P O P U L A R
N E W S L E T T E R
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Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Restaurant manager, Billy and his fiancé art teacher, Kayleigh first met at college, where they shared a love of heavy fringes, indie music and snakebites. After going their separate ways, the pair reunited in 2013 and began dating, bonding over their mutual passion for food.
Both Billy and Kayleigh wanted to broaden their horizons and educate themselves when it came to food and cooking, and were desperate to move away from the packet sauces and ready meals of their childhoods. They started cooking up new vegetarian and pescetarian meals as well as visiting a whole host of restaurants across London and Europe, blogging about their experiences along the way.
Fast forward four years and the couple are now engaged and have worked their way through an impressive bucket list of restaurants from London to Essex and beyond, learning new tips and tricks along the way. Their gorgeous blog Cocktails & Calamari is full of fun and exciting recipes, restaurant finds, delicious cocktail ideas and festival reviews. We had a quick chat with the duo about work, inspiration, achievements and of course – food...
What made you both want to write about food? It’s what our relationship is built around. We spend most of our time and money on food festivals, restaurants and food orders! Our holiday destination choices are always based around food and where/what we want to try out.
Our spare time usually involves recipe searches for food to cook, grocery shopping and spending evenings preparing meals together. We both enjoy our jobs, but in an ideal world we would love to pursue a career in food; perhaps owning a little deli or restaurant and wine bar - that would be the dream.
Who taught you to cook? We both grew up in the ‘90s - an era full of packet sauces, microwave meals and school dinners. Neither of our parents were amazing cooks but we would eat whatever was put in front of us. As a child on holiday, Kayleigh loved the tastes of Spain and enjoyed discovering new flavours, but back at home, her Mum still cooked everything for her - as a teenager this was easier! University was a time of learning for Kayleigh - she became pescetarian but was only really able to afford fish once a week, which meant a big change to her diet as meat alternatives just weren’t cutting it. She began reading food blogs and visited numerous vegetarian cafes and delis in the area, which were full of inspiration.
Where did the name come from? We wanted something that summed us up with catchy alliteration. Cocktails feature heavily in our house and on the blog. Not only is Billy a bar and restaurant manager, but he loves mixing up new combinations and tends to spend (far too much) money on spirits to stock up our bar at home. Calamari is something we both love to eat, along with all seafood and shellfish. We mostly lean towards fresh fish restaurants at home and on holiday. The name is almost a representation of how we work together in the kitchen – Billy, being the mixologist and Kayleigh, the cook.
Favourite recipe you’ve tried? Hmmm, this is a really tough question to answer as there are so many! We love cooking food that’s simple and celebrates the natural flavours of the ingredients, often focusing on five or six elements. One recipe that works really well with a simple Thai papaya salad and a glass of Prosecco, is Korean Fried Cauliflower (even meat lovers enjoy tucking in).
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Food markets, street food stalls and festivals are always eye openers – seeing amazingly enthusiastic and passionate chefs prepping and cooking meals in front of you. Simple, yet exciting fresh food that can be shared with a bunch of friends is the kind of food we love.
How do you both achieve a work-life balance? It’s definitely not easy. Being a teacher and managing a restaurant means we both work too many hours and can get caught up in stress, ignoring what’s important. As we both like to relax and have fun through food and drink, there is never any arguing over what to do in our time off! We make sure that a few times a month, we do something we enjoy together; whether it’s a food market, new restaurant or simply cooking together. It means spending time switched off from work and focusing on our wellbeing. Also, having things booked up through the year gives us something to look forward to – a holiday, a quick weekend trip or a reservation at a hyped up new restaurant. It keeps us sane through work pressures.
Your favourite restaurant or cuisine? Choosing a specific cuisine is impossible but we enjoy lots of flavour and spices such as Thai, Indian, Mexican and Caribbean. You also can’t go wrong with a simple fresh piece of fish or an Italian vegetarian dish. Basically, we are greedy!
We have a list as long as our arm when it comes to favourite restaurants. Ones that resonate with us are Blanchette in Soho which serves French Bistro style food in small plates to share with a delicious wine menu – we would recommend sitting at the bar to get the best atmosphere.
Dishoom in Shoreditch is somewhere we returned to time and time again when we lived in London – whether it’s for the crispy calamari and okra fries, or egg naan roll and Chai tea, it always hits the spot. Finally Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill has a lot of sentimental value to us both; Billy saved up all of his wages to take us there and spent a lot of money after a mere few months together. We returned there in 2016 where he proposed.
What has been your biggest achievement so far? Having family and friends over for a dinner party full of our own recipes and lots of drinks is always an achievement. Seeing the planning and cooking come together with the happiness of full bellies and tipsy minds.
What are your goals for Cocktails & Calamari in the future? We would love to pair up with some other food bloggers to create recipes together and share with our readers. We’re also planning to write up some of our recent travel eats and blog about new restaurants in Essex. In the future, we would love to work at or host a food festival for local restaurants and bloggers, interview some of our idols within the food world and eventually own a food stall, truck or little deli. We have a lot of plans for Cocktails and Calamari.
Finally, who’s the better cook? Kayleigh.
Images: Billy Jarvis & Kayleigh Thwaites