StyleNest caught up with Laura Jackson and Alice Levine to find all about food, friendship and fashion.
When did you both find your passion for cooking?
A: I definitely took a lot of inspiration from my Mum – she is an incredible cook who always cooked from scratch and made amazing dinners. My school friends always wanted to come for tea. She always makes large amounts too, claiming she can only cook for 40 not 4, and as someone would always decide to stay at the last minute she was prepared.
Now she grows everything in the garden or on her allotment so everything is super fresh and she has really interesting things in the veg patch.
I ring her all the time now to quiz her about recipes and ask her about how she made some incredible meal from a random Tuesday 5 years ago, she’s like “I don’t remember making that!”
L: My mum and step-dad always used to have dinner parties and I was the waitress. My Mum always enjoyed cooking and she has passed her old recipes to me and my sisters and I now pass my new recipes onto her. I’ve had no formal training but have been baking at home since I could walk, leaving a trail of flour mixture in my wake. Much to my mother’s dismay. My Dad is also a keen foodie and with my husband being a vegetarian, my eyes have been opened to a new way of cooking.
The passion has just kept growing since we met. We are forever tearing out pages, bookmarking, scribbling notes and sending each other screen grabs, photos and Instagrams of colour combinations, flavour pairings, restaurants we’ve visited, menus we’ve spied, ingredients we’ve seen on a market stall. It’s an endless flow of images and notes.
How did you two meet?
Like all the best duos we met at a jumble sale, equipped with bumbags and coin pouches. Our friend, Gemma Cairney, runs Rumble In The Jumble every year for Oxfam and we were running rival stalls. We stopped for a break and there was a stall serving pots of chilli – so we grabbed some and just started chatting about food.
Tell us more about Jackson&Levine’s gastronomic events?
The supper clubs are without a doubt, some of the most fun evenings we’ve had in our time in London. We started holding them in Laura’s apartment and now we pop up in interesting venues that we find. We used to decorate her place with flowers and buy fabric from the market to make a big enough table cloth. They are intimate affairs – around 20 people round the table and people attend at most in pairs, so no one knows each other. But we’ve had so many people make great friends around our table and every always leaves merry and full….usually at 2am!
We cook a seasonal menu which is a surprise on arrival. In the past we have foraged for interesting ingredients like fennel pollen and sweet peas or sought out local producer’s to make sure we have something really exciting and unusual to serve.
What’s your staple dinner party dishes? And healthy eating options?
We like to make sharing dishes or one pot recipes which make serving big numbers much easier. A large cut of meat like shoulder of lamb is so easy – just get it in the oven with tonnes of herbs and garlic and cook is low and slow. Serve with some trays of dauphinoise and red wine and you have some very happy customers.
“Healthy Eating” with capital letters is a trend that confuses us a bit. We wouldn’t eat a burger and a milkshake everyday, sure, but the supper clubs are a celebration and a party, so our concern is seasonality, generosity, delicious flavours and balance of ideas and ingredients across the menu.
If you had to pick cuisine to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: We took a trip to Puglia in Italy together recently to do some research for a new design project and we didn’t have more than 5 hours between portions of pasta. Orecchiette is traditional in the area we were in, but we also had spaghetti and giant fusilli. Malfatti is a favourite that always goes down well at the supper club and ravioli is a great crowd pleaser – we can while away hours just the two of us making pasta. I don’t think I’ve met a pasta I don’t like – it’s comforting, filling, warming and bloody delicious.
L: Mexican food! I love the depth of flavour provided by lots of chilli’s and spices. People think Mexican food is just tacos – but it’s so much more than that. I adore their mole, pozole and of course cochinita Pibil (the perfect dinner party crowd pleaser) I’m going back to Mexico this year on holiday and really looking forward to eating at a famous fish restaurant called Contramar, their tuna tostadas is a thing of beauty.
Can you share some of your favourite restaurants around London? Any hidden gems?
Morito – the Exmouth Market tapas bar and restaurant has always been a favourite and now Sam&Sam Clark have opened a second in our neck of the woods, on Hackney Road. We are there most weeks.
Rochelle Canteen – hidden in a garden, behind the wall of a Victorian school on Arnold Circus in Shoreditch, this is one of our most visited spots. A simple, seasonal, well-thought out menu always greets you, and our friend Euan is head chef so we like to think we get a bigger portion
Duck Soup – our friend Clare’s restaurant is always the place we recommend to people for a chilled, mid week dinner if your want exceptional food. The accompanying cookbook is beautiful too. Her new one The Picklery shows off her exemplery interiors taste and does one of the best breakfasts in London – get the Beirut.
Padella – we have always loved Tim’s restaurant Trullo, so when they opened this little sister pasta joint, we were over the moon. Try the pici, it’s phenomenal.
Campania & Jones – we have both lived in the East End for many years, and we still love a trip to Columbia Road. Summer nights on this patch of cobbles is divine – you can’t help but feel like you are on holiday in Italy.
Where do you like to shop around the city?
For food related finds these are our favourites:
Lina Stores, Soho – great for interesting foodie presents like saucisson or squid ink spaghetti
Labour and Wait, Shoreditch – we could spend every pay-cheque on their perfect kitchen accessories, incredible enamelware in so many great colours
Maltby Street Market / Leather Lane, Bermondsey / Clerkenwell – if we’re passing for a meeting in the area we can’t resist a bite at one of the stalls
In a few sentences, describe what an average day is like?
9-11am – Breakfast meetings, somewhere in central, we often suggest Dishoom as it seems to go down well with everyone
11 – Coffee on the go running to meetings on the other side of town, we usual have a snack on us to fend of the hunger until lunch, a handful of almonds always does the trick!
1-2 – Quick lunch at home or something light if we are in a meeting, Foxlow does good salads
2-6 – Writing our food column, finding trends, looking for interesting openings, seeking out ingredients our readers will be interested in or filming something for a new TV project
7 – Dinner at a new restaurant – we always whatsapp each other things we’ve heard about.
You both come from a background of TV & Radio which means you must work long hours – describe your perfect day off?
A: Spending it somewhere by the sea with great company and great food, so maybe the Sportsman pub or Company Shed, or fish & chips on the beach down in Deal, or having a potter in Hendy’s in Hastings.
L: The perfect day off in London is breakfast in bed watching Saturday kitchen, a long walk in Epping forest with my husband Jonathan and dog Barry followed by a late afternoon pub lunch with all our friends where we drink and chat all night before ending up at karaoke dive bar till early hours.
Who is your style inspiration and how would you sum it up in a sentence?
A: I love people who blur the line between feminine and masculine, sexy and prudish dressing. I always think Michelle Williams dresses impeccably, as does Lea Sedoux. My friend once described my look as “an old lady in a particularly harsh winter” and I would say that’s quiet accurate!
L: oh mine is such a long sentence… Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Demas and an Olsen twin for modern day. Lolita & the Virgin Suicides for some summer dress and hair inspo, Jean Seburg & Francoise Hardy for some 60’s throwback, Stone Island for when I’m feeling tom boyish. Wes Anderson / Margo Tenenbaums is constant style inspo, Annie Hall for some androgynous dressing & Ali Macgraw when I’m in the mood for a pea coat!
What is your ultimate wardrobe staple?
L: A cashmere navy jumper – the most versatile, useful, chic item in my wardrobe.
A: Trench coat, I have a classic beige Burberry one, and the M&S khaki one. Definitely my go to!
You have an enviable wardrobe. What are some of your most treasured pieces?
L: I have a really beautiful Celine dress my husband bought me for my birthday a few years ago, it’s really utilitarian, simple but timeless, I really love it. When I got my first proper job in telly I treated myself to a tiny Chanel bag which will last forever and cost per wear is working out so well! I also bought a Gucci racing green suit from a flea market in Paris years ago it is still one of the best vintage bargains – I have it hanging on my wall and every time I look at it it fills me with joy. I also have a scruffy white tee bought years ago from new work that I would 100% save in a fire!
A: I just like pieces that make me feel good, and can be relied upon to save the day in a last minute dash. I have few velvet suits which are actually really versatile – you can dress down with a t-shirt or go a bit more flamboyant with a frilly silk shirt.
If you had to wear one label for the rest of your life what would it be?
A: I feel like I would never be sad in a Roksanda creation – the colours and shapes but a smile of my face. You feel feminine but also strong in her designs, there is always something a little left of centre too, I love that quirk.
L: Anything by Miuccia, she is queen!
Alice Levine and Laura Jackson want people to say yes to snacking with California Almonds.