So that was 2020. What a weird one. From lockdown to tiers to forming social bubbles, the past twelve months have been the strangest on record, so read on to see what Team LOTI made of this year.

Ben Smith

I think 2020 should officially be renamed 20 fucking 20. Frustrating in many ways for almost everyone, it’s been shocking seeing how richer the rich can get with the likes of Amazon tripling profits when super small businesses are in survival mode. That really got me thinking about buying local and supporting independents way more and there are plenty of those with all the refill food and wine shops around. One of the highlights for LOTI this year has once again been meeting and learning about the amazing stories behind our LOTI Heroes and of course, seeing how businesses adapted during the crisis, which sparked the idea for our Lockdown Awards. Some people are insanely brilliant aren’t they?

While restrictions have made travelling difficult, I don’t think I did too bad with an epic trip to Mexico visiting Patron’s HQ in Guadalajara, and to Lanzarote where I saw a side to the island I never knew existed. The same with Madeira too – the tropical microclimate of this tiny island is amazing and it is so beautiful. Closer to home I’ve been to Edinburgh and Bath as well as hitting some of Britain’s best beaches, with trips to Tynemouth and Deal.

While lockdown has been a test alright, in London we’ve still had plenty of restaurants delivering goods. From Pophams’s baked goods to the birth of the DIY kit, there are so many amazing options that not only offer restaurant-quality food but directly supports those businesses – some particular faves have been Passo, AngloThai, Jose Pizzaro and Pizza Pilgrims. My love affair with Dom’s Subs also started and long may it continue.

Personally, I’ve got deeper into fitness with at-home workout after at-home workout and I’m probably fitter than I have ever been. I’ve also found drawing has been amazing for me, and having more time on my hands I’ve really surprised myself in how good I am – yep, I said it. It’s been great to do something that is creative, supports your mental health and doesn’t involve a laptop or phone screen. Screen time is definitely something I want to crack down on more next year. Fingers crossed for a healthier and happier 2021.

LOTI DIARY | London On The InsideChristina Dean
Deputy Editor

Cancelled trips, cancelled festivals, cancelled reservations, cancelled theatre tickets – 2020 certainly didn’t go to plan. I had a big birthday this year, which didn’t go down at all how I imagined it would but looking back now whilst under Tier 4 rules, it seems unbelievable that I had a party in a pub garden with 12 (!) people, all from different households (!!) with lots of tequila and no need for substantial meals (!!!).

I didn’t leave the country this year, which I don’t think has ever happened before, but all the postponed trips abroad gave me the chance/forced me to explore the UK more. A week in Devon & Cornwall may not have been Ibiza but bloody hell is it beautiful down there, and I actually sunbathed on a British beach. Unbelievable scenes. Closer to home I got deeply acquainted with the green spaces of Hackney having walked every conceivable route of Victoria Park, Well Street Common and Hackney Marshes in the day and drinking in them like teenagers at night, albeit with a slightly better class of bevvy. 

Even with months locked down, I’ve managed to have some cracking meals – from ingenious meal kits and delivery options from the likes of Juici Jerk, Santo Remedio and The Proof – to proper restaurant sit downs. The first post-lockdown meal in July at Madame Pigg was exciting for many reasons, not least because I was eating food off a different set of plates. In between being shut in and getting released, there was also pasta at Pophams, omakase at Hot Stone, grilled crab al fresco at Brat, paella at Arros QD, tacos at Sonora, fried chicken at Mei Mei, and torched marshmallow with lacto-fermented apricot & parmesan granita at Coal Rooms.

We’re all so lucky at LOTI that we get to experience the best that London has to offer, so it’s hard to watch the hospitality and arts sectors get battered by the government and it’s shocking to see how many families are struggling to survive, again no thanks to those at Westminster. Thankfully there are some good eggs out there – Marcus Rashford, Tonic Comms and their Pay It Forward campaign, our LOTI Heroes – so here’s hoping 2021 will be a better one all round.

LOTI DIARY | London On The InsideJules Pearson

2020 – what a year. For someone who usually spends half of the year out of the country travelling for work and pleasure, it was definitely different spending so much time in London and in my flat in Stoke Newington. I loved having time to rediscover my neighbourhood and all the local gems as well as walking down streets I’d never stepped foot on before. No corner of N16 was left unturned.

I got hooked on Italian produce from Deli Gallo Nero; queued for bread countless times at Dusty Knuckle; replenished my wine supplies from Yield, the Little Wine Shop and Top Cuvee; and discovered that Thai Cafe on Northwold Road finally had added papaya salad to the menu. My most frequented place was the vets and subsequently, the place I spent the most money this year (don’t ask – just learn from me and always get pet insurance). When lockdown(s) lifted I hot footed it to restaurants, eating everywhere from Davies and Brook – a very fitting last meal before lockdown 2.0 – to Mangal 2 where I drank a few too many bottles of rose, finishing up most recently at Evelyn’s Table, a fitting last meal out.

Being part of the Hot 4 U journey kept me entertained throughout lockdowns, helping Matthew & Eddy inject some much needed fun into the year with their crazy deliveries; and I’ve drank whisky down a few too many bone marrow luges as a result. Trump’s daily meltdowns on social media were another source of amusement – thank God he is out and I hope Boris will be next to go. Not to turn this into a political piece but the fact the UN are helping to feed kids in Britain (the sixth richest country in the world) is disgraceful. If you can, do donate to a food bank. I’ve started doing regular drops at Safe Store in Dalston.

It’s been a different year, that’s for sure, but I’m thankful that I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I work in the hospitality industry so it’s been tough to watch the industry being constantly hammered – here’s hoping the vaccine kicks in and 2021 brings a bit of 2019 to the party.

Taylor Gilmore
Social Media Manager

2020, cor blimey, there’s a lot of good and bad things to say about it isn’t there? Beginning a new job last December (hey LOTI) and then lockdown kicking in three months later wasn’t the easiest but we got through it and then some. Less time in the office led to staying in my house 24/7 and this certainly meant it could be a make or break sitch with housemates. Luckily for me, we rode through it in good form and watching Tiger King together and sinking a few quarantinis didn’t hurt to be honest.

With more time on our hands that meant new hobbies and time spent outdoors in nature – there was the typical park walking but also a newfound obsession with foraging. I could not for the life of me find any elusive wild garlic in Hackney Marshes but I did stumble upon an enormous amount of elderflower bushes (shh don’t tell anyone) and hence elderflower cordial/champagne making took over my spring. You’d be amazed at what you can find in London, honestly. With time saved on commuting I was happy to delve deeper into cooking and think I may have mastered THAT roast celeriac from Flavour (Ottolenghi you’re my hero). Did I bake a banana bread too? Guilty.

As a veggie sometimes you get left behind with all the new food trends but the DIY kits have taken London by storm and with it a heap of plant-based options too. I tried kits from the Vurger Co, Pizza Pilgrims and Shuk and was surprised with just how good they were. Thanks to dishy Rishi’s Eat Out to Help Out and the time in between lockdowns I managed to head to a fair few restaurants (which might possibly be my fave hobby ever) – particular shout outs to Bubala, Fatt Pundit, Flour & Grape, and The Spread Eagle for levelling up those veggie options.  

In terms of keeping fit I was so into it to begin with and would try to smash my 5k PB and venture to Hackney Downs park for HIIT or yoga. These days walking from the sofa to the fridge is a cardio highlight but next year I’m determined to get back to it. There’s plenty of online classes that make it so much more do-able nowadays too. So what does 2021 hold? I think we all have to enter it with an open mind and a desire for positivity. Keep strong and keep going on people.