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Notes From the Road: London and Paris Edition

Gender and drinks, envious meals, and other news in this weekly roundup from the editor

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tocino de cielo
Le Chateaubriand's tocino de cielo
Amanda Kludt

This post originally appeared in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of her favorite food and restaurant stories — both on and off Eater — each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.

This week I traveled to Paris to speak at a cocktail symposium and then to London for meetings ahead of our launch next month. Some notes and ramblings from the road:

Cocktails + Spirits is a 10-year-old international drinks convention with exhibitors and talks scheduled over two days in Paris. P(our), where I spoke, is a symposium within that convention. The P(our) organizers noticed the overwhelming maleness of their speakers last year, and this year aimed to counterbalance that by setting the symposium’s theme as “gender” and inviting (almost) all female speakers.

I would love to get to a place where you don’t need to choose a female-focused topic — speakers touched upon feminism, motherhood (here’s my slide deck), gender conformity, gender imbalance in kitchens — in order to get some diversity on the stage. But these conversations are important ones for this industry, and looking out at the 80-percent male audience while speaking, I appreciated that for once I wasn’t just preaching to the choir.

Other takeaways from the broader convention (I’ll post the videos of these talks and the P(our) talks once they're online):

  • The new generation of bartenders care intensely about sustainability and the environment. So. Many. Bartenders told me they were phasing out plastic straws in their bars. Meanwhile, speaker Vijay Mudaliar, owner of the five month-old Native in Singapore, is like the Alex Atala of cocktails — set on using only local spirits, foraging for ingredients, and limiting the waste of his establishment (he turns the runoff from his compost into soap) to 500 grams or less a day.
  • Place I need to visit: Hotel Oloffson in Haiti. Owner Richard Morse is just a true character. His talk was at once funny (he discussed scamming the journalists that flocked there to cover the hurricanes and earthquake), heartbreaking (the casualties of those events), and inspiring (his focus on bringing the arts to his community).
  • Story that should be a movie: the journey of restaurateurs Raphaël Le Conan and Clarie Feral-Akram, a couple who for three years ran Le Jardin de Taimani in Kabul (which closed after a bombing in 2016). They would sneak in alcohol from Dubai in mineral water bottles, buy it off the embassies or from the US Army for triple the price, or make it themselves. Apparently Heineken “was like the stock index in Kabul. Its price reflected the price of life.” They said that there was a euphoria to running a business in Afghanistan “because anything was possible.”

Some superfast thoughts on meals:

I had about 36 hours between the convention and London, so I hit up bistronomy destinations Le Chateaubriand (lovely, with a truly exceptional dessert), Septime (exceptional, with a truly disappointing dessert), and Ryan Sutton favorite Clown Bar (A+). I so envy this city’s restaurant scene for having so many top-shelf restaurants serving tasting menus for under $80.

In London, I finally made it to P. Franco, an exceedingly hip new wave wine store-cum-restaurant over in Clapton. Like all the cool places in New York and Paris, they serve inspired small dishes alongside natural wine in a super casual and artsy, but not overdone, setting. This really is a wine store with a long table in the middle, a makeshift kitchen, and hordes of people wanting to get in when it’s open. Different chefs do six months-long residencies, so a new person will be manning the stoves (actually, induction burners) when you check it out, but I recommend it, regardless.

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