We ‘met’ Sophie has many people do, online! I (Val) finally met her in person about two-weeks into lockdown at @CulverandNelson when I was there helping Sally out for the day, and Sophie and her husband Tom were taking deliveries to homes that were self-isolating. For me it was the perfect example of what a fantastic neighbourhood we are all apart of. Sophie’s writing brings out this theme in all she does, the connection with England, and the people in it. Please enjoy this spotlight on Sophie!
Name: Sophie Farrah
Originally from: Barnes
Lives now: Mortlake
Day Job: Journalist
Hobby: Food & Drink Enthusiast
What inspired your writing passion? I think probably reading when I was younger. I loved reading and I still do (currently @chefrickstein’s autobiography). That and I was lucky to have a wonderful English teacher at school.
How has lockdown affected your writing? All my work disappeared, which was difficult, but I got a chance to read and I was able write for myself rather than commissions. I wanted to do what I could to help promote businesses that were working so hard to diversify, so I wrote a Lockdown List for my website, which outlined all the delicious deliveries and meal kits etc that I was enjoying, and I had loads of lovely feedback about that. Thankfully, I am busy again.
We think you always find the best places to visit in the UK. How do you choose where to go? That’s very kind! I am open to visiting anywhere and everywhere – the UK is so beautiful and has so much to offer, and so much delicious food! I probably do plan trips around where I am going to eat when I get there…
Instagram is a major source of inspiration when it comes to where to eat and drink when I am away, but I also love to explore without a plan – that’s often when you find the hidden gems – the beach café with the best crab sandwich, the off the beaten track vineyard with delicious English fizz, etc!
Who was one of your favourite interviews so far? Oh this is tough. @brianmayforreal is a hero of mine – I love Queen, and his views on animal rights, so I loved speaking to him. @mrmichaelball is the nicest man ever. @jose_pizarro was also lovely and so passionate about food. I love talking to people – famous or not, people are fascinating.
I also really love writing features; I recently wrote a piece about the National Trust’s 125th Anniversary, and another about London’s brewing history and old breweries (like Watney’s, now The Stag Brewery, in Mortlake) – I love the research and the learning that comes with writing features like that.
What criteria do you use for recommendations on food and travel? I.e. what’s your process? I only recommend places that I have genuinely loved visiting or things that I have genuinely enjoyed eating. I don’t have criteria as such, as the experience can be down to so many different things – the service, the ambience, the music, etc. It’s a cumulative effect and there are many contributing factors. Sometimes one thing might be lacking, but you can still have a wonderful time. It’s a balance, but the food has to be good.
Name an unusual discovery you have unearthed in your writing? Or unique story that sticks out in your mind? Off the top off my head – one of the first features I ever wrote was with a local historian called Irene Cockcroft who told me all about how Barnes was once a hotspot for social and political revolution, and an integral meeting place for the suffragettes. They used to meet by the pond in the summer and in Byfeld Hall (now @olympicstudios) in the winter.
I also interviewed James Chase of @chase_distillery – I’ll always remember the story of how his father, farmer William Chase, had a batch of his prime potatoes rejected from a certain supermarket because they weren’t ‘pretty’ enough. He decided to take his supposedly ugly potatoes and turn them into crisps; within 6 months he had converted one of his potato stores into a fully functional mini factory, and so the crisp empire that is Tyrells was born. The same potatoes are now also used to make Chase Vodka, which is incredibly delicious by the way.
What would you have for your last meal and with who? Spaghetti carbonara with my husband, Tom, and my mum, Tricia.
How do you see food and travel industry changing now and in the next year before there is a vaccine? People in hospitality and tourism have been so resourceful and resilient and amazing. I’ve eaten out a few times recently and, except for fewer tables, digital menus and plenty of hand sanitiser, it has felt pretty ‘normal’. I think that there are some who are not ready to travel or eat out yet, and that is absolutely fair enough. So for now I think that there are two camps. I hope things will continue to relax and people will grow more confident, but it all depends on the virus really. But I am an optimist, so I like to believe that everything will be back on track soon.
When you aren’t food and travel writing you are…running a design consultancy with my husband Tom called @farrahandpearce – our Covid-inspired ‘bar’ concept is in the Design Museum at the moment which is exciting!
Also eating and drinking with friends, hanging out with my mum who also lives near me in Barnes, and I also do a bit of pottery. Theatre (live streams now), movies (at home), more food, disappearing off to the countryside and/or seaside as much as possible (I am obsessed with Cornwall), walking along the river, doing classes at @cliffordstudios, or just kicking back in the garden at home with Tom and our house rabbit Dora, usually considering what to eat next!