Discover more from The Rhubarb Society
Vol. 5 - Good Food, Bad Food, & Gift Food 🦪
And a segment from our special guest editor...The Intern!
Happy Sunday, everyone! The last two newsletters have been for paid subscribers (I didn’t just forget about you, I promise) so I’m glad to have you all back! Going forward, I think I will alternate the weeks I send out the free newsletters so that we don’t go so long without seeing each other again. As you know by now, I like to suggest playlists to listen to whilst you read this newsletter. After publishing one of the previous issues, someone smartly suggested making a Rhubarb Society one. As I started curating it, I thought, what’s the point of having a community that shares suggestions if we can’t also suggest songs? So, I thought that The Rhubarb Society Playlist would be collaborative. I want all of you to add ONE song you are obsessed with and think everyone needs to listen to. If you use Ap*le Mus*c, hopefully, this is the wake-up call you need to stop. And with that, let’s begin…
WATCH, READ, LISTEN
things I’ve been enjoying this week
I usually leave this section until the end, but we’re shaking it up a bit this week because I feel like this is an important section for those who don’t enjoy reading paragraphs of my ramblings. Here are a few pieces of media I’ve been enjoying recently, and I hope you will too!
I’ve been taking it back to 2013 by listening to The 1975’s debut album (deluxe edition, of course because ‘You’ is one of the best tracks of all time). I was 20 when I first listened to this album, and it makes me so nostalgic.
Whilst I will cover this in more detail during the ‘Film Club’ segment, I saw The Menu earlier this week, and it is truly fantastic. Ralph Fiennes is sublime.
An episode from one of my favourite podcasts, ‘This American Life’, titled ‘One Last Thing Before I Go’. I made the mistake of listening to this for the first time at my desk (when I used to work an office job, RIP), and I found myself crying in the middle of the day for non-work-related reasons. I occasionally revisit this episode in order to feel something.
A truly spectacular Writers’ Roundtable from The Hollywood Reporter, including Daniel Kwan (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Jordan Peele (Nope) and Martin McDonagh (The Banshees Of Inisherin), just to name a few.
For art lovers, or those wanting to learn a little more, The National Gallery have a great Youtube series that talk through the artists and individual paintings. After visiting Italy a few times this year and being lucky enough to see some of Caravaggio’s work, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about his life and style in this video.
THE GIFT GUIDE
When I asked you guys on Instagram what help you needed with your gifting this year, I was not expecting the number of responses I received. Many of you seemed to be very stressed by the idea of buying gifts for either A) your in-laws or B) someone in your life who has everything. The Rhubarb Society Guide to Black Friday proved very popular, so I thought I would do a mini gift guide in this week’s newsletter that suggested gifting that was chic enough to cover a number of recipients without costing an exorbitant amount. Later in this issue, you will also hear from the intern who has his own suggestions for gifts for the men in your lives.
Here are some gift ideas for when you want to impress but also don’t want to break the bank…
Officine Universelle Buly - 5+ years ago, when my Dad and I spent an unusual amount of time with one another, we were in Selfridges and came across this brand. We were initially taken by the beautiful packaging, and we ended up buying matching eye creams (which were actually little essential oil rollers, very chic!). As well as beauty, they do a range of accessories from hairbrushes and toothbrushes to massage stones and combs. You can even emboss items such as lip balms, engrave a comb or brush and personalise the gift wrapping. Their ‘art of gifting’ page has lots of wonderful options they can provide for a more personal touch.
LSA International - So this brand does lovely, sleek homeware that covers vases to carafes to champagne glasses. We previously bought a few gifts from them for friends and family and then bought the same thing for ourselves because we liked them so much. These stemless red wine glasses are £30 for 4, this carafe is £40, and these mother-of-pearl champagne flutes are £45.
Cashmere Accessories - Nothing says ‘I love and appreciate you’ like cashmere. A friend recently went to Mongolia and found a brand called GOBI which comes highly recommended by her (she also has very particular and expensive taste, so I trust her when it comes to things like this). They are currently having a sale where you can buy a scarf for £24.50, these cute Jacquard mittens for £29.50 or these gloves in a range of colours for £41.50. I also recently bought myself this Uniqlo Cashmere scarf which is now on sale for £39.90.
Aspinal of London - This place is an excellent go-to for gifts for everyone. They sell a range of items with the option for personalisation, everything is beautifully packaged, AND they are having a sale. You could gift a personalised, leather hip flask for £29, a leather flask with stainless steel cups for £35 (with the option to engrave the recipient’s initials), a leather croc handbag tidy for £45 or these fun leather fruity key-rings in either Cherry or Strawberry for £27.
Personalised Food - Who doesn’t want something tasty AND fun to look at?? Baked by Steph makes amazing cookies you can personalise (they can even make one of your pet?? I’m getting one made of Rhubarb, and I’m so excited for it to arrive). Another personal favourite of mine is BrownieGod. Not only are the brownies UNBELIEVABLE, but you can also order a slab or individual brownies with a personalised message or add a photo (entirely edible too). Biscuiteers also do an insane collection of biscuits with incredible attention to detail. You can get a ‘biscuit hamper’ tin, a ‘Monopoly biscuit tin’ and even some Paddington Bear biscuits.
The Go-To - If you can afford to stretch your budget a little more, this brand has a fabulous selection of unique luxury gifts that can be personalised. Their site is perfectly curated and split by recipient!
two films ate, but only one served
This week, I found myself in the cinema on Monday and Tuesday night because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep living, breathing and functioning if I didn’t see the above two films. Although vastly different in style, theme and nature, at their core, both films are essentially about the issues that can arise from enjoying what you eat.
Bones and All, directed by Luca Guadagnino, the man who brought us Call me By Your Name and Suspiria, sees Taylor and Timmy, two young cannibals who fall in love, on an odyssey across the downtrodden, barren roads of 1980’s America. I had huge expectations for this film as a fan of both Luca and Timothee’s previous work. Even more so because Luca had managed to capture yearning, tension and loss in such a magnetic way in Call Me By Your Name, and I expected to feel similarly about Bones And All. Don’t get me wrong, Bones and All is by no means a bad film, but there were so many elements to it that frustrated me whilst I was watching it that I couldn’t fully enjoy it. The acting was awkward for 75% of the film, and I couldn’t tell if it was deliberate or not. For two young cannibals having to live their lives on the outskirts of society, constantly either in fear or on the move, there should have been considerable tension in every interaction and piece of dialogue. Instead, it felt like they were both mumbling their way through the first hour of the film; some shots confusingly even felt like the first (and only) take.
There were scenes which had me captivated (when they run into those two men in the woods? I forgot how to breathe for a few minutes), but the quick cuts to new locations and the open American backroads failed to capitalise on the tension and suspense that these scenes had successfully built. I wanted to connect with both Maren (Taylor) and Lee (Timmy) and understand the foundation of their relationship (outside of the fact that they both like to eat people), but the dialogue between them was either scarce or rushed, with the exception of Lee’s monologue where he reveals his backstory and delivered on intensity and emotion I had been craving from either of them throughout the film. It’s hard to empathise with an all-consuming, ‘bones and all’ love when you aren’t given a chance to see and hear how that love develops. The score and the cinematography are stunning, and there were several moments where I thought I was connecting with the characters and their story, only for it to fall flat very swiftly. However, I will say that the film has been on my mind a lot since I watched it, and I think that the sign of a good book or film is dependent on the impact it has on me. I have a feeling I might change my opinion on this after multiple watches, but for now, it still leaves me frustrated and disappointed.
I don’t think the trailer for ‘The Menu’ does the film justice. This film is fantastically funny, witty and dark, all of which I was not expecting. It wasn’t until the credits were rolling when I realised that The Menu was directed by Mark Mylod (known for Succession and Shameless) and produced by Adam Mckay (also known for Succession, as well as The Big Short, Fresh and Vice), and everything began to make sense. Ralph Fiennes plays an acclaimed chef who invites the wealthy and elite to a remote island to sample his excessive tasting menu. If you’ve followed me (or mainly my TikTok) for a while, you will know how much I love satire. In particular, how much I love rich people satire. The menu nails every rich, entitled, insufferable stereotype and manages to make it both frightening and hilarious simultaneously. Ralph has impeccable comedic timing (think of his character, M. Gustave, in The Grand Budapest Hotel…now imagine him as a critically acclaimed chef). Nicholas Holt is also brilliant, and his character is both hilarious and so entirely punchable, especially opposite the stoic Anya Taylor-Joy. The shot composition is also stunning - the whole film feels like an episode of the Chef’s Table. The attention to detail when it comes to the food? The number of one-liners that are already iconic and quotable? The breadless bread course? A film that actually knows how to be riveting for the whole 1hr and 45 minutes? Perfection. If you want to be entertained and scalped at the same time, see this film.
I’ve wasted my money so that you don’t have to
It seems fitting to talk about some recent restaurant experiences of mine after reviewing The Menu. In particular, it would be entirely relevant to talk about the more disappointing ones. By no means am I saying these restaurants are bad, but this is more of a warning for you to avoid their hype and save your money. Should you choose to dine there and overpay for ‘average’, then that’s entirely up to you.
Dorian - Notting Hill
Labelled the ‘Anti-Notting Hill’ restaurant and opened under a cloud of secrecy and hearsay, Dorian was recently opened by the same owner of the Supermarket of Dreams and the Notting Hill Fish Shop (of which multiple people have told me that both the sushi and the ‘tuna fight club’ Omakase is the best in London). With the chef coming from the two-Michelin-starred Ikoyi, I was expecting big things. I will start with the positives - the place is dog friendly, and the menu is interesting. I went for lunch with a friend (with Rhubarb in tow), and I was immediately struck by how tightly cramped the tables were and how poor the acoustics were. We were sardines in a tin, shouting across the table at each other, and it was barely 1 pm. The food was good, but every dish slightly lacked something. It needed a little more chilli here, a little more salt there, a little squeeze of lemon all over. I was expecting to be in love with at least one dish for those prices, but everything just ended up being ‘fine’. The frustration with somewhere like Dorian is knowing that for the same price (if not cheaper), I could just walk down the road to The Pelican and have an unbelievable meal. I will say that I went less than two weeks after opening, so some of the above could potentially be teething pains that have since been worked out. The cocktails are great, though.
The Twenty-Two - Mayfair
This is a restaurant/members club/hotel all wrapped into one. It’s in the most fabulous building on the edge of Grosvenor square, and as you can imagine, it has the price point to match. I went for a Friday dinner with a friend as we had both been recommended it by other people. Firstly, it’s chic as hell. I loved the decor, the bar and the atmosphere. The cocktails are fantastic and reasonably priced (all things considered), but the compliments end there. The food is not cheap. You’re talking, on average, around £17 for a starter and £35 for a main (excluding sides). The food isn’t bad by any means, but it also isn’t great. This is nothing new, and I could have dealt with average and overpriced food if the service was decent, but of course, the service was awful, which is why it’s getting a paragraph in this newsletter. Aside from the staff managing to avoid eye contact whenever you needed them (I get it, it’s Friday night, and you’re busy), when we came to pay, it was a complete shit show. It took 20+ minutes for us to find anybody to give us the bill, and when we tried to pay, they told us the systems were down, and we had to wait a minute. Usually, this wouldn’t be an issue as this was out of the restaurant’s control. However, long story short, not only did we end up waiting another half an hour to pay with no update as to what was happening, but we were also moved from our table and made to sit in a ‘waiting area’ so they could prepare our table for the next people. At this point, it had been nearly an hour since we had initially tried to order the bill, and we weren’t even offered a drink whilst we waited—pretty poor form for an expensive restaurant.
NOTES FROM THE INTERN
This week’s ‘The Club Corner’ is being replaced by our guest editor segment (which may become a monthly feature if the feedback is positive)
The Intern has a voice!
As the affectionately termed Intern, I have been somewhat lax in my duties of servitude to both my better half, Tamsin and co-founder of this society, Rhubarb. As a trio, we have spent the last three years discovering new places, scouting open greenery for the best place to ‘spend-a-penny’ (mainly Rhubarb), and passing personal recommendations to our friends.
In my mind, a members club is a collection of like-minded people who are willing and able to share experiences, references and recommendations with one another. In this sense, as a keen motorist (or chauffeur) and armed with two willing explorers, I thought it would be a good idea on a monthly basis (editor’s note: this is subject to recall) to provide a few of the best.
As Tamsin has already featured Maison Francois (aka Maison Flat-Bread), it would be remiss of me if I didn’t also mention a favourite restaurant almost directly opposite, 45 Jermyn Street.
45 delivers a twist of British cuisine with ingredients sourced from Fortnum & Mason. Equipped with private leather banquette seating, this is an ideal place for date night and people-watching…
There are a few must-have dishes that are created and delivered via trolley table-side; they are; Steak Tartare, Beef Wellington, and Lobster Linguine. Whiskey lovers should opt for a Henry Peat, and all other fans that want to give the Sbagliato a run for its money must try the Beau’s Negroni.
Christmas for the “Boys"
What do you get a man that has it all? or perhaps your other half is just a difficult person to buy for? Here’s a list for people like me that are seemingly impossible to buy for;
Subscriptions - Either RoadRat, my personal favourite car magazine that produces once-a-quarter high-quality printed books (if you’re really anal, you can get the matching slipcase to store them in) or Manuh Cigars - each cigar comes with a tasting card and recommended spirit to accompany.
Any small leather items from either Connolly or Goyard - the former is best for leather driving accessories, and the latter is a slight curveball as you can’t order online… +5 points if you go to the dedicated accessories store in Paris. (editor’s note: the queues for the store on Mount Street are usually heinous on weekends or late afternoons on weekdays; try to go to the store early and midweek so you can walk straight in).
If your other half is a fan of design, why not get a chic desk lamp like this traditional Tizio one from Nest, or if he’s a man that craves quality over brand loyalty, then anything from the David Linley shop is a must.
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And that’s all from the fifth issue of The Rhubarb Society! If you’re keen to get ahead of next week’s segment of ‘The Club Corner’, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below, via email or in my DMs. If there’s anyone you think would be an excellent fit for The Rhubarb Society, please do extend the invitation below.
Tamsin & Rhubarb
(and the intern)