My Perfect Autumn Weekend – With Author Alice Vincent
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Once upon a time, I would have spent Friday night at the pub. But these days Friday night is a chilled one. Normally, my husband will come home from work and we’ll both stay in. He'll mix up a couple of cocktails – he’ll usually have a martini and I’ll have a negroni – and we’ll make some nice food and catch up, as we don’t often see each other much during the week. Sometimes, we might have a few friends over for dinner, but it will still be a relaxed night – a bit of kitchen dancing is as wild as it’s going to get!
I live in Brixton, and another Friday ritual is picking up supplies from Maya’s Bakehouse. She takes pre-orders throughout the week on Instagram, and then you go and pick up your bakes on Friday morning. I like to get my carbs in for the weekend.
There’s nothing like the ritual of drawing the curtains and lighting the candles. My favourite brands are Diptyque and Haeckels. At present, I have five brass candlesticks on the mantlepiece, too, and I normally have something fun, colourful and tall in them because it makes everything brighter.
Naturally, I’m a very early riser. I haven't set an alarm for about three years. So even on a Saturday, I have no problem getting up. There’s a bakery in Camberwell within cycling distance of my house called Frog. Even if you get there at 8.30am on a Saturday, there’s a queue. The people who run it are lovely and they make the most amazing food. I always get a bit overwhelmed by the choice, but I'll normally buy a loaf of bread and a few pastries – the yuzu jaffa cakes are unbelievable. When we moved to Brixton we thought we’d go out for brunch all the time. But actually, on a crisp autumn morning, I like getting outside, finding some breakfast stuff and coming back and reading the newspapers with the radio on.
If we don't have something on at the weekend, it's a bit of a treat. Instead, we’ll go to a gallery or go for a walk in any of the many nearby parks, such as Brockwell Park or Myatt’s Field Park, or take the bikes for a spin and cycle to Richmond. But normally, we’re seeing friends or family – we're lucky so many of them live nearby. You know you're a Londoner when you barely leave your neighbourhood at the weekend.
I love my bike. It's a 1980s Puch and it’s been my trusty steed for a long time. I bought it off Gumtree about ten years ago when I lived in Hackney and cycled everywhere. I still cycle a lot and ultimately prefer it to any other transport option. I got it refurbished a couple of years ago, and bike guys often give me a quiet nod of approval. I live really close to the best bike shop in London, Brixton Cycles. It’s a collective and they’ve been running it since the 80s. We give them a lot of beer every time they pump our tyres.
I’m lucky to be sent a lot of new books for work. On a quiet Saturday, I might go through my bookshelves and walk over to the neighbourhood library to donate a pile. But then we’ll also inevitably end up in a charity shop looking for more books! I've just read Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh, which is coming out in March and it's very good – creepy and disturbing and fun. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction because it can spark a lot of useful ideas that then feed into my future work. If the weather is a bit rubbish at the weekend, there's no shame in lighting a candle, getting under some blankets and hibernating.
We love entertaining at home, so that’s usually what we do on Saturday night. We don't tend to cook a lot of meat, so we’ll probably make an Ottolenghi dish. One of my current favourites is gnocchi with white miso, morning glory greens and lime from his Flavour cookbook. It’s got a lot of butter in it, which is a win in my book. I love to cook but if you've got people round you want to be able to sit with them rather than getting lost in the kitchen. So, I'm very much about dishes I can prepare a little bit before and then throw together. We’ll also make a load of cocktails and an Anna Jones muscovado sugar chocolate cake. It’s a great thing to have on the table, as people will have a slice and then as the night goes on, everyone continues to slowly pick away at it.
If it’s not our turn, we’ll likely be at a friend's house for a dinner party. If that’s the plan, we’ll always pick up a bottle of wine along the way. There are so many good independent wine shops in London. Up in east London, Shop Cuvée is a real favourite. In Camberwell there's Veraison Wines – they have an amazing happy hour on Wednesdays where they don't charge corkage, so you buy wine in the shop, then drink it in its wine bar. It’s a really non-pretentious local spot that’s conveniently on the way to Frog, so I can sometimes kill two birds with one stone.
The best thing you can do in this corner of London is go to Artusi in Peckham for Sunday lunch. It’s a contemporary neighbourhood Italian: no fuss, incredible pasta, and a really good non-alcoholic drinks menu. It’s on Bellenden Road, where there are lots of lovely independent shops and it’s a 45-minute walk from where we live. It’s especially nice right now with all the autumn leaves in Ruskin Park and on Camberwell Grove, which is my favourite street in London. Then you're rewarded with pasta and great service and sunlight through lovely big windows. There’s normally a roast meat option – last time I was there I had a delicious slow-cooked lamb dish.
You know you’ve found your local when you don’t call it by its name – it’s just ‘the pub’. If we’re not just staying in, the two of us will walk to the Prince of Wales on Cleaver Square in Kennington. There are lots of paintings on the wall and it’s very cosy. But best of all is the Georgian square outside which is gorgeous and looks like something out of a Richard Curtis film. We’ll have a drink there, then walk to Taro which is my go-to sushi spot.
The cookbooks I use a lot at this time of year are Anna Jones’s The Modern Cook's Year and One. I always have a Riverford box and as a gardener I feel very connected to the seasons and what ingredients are best to eat when. Autumn often means you’ll be getting a lot of potatoes, cabbage and kale in these boxes, and Anna’s books always have inventive leftover ideas. One I’m really excited about at the moment is Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark of Moro in Exmouth Market. It’s full of recipes for things you might not think you need a recipe for, but they put flavours together in ways you've never really thought about.
In the summer I might spend some time in the garden, but this year I've stepped back to see what happens when I take a less interventional method. It's quite wild out there. In the coming weeks I will be lifting a lot of my core perennials and dividing them around the garden, because it's a really good way of getting more plants for free. I'll be mulching too, which isn't very sexy, but it's really important for soil health, and I'll be planting bulbs in pots for spring.
When it comes to what to wear at this time of year, I live in my Marfa Stance shearling gilet. I cracked out her classic quilt about ten days ago – I love that the brand’s items are so lightweight, comfortable and modular. I like to get deep into cashmere – I love really efficient layers, and think Toast’s knitwear is brilliant. I've lived in my Grenson Nanettes for about decade now, but I also have some of the brand’s more practical hiking boots that I tend to put on for a good stomp in the park. I also love pulling on my trusty Barbour if it's not too cold. I love to go swimming in Brockwell lido, so the coat I’ve fallen in love with recently is Sea Salt’s Exploring coat. It’s a surprisingly chic parka and it’s fleece-lined, so very cosy. Out in the garden, I tend to wear an old pair of my grandfather’s overalls which I had tailored to fit me – they’re bombproof.
There’s a whole ritual around my Sunday night. My husband does a decent roast, or we’ll make a pho or something quite cleansing, simple and plant based. Then we’ll play a boardgame or watch TV. I We've been slowly making our way through The Sopranos for the past year, and that's been really fun. I don't generally watch masses of TV, but the one thing I'm very glad is back as RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – it gives me life – and I'm loving The Bear, which is on Disney+.
For more ideas and inspiration, follow Alice at @Noughticulture, subscribe to her newsletter Savour here, buy her book Rootbound here and pre-order her new book Why Women Grow here.
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