k Juliet Kinsman k
The Editor-in-Chief at Mr & Mrs Smith takes us around her world and Ibiza.
Ms Kinsman, welcome to LoveFoodIbiza. Let us kick off with a huge congratulations on your recent wedding in Budapest, to the outside world we’d have all thought that you would have been the best person imaginable to organise the best day ever, did it all run smoothly?
It was a wonderful, colourful fun-filled ‘wedstival’ just as happy and entertaining as how we’d hoped at the marvelous arts club, Brody Studios. Lots of friends were wondering why on earth we’d chosen to do it in that city particularly and then totally understood once they were there… beautiful architecture, first-class food and drink and so much cheaper than other European capitals! Highlights of the day? Hungarian cellist playing Billy Idol’s White Wedding, Tokaj wine flowing, a delicious buffet room of tasty local specialities, a gypsy band, an art studio with guests painting at easels and Gemma Cairney couldn’t have been more incredible on the decks. The Greeks have a brilliant word for this kind of convivial happiness: kefi and that’s what everyone was flaunting this spirit: joy, passion, excitement, friendliness, joie de vivre…I wish we could have a wedstival every year!
Years ago we used to share desk space at clubbing bible Mixmag where every Monday (late in the day) we would swap tales of the weekend’s debauchery at some super club or other. In 2002 you defected from the dancefloor to the ‘to do-not-disturb’ signs at every beautiful hotel around the world. Everyone loves a bit of Mr & Mrs Smith! Let’s begin with a kickback to your childhood, what are your early family nightmare hotel memories that spring to mind…?
Actually we never really did hotel-type holidays — I always wanted to — as my Dad was a (Canadian) diplomat so he’d always arrange for us to visit friends of his somewhere…may sound great but I’d have bitten your arm off for a fun package holiday in the Med rather than being trapped with adults arguing earnestly over politics while I skulked off to watch TV. Actually though my mum once took me to a hotel in Tunisia where I do remember cockroaches the size of guinea pigs. But less cuddly
I know you are a sucker for an innovative street food vendor, passionate artisan or maker. Where are some of the places and people that have ticked the above boxes in recent months?
I loved master chandler Rachel Vosper’s beautiful sweetly scented shop in Kinnerton Street in Belgravia and learning how to make quality candles from her. Barbara Shaum in New York’s East Village is an octogenarian cobbler who’s been crafting custom Greek sandals and bespoke belts here since the early 1960s. Jessie Western on Portobello is owned by sisters Victoria and Jessica and Jessica hand-makes the most beautiful and original native American-inspired jewellery with gems lovingly sourced and inspired by their time on Indian reservations. In terms of a passionate food producer, props go to the Raw Chocolate Company which makes insanely yum ethical treats which are actually good for you.
Mr & Mrs Smith heartily recommends Ibiza’s Atzaró, Can Curreu and Mirador De Dalt Vila at the moment. And rightly so. What is it about these three places that made the grade?
They all feel intimate and a world away from corporate chain hotels and have an interesting setting or authentic sense of place.
The island it seems has a new agrotourism hotel opening every week, some are so beautiful, some you need a tank to find as the tracks are so rocky. What are some of the main criteria that require an entry into Mr & Mrs Smith in 2015?
Stylish — a look which is the result of a design lover…or they feel fresh and not cookie cutter or dated in their feel.
What restaurants have impressed you the most in Ibiza over the years?
I was on a yoga retreat at Shunya last year and the vegetarian food was some of the most delicious I’ve ever experienced…rich in colour and flavour, and so incredibly good for you without feeling you’re compromising on anything. Sabera mostly uses vegetables grown on their own glorious sun-drenched grounds. I enjoyed visiting Babylon Beach at the start of this season in Santa Eulalia for cocktails: there were a few folks there eating what looked like great roast dinners for lunch — but I cannot even imagine why you would sit in Spain and tuck into roast meat and Yorkshire puddings in the blaring sun. Years ago El Clodenis in San Rafael was always my favourite – rustic, cute, and home-made cooking served family style. Then when I went a few years ago it seemed like they’d taken things a little more upscale and it was more of a flashy crowd which killed its charm for me. Seafood paella at El Carmen overlooking the magnificent Es Vedra is hard to beat. I’m sort of over the sceney is-it-nightclub-or-a-fancy-restaurant type places.
Another exciting development on the island is the whole ‘farm to fork’ movement. Amazing countryside restaurants, the government funding the agriculture industry at last, families being proud of their land again and fighting against their poverty that has gripped Spain recently. Is this a movement you have noticed in other regions around the world?
It’s a wonderful thing that everyone is concerned with the provenance of what they eat now and researches and appreciates quality suppliers. Field to Fork Organics Cooperative is a group of local people near where I live in NW10 who wants to encourage sustainable food production and consumption in North West London.
You think of food in Ibiza, what dish springs to mind?
El Bigote and the moustachioed fisherman and his beach-shack restaurant on Cala Mastella, north-east coast, near San Carlos for his bullet de peix (fish stew) served at 2pm.
Ten years ago in an interview you mentioned a hotel in Ibiza which you said “wasn’t quite extraordinary enough” to make Mr & Mrs Smith. Has it improved?!!
I see so many hotels all the time so I can’t recall which hotel I was referring to — but lots of hotels tick so many boxes but just lack that wow factor or soul that gives them an edge over other places to stay.
Alongside the food industry, as you just mentioned with Shunya, the island of Ibiza is now blessed with an abundance of wonderful yoga, pilates, massage and treatment retreats. Where else do you check into or recommend on the White Isle with your Mr & Mrs Smith chill cap on?
I just did a Breath of Life kundalini yoga retreat at John Frieda’s gorgeous villa in San Rafael which was pretty darn revitalising. But that wasn’t with my Smith hat on. My friend Kirsty’s villa in Santa Gertrudis! A modern, 5-bedroom villa set in farmland and fruit groves overlooking its own organic vegetable garden. Loads of fabulous designer furniture from Maison de l’elephant, Benirras beach is a short drive away. Her art-filled home may look museum-like in its pristineness but it’s actually totally relaxing, laidback and low-maintenance… it totally appeals to anyone with Mr & Mrs Smith tastes even though it’s not bookable through us. I am dying though to experience Can Curreu.
One of the things we love about Mr & Mrs Smith is that the writers are real. It’s like you are in the same bed or bathtub with them sometimes! How irritating is it for you as an Editor when you read something in other publications…and it reads like a glorified press release?
Thanks — you clearly totally understand the voice we try and have with our hotel reviews. We send reviewers anonymously so they have an authentic experience and we ask that they tell us their story so hopefully it’s full of original and entertaining anecdotes and has a sense of humour…rather than regurgitated press releases as you say.
Your mystery reviewers over the years have included the likes of Jessie Ware, Rory Bremner and Gok Wan. What has been your favourite piece on a hotel from a celebrity?
Ricky Wilson (Kaiser Chiefs) has written me some fantastically entertaining hotels reviews: https://www.mrandmrssmith.com/our-reviewers/ricky-wilson
I loved Gemma Cairney’s tale of her time at my beloved Brody House https://www.mrandmrssmith.com/luxury-hotels/brody-house#hotel-reviews
Immodesty Blaize is a famous talent who isn’t just a pretty face — the burlesque artist is also a published author actually an incredibly skilled writer.
I hung out with Jordan Rizzle Kicks in Ibiza and ever since I’ve been determined to get him reviewing for us one day…he may be a young popstar who’s a bit of a rascal I imagine, but he’s also an incredibly switched-on articulate guy who’d be perfect to tell a travel story.
The concept behind Mr & Mrs Smith was sewn after Tamara and James had a dirty weekend away which was rather disappointing, a team of experts and friends was quickly secured for the new company. Do you always check in under the Mr & Mrs name whether it’s work or play, I’d imagine the hotel in question always up their game if they know royalty is coming…?
I travel in lots of different ways. I think if I’m assessing the genuine quality of somewhere they shouldn’t know what I do for my job, and it’s also sometimes more relaxing for me. But also if I do have a red carpet rolled out forme, it’s really a wonderful privilege being privy to finding out what makes the hotel tick or getting to meet inspiring owners who otherwise would be behind the scenes. I absolutely loved my time at Uxua in Brazil recently for that time and getting to know Wilbert Das who created the hotel.After two decades as creative director of the fashion brand, Diesel, Uxua owner Wilbert was jaded with the fashion industry not striving to make things intended to last. Uxua – which started as his holiday home – evolved into a project where he was deliberately investing in something meaningful.
“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing.” You love a bit of Oscar Wilde. What are you the most proudest about or the biggest challenge with Mr & Mrs Smith that you have overcome?
Ha! I like this quote in terms of applying it to the tabloid/free newspaper press very specifically. There are plenty of travellers who read trusted sources of information such as Mr & Mrs Smith or Condé Nast Traveller, say, who like to be excited by new ideas and discover insider tips and so this Wildism doesn’t apply!
The last time you walked in and walked out of a hotel because it just wasn’t good enough?
I try and appreciate all experiences for what they are. Just stayed in a B&B in the Midlands only thing near my aunt’s house and while it certainly wasn’t to my taste or where I would usually choose to spend my time, it was clean. And it help helps add more information to your reference bank — the repurposed catering-sized jar of Nescafé in the bathroom used to put the cotton wool pads and Qtips in made me laugh and appreciate the kinds of places I do recommend! It would irk me more when somewhere is charging the earth because they consider themselves superior and actually the luxury is pointless. I’ll happily forgive less-than-slick service if the hosts are charismatic and kind and the accommodation is comfortable.
The greatest chef known to mankind?
Jesse Dunford Wood at Parlour is a bit of a genius who I hope will go on to have a higher profile: he runs a wonderful stylish pub-restaurant near me in Kensal Green is utterly original and lets his sense of humour shine through in the witty presentation of his high-quality well-priced modern British dishes. He’s all about making everything from scratch from the just-baked warm soda bread to the salmon he personally smokes out back. His delicious Cow Pie is a signature, with a marrow-filled bone protruding from the middle of the crust. There’s a dessert that features popping candy — you get the idea — it’s anything but obvious or humdrum.
In our eyes what makes a great hotel is the following. Please give us the name of an establishment which is most befitting…
Uxua in Brazil. A short drive from Porto Seguro, Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa is in the relaxed boho-Bahian fishing village of Trancoso. The arty enclave opens onto the village’s central grassy Quadrado, as though a tiny hamlet in itself accessed by just another brightly painted shack. Anything but conventional and polished, resort the 11 private one-, two- and three-bedroom casas comprise a sustainable destination beloved by the discerning Brazilian elite as much as Europe and America’s jetset. The inspired interiors and bespoke furnishings that helped Uxua win Best Hotel in the 2014 Smith Hotel Awards have been enhanced by Uxua’s Artist In Casa initiative.