Review: NYE at Primeur, Canonbury

The explosion of neighbourhood restaurants over the past few years has been a delight. The idea of eating in central London now only feels like a good idea if you’re having lunch with an out of towner – or a south Londoner. Instead, we have been blessed with great local eateries.

Michelin has picked up on it. The 2017 guide saw multiple stars and even more Bib Gourmands go to restaurants out in zones two and three. Shoreditch now may as well be Covent Garden.

Perhaps it’s down to the hipsters’ desire for the authentic: locally sourced, local community, local food. Though it’s probably more basic than that: we’re all fed up with tourists and now we don’t need to be amongst them to eat well.

So when deciding on a restaurant to eat at on The Fringe’s birthday aka New Year’s Eve, Primeur in Canonbury was a perfect choice.

Primeur is on an unassuming but wide residential street that leads from Canonbury station up to Stoke Newington’s Clissold Park. There’s nothing else here. No tourists. No busy streets. Just a local community and local food.

Situated in an old converted garage, there are huge wide doors which can be opened fully in summer to let the already light dining room seem al fresco. By night, it becomes buzzy but not oversaturated. It’s noisy but not so loud you have to shout to be heard. And weirdly despite the fact you’re surrounded by other diners, you don’t often feel like you’re sat at someone else’s dinner table like you do so often with these communal dining experiences.

I’ve eaten here three times now. The first: a casual weekday dinner with a friend, saw us eat a selection of simply prepared seafood dishes each with a couple of complementing vegetables and a sauce. Washed down with a carafe of house red. The second: we drank a bottle of Cinsault, and ate salmon, ox tongue, pigeon and featherblade steak. By the time we’d finished eating I had decided this was a new favourite haunt in London.

And then we reach NYE. I’ve finally hit that age when going to a club until 4am doesn’t seem appealing. Nor does surrounding myself with dozens and dozens of people I don’t care for.  But this was the first year I’d ever gone out for dinner.

Five is a brilliant number of diners to visit Primeur with. It meant we got to sample everything on the menu that took our fancy. In this case it meant we ate both chacuterie options (salame toscano and jamon de ternel), along with jersey oysters (fresh but asian style perhaps unnecessary), clams (with a white wine and garlic sauce which was mopped up with bread eagerly by everyone), smoked eel (whose beetroot brought out its flavour), and foie gras with spiced pear (rich, decadent and perfeclty balanced by the pear). There was no greater way to start a meal.

We preceded to eat each of the mains. I’m not a huge salmon fan but the others loved it. The spelt with red wine and treviso was a surprising winner amongst five solid meat eaters. But for me where Primeur really nails it is with their meat options. Pork belly and cheek, saddle of lamb, beef cheek. Tick, tick, tick. The lamb saddle’s spiced carrots and yogurt nod towards north Africa. The beef cheek felt like classical regional French at its best. And I’ve no idea the inspiration behind the two types of lamb with cabbage and apple sauce, but am forever thankful it happened.

Primeur is a new standard for me now. It joins the ranks of Miss Tapas or Artusi in Peckham, or the aforementioned Camberwell Arms. Food trends mostly annoy me, but neighbourhood restaurants like Primeur carry on emerging like this then London will be all the better for it. Brilliantly executed, simple food, considered and well sourced wines, and atmosphere without stifle. And not a tube station in sight.

2016 in music: Kanye West & Bon Iver

I was reminded recently of the film Ratatouille.  Towards the end, the chef creates a jazzed up version of the eponymous dish. A food critic eats it and is immediately given a flashback to childhood. It is powerful. The dark Parisian restaurant disappears and we see the critic as a boy standing in the doorway: sunfilled, Provencal hillsides behind him. The smells of his mother’s kitchen coming back. Innocence returns and with it, joy, pleasure, and simplicity.

Great food, great art, great music. For me, they follow similar traits. I am looking for something new and wonderful and beautiful, which is synonymous with that time and place. And one which in years to come may foster a nostalgic moment in my life.

We never seem to notice those important moments as they pass us by – or at least I don’t. Instead, it is only later that I realise that a particular moment, a song, scene in a film, passage in a book, evoked something in me.

When Bon Iver released 22, A Million at the end of September, it arrived at a moment of newfound bliss in my life. I had began a new relationship. I had just celebrated my birthday. The weather was just turning into my favourite of the year: crisp, bright days with a slight bitter cold. And I heard 22 (Over Soon) open that album as I stepped out into the day. The drums and vocals seemed to hang in that cold Autumnal air and light everything up. I had no idea that moment would stay with me, but it was the sign of a beginning for me that has stayed with me ever since.

I loved the Bon Iver album more than I thought I would. It’s not often that old indie/folk favourites from my pre-electronic years stick with me as much today. But this record really stood out. I loved the evolution which included electronic elements, sampling and more diverse instrumentation.

Yet for Bon Iver’s great evolution, the most interesting development I found this year was with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

The New York Times’ Popcast Life of Pablo discussion from the end of November is essential listening for anyone who loves this album.

In it, they compare Life of Pablo to a Prince moment in Kanye’s career. A moment when we won’t get final versions again. Everything is a work in progress.

This album was discussed in this was even before we heard any of it. But it’s multiple revisions and versions since then have only added to that.

But a turning point for me was a month ago when a Redditor uploaded his version called Life of Paul. Now usually I’d see that as typical fan version affair. Probably not worth a listen and if it is never again.

Instead Life of Paul fits into this record’s whole evolving universe. It makes me wish I had spent more time reading Baudrillard when I was supposed to at uni.

Life of Paul extends and blends. Reintroducing fuller samples that Kanye had cut into fragments. Blurring lines between the leaked OG versions and and the versions which made the TIDAL release.

The release has felt like a piece of open source code: forked and tweaked by different groups to extend it as they see fit.

I approach this with the furore that I approached Dylan bootlegs as a teenager. How can I know which my favourite version of Don’t Think It’s Twice Alright is when I’ve only heard these 100 or so? What about the rest. There’s probably a gem there.

This means that a track like Waves now becomes one of the greatest songs of the year – thanks to Life of Paul. It means that Highlights gets the attention it deserves thanks to the OG version. And why Kanye was right to stick to the official version of Famous.

The only severe disappoint of any of the TLOP incarnations is that I Feel Like That is missing. This to me is my Kanye discovery of the year.

Pop music

Pop music took a battering this year, which is a major disappointment. Beyonce’s record was nice. I liked Sandcastles a lot, and Daddy Lessons was great. But sister Solange stepped up with an overall better record.

Taylor’s long rumoured October/November album never happened. Which means the highest ranking pop moment on this list Crash Cove’s remix of Rebecca Black’s The Great Divide.

Electronic music

Rhythm Section International have become consistently impeccable. That Duke Hugh LP is incredible and the video version of Church In The Wild a particular highlight. Elsewhere on RSI, Prequel’s Saints is an evolution for anyone who loves St Germain’s Rose Rouge. As one of Bradley Zero’s tracks, it’s no wonder why he snapped this future classic up.

Elsewhere in the dance spectrum, Koze’s Operator mix is a wonderful slice of summer disco, although now darker days have drawn in it feels more distant in every way.

Soul, hiphop, rnb

I’m so outside the grime scene that all I really heard this year was that Birthday Girl track by Stormzy and the Skepta album (which was okay but not amazing).

But the new riser of the year is Sampe The Great’s Blue Boss. Wow wow wow. What a track. I played this as the second track at my UCL gig this year and it ended up filling the floor way before I was ready to. Taking it down a few notches after didn’t go quite as planned.

2016

This year has been pretty frenetic year for me, but some of the usual standpoints that I had last year have gone. I don’t do a weekly radio show anymore. I’m now not the only W&S selector. As a result my listening has become narrower.

Simultaneous to this has been more of a desire for familiarity within this spectrum. It’s why I dove into albums and lionised them like I used to.

It’s why Kanye West’s Fade was one of those empowering moments of the year. It mixed something new with an instant nostalgic of hearing Mr Fingers for the first time. Just like with Prequel’s Saints and how it took me back to hearing St Germain at Rhythm Section three years ago. And just like the reintroduction of Bon Iver into and how it took me to entirely different places altogether.

My listening may have narrowed this year, but perhaps as a result I’ve managed to plant the seeds future moments of nostalgic with more power.

Top songs of the year

Bored Young Adults (Blawan) – Check Up from the Neck Up
RüF Dug – Ruffys Jungle Sensi
Alicia Keys – In Common
Unknown Artist – Leaving You
Hidden Spheres – Well Well
Jay Daniel – Paradise Vale
Solange – Cranes in the Sky
Mala – 4 Elements
Stormzy – Birthday Girl
Rebecca Black – The Great Divide
Låpsley – Operator (DJ Koze’s Extended Disco Version)Ptaki –
Kanye West – Highlights (OG Version)
Sloneczny Ply (Eltron Remix)
Kanye West – Famous
Duke Hugh – Church In The Wild
Real D – Rhodes That
Kanye – Real Friends
Sad City – Steady Jam
Willie Hutch – Brother’s Gonna Work It Out (Joey Negro Remix)
Prequel – Saints
Sampa The Great – Blue Boss
Bon Iver – 8 (circle)
Kanye West – Waves

Top albums of the year

Mala – Mirrors
Moodymann – DJ-Kicks
Solange – True
Duke Hugh – Canvas
Kanye West – Life of Pablo
Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Top podcast of the year

TLOP – Popcast

Top compilations of the year

Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!

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Thoughts from a newbie’s first conference #ldconf

Two AM at the main lobby bar of the Marriott Hotel, Bournemouth. The queue is four deep as it has been for the past three or four hours. The main room is overspilling in every direction. It’s loud. There’s shouting. There’s hugging. Someone spills a drink. A couple have a fight in the corner. A debate erupts in another. Someone exchanges a business card with someone else. Others flesh out details on an event they’re going to run they dreamt up with five or six minutes ago – a lifetime. Everyone has passed convivial long ago. I overhear a conversation that the bar has had to close every night because they keep running out of booze. I order a whisky and ginger. “We’ve only got Jamesons left.” Continue reading