Make the most of those precious moments outside the office. From 360° health hacks and the new pottery trend to our round-up of London’s best food courts, here’s how to let the mind unwind


Gone to pot

Words: Alex Moore

Illustrations: Damien Weighill

Pottery is the latest craze for overworked professionals seeking a stress-relieving hobby. It’s creative, tactile and, say the growing legions of adherents, wonderfully therapeutic. Just don’t mention Ghost

Trying to get a place on one of London’s pottery courses is harder than bagging tickets for Glastonbury. Demand has spiralled and clay classes across London (and further afield) are booked up months in advance. Blame it on the craft’s new-found reputation as the next big mindfulness trend – Vogue recently described the hobby as a “holistic anti-depressant”. The process of throwing clay is said to be comforting, hypnotic – a precious moment of creative calm in a world of screen-time and deadlines.

A new book, Urban Potters: Makers in the City, explores how the craft of ceramics has been embraced by a new generation of urban makers and collectors. The author, Katie Treggiden, wrote it after her own life-changing clay experience.

Treggiden quit her “very stressful” job in advertising 10 years ago, in her late twenties, in search of a creative change. She threw herself into short courses and evening classes, in everything from life drawing to photography, screen printing and pottery. It was the process of working with clay that hooked Treggiden – and she never looked back. “It was the tactility of it,” she says. “That transformative process involving what is essentially mud was really appealing.

“I used to go there straight from the office, put my Calvin Klein suit in a carrier bag in the cloakroom and pull on my jeans and a smock. I’d become another person for a couple of hours.” Think yourself lucky if you do manage to get a place. Courses are popping up everywhere and cost from £15 for a two-hour session to in excess of £350 for a 12-week throwing course (some places charge extra for materials and glaze). There’s usually a demonstration of how to “throw” on the pottery wheel and an introduction to ceramic skills and hand-building techniques.

Participants will take to the wheel to make their own, undoubtedly wobbly, vessel, which is glazed and sealed in the furnace. “You close the kiln and you’re not sure what’s going to come out,” Treggiden says. “There’s science to it, but equally a huge amount of chance. It’s a magical moment when you open the door and it’s either a triumph or a disaster.”

Humans, it’s said, have been making clay vessels since we settled in one place. Treggiden agrees that clay connects you to an ancient past: “There’s something soul-enriching about dunking your hands in wet earth.” But does it really have mind-clearing benefits? “It’s very good for your mental health,” she nods. “You’re so focused, your anxious brain doesn’t have space for chatter. It’s like running, where you focus on the physical.”

Many of us may also harbour ideas that throwing clay is romantic – sensual even. “You’ve been watching too much Ghost, haven’t you?” Treggiden smiles. “For me, clay is a lot dirtier than that. You can’t have a manicure and go to a pottery class. We live in sanitised, screen-based worlds, especially in cities – so there’s something quite lovely about getting clay under your nails.”


Counter Culture

Can’t decide what you want to eat tonight? Then don’t. Visit one of London’s new wave of food courts and take your taste-buds on a journey of discovery. We round up five of the best

Mercato Metropolitano, Southwark
There’s no greater recommendation for an Italian restaurant than Italians eating there. And at Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle, you’ll find both – restaurants and Italians – in abundance. The market contains a range of outlets serving specialities from pizza to cannoli, but one of the best options is to enter via the deli at the gates, and make up your own platter of Italian cold meats, antipasti, cheeses and fresh bread. Indoors it can be hectic, but there are more peaceful spaces outside. Be sure to visit the wine shop in the main hall too, where you’ll find some excellent reds to go with your Italian feast.

The Prince, West Brompton
This new permanent venture comes from the team behind the super-successful Pergola pop-up. You’ll find two bars and four restaurants, including Peckham’s famous Thai, The Begging Bowl, and Chelsea farm-to-table restaurant, Rabbit, which uses prime cuts of beef sourced from Sussex along with delicious vegetables and produce from other local suppliers. The restaurants will back onto an enormous woodland-themed “secret garden” area, which is enclosed and fully heated for the winter months.

Bang Bang Oriental, Edgware Road
Whatever Asian delight you’re craving, you’ll be sure to find it at Bang Bang Oriental in Colindale. OK, so it’ll be a long journey for some, but it’s worth the trip to discover this modern British take on a traditional hawker house. Chinese cuisine dominates – with an emphasis on regional specialities – but with over 30 stalls, you’ll also find Malaysian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Thai and more. It’s a large space, so possibly not ideal if you’re planning a romantic dinner for two. If great food is your priority, however, then head over for an afternoon and seek out cloud-like char siu buns, spicy Sichuan beef tripe skewers from Uncle Chilli and authentic Malaysian laksa.

Feast Canteen, Hammersmith
Launching earlier this year, this West London hub houses four different restaurants. There’s more of a street food vibe, with burgers from Patty & Bun, sourdough pizzas from Born & Raised, Breddos Tacos and Salvation in Noodles, but the surroundings look relaxed and the venue is open all day. Plus, if you live nearby, you’ll be able to order in everything on the menu via Deliveroo.

The Ned, Bank
The glamorous clientele of The Ned might shudder to think of it as a food court but, in effect, that’s what it is. Nine different restaurants sit amid this historic 3,000 sq m former banking hall; you’ll find everything from British comfort-food classics at Millie’s Lounge to French baguettes at Café Sou. The food might not bowl you over in every outlet, but the surroundings are genuinely spectacular, with live music, cabaret dancers adorned with feathers and jewels and plush booths to nestle in. And if this place doesn’t convince your food-court-sceptic friends that times are changing, then nothing will.

Honourable mention: Time Out Market, Lisbon. A must-visit if you’re heading to Portugal. You’ll find tender steak and exquisite sushi along with live performances and fresh fish, meat, fruit and flowers.


Feelgood factor

There’s more to good health than crunches and cardio. Take a 360° approach to wellness and you’ll soon be fitter, happier, more productive…

It’s never easy finding time to stay in shape – even with a team of personal trainers on site in the shape of Work it, which hosts fitness classes and one-to-one sessions in many TOG buildings. But getting your sweat on is only half the battle. Work it co-founder Charlie Enstone-Watts outlines the company’s five key principles for healthy living.

Get to bed as close to sundown as possible – you’re looking for up to 10 hours of sleep to ensure you’re in synch with your circadian rhythm. Shutting off any electrical stimulation two hours before you hit the sack is vital: exposure to blue light depresses melatonin, your sleep hormone.

Aim to drink 3.5 litres of water every day – more if you’re exercising. When you sweat you deplete your glycogen, salt, magnesium, potassium and electrolytes levels, which can lead to dehydration. Coconut water is good after exercise as it contains lots of natural electrolytes, sugars and salts.

Choose foods that are rich in nutrients rather than consuming empty calories. First thing in the morning
I have a green shake consisting of spirulina, wheatgrass, and nettle leaves. For breakfast I’ll include healthy fats which are good for your cells – things like avocado and eggs, or maybe some porridge. For lunch and dinner I’ll have some form of protein, a carb low on the glycemic index and a ton of cruciferous veg.

Be as active as you can. Walk or cycle to work, use the stairs, etc. A level above that is where we come in. In
all of our classes we focus on mobility, strength and getting your heart rate up. With HIIT training you can burn calories up to 24 hours after you finish – so it’s more beneficial than doing a slow, steady-state workout.

We’re advocates of meditation and being mindful of everything you do in and out of the gym. Look at the positives as much as you can. Set short- and long-term goals, constantly review them and be accountable for your actions.

Brain Food
Eat yourself smarter
№ 3: Rosemary


In a world of wellness, where the trendy Instagram ingredients include golden turmeric, manuka honey and kombucha, something as simple and familiar as rosemary seems, well… like something your granny might recommend. But don’t dismiss this herb just yet. One smell of those needle-like leaves could significantly improve your memory. In folk medicine, rosemary has long been associated with the ability to remember. Now, evidence shows that its brain-boosting properties are not a myth. Earlier this year, a study carried out at Northumbria University found that pupils working in a room with the aroma of rosemary, in the form of an essential oil, achieved 5-7% better results in memory tests. One of rosemary’s compounds, 1,8-cineole, aids a chemical that’s the key to memory (the same brain chemistry is targeted by Alzheimer’s disease medicines). So forget sudoku as a way to maintain a healthy mind – just fire up the diffuser. Sophie Haydock