BYO with Bre Graham
For our second edition of our BYO Lunch, we continued with our old-school streak, but this time with some 1920s glamour at the Beaumont Hotel in the heart of Mayfair. The world of the BYO lunch extends far beyond your favourite Turkish or Vietnamese (nothing against these guys of course) as many beautiful and decadent venues are open - on certain days - to crack a bottle or two for you and your guests at no expense. This 5 star hotel felt fitting for our Aussie writer-cum-cook Bre Graham, author of the hugely successful and aspirational Table for Two , who is more than often in bright red lipstick and with a touch of old world glamour to her style. She has also curated our summer Club Emile box, available now. Once nestled into the leather-bound booth, we ordered an array of luminous cocktails and got down to it..
Who is Bre? Where are you from? How did you get into food writing? And how did the idea for your book come about?
I’m a food writer who is originally from Sydney, grew up in Singapore and have lived in London for the last eleven years. I started writing about food in my early twenties during a period of intense homesickness and loneliness and it saved/soothed me. The book sort of came out of the weekly newsletter that I write called Dishes To Delight which I started at the beginning of the pandemic. Each week is an essay, a recipe and ideas for my dream menu for the week ahead.
When reading about you, it is of course, all about food. Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of food and cooking…
I’m an editor at Courier Media where I work on their books, magazines and more. It’s such a dream job and I love it.
Our conversation meanders through our careers and all that entails; the good, the bad, the ugly and down right boring. It can be so easy to look at what someone like Bre has achieved and to want to immediately be able to emulate that. And in the age of the influencer, there seems to be an expectation that instantaneous success and kudos should be possible. She is often contacted by young, aspiring writers who seek direction and some sort of insider secret to getting a book deal and being a successful writer. But there is no secret, no magic wand. Building a career and really learning and honing your craft takes time and hard work. Bre started her career as the editor at a legal magazine working with barristers and whilst not her dream job, she says it taught her so many skills that she still uses today. After a whirlwind year of work following lock down, she looks back on these moments of learning and the gentle build of her career with fondness and recognition of how important they were in making the career she now has.
Did you grow up in a household of food and wine?
Absolutely. Food and wine were and still are central to my family’s lives and were a huge focus of my childhood.
Bre’s family moved from Australia to Singapore and Germany before finally settling back in Oz. The international migrant food scene of Sydney, their travels throughout Asia and a notable purchase of the Moro cookbook by her mother were major players in creating a food-centric world in the Graham household. Her parents' taste for Californian wine was also born and cracking a bottle of Sonoma Pinot or Napa Chardonnay is like coming home for her.
We love nothing more than the celebration of the high-low moments of life; a great bottle of wine on the sofa in your pjs, the best anchovies on an old bit of toasted bread - small moments of decadence in the midst of the ordinary. What is your favourite high-low combo?
Caviar and a baked potato is hard to beat. Lots of sour cream, lots of chives and lots of caviar.
What can always be found in your fridge/cupboard?
There’s never not butter in my fridge and you’ll always find a few different pasta shapes in my cupboard.
The mention of butter got us reminiscing on Bre’s insanely delicious yet simple take on the humble egg - THE brown butter eggs with sage. If there is only one thing to take away from this interview, it is to absolutely try this recipe!
What is a recent discovery that you can’t live without?
Chocolate tahini is a game changer for my breakfasts. I have it on toast, over porridge and on top of yoghurt. It’s perfectly sweet and salty.
When we finally tear you away from your fridge full of caviar (true story), where are your favourite places to eat and drink in the capital?
You can’t go wrong with a table at Rochelle Canteen in the sunshine, Rita’s for a fun lunch with friends or a solo bowl of soba noodles at Koya.
Of course, such a loaded question got us talking about all of the fabulous nooks, crannies and drinking dens across the city. Not a typical foodie destination - St John’s Wood - it would appear that Bre has unearthed a salmon-hued 80s dream in the Oslo Court Restaurant. Think old school French food with a Jewish accent and a decor that has not changed since it opened in 1982. And despite definitely not being a destination to eat, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Bre’s love for a 12 hour session at Rowan’s. A true right of passage for any Londoner.
Having lived across continents and cooked more meals than most would in a lifetime, what would your last meal on earth be?
A platter of six Sydney rock oysters on ice and a glass of champagne to start, a very big bowl of spaghetti vongole and a glass of extremely cold Vermentino and then maybe a perfectly ripe peach to finish things off!
We chatted about your leaning towards non-fiction and your draw to the personal touch of memoirs and biographies on audiobook that are read by the writer themselves. What is the best book you’ve read or audiobook you have listened to in the last year?
I loved Rhiannon Lucy Coslett’s memoir called The Year Of The Cat, it was so beautiful and captured such a unique time in all of our lives.
What’s always in your handbag?
Red lipstick (always at least two).
You have achieved so much in the last few years but you mentioned that whilst such an incredible ride, it has, at moments felt like your brain had been in a tumble dryer, so more important than ever, where is your happy place? The place to go cleanse your soul and find some peace.
Wylie’s Baths. It’s a sea pool near my parent’s house in Sydney and as close to heaven as I know.
Who is an icon to you?
We love your style, with a nod to old school glamour. What are your favourite brands?
Thank you! I’m loving Rejina Pyo, Ganni, Staud and Damson Madder at the moment but am a big Vinted/Ebay hunter of vintage Miu Miu and Prada.
Creating atmosphere and inviting hospitality is an artform. Bar food and wine, what are non-negotiable for your table for any dinner party?
Candle light if it’s dinner and I do love fresh flowers on the table too. A single stem of something pretty is my favourite simple way to make a big impact.
With the allure of sunshine and sand between your toes, do you have any trips planned and are they always centred around food?
Without doubt, food is the biggest reason I choose where I travel. I’m going on a special trip this summer with my Mum for my birthday and taking her to my favourite town in Liguria, Italy for the first time. I can’t wait for pesto, focaccia and very good Italian wine of course!
As the lunch meandered to its fated end we were presented with a small notebook and pencil from our wonderful server Cristoban. The notebook with tear-away pages read ‘The Colony Bespoke Sundae’. The array of options include tiramisu ice cream, tipsy raisins, griottini and double espresso sauce. It was a fittingly decadent and fun end to this wonderful lunch.
What we drank:
Ilagouté Mise Primeur 2022, Sarnin-Berrux
Volnay Saint François 2019, Domaine Roblet-Monnot
What we ate:
Triple cooked chips and hollandaise sauce
Steak tartare prepared tableside
CFC - Colony Fried Chicken
The Colony Bespoke Sunday