Nik Speller is a man of great taste, from his lifestyle writing for Buckets & Spades to his inspirational social media where he shares his love for cool, modern architecture on Instagram! He dropped by Zouk so we had a few foodie questions for him on Manchester hot-spots, favourite curries and how to take pictures for social media.
ZOUK: Tell us about your life as a lifestyle writer and marketing guru?
I wouldn’t call myself a guru of either, really. As a lifestyle writer, I’m fairly casual and leave most of the work up to the blog’s editor, Mat. I probably post on their once a fortnight at the minute – although, I’d like to find the time to do more. It’s still fun, though; regardless of my limited involvement. Mat and I are always chatting about the content we’d like to produce, ideas we’ve had, sources of inspiration we’ve seen, potential brand partnerships, projects, and the rest. There’s also a good number of invites to parties, drinks, previews, and the like flying around, so there’s always some solid socialising to be had!
When it comes to marketing, I’ve been quite heavily involved in the influencer world for the past four years (it’s what I do for my day job). It’s a great industry, full of interesting people, and complex challenges. As anyone who knows me will know, one thing I love doing is discussing those challenges online; throwing out a thought, opinion, or idea and seeing if who is up for chatting it through.
ZOUK: We see a lot of architecture on your Instagram, have you ever taken snaps of your plate?
I used to do loads of food blogging, back in the day (and, by that, I mean 4-5 years ago), writing for myself and Foodepedia; so, my Instagram was almost 100% plates of food. To be honest, I fell out of love with the industry a bit, as the pictures seemed to be valued way more than the opinions and the writing. People only wanted to ever see food at it’s best and hear that every restaurant in the world was amazing. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I prefer to hear what people really think – what they liked, what loved, and what they hated. In the short-term, I know the food industry doesn’t like that (who would?); but, in the long-term, being genuine with your opinions as a food writer helps the industry improve.
ZOUK: What advice would you give to people looking to take the perfect social media photo?
It’s all about lighting, especially if you’re relying on a phone’s camera. The iPhone, for instance, works brilliantly in bright light. Some of my favourite pictures are taken on an iPhone and the colours, lines, and angles are all captured perfectly. Not that I’m an expert in the slightest, but one thing Mat (the editor of Buckets and Spades) has taught me is that composition is massively important. If something is just creeping into the shot, if certain elements aren’t lined up, if the wrong bits are cut off, all of that can completely ruin what could have been a good photo. Finally, I’d say that people need to consider being different. Social media (and instagram especially) as spawned countless ‘copycat’ photography styles, where people just try and mimic images that are already popular. That just gets boring, very very quickly, and now I can scroll through Instagram for ages, without seeing anything that really catches my eye; but, when something is different to the norm, it will catch my eye, and I’ll give it my full attention.
ZOUK: What are your favourite foods and what have you tasted on your travels?
I like almost everything, when it comes to food, which sounds like a total cop-out, but it’s true. I’ve eaten in plenty of fine dining places, from my day’s food blogging, and plenty of cheap and cheerful places – and often there’s nothing to choose between the two, in terms of satisfaction.
I’d say a real favourite of mine is good pub food. I don’t mean the overblown gastro type, where the pub is aiming to become a Michelin starred restaurant, but the simple stuff, that matches the atmosphere and style of a decent boozer. South London seems to have more than it’s fair share of these types of places; ones that are trying to retain the old style of an English pub, while serving up solid, simple, hearty food that delivers good value in terms of quantity and taste.
ZOUK: What are your favourite places to visit in Manchester (shops and clubs rather than other restaurants)?
Manchester has changed so much since I lived there, 10 years ago. The slightly grubby edges have been smartened up and there seems a real good vibe, that’s not just trying to replicate the hotspots of London, but is finding it’s own style.
The one thing I do like to visit in Manchester are the older pubs (there’s definitely a theme here). Places like The Briton’s Protection are brilliant, offering up a decent selection of well-kept beer and a ridiculous number of whiskies.
Aside from that, the last time I visited, we just wandered around, checking out all the new developments. Walking up from Piccadilly, we side-stepped into the Northern Quarter, then passed the smart shops around the Corn Exchange, over to Spinningfields, before heading down Oxford Road. That walk alone is a great way to pass some time and it reminds me what a cool city Manchester really is, especially as nothing in the centre is ever further than a ten minute walk away – not something you can say about London!
ZOUK: You visited Zouk recently, what would you recommend to others?
Zouk was great. Tucked away along aside-street, just of Oxford Road, I really didn’t expect there to be such a stunning restaurant; but, we were blown away by the layout, the architecture, and the buzz. Being able to see the guys working in the kitchen is great too. The speed at which they seem to be able to prepare the food is staggering!
What I love about a meal at an Indian restaurant, is that it always seems to be such an event, rather than just a simple dinner out. The sharing of the food, the hustle and bustle of the staff, the large beers on offer – it all makes for a fantastic atmosphere. And, what made Zouk all the better was the quality of the food; rich, colourful curries, with healthy portions of meat in each one.
Next time I’m in Manchester, I’ll definitely be back.