A Londoner’s Guide to Autumn 2017

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Like my old (fictional) friend Anne of Green Gables, I’m rather glad too that I live in a world where there are Octobers.

London might not be as picturesque as Avonlea, but it’s just as just magical during autumn when an amber glow sheaths the city. There’s an earthy freshness in the air and an inexplicable sense of bliss each time I go out of my way to step on that crunchy looking leaf.

I love everything about this time of year, but this year there’s reason more than ever for my giddy sense of excitement…

Pumpkin spice (and other things nice)

For a start, Pret have just introduced pumpkin spice flat whites on the menu, with vegan-friendly versions available too (using soya, rice-coconut milk or oat milk).

But if you’re over/ never really had a proclivity towards #PumpkinSpiceEverything, there’s always the soothing sweetness of Liquid Gold at Farm Girl (that’s a turmeric latte tinged with the herb astralagus, cinnamon and honey), or a good old-fashioned cup of triple-melted hot chocolate at SAID in Soho (so thick, you’ll have to sip it by the spoonful).

For the brave millennial, Mamason (the Filipino cafe in Camden) are also doing an ube hot chocolate. Yes, that’s hot chocolate made with purple sweet potato. Too far?

Autumnal treats are in no short supply either, stretching from tahini madeleines at Jacob The Angel and casse noisette macarons a la Pierre Marcolini, to hefty cinnamon buns swirling with heartwarming flavours at Nordic Bakery for #CinnamonBunWeek.

Of course there’s nothing quite like marking the middle of autumn with a Chinese mooncake. The Tea Room & Bun House (a Cantonese cocktail den cosseted below Greek Street in Soho) are even throwing a party for the occasion (4 October), complete with a cocktail flight paired with this staple Chinese sweet cake!

Speaking of cocktails: London Cocktail Week is back with a boozy line-up of £6 cocktails across 250 venues, ticketed events, and a pop-up Cocktail Village in Spitalfields. Get your pass here, before perusing these top picks of things to do in the city’s heady cocktail scene!

Art in Autumn

Come to look at it, my diary is bursting at the brim with events and openings to look forward to, kicking off with the return of one of the world’s biggest art fairs, Frieze, to Regents Park (5-8 October). This year’s edition features the much-anticipated section, Sex Work, dedicated to championing feminist art and radical politics…

Autumn adventures will also see me schlep across the city’s iconic museums – from the pastel paintings by Degas at the National Gallery, to the unconventional world of Dalí and Duchamp at The Royal Academy. A separate visit to The RA is likely be in order, with the intention of introducing myself to the fascinating life and works of Jasper Johns, an American artist who carved out a new school of contemporary art by transforming recognisable signs and symbols into iconography.

Meanwhile the Barbican is paying homage to another iconoclast from across the pond, Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist who launched himself headlong into the high-octane art-world by splashing graffiti across New York (the likes of which featured slogans such as “blah blah and quasi-blah.” Your average street artist he certainly wasn’t, with his signature skull painting recently going under the auction hammer for $110 million (quite fittingly in the same city which made him)!

Culture Vultures

October will also see the London Literature Festival returning to Southbank (October 13 – Nov 1), with talks and workshops hosted by eminent authors such as Philip Pullman and new writers such as Hillary Clinton(!) and Tom Hanks, who will be reading from his first published short story collection.

Celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, the British Library will also be unveiling a collection of rare books, manuscripts and magical objects, which explore the folklore and myths behind J.K. Rowling’s Potterverse.

There’s plenty of prime-time viewing ahead too, with Netflix’ second season of Stranger Things promising that much-needed escape from the normal.

Kindred couch-potatoes: I’m also counting down to the glittering reboot of Dynasty (from the makers of Gossip Girl & The O.C.); the politically-driven revival of Will & Grace (#MakeAmericaGayAgain); and the second season of the heart-wrenching family drama, This is Us (among others).

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However, as tempting as my sofa-suppers are (snuggled up in front of the telly), I suspect there will be reason a-plenty to pull on my boots and trudge outdoors – whether to go pumpkin-picking and carving (yes, I’m obsessed), or to brave the lines at one of the many new restaurant openings slated for October (#WatchThisSpace).

Of course, as you might have sussed by now – for this foodie, the main draw of the season revolves around an assembly of autumnal dishes. So here’s signing off with (just) a few of my favourites.

Porridge so comforting, that you can’t help but ask for more. I adore the beautiful bowls at 26 Grains in Neal’s Yard, while this simple recipe for miso oats ups the ante for breakfast at home.

Cacio e PepeAn artfully-simple three-ingredient pasta demonstrating a precise combination of cheese and carbs, laced with a heady kick of black pepper to warm you right up.  A guide to the best Cacio e Pepe in London, here

Searingly-spicy Sri Lankan Food. There’s Hoppers Soho and then there’s the new Hoppers in Marylebone which takes the original menu and raises it by a few fiery notches. Egg hoppers remain the perfect mopper-uppers for the more rambunctious curries here.

Dim Sum & Hot Pots. Because, really. Is there anything more more soul-satisfying on a chilly evening?  A guide to my favourite spots, here

Chai and Black Carrot Halwa. I’m nothing if not fiendish about how I take my afternoon chai and I was gratified to recently discover a worthy version at Talli Joe, alongside a novel rendition of the Indian winter-time favourite, gajar halwa. What sets this milky carrot pudding apart from the innumerable bowls I had back in my childhood, is the use of purple heritage carrots and nutty speckles of peanut brittle… it makes for a visual treat, and one which always marks the true start of winter for me!

The easy comfort of one’s local pub, preferably with a freshly-baked pie and batch of fries to go with that evening glass of wine.

What are your favourite things about autumn? Whether a particular dish or activity, do share in the comments below or by tweeting me @foodiediaries

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