Five minutes with Meriel Armitage
Meriel Armitage left the fast-paced world of advertising and took it upon herself to change the attitude towards veganism in London. After the success of her Club Mexicana supper club, Meriel opened London’s first vegan pub, The Spread Eagle, in Hackney at the beginning of 2018.
We grilled her on how she’d cope on a desert island…
- What’s your first memory of food?
Probably making peppermint creams with my mum. An intricate recipe of icing sugar, peppermint and green food colouring.
- What’s the first recipe you learned to cook?
I made up a baked bean hotpot recipe myself after watching a kids cooking segment I saw on TV. It’s a simple recipe using onion, peppers, beans and tomatoes. My family would regularly wake up on a Sunday morning to find I’d turned the house into a hotel. I was the hotel manager (of course), and guests (my family) had to check in at reception (my room). Once they’d completed these formalities, I’d make them my baked bean hotpot with toast for their breakfast. Hotel breakfasts are still one of my favourite things about travelling.
- What’s the recipe you can’t live without?
I don’t really use recipes very much anymore, I free-style based on what ingredients I have to hand. But there is one recipe I go back to time and time again; Anna Jones’ restorative coconut broth, it’s just so comforting and tasty that I never want to miss out any of the ingredients; the blend of the different flavours are perfect.
- What’s the one ingredient you’d take on a desert island with you?
Mexican chilli lime salt. You don’t see it much over here, but it’s on every table in Mexico. No salt & pepper, just this stuff. Presumably I’d be living off tropical fruit… a sprinkling of this stuff on pineapple or mango is mind blowing.
- What’s the meal you’d miss the most?
Good pizza and good red wine. It’s a regular Sunday night feature in my home.
- You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… Who would you invite?I’d combine all the things I love in life – food, laughing, swearing, politics, history and controversy – and I would invite my wife, Kate Adie, Neil Rankin, Grace Dent, Sara Pascoe, Mary Beard, Rob Delaney, and chef Isa Chandra Moskovitz (one of the original vegan chefs in America who wrote Post Punk Kitchen, which defined vegan cooking). We ate at her restaurant, Modern Love, in Brooklyn recently. Her food is insane, her Instagram stories are hilarious and she has great taste in music. She’s an all-round hero of mine.
- Which cookbook would you take with you, to the desert island?
Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. There’s cultural history, politics and personal stories connected to nearly all the recipes. Having been to Jerusalem myself – and seen, experienced and tasted it all first-hand – I find it endlessly fascinating, as well as a really good read.
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