Exercise in lockdown: Quick out the blocks but will it go the distance?

“We have become hyper-aware of our own mortality with coronavirus breathing down our necks as a reminder that we are not invincible.”

I’m not sure why it took a global health pandemic to kickstart our collective fitness obsession but here we are, donning trainers that have been gathering dust for years, testing the elasticity of resistance bands a physio gave you years ago or tuning in to some unknown fitness studio’s live stream. I’m not complaining, if that’s what you’re expecting, I think it’s wonderful that we are all noticing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

I have played sport all my life and exercise has always been a fun, rewarding part of my existence. It therefore pleases me greatly that so many fitness noobs or retired runners are back at it, I know how much pleasure exercise can bring. It’s also widely reported that making exercise part of your routine can help improve mental health, something we all need to nurture.

That being said, however, I am skeptical as to how long the lust for endorphins will last. Once the threat of infection has passed and we begin to slip back into our old ways (or the ‘new normal’ as so many refer to it), will those who hadn’t put on a tracksuit since 1985 continue to do so, or will the allure of Super Sunday football sessions down the boozer just be too tempting? I mean, it sounds incredibly tempting right now…

Another factor that almost certainly contributes to this recent surge in fitness-fanatics is utter boredom. A socially-distanced rendezvous down the park has only recently been granted and this is now peak socialising. It is therefore no surprise that we are moving a little more, there’s fuck all to do!

My skepticism aside, it goes without saying that there has been some positive fallout from the devastating pandemic. Bravo to all of those who have taken up something new, achieved PBs or just got outside for some air. I hope these lifestyle improvements linger a lot longer than our current foe.

Am I the only one ticked off with Tik Tok?

“We all have the same amount of time – it’s how we use our time that makes the difference.”

Right, I admit it. I’m one of those people. I’ve recently became one of those wankers who meditates in the morning. I started the practice during lockdown as I have always wanted to get into meditation as I felt it would help settle what is typically a scatty mind. It’s great. I wake up, ablute, make a coffee and stick on a 10-20 minute guided meditation. I often take a while to focus, breathe and enter the moment, however once I do 20 minutes flies by and the process really helps me approach the day with a calm mind. I dare say I can feel an increase in my prana (life force energy).

I’m not alone, I’m sure. Many have used this new surplus of time to upskill, learn a language, reorganise their kitchen cupboards or how to crochet – a productive use of time. Then there are those who thought Tik Tok would solve their lockdown boredom issues. These people have little-to-no self respect, seek gratification via the validation of others, have no shame and, apparently, have no desire to do anything useful with their time.

Lockdown has offered us such a sterling opportunity to do something good, to reflect on ourselves and assess what we can do to improve and progress – god knows we need to… It is therefore a shame that idiots have chosen shit dances and dead jokes inspired by vapid celebrities to fill the void, but I suppose it is a fair reflection of the society in which we live.

I know I sound old, cantankerous and depressed but it is a natural reaction to the dumbing-down of a generation. Who cares how many likes you can get for some awkward, badly edited video that makes no-one laugh other than the clan of like-minded followers who operate on a laugh-for-laugh, like-for-like system which just fans the flames and fuels the entirely pointless practice? I don’t have a quick fix for this vacuous obsession, but I’d start by enforcing a reading hour for those at a loose end. Sit down, have a think and read some fucking Orwell.

Watch the excellent Bill Hicks capture my sentiment many moons ago, the maverick.

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Lockdown chefs are just a flash in the pan

“You can’t become a cook because you’re bored, you have got to love it.”

A few months ago there was a sizeable percentage of the population, particularly amongst my peers, who took great pleasure in telling the world that they are shit in the kitchen. ‘It’s just too long’…’The missus is the chef, I just do the washing up’…’I’ve just never had the patience to learn’ , were amongst some of the responses I got when I asked friends and acquaintances what was for dinner. These responses are fine, by the way, I don’t know how to dj or how to tie sailing knots and that’s fine too, I’m not a sailor or a dj. The same goes for our culinarily-challenged friends, they are probably much better at some stuff and well done them. Then along came lockdown…

I’m not sure what it is about being cooped up with your significant other, a cohort of housemates or the family for the first time in decades, but all of a sudden the entire nation is chomping at the bit to bake, preserve, roast, stew and brew. Those who did not know their kombucha scoby from their sourdough starter are now considering small artisan enterprises (only delivering within a one kilometre radius) and may never return to the 9-5, instead just hire a railway arch in E9 somewhere and bake themselves into oblivion.

Don’t get me wrong, the return to a simpler way of life is what environmentalists and their followers have been preaching for years and the lockdown has certainly forced us all to change our behaviour and given us time to consider which of these changes we may want to keep post-lockdown. This is all great, we have finally been given a break from the relentless churn of modern life and forced to consider an alternative way of being, however don’t think because you can’t leave the same confined space as your oven that you now have some deep connection with it. As soon as quarantine is over and more convenience returns to our lives, these fledgling cooks will all lose interest in the culinary arts and look for new distractions. What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that a love of food can’t materialise and be sustained by boredom.

In the 2007 Michael Giacchino film, Ratatouille, the tale of a sewer-rat called Remy who wants to become a famous chef, Auguste Gusteau, a dead French chef and Remy’s idol, wrote a book called ‘Anyone Can Cook‘, a mantra that is repeated throughout the film until Remy and his new pals open their own restaurant in Paris. I am glad this book only exists in the land of fantasy because I couldn’t disagree more, not anyone can cook. You can’t become a cook because you’re bored, you have got to love it. Taste has such deep-rooted emotional connections, it evokes the earliest of memories, it comforts the most bruised of souls, it is powerful and is not to be tampered with. Cooking, I’m afraid, is not just a flash in the pan.

Ratatouille: ‘Anyone Can Cook’ watch clip here.

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You’d have a hard time finding anything better than Barcelona for food, as far as being a hub.” 

Anthony Bourdain

Despite travelling to Barcelona a few years ago as part of a wider food-focused tour of Spain, I returned to conquer the Barcelona Half Marathon. I ran the race with a couple of pals both named Josh and we spent some time in the Catalan capital leading up to the race to eat, drink and acclimatise. I have captured some of my favourite stops on this trips below.

Perikete Tapas

Nestled in the old bazaars of the Barceloneta neighbourhood, this traditional bar boasts an extensive wine list, delicious Iberian produce and incredible seafood.

Perched on a corner in the bustling neighbourhood, Periteke is a great spot for an early evening vermouth and cured meat plate. We visited a couple of times, attracted back later in the evening after a particularly pleasant apertivio session at sunset.

You must try the razor clams which carry the smokiness of the fire they’re cooked above. We also enjoyed the anchovies which were sweet and tender and they serve an oversized croqueta with spicy meat which was memorable.

Taverna Can Margarit

Impossible to find online and a real hidden gem, if you’re into converted antique barns. Probably the most interesting stop on our visit, we tried slow cooked rabbit (face included), snails unlike anything you’d find in France and drank wine straight from the enormous barrels mounted on the walls. Like taking a step back in time, Taverna Can Margarit transports me to Hemingway novels where his characters mix with Spanish peasants, rebelling against the progress of Franco’s army during the civil war. Perhaps I have an over-active imagination but if you want a really stimulating eating experience (as well as a delicious one) then go, go, go!

Taverna Can Margarit

Granja Dulcinea

Opened in 1941, Granja Dulcinea is an emblematic chocolatier of Barcelona. A traditional Catalan breakfast for many, Suizo and churros are a sweet start to the day. What is effectively super-think hot chocolate, Suizo acts as a dipping sauce for hot, sugar-coated churros. We headed here in the morning to line our stomachs for a day of sightseeing and more eating.

Granja Dulcinea

Keep up-to-date with my adventures over on Instagram: @edwilleatit

Launceston Place

Once a favourite of Princess Diana, who apparently stated she admired the collection of small rooms that occupy the Georgian townhouse in which Launceston Place is situated, the restaurant entertains playfully, whilst delivering tradition and flavour.

Head Chef Ben Murphy has added, to taste, a sprinkle of modernity and fun to this traditional restaurant in the typically stuffy end of town near Gloucester Road tube. The tables are adorned in clean white linen, something your grandmother would love, yet the amuse-bouches are served with a small plastic spade to dig out the smoked haddock mousse. The up-tight amongst us may feel it is a little gimmicky, but they’ll die miserable so let them be.


Bread is treated as a course in itself. The chorizo pancetta and lardo bread with yoghurt and red pepper butter was inevitably delicious – the yoghurty-tang and peppery-sweetness of the butter cutting through the meat fat.

To follow came burrata and cucumber which cleansed the palate well and prepared us for the foie gras course and a short rib plate. The latter was served with smoked eel and drizzled in a smooth, clean and thick plum sauce. The smoky fish, sweet plum and rich meat were an orchestra of flavours that performed a beautiful cacophony of noise in my mouth. 10/10 would bang.



Between courses our waiter cleared the table and removed crumbs with a tiny, hand-held Henry Hoover. Another nod to the fun yet serious tone.

In keeping with the ‘new vs tradition’ theme, the tiramisu arrived looking unlike anything that resembled the epitome of Italian dessert. Nonetheless, alike everything else I had put in my mouth that afternoon, it was splendid.


The set lunch menu was affordable, tasty and a great reflection of Murphy’s vision for the place. Perhaps it is because I am young and in possession of an old soul, however the contrast between tradition and playfulness very much pleased me. I wasn’t even thinking about it by the end of my experience, it just felt right.


Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Experience – 9/10

You can book your own experience here and visit the restaurant’s Instagram here.


If you tell acquaintances who have been to Krakow in the winter, or Poland for that matter, they will gleefully tell you tales about how they scoffed sausage and dumplings to warm their insides in escape of the bitter climate. Although I wouldn’t disagree with them – I ate a delicious sausage served on a bed of Sauerkraut before I boarded my BA flight back to London – there is a little more to this stylish, welcoming little city.

I travelled to the Polish second city with three friends for a trip filled with eclectic activities, ranging from a full-day, sobering tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau to excessive drinking in the company of stag-do louts. We ate an equally eclectic range of foods and partook in some excellent drinking at an array of different venues, some of which I have recommended below.

Harris Jazz Bar

Even if Jazz is not your thing, this laid-back cavernous space is a great spot to grab a drink and listen to Polish jazz musicians croon through the night. The bar staff were incredibly friendly and had a solid skillset when it came to making cocktails. It is located just off the main square so is very easily accessible and is also open late for all you night crawlers out there.

Harris Jazz


We hit up the Michelin guide for this one, a gothic hotel restaurant that sits nestled on Krakow’s oldest street – a former home of Polish king’s (according to their website). It sounded appropriate, so we booked a table the evening we arrived back from our tour of Auschwitz.

The setting and mood were lovely, the food was good but not extraordinary and the service was attentive and professional.

We ate five courses from their extensive tasting menu, the highlights for me were the deer with walnuts and red bean croquette on earl grey tea and apple mousse and the cheese cake with passion fruit on orange honey and pine nuts ice cream.


It must be said, however, that we had all been fortunate enough to eat in some of London, and the world’s, best restaurants before our trip to Krakow. Despite the food being good and some of it very innovative, it just doesn’t weigh up to some of the restaurants that make the Michelin guide in other European countries. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed Copernicus and would recommend.


We were actually recommended Hamsa by a girl my mate was trying to chat up at a bar in London. I don’t think his attempt was successful, however this Israeli restaurant was a success!


Simple, well-cooked fare that satisfied on a completely different level compared to the other rich, meat-centric cuisine we had been scoffing. Really tasty mezze platters, warm and doughy flatbreads and warming tagines was just what we desired after a weekend of heavy boozing and piss taking.

Evelyn’s Table

From the genius team that bought us The Palomar and The Barbary, comes their elegant new project – Evelyn’s Table. Situated in the cramped basement of the 250-year-old pub The Blue Posts, Evelyn’s Table is listed as an eleven-seat kitchen bar serving seasonal Italian cuisine and locally sourced fish.

I was cordially invited to try the experience by my dear pal Samphire and Salsify, who I met outside the venue with an excited grin on his face – anticipating good things from our evening.

Having tottered down the rickety staircase, we took a seat at the end of the bar with a clear view of the petite kitchen. The daily fresh fish specials were thrust upon us by a chef who was proud of his catch. We were immediately drawn to the hake cheeks and the lemon sole so listened to our instincts and ordered them immediately. We also ordered the mackerel from the fresh fish selection.

IMG_3152First arrived cured monkfish, Sicilian tomatoes, avocado and coriander oil – a clean, fresh start to the experience. To follow from the antipasti selection, a delicious plate of Vitello Tonnato, rocket mayonnaise and kohlrabi.

As is tradition, our pasta (or primi) course arrived next – we shared Tagliatelle, girolles, chilli and parmesan. The fresh pasta absorbed the chili-infused olive oil with the mushrooms balancing the whole dish with a rich earthiness.


The pick of the fish dishes was the Hake cheeks. The tender morsels of flesh were well cooked and served simply with a salsa Verde and salmon caviar. I wish the Lemon Sole had been prepared with such simplicity. Billed as Lemon Sole, sweetcorn, Lyonnaise onion, girolle – the accompanying elements detracted from the elegance of the fish. This is, however, my only criticism. The mackerel that landed moments later was allowed to sing a song of its own. Grilled and served with samphire, the pairing of the oily fish with the salty coastal vegetable was a marriage of flavours.


I would highly recommend you visit Evelyn’s Table. You can reserve a seat, so no queuing, the food is really rather good, and the intimacy makes it feel quite special. Providing you’re not claustrophobic, get booking.


La Tupina

Bringing French peasant food to the city centre, it is no surprise locals and tourists alike flock here for the rustic, country fare. Think old French farmhouse and expect befitting grub – we tackled a 1kg rib of beef cooked over the famous, roaring open fire where various hunks of flesh rotate gently on a spit. The potatoes cooked in duck fat are devilishly good and their wine list compliments the rich, protein heavy menu (of course!) To really whet the appetite, watch Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in the city, in which he visits the restaurant. Stein eulogises whilst quaffing porky terrines and crunchy radishes – it really gets you in the mood. If you are in Bordeaux, you have to visit. Simple.

Bordeaux - La Tupina.png

Le Petit Commerce

For seafood in the heart of the city’s romantic narrow streets look no further than Le Petit Commerce. The large, busy restaurant attracts French diners and tourists – always a positive sign. We opted for razor clams simply grilled with garlic and parsley, a velvety and rich fish soup, grilled lemon sole served with tangy ratatouille and a delightfully crisp bottle of Chablis. As is the case with good seafood, the folks at Le Petit Commerce keep things very simple. Their fresh produce needs very little done to it – they let the fish sing its own song. Service is a little surly but if you grin like a neurotic psychopath and make eye contact people are forced to soften a little – I’m sure I saw our waiter crack a smile.

Bordeaux - Petit.png

Le Brasserie Bordelaise

For a real taste of the South West head to this light, airy restaurant in the very centre of the city. Each wall of the restaurant houses wine racks that reach from floor to ceiling – in said racks live an enormous collection of some of the best wines in the region. We shared a superbly fresh tuna tartare to start before each having a juicy, tender onglet steak. To wash down this decadent lunch, an incredible bottle of St Emilion – Lussac from 2012. When we had finished our meal, we took a brief tour of the cellar where not only is there more wine but also space to age all their beef. A really impressive eatery given the cost.

Bordeaux - Bordellaise.png

La Cagette

This small, relaxed French canteen is the perfect spot for a simple supper from a menu that really champions local ingredients. We began our meal with in-season white asparagus served with orange mousseline before moving onto delicious veal a la Provence, a sumptuous stew typical in the area and a tasty shrimp and white truffle pasta dish. The large double doors open out onto Place de Palais, one of many picturesque squares. A truly delightful spot on a warm evening.

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Gone are the days when Glasgow, for some, was a no-go-zone. Over recent years the city has undergone somewhat of a rebrand. It is now a place where cafes sell croissants, literature is discussed in bars and the Versace store was once hinted at being the busiest in Europe.

I flew to Glasgow for a work trip but stayed to visit a friend who is studying architecture at the art school in the city. It was great having a companion to show me around, and I can safely say any preconceptions I may have had about the northern Scottish city were dismantled during my stay. The food, the people and the nightlife really make Glasgow a shining jewel in the crown of British cities.

(Below are some highlights and my favourite images from the trip)

The Ubiquitous Chip

A laid-back dining establishment with some seriously good grub. Modern European flavours and concepts meet locally sourced ingredients for some truly excellent dishes.

We started our meal with a gin & tonic (naturally) before moving on to a very well-cooked confit octopus tentacle, served with roasted cauliflower, pickled raisins, brown butter and crushed almonds. The flavours all paired very well but did not mask the main element of the dish, the octopus.


Next came ‘The Ship’s own venison haggis, neeps ‘n’ tatties. Three equally sized oval shaped spheres of meaty haggis, creamy mash and sweet puréed turnips were tastefully presented on the plate. Each component was married by a deliciously thick whiskey sauce.


For the main event, I ate delectably tender pan roasted chicken breast, truffle mash and greens. Eugenio (my Italian pal) ate a flaky piece of west coast hake in a mussel and leek fricassee.


I finished the meal with a slice of extremely tangy lemon tart. The homemade pastry was light and buttery, utterly delicious.


We accompanied the occasion with a good bottle of Morena Bianca Lugana, to honour the Italian in my presence.

Paesano Pizza

The 19th century Italian diaspora did not all go to America, many came to Great Britain and in particular the industrial areas of West Scotland. This means that many Glaswegians have Italian heritage – a great thing for the city’s pizza scene!

Directed by my Italian amico, I met Eugenio for lunch at Paesano Pizza in the hip West End of the city. He assured me that this was the real deal, with all ingredients imported from Napoli and the surrounding areas.

I opted for the Sicilian sausage to top my Neapolitan pizza. The dough was stretchy, soft and chewy at the same time whilst the toppings all made their mark in equal measure – a truly delicious pizza. Just a’like mamma makes it (I assume). 

IMG_3436Pot Still

For a wee dram of whiskey, you must head to one of Glasgow’s better known bars for the stuff – Pot Still. With over 700 whiskeys, it boasts one of the city’s largest collections. They have a rotating malt-of-the-month, which brings lesser known whiskeys (for novices such as myself) to the fore. After a pint and a half of Tennents and two drams I was quite merry.


Bokan – Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf is an odd place, no? Glitzy, polished and somewhat dead behind the eyes. Well, not on the 37th floor of the Novotel Canary Wharf, where a loud restaurant and bar – split across two floors – offers some character to the otherwise soulless concrete mass. Predominantly French waiting staff, dressed in Levi’s and braces, energetically welcome guests, engage them in conversation and smile. What a treat. According to many of them, however, it has taken some time for the sleek operation to develop its charm. I noticed that the post-work finance crowd don’t want to be engaged, they wave their HSBC black card and expect a drink to be plonked in-front of them with emotionless efficiency. Bokan offers only a Galic shrug to the droids and operates with admirable energy.

I was treated to the tasting menu and wine pairing by my father, who was in town and required a dining partner. We were seated by the window with a fantastic view of the metropolis we choose to inhabit – the Shard looked like a sewing needle from our vantage point.

Scallop - Bokan

The tasting menu is a fine way to sample what Bokan has to offer. We started with a refreshing and zesty Amuse Bouche before heading straight into marinated sea bass, orange ponzu and burned blood orange. The sea bass was firm yet tender and the ponzu did not overpower the delicate flavour of the fish. The seafood kept coming. We dived into king scallop dressed in almond jus, coriander and artichoke puree – small pieces of razor clam littered the scallop shell that served as a plate. All in all, the fish was a very pleasant start. Hungry as ever, we decided to tackle the next course as soon as the plates were lifted from the table. Handmade orecchiette pasta, morels, green asparagus, Sherry and Warwickshire berkswell was well made, a great combination of seasonal flavours but just a little over seasoned.

Seabass - Bokan

After a short break, having digested some food and the view, British rose veal, surrounded by a moat of Climpson & Sons’ coffee foam, served with chicory and indulgent mash potato landed before us. The veal was delicate, tender and everything it should have been. I was not convinced, at first, by the coffee flavoured accompaniment but grew to accept it was a pleasant combination. To finish, chocolate tuile, milk & dark chocolate cream, walnut praline with vanilla ice cream. Tasted great, for the South Park fans – it looked like Mr Hankey.

The food was lovely, the setting stunning but the star of the evening was Nelson, the Portuguese sommelier. He was attentive and knowledgeable, showing us some great wines. From French rose, English sparkling, Italian red and some of his native Portuguese tipples – each pairing was a good match. Ten out of ten Nelson.

We left Bokan full and a bit pissed. Let’s just say it’s a good job we didn’t have to take the stairs.

Check out their Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/bokanlondon/

Check out their website here: http://bokanlondon.co.uk/