After spending a decade working in food innovation for the likes of Jamie Oliver, the London Olympics and Marks & Spencer, Alex Hayes decided to branch out into the freelance world as a one (wo)man band. Of course she then fell pregnant and for the last year has been juggling the turbulent world of motherhood and consulting. She’s passionate about global food culture and plays an active part in London’s culinary scene. This girl knows her onions. Alex has recently buddied up with fellow food lover Lisa to launch Harris & Hayes, helping food companies to innovate smarter.
When she’s not hosting food tours or dragging her son Arnie around local markets, she’ll be brushing up on her wine knowledge or planning her next supper club. In our latest Table Talk, Alex reveals her must-eats with hungry tots around London…
1. I’d like a table for…
3 at Rochelle Canteen on a sunny day. My little boy Arnie really got stuck into the squid last time we were there (expensive tastes) He can enjoy feasting with my husband Ed and I before having a kick about on their lawn within eyeshot.
2. Early-birds catch the coffee at…
Cable Café in Oval. It’s a favourite Saturday morning destination – combined with a visit to Oval farmers market. They have their own bakery (Cable Bakery) and make excellent coffee using organic beans. The style of the place is very romantic and they host a jazz night every Tuesday.
3. Best brunch with kids?
Pear Tree café in Battersea Park is hard to beat. The owners have worked alongside Skye Gyngell (Petersham Nurseries) so they know how to do a good brunch. There’s also a great playground just behind the café, plenty of grass for small ones to let off steam, and even peddalos and rowing boats on the lake. It ticks all the boxes.
4. Children’s menu must-visits…
Arnie tends to share my food most of the time. I have to eat quickly before he has more than his fair share. Our local Oddono’s (gelateria) makes fresh banana sorbet with no added sugar – which was perfect for us to share on those hot summer days.
5. Where do you grab a bite with mums en masse?
Chelsea Physic Garden is a real hidden gem. It’s the perfect little London oasis to escape to and the garden café is charming with homemade seasonal food. There’s lots of room for emergency pram strolling and over 5000 plants to explore. I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by green space and spent a lot of time this Summer on nearby Commons with friends and their children. As long as Arnie has a ball to throw he’s happy. It’s the simple things.
6. Hidden gem for treating tiny ones?
We used to live off Bermondsey Street and Tin Lid was my downfall. I haven’t found a better children’s shop since. They sell a beautifully curated collection of children’s clothes and toys – perfect for presents. French bistro Casse-Croûte is just down the road for the best dauphinoise you will ever eat (this side of Paris).
7. Best piece of advice for dining out with kids?
Go early. We went on holiday earlier in the year and some of our best memories were snatching those early golden hours before anyone was up working our way through plate after plate of breakfast treats. Oh and invite friends who don’t have children to share the load – the larger the adult to child ratio the better!
8. Date night – takeaway or take me out?
Take me out. Every time. Part of my job is to stay ahead of new restaurant openings (although I do love revisiting old favourites too) so I permanently have a list as long as my arm. I’m going to Levan in Peckham this week and am expecting great things.
9. My earliest food memory…
…is probably helping my Mum making mince pies at Christmas time – carefully cutting out pastry stars and eggwashing the tops. There was always a lot of peeling and slicing vegetables for Sunday lunch too. Just when I thought I’d finished, she’d bring me a few extra carrots for good measure.
10. Five mums, one table – who’s joining you?
Clemmie Hooper, Dame Judi Dench, Dawn O’Porter and Delia Smith.