Walthamstow-born Olivia Dean is one of the UK’s brightest new music stars, who’s been gathering fans apace over the last few years for her soulful ballads and silken vocals. Having played at Glastonbury and a slew of other festivals this summer, 2023 is set to be her biggest year yet, with the recent release of her debut album, Messy, a stellar new single, Dive, and a sold out UK and Europe headline tour currently underway. We spoke to the Londoner about her favourite spots in the capital for fashion, culture and late-night revelry.
My London Glossary
I live in south east London, near Peckham, so I spend a lot of time there. There’s a real sense of culture and community in that part of London, which I love, plus most of my friends live in the area. My other favourite neighbourhood is Soho – I know I’m guaranteed to have a good time whenever I go there. During the day I’ll mill around and browse the independent shops, and in the evening there’s always something fun going on in the pubs and bars.
If I want a celebratory meal out, I’ll go to Marcella in Deptford. It’s a chi-chi little Italian spot where their menu constantly changes throughout the week, but they usually have some sort of delicious Bolognese that I’ll order. If I’m in the mood for something livelier, I’ll head to Escudo de Cuba in Dalston. It’s this really fun Cuban restaurant – I couldn’t tell you what any of the dishes on the menu are called, but the food is great and downstairs they have Cuban dancing.
Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly Circus is my favourite spot to go for cocktails. I just love the atmosphere there, the huge high ceilings and the live music. I pop myself at the end of the bar and spend the night people watching and drinking Porn Star Martinis. Crazy Coqs, the cabaret club they have there, is next on my list.
When I want a night of dancing, I’ll head to St Moritz. It’s this little underground club in Soho from the 60s that plays really fun 80s music and everyone in there is just completely letting loose – there’s nothing pretentious about it. Plus, it stays open super late, so it’s usually where we all wind up at the end of the night.
I spend a lot of time going to gigs. I recently went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see Kokoroko, a London-based, African-inspired jazz collective. Their music is really upbeat – I was straight out of my chair dancing. And I love EartH in Hackney; the auditorium is so beautiful and the sound is just amazing there. The Windmill in Brixton has an amazing circuit of new bands – that’s the spot to go if you want to discover a new act you’ve never heard of before. But I warn you, it’s pretty wacky! My all-time favourite London venue to perform at has to be Brixton Academy. I supported Jordan Rakei there last year and it was just amazing – the atmosphere was electric. I would love to headline my own show there one day.
My number one hotel in London is Claridge’s. I stayed there a few months ago and I felt like a princess the whole time. It was like being in a hotel from a movie: the service was incredible and the rooms were just gorgeous. I was there to sing at an event with Jimmy Choo, where I got to perform with a full choir on the staircase and there was a great cocktail party afterwards. It was so fab, and staying there was the perfect way to end the night.
I’m not a member of any clubs, but I spend a lot of time at Koko. I practically feel like I live there at the moment. They’ve got a really cool penthouse where they host a lot of after parties, and the restaurants there are lovely too. If there was any club I was going to join, it would be that one. I also spend quite a lot of time at Soho House, as so many of my industry friends are members there. It’s always a fun night out.
When I want to pick up a new record, I’ll usually go to east London. Rough Trade on Brick Lane is a classic, that’s where I’ll go to get new releases. I also love Phonica Records near Oxford Circus; I did a photo shoot in there once and that’s how I discovered it. It’s a good spot for a browse and they’ve got these great stations where you can listen to the music before you buy anything. The last album I bought was this 70s Jamaican keyboard record by a guy called Jackie Mittoo, called The Keyboard King at Studio One. I find it super relaxing to listen to.
When it comes to art, I’m often drawn to shows at the Barbican. I recently went to see the Carolee Schneemann Body Politics exhibition there, which was brilliant but quite intense. I haven’t bought any art for my home yet, but I’m working up the courage to buy one of Alfie Kungu’s paintings. His pieces are so colourful and playful. I also spend a lot of time at the Royal Festival Hall. They have really interesting talks there, like the recent one they held between Michaela Coel and Edward Enninful. I love them both, so that was a fascinating conversation to listen to.
Christmas is my favourite time of year to go to the ballet. Last year, I had tickets to go and see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells, which I loved. One of my friends is studying to be an actress, so I went to see her performance of The Tempest at RADA, which was great. But I’m a West End girl at heart, because I grew up doing musical theatre. The Lion King is like my holy grail.
When it comes to shopping, Brick Lane has loads of great places. My favourite shop is Serotonin – they have the most incredible selection of vintage designer pieces. I often find things that I fall in love with and just have to buy immediately – especially anything by Missoni, which I’m obsessed with. I also love Liberty, where I’ll make a beeline for the second floor. I don’t always buy something, but I love having a good browse.
There are a few fashion items on my wish list right now. I’ve had my eye on a fabulous Shrimps coat for quite a while – it’s bright green with black faux fur on the collar and cuffs. And I’d love a Chanel bag. So, I’m just putting that out into the universe – I’m manifesting it, and let’s see what happens.
Olivia Dean’s debut album, ‘Messy’, is out now.