celebrity shopping

What Marina O’Loughlin, Sunday Times Restaurant Critic, Can’t Live Without

Photo: Courtesy The Times

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the stain-remover pen and the tongue-cleaner. We asked Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin about the cowboy boots, bakery bread, and Italian amaro she can’t live without.

Low-carb diets are most emphatically not for me. In fact, cheese on toast would probably be my last-meal request, and it’s what I fall on when left to my own, not-restaurant-going devices. I love all bread — any bread, in fact — from the world’s greatest baguette (I make regular pilgrimages to Maison Mamy in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne) to the cheap plasticky supermarket sliced white (toasted, loads of butter, hell yes). Poilâne, a French bakery with outposts in Chelsea and Belgravia, is a particular favourite, and they do deliveries, too.

My eyesight is so weird it’s hard for me to find flattering glasses and lenses that don’t weigh a ton. I’m also not a suitable candidate for laser surgery. Thanks to the wonderful Schuller opticians on Lamb’s Conduit Street, I now have supercool frames from Suzy Glam — a.k.a. Amsterdam jewellery designer Susanne Klemm — with almost miraculous Essilor Varilux X Series lenses. I feel transformative when wearing them, like RoboCop. I have a few pairs, and, as I’m an anonymous critic, I don’t want to give too much away lest I get clocked when out and about (paranoid? Me?). But I am partial to the Spends a Fortune pair, not least because they look like the glasses my Twitter avatar, a.k.a. Roz from Monsters, Inc., might wear.

As a long-term insomniac, I was thrilled to discover Balance Me. It’s an ecofriendly, cruelty-free, and newish beauty brand. Its CBD oil, which you roll on pulse points before bed, is fantastic. No more waking up at 4 a.m. panicking about the coronavirus — a tangible life change.

If you’d told me years ago that I’d give a toss for the likes of bed linen, I’d have hooted in derision. Perhaps to do with that aforementioned insomnia, and too much time spent in nice hotels, I now regard the cool, slippery bliss of the highest thread counts as necessity rather than luxury. John Lewis is my go-to for my own home: unfussy clean lines and reliable quality.

I’ve always adored a cowboy boot since youthful visits to the Grand Ole Opry (Glasgow, not Nashville) and my lifelong passion for Dolly Parton. Their recent fashion revival and temporary cool status have been a joy — not that I care about cool, but I’ve managed to score five new pairs of boots in as many months. I have silver ones, starry ones, a cowhide pair (from Zara, though I think they’re sold out now), and two snakeskin pairs. These ones from the magnificently named R.Soles are a particular favourite.

I’m such a fragrance addict, I feel undressed if I ever leave the house without it. Two recent discoveries have changed my life: Sniph, a Danish service that sends out a new phial every month, tailored via your initial preferences (mine turn out to be “avant-garde”) and subsequent feedback. It introduces you to names and brands you’d never otherwise have heard of, and each monthly black envelope contains a delicious adventure. The other is Perfumer H from Lyn Harris (the inspirational nose behind Miller Harris). An afternoon exploring scents at her Marylebone shop, accompanied by their own blend of tea and Harris’s expertise, is a true joy. My current favourite of hers is Rain.

Fernet-Branca, 70 cl

Um, intestinal issues are a bit of an occupational hazard in my gig. Enter the curative superhero that is Fernet-Branca, a murky brown Italian amaro (“bitter,” and boy it is) made from a secret, many-herbed recipe that tastes like just-exhumed graves. It may cause you to wince and shudder on the way down, but it’ll cure whatever ails you … According to an article I read in The Atlantic, “As recently as 1962, Suburbia Today recommended it for ‘overeating, flatulence, hangovers, gas pains, [and] lifting yourself off the floor when you’ve mixed oysters and bananas.”’ Bonus: It’s fiercely alcoholic. I’ve managed to develop such a taste for it, I now actually like the wretched stuff.

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What Restaurant Critic Marina O’Loughlin Can’t Live Without