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Introducing: InfoFlex

December 4, 2018 Leave a comment

It helps to believe in the brand you’re building – especially in the healthcare sector, where product superiority really matters. Over the last year, we’ve been working on InfoFlex: an information management software tool used widely in the NHS. Our research showed that patients, clinicians, and trusts alike continue to be impressed and emboldened by InfoFlex’s capabilities, and the power it hands back to its users. These are turbulent times for our NHS and the wider healthcare community, and InfoFlex offers some stability, sense, and support to those who dedicate their time to looking after us.

We had to create a brand identity to match their (genuinely) superior product and team. InfoFlex was developed by NHS insiders with first-hand experience of inadequate systems – and their deep, multi-faceted understanding is often acknowledged by clients. Their experience and understanding influenced the product development: no other software provider offers the same necessary versatility or intelligence when it comes to managing patient care pathways. And when there are people’s lives at stake, that really should be advertised.

A big challenge came with learning just how many benefits InfoFlex provides – and to so many groups within the healthcare community, too. Although we established a messaging hierarchy, the brand identity still had to be able to unify and cope with lots of information, and work well across many different touchpoints.

So we created the ‘i device’ – SuperFit for purpose, just like the product. Here it is in action:

 

 

Alongside designing a host of documents for internal and external use, we created two  brand films to succinctly describe InfoFlex and its benefits. You can find them, and much more, on the new website we designed and built as part of this rebrand:

https://infoflex.co.uk/

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So we’ve been busy. But we couldn’t leave InfoFlex there… To fully support the new brand identity, we also created some ads to work across print and digital; these are now in action across various healthcare  publications. Here’s the print ad:

 

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We look forward to seeing InfoFlex gain the increased awareness and business that they deserve.

 

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Fermented tea – just try it

Along with fellow foodie Bruce McMichael, Ed and I were delighted to have spent this morning learning about the weird and wonderful world of fermented teas… All thanks to Louise Avery of LA Brewery.

“Just try it”

My mother must have repeated this command hundreds of times when I was school-age. Not to me, but to my friends who came over for dinner, only to wrinkle their noses and baulk at the unfamiliar aromas and ‘odd’ looking textures of Indonesian food. None of them grew up with the pungent smell of terasi, the not-quite-but-almost meaty texture of tempeh, or the intense chilli heat of some of mum’s dishes. The curious friends always gave everything a go – and more often and not, they enjoyed it. The tentative snobbish ones were rarely invited back to our house to eat.

Terasi – a staple ingredient in Indonesian food – is essentially a block of dried, fermented shrimp. Tempeh – a staple source of protein – is made by fermenting soya beans. Indonesian food is incredibly diverse – unsurprising, given that the country is made up of thousands of islands – but the process of fermenting food is quite widespread. Perhaps then, given my blood and my background, I am predisposed to enjoy kombucha: fermented tea. Our tasting session with the lemongrass, strawberry, and ginger flavours of LA Brewery earlier today was certainly not an unpleasant experience.

It helped that Louise herself was present. With infectious energy, she guided us through her method, ingredients, and science (as well as her history, ambitions, and values). She explained that many of her London stockists naturally attract the vegan gym-bunny crowd who are drawn to kombucha because of its health benefits. But thankfully, Louise is not on an evangelical mission about gut health. Nor is she vegan. She simply loves kombucha: “It’s like Haribo to me.”

The viscosity, bubbles, acidity, and layers of flavour make it an exciting drink. It’s an experience. The smell, the sensory awakening as the fizz hits your lips and bubbles down into your throat, the complexity of flavour, and the way the taste lingers in your mouth for a while after swallowing – all of this and more is what makes Louise’s kombucha intriguing. So you take another sip. And another.

What is intriguing – and arguably quite rare – about Louise herself, is her genuine commitment to the cause. And that cause isn’t world domination – yet (although she does have stockists aplenty over here, and is also being courted by a supermarket chain in Europe…). Her cause, as mentioned, is simply her love for the product itself. Although commercial wins are obviously great, Louise explains that she’s frankly much more excited by interacting with people and experimenting with the brewing process, which she wants to learn even more about before scaling up further. She notes that there is no one ‘right’ way to make kombucha, and offers lots of advice on using seasonal ingredients (she also does kombucha masterclasses, so keep an eye out for her name).

The foraging techniques she learned from her mother whilst growing up in the Hebrides have stayed with her. She tells us that although the flavours she bottles for sale are relatively mainstream, she’s also experimented with countless other ingredients that she’s sourced through foraging. And if she were to expand LA Brewery into new territories in the future, she would do so with the ultimate goal of educating – rather than colonising – each market. One way this might play out, she says, is to find people in each country that are interested in kombucha (or at least open to it) – and then encourage them to make it with their own local seasonal ingredients. And this could all potentially be guided and funded by her company.

She has plenty of exciting ideas brewing (sorry). Most of them I’m not at liberty to share, but watch this space. In the meantime, if you’re interested in trying Louise’s kombucha, you can find the list of stockists on the LA Brewery website.

In the three hours we spent together, Louise never once claimed that kombucha is for everyone. She didn’t gleefully squeal, “You’re going to love it!” as she poured the first tasters, nor did she sanctimoniously list off the health benefits of having a diet rich in good bacteria.

She acknowledged that it’s different. She gave us her story. And she said, “Just try it.”

I’d encourage you to do the same.

NB. Also goes well with vodka.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Another perspective

March 23, 2018 Leave a comment

My personal ‘participation’ in Facebook (and Facebook-owned Instagram) has rewarded me with countless opportunities – like creative work. The first job led to another, which led to another. I used Facebook to find flatmates when I moved to Barcelona. And sold unwanted items through the site when I moved back. During a 2 month trip to New York in 2016, Facebook allowed me to discover (and generate) further creative opportunities for myself – and more importantly, it facilitated new friendships. I met my housemate through Facebook; we’re currently using it to recruit a third. I’ve attended innumerable events of all kinds over the years that I likely would never have even heard of were it not for the platform.

But above all, Facebook is what it is to me because of the groups I’ve joined. These include, but are not limited to the following (mostly renamed for accuracy of description): housemate/property search in London (and Barcelona); housemate/property search in London specifically for people of colour; “Ingredient Hunters Barcelona” (naturally); creative networking for people of African, Caribbean or Asian descent in London; last minute hospitality work in London; a community for creative/politically engaged people of colour in New York; an Oxford-based group for discussion of feminism, and the same again for race.

Take from that what you will. There’s a name-calling facility at the bottom of this post, should you feel so inclined.

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The sense of community is powerful. I don’t always participate; the feeling of belonging and solidarity also comes from simply gazing gormlessly at the screen for minutes, hours, and days on end like the mindless cretin I am observing interactions. Everything I’ve learned and gained from the hundreds of (mostly) intelligent people that share on these groups daily has literally shaped my life and how I see the world – for the better (at least I think so, but then again I would). And that’s a huge part of the emotional benefit for me.

I don’t post much at all. My most recent update was on 7 September 2017 to share a teaser video for this article. The post before that was from 24 November 2016, inviting my network to a series of workshops run by my old company. I won’t share a link to that here though… #ifyouknowyouknow. In between those entries I did receive a smattering of posts to my timeline from friends wishing me happy birthday and sharing music, but not many. My privacy settings are such that if somebody tags me in anything, I am able to review it and choose whether or not it appears on my profile. I always select the latter option (but the photo can still be accessed via the page of whoever uploaded it, of course). I’ve only personally uploaded around 10 photos to my profile in my Facebook ‘career’ for my friends to see.

Nevertheless… Out of curiosity and prompted by Neil, I downloaded my Facebook data last night. The contents were unsurprising, but the format sobering. Despite considering myself a relatively private person on Facebook, seeing in one folder all the photos, videos, links, messages, screen shots, documents, voice notes (and the rest) that I’ve shared ‘privately’ to friends using the Messenger app was somewhat unsettling.

Far more unsettling, however, was the handful of (completely unsolicited) photos that non-friends had sent to me. I would share them here, but I’d probably get fired.

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However engaged you’ve been with this week’s revelations, I would recommend that you download your own Facebook data and spend some time looking through it. I was fascinated by the details of my life shared back to me about myself – but more intrigued (and disturbed?) thinking about what had inevitably been omitted and why. If you don’t use the platform and have nothing better to do on a Friday night, get yourself up to speed and then have a look through the information and language used on the company’s privacy settings.

#FASCINATING

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s cold out there…

March 1, 2018 1 comment

For every person you will see bundled up in a doorway or lying outside a shop on your way home this evening, how many others are hidden away out of sight? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

A smile, some change, a hot tea, a sandwich… They all make a little difference – but nowhere near enough. Especially not in this weather. If you feel any kind of way about rough sleeping (read: devastated and powerless) I suggest that you look up, download, and use StreetLink.

If you’re a cynic like me and often wonder if the “good” companies and charities you support are doing more harm than good (or simply nothing at all), or if the “good” actions you choose to undertake are ultimately meaningless and inconsequential… Watch the video below. This isn’t one of those instances.

“One day I was just sitting down and someone approached me from an outreach team; asked me how long I had been homeless, asked me about myself, and they referred me to a night shelter. It wasn’t until about three or four months later that I found out that someone had actually referred me from StreetLink… If I hadn’t been referred to StreetLink by a member of the public, I’m pretty sure I would still be homeless at this point in time.”

 

Creating a StreetLink alert through the app takes about 3 minutes – please use it, and provide as much detail as possible. You can also refer someone through the website or call the team on 0300 500 0914.

Find them on Twitter: @Tell_StreetLink

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Food ramble

February 21, 2018 Leave a comment

A framble?

Loyal readers* will remember this excerpt from my article on November 17:

Usually when I go out to eat, I want to:

  • Order a bunch of plates to share
  • Get my hands dirty
  • Sweat profusely from the spice
  • Not feel out of place in trainers
  • Talk at length about the meal
  • Drink quite a lot, affordably

I also gave a short list of eateries that cater (sorry) to my simple needs and provide delicious, delicious food. Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express is now on that list.

The first thing I learned about Asma was that on the restaurant’s launch night, she fed 300 vulnerable local people rather than “round-bottomed food critics” such as Grace Dent – Dent’s own words, not mine. Was it a good PR move? Well, yes. Was it also a kind and generous gesture with real benefit to the recipients, and a genuine reflection of Asma’s giving nature, despite the former cynical observation? Also yes.

I turned a year older on the weekend and I think I’m becoming soft. Shite.

We managed to get a lunchtime reservation on a second try. Our first attempt was a fruitless, foolish same-day request, but Asma encouraged my mother to message her directly on Instagram with a new date. And so she did. When the day finally came around, I walked in to find mum laughing and nattering away to Asma herself. Though they had just met, they conversed with the ease, warmth, and familiarity of old friends. Watching Asma chatting to her staff and making rounds of the restaurant, it’s clear that she that she just has that effect on people.

Here are just some of the ways that people have described Asma in interviews and reviews:

  • Unreservedly authentic
  • Formidably intelligent
  • Gregarious
  • Intensely curious
  • Enthusiastic
  • A force of nature
  • Funny
  • Philanthropic
  • Unstoppable

An enviable list of accolades. The praise for her recipes and cooking is equally impressive and rounded.

According to their website, the menu at Darjeeling Express changes every 8 weeks “to reflect the seasonality of vegetables from our organic British producers.” I’m a serious carnivore, although I sometimes have a niggling doubt… And that doubtful part of me should probably point out that as of this month, the restaurant offers a Meat-Free Monday menu.

We went on a Saturday.

As starters, we chose:

  • Tangra chilli prawns – Calcutta is the only city in India with a Chinatown (Tangra) & these prawns are infused with all the Indo-Chinese flavours of the region
  • Mutton shikampuri kabab – Aromatic spiced & minced mutton cakes stuffed with a thin layer of hung yoghurt & chopped mint leaves
  • Vegetarian puchkas – Wheat & semolina shells filled with spiced black chickpeas, potatoes & tamarind water

Our selection of mains comprised:

  • Makhana paneer – Indian cheese in a creamy nut base gravy with peanuts, lotus seeds & almonds
  • Venison kofta – Venison meatballs cooked with shikar masala (hunting spices) & served in a creamy tomato & chili sauce
  • Goat kosha mangsho – Slow cooked Bengali goat curry with the occasional potato

Accompanied by a few sides…

  • Hyderabadi tamarind dal – Tangy lentils tempered with dried red chillies & curry leaves
  • Puris – Fried bread
  • Brown basmati rice – Wild rice cooked with onions & cardamom

And as there’s always room for dessert (in the Pegley family at least):

  • Bhapa doi – Benghali steamed yoghurt dessert
  • Gajjar ka halwa – Carrot halwa, garnished with pistachios & served with cream

I couldn’t choose a favourite. The old man thought the prawns were a narrow winner – but for a while, he struggled to answer. For me, the most impressive part of the experience was that the dishes were consistently fantastic – which is so rare. I had a similar experience at Gunpowder (Liverpool Street) – an evening that turned out to be costly, but worth it. We ordered round after round of small plates, and each one seemed to deliver more flavour than the last.

Here’s some relatively crap photos of a modest selection of the mind-blowingly delicious dishes we ordered at Gunpowder (totalling about nine or ten):

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Photo credit: my hot date

Whereas Gunpowder was an intense, explosive, exciting evening experience with a long wait, quite a lot of booze before and during the meal, not that much light, and very few, relatively small tables (we bumped knees, sat elbow to elbow with our fellow diners, and knocked over our beer cans – not just because of the content within), walking into the light-filled Darjeeling Express on the top floor of Kingly Court in Soho was wildly different – especially given that we went in the daytime. There was room to breathe and talk and reflect on the food properly, and although we had a time limit on our reservation, we didn’t feel rushed. The experience seemed to reflect Asma’s whole MO. “My clients come to eat, and they stay,” she remarked to us – a fact which can make life at Darjeeling Express very hectic when they have tight reservation schedules.

But onto the food.

The prawns were… Prawny. I mean this in a good way. Each one was juicy and firm. They were drenched in flavour, but the gentle taste of the prawn itself was still very much present in every mouthful. This doesn’t always happen in restaurants. Although it may look like a prawn, act like a prawn, and come prepared as a prawn ‘should’, the lack of flavour and succulence can sometimes make me question if it is actually a prawn, or just a miscellaneous semi-chewy thing. The prawns (OK – last time) were accompanied by a single, dark, dried chilli. We split it between the three of us. Boring people gawp at me when I eat, and tell me it’s a miracle that I can taste anything at all given how much spicy stuff I pile on to everything – to which I roll my eyes. Naturally, I didn’t think a third of a dried chilli would be enough. It was. The flavour was smoky, almost burnt – and it was hot. Probably too hot for most people – but perhaps I’m underestimating the general British public (forgive me if my expectations are low #brexit).

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Tangra chilli prawns. Photo credit: asma-khan.com

The mutton shikampuri kabab made me “Mmmmm…” instinctively on the first bite.  Although the phrase ‘mutton cake’ didn’t necessarily  conjure up associations of fresh flavours and a light texture when I read it on the menu, the reality delivered. The little patties were presented simply and invitingly. Each mouthful was meaty, fragrant and fresh all at once – helped by the chopped mint. The light consistency combined with the intense but gentle seasoning had me reeling. And the puchkas had the same effect. The array of flavours and textures and worked perfectly: the crunch of the thin but sturdy shell, the warmth of the spices in the soft potato and chickpea mix nestled inside, and the refreshingly cold and zesty tamarind water. The second puchka retained its crunch even though I took too long between pouring in the tamarind water and popping the whole thing into my mouth, on account of still using my jaw to rave about the first one. Puchkas may be a common snack in India, but this part of the starter was a novelty for all three of us.

Asma cleared our plates, and returned our beaming smiles.

The mains arrived promptly. (By the way, if you’re waiting for a punchline during which I reveal the ‘but’ of the whole experience – it’s not coming. Seriously). There was a distinctive flavour to the meat itself in both the goat and venison dishes. And the accompanying sauces were each unforgettable. Some of the spice combinations warmed both my belly and my heart – the goat kosha mangsho (pictured below, in the middle) tasted remarkably similar to certain preparations of Indonesian rendang (a favourite of mine, especially when cooked by my mum). But the seasoning was blended in such a way that no one spice or flavour was so overwhelming or dominant that I could have picked it out for identification (not that I am an expert in the flavours of the royal Mughlai and Nawabi school of cuisine of Asma’s ancestry, nor the street food flavours of Calcutta where she was born and raised. Maybe one day).

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The main course

I’ll move on to the paneer dish (pictured above, bottom left), which may have been my favourite after all. The cheese itself was smooth but definitely had some body – an intriguing and luxurious combination which, when combined with the rich flavours of the sauce, made it near impossible to stop spooning onto my plate. I tend to order some variation of paneer when I go out for Indian food (which isn’t infrequently) – but I’ve never had it like this, not even on a trip to Kerala in December. Paneer has a gentle taste and is used as a vehicle for other flavours – much like some preparations of tofu in Indonesian cooking. The chunks in this instance were a good size – not so small that they got lost in the thick sauce, and not so big that they dominated the dish or left behind that intense flavour. When the bowl arrived at the table it didn’t strike me as particularly large, but it turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. The dal existed as a gentle, warming, and fragrant accompaniment to all of the plates, and there was plenty leftover which we mopped up with the remaining rice and puri.

Wow. I need to get back to work.

Writing or speaking, brevity has never been my forte. But it would be a shame to get this far and not mention the delicious puddings… So I’ll leave a photo below and sign off. But before I go: please do support the restaurant. Besides the food, Asma is an incredible – and incredibly fascinating – individual, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. To learn more about her and keep up with the restaurant’s news, visit the Darjeeling Express blog. There, you’ll find out the reasons that the restaurant’s kitchen team is made up exclusively of women – none of whom has ever been professionally trained. You can also jump to these stories here or here.

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Pudding. Left: bhapa doiBenghali steamed yoghurt dessert, and right: gajjar ka halwa – Carrot halwa, garnished with pistachios and served with cream

If anyone from an exciting food brand happens to be reading this (and has actually managed to get this far without keeling over), do get in touch to say hello. And if your brand isn’t exciting – well, maybe we can help you with that. We have some big and wonderful clients at the moment, but none of their products are edible (believe me I’ve tried). And that is a shame.

 

*Thanks to every single one of you that exists in my head

Categories: Uncategorized

Nice and normal food

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Last Monday, Neil asked me to curate a shortlist of restaurants for our Christmas meal. I still haven’t done it. Given that we’re based in London, this obviously isn’t due to a lack of choice – quite the opposite. And it certainly isn’t due to any organisational incompetence on my part…

I take food very seriously. My mother is Indonesian, and grew up there. She also lived in Italy with my (English) father for a period before moving to the UK. Now, she joyfully and successfully runs a catering business out of her little kitchen in Haslemere fusing the two cuisines, cooking for any number between 40 and 400 people at a time. Garlic, onion, lime, ginger, lemongrass, and chillies are the fresh ingredients I’ve learned to always have in the kitchen. And a very well-stacked spice cupboard.

I love preparing, eating, discussing, learning about, and sharing food. The spicier the better. And it’s hardly a secret that everyone at Breakfast shares my interest in gastronomy. At least in the eating part. But I’m struggling to put together suggestions for our dinner, because I’m being utterly pathetic and slow recommendations reflect the person giving them. So naturally, mine must be dazzling

Usually when I go out to eat, I want to:

  • Order a bunch of plates to share
  • Get my hands dirty
  • Sweat profusely from the spice
  • Not feel out of place in trainers
  • Talk at length about the meal
  • Drink quite a lot, affordably

…with people who aren’t afraid to do the same.

Some very good restaurants I’ve been to recently in London which have met most, if not all of these requirements:

  • Gunpowder
  • Smoking Goat
  • Kilis Kitchen
  • Honey & Co
  • Dishoom
  • Mangal Ocakbasi
  • Ember Yard

As for nice and normal establishments appropriate for a work Christmas dinner, however, I’m stumped. That’s not to say that the restaurants listed above aren’t nice, normal, or festive, just perhaps not in the traditional sense (whatever that means). And however familiar I’ve become with everyone at Breakfast over the past few months, I assume it’s not very professional to stick my fork and fingers frenziedly into other people’s plates (even if I were to courteously sling my dish across the table at them in return).

Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

A short-lived friendship

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Last year, I met a girl. I told her I was moving to Barcelona soon for a new role, at which she clasped her hands in delight and started gushing about the city – as people often do. She recommended a tapas spot – an old favourite of hers. As she described it, I became increasingly excited… And hungry. She spoke highly of the atmosphere, the price, the location, and most importantly, the food. So a few weeks later, and a mere few hours into my new life, I trotted faithfully down to the address she’d given, anticipating messaging her many emojis of thanks after the meal.

That never happened.

I found myself in a sticky, icky sports bar blasting utterly shite music. Outside, the evening sun was still gently bathing the characterful winding backstreets of Barcelona in a warm glow. Inside these walls it was dark and disgusting. The place was crawling with big, burly English men with mean eyes and swollen faces. They messily slurped up jarras of beer with slobbery, dog-like tongues, and made loud, grunting man-noises whilst shovelling handfuls of chips into their gaping gob holes. Their stinky, sweaty, steroid-infused upper bodies were adorned with such skimpy string vests that I don’t know why they bothered with them at all, given how much skin was on show.

Now, I wasn’t taken by the display of skin but rather the skin itself. It was remarkable! Nearly every man in there was imbued with the same dazzling shade of magenta from head to toe. I’ll never forget it: the sun blisters as crispy-looking as pork crackling; the bold punctuation of large, tender swathes of pink by poorly executed tribal tattoos; the aggressive cuts and bruises; the glistening sheen of perspiration. And the pink! Did I mention the pink?!

Remarkable, as I said.

It takes quite a lot to faze me, especially when I’m in an establishment that serves food. So I sat down. As I looked around I tried to remind myself that I’ve both eaten at and recommended incredible restaurants that are dirty-looking, noisy, cramped, hectic, uncomfortable – and the rest. Not everyone’s cup of tea – although I never mind it. As long as the food is great.  And the food that I recommend usually is.

It is never unseasoned. Nor bland. Nor lukewarm. Nor off. The food is never of such a catastrophically low standard as the sad, soggy pintxos presented to me here. As I drew the first one to my mouth, a strange thing happened. Em sap greuuu!* I heard. I looked around. There was nobody in particularly close proximity, and the music was far too loud for me to have been able to hear anyone at the next table. I stared at the pintxo in disbelief. And then shoved it in my mouth. As I forced myself to chew and swallow the thoroughly underwhelming combination of ingredients, I generously wondered if it was the less than pleasing setting throwing me off. And I was starving. So I selected a second pintxo from the platter, and braced myself for another go. I picked it up, closed my eyes, brought it slowly to my mouth, and heard the little wail again: eem saap greeeuuuuuu!!!!!!

As I said, it takes a lot to faze me. Even talking food. So I popped it in. Chewed for a split second… Spat it out in a napkin, and left.

I haven’t spoken to that girl since.

Which leads me to my next blog post…

 

 

 

*Em sap greu = Catalan for “I’m sorry”

Categories: Uncategorized