved the supremely narrow egg shop and were fascinated by a man slicing eels that he had pinned to his board.

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Travel

Observation Familiarisation

I was recently in Milan for a very brief 36 hours. We went to meet a new client, to walk their stores and those of their competitors to better understand the requirements of our design. I love these trips, they’re purely about observation and asking questions relentlessly to accumulate as much knowledge as possible in the short space of time.

Of course we took hundreds of photos of shop windows and interior details but also many of more general activity on the streets. This is important because although I’m not yet clear exactly how it will inform our work, it all goes into the mix of inspiration and influence; elegant muted colours, delicate structures and a certain depth of texture, for example, will likely reappear in our design. The small trucks were fascinating, selling the usual ice creams, drinks and snacks but also the unusual; many had slices of coconut displayed on a tiered coconut-water fountain! One wagon even contained sewing machines, offering beautifully personalised baby bibs embroidered while you wait. Talk about a specialist offer…

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Japan, Travel

His Master’s Voice

One thing that did rather surprise us in Kurashiki was this small museum on the edge of the old part of town, for some reason, models of the iconic HMV dog, Nipper covered the roof outside! It was rather surreal to see them all with their heads tipped at the same angle without the gramophone…

Next door was a slightly crazy-looking fish shop with hand-written notices pasted throughout the interior (in-store graphics we’d call these in the design world I suppose). The messages were are a bit bizarre, including the one marking the smoked fish, ‘these all sold-out earlier so we’ve just made these fresh’. Hmmm, fishy… There were also a lot more signs than necessary leading the customer to the bell outside for service. We didn’t dare press it.

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Travel

Give Box

In quite a cool, resisidential part of Berlin, we came across this very unusuaL concept store titled Give Box (Sharing is Caring). Obviously the idea is that you put unwanted items neatly on the shelves or rail, for others to help themselves for free. I don’t know if you have to donate an item before you take something but what a nice idea this is. I think they have a facebook page as well, though I haven’t found it yet…

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Travel

Trippen

One of the shops Atsuko really wanted to see was Trippen, a really nice brand of amazingly well-made, unusual shoes. We found the branch in Hackesche Höfe, a series of eight outdoor courtyards housing interesting restaurants, cafes and stores where both our credit cards had a lucky escape. I particularly loved the shop design which was effortless really. I really wish I could get away with simply displaying shoes on the floor…

Berlin Trippen 6

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