Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. You think you know where I’m going with this, right? Wrong! As much as I love Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting and even by default, Ewan McGregor, my own version of the Choose monologue goes down a very different path to our dear Renton. You see, I choose love. And I choose falafels. And if you don’t know the connection between the two, well, I suggest you get yourself to Pikes on Wednesday July 31, 2019 to find out for yourself.
My first Choose Love experience was towards the end of last summer, when UK charity Help Refugees threw a pop-up party at Pikes (which as my regular readers know, is my favourite place on earth) and I have to admit I’ve pretty much been an addict ever since. It was here that I met the amazing Syrian chef Imad Alarnab – a truly incredible soul, who was once one of the most successful restaurateurs in Damascus. Let me give you a little background: When the war broke out in 2012, two of Imad’s restaurants were destroyed by bombings and he – like so many others around him – decided to flee the country in search of a better life for his family.
Imad’s journey took him through Lebanon and Turkey, on an extremely precarious, life-threatening boat journey to Greece, then through Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France, before he ended up in the refugee camps in Calais, where he used his cooking skills to feed as many people as possible. This conjures up an uncomfortable image many of us know from the news, but because it’s not something that affects us on a daily basis so, we find it easy to look the other way. Recently the United Nations shared a statistic that from an original population of 22 million, there are 13.5 million Syrians today who are currently seeking humanitarian assistance, and five million of those are refugees living outside of their war-torn country. FIVE MILLION. It certainly puts perspective on complaining that it’s too hot and crowded at an Ibiza club on any given summer night.
As usual, I digress. After three intensely challenging months, Imad found asylum in London, where he decided to give something back to the charities that had helped him, including Help Refugees and UNICEF. What started as a pop-up Syrian supper club – staffed by volunteers and with proceeds being donated to Hope Hospital in Aleppo – has grown to include a fully-fledged restaurant (Imad’s Choose Love Kitchen) and has now come to Ibiza, in the form of a monthly Choose Love event at Pikes. Imad himself flies out to Ibiza and takes control of the Pikes kitchen for the night, where he creates an amazing Syrian style feast (mostly his mother’s recipes, so he tells me) chock-full of amazing herbs, flavours, spices and scents. The falafels…. Oh those falafels! I have never tasted anything so good in my life. And the hummus… it’s not of this world. The Bado (smoked aubergine) was like heaven in my mouth, the Halloumi salad was a masterpiece and the thought of eating that lamb again each month is what gets me out of bed most mornings.
Just like with Imad’s Choose Love Kitchen in London, the proceeds of the Pikes Choose Love dinner are donated to Help Refugees – is there any better reason to organise a night out? As a matter of fact there is! Well, they’re not necessarily better reasons, but there are definitely more of them. You see, Choose Love at Pikes is much more than just the pop-up supper club. There’s also an art exhibition, curated by Print Club London, who have collaborated with some of today’s most talented contemporary artists on interpretations of the Choose Love logo – designed by British designer Katharine Hamnett (the creator of the original Choose Life slogan tees in the 80s). Each print you see exhibited around the ground at Pikes is also for sale (easily rolled up and packed into your luggage to take home) and yes, the proceeds are donated to charity. A good excuse to collect them all!
Going back to Katharine Hamnett’s tees, you can also snap up the exclusive Pikes twist on the tee designed in collaboration with Silken Favours on the night too. With celebs like Julia Roberts and my fave Kylie Minogue supporting the charity of late, it’s definitely the must-have t-shirt of the season (if you’re not in Ibiza, you can get kitted out via ASOS, with 100% of profits going to charity). BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There’s still one last reason to get yourself to Choose Love at Pikes next Wednesday night…. but I’m not allowed to say because the news is under embargo right now and we all know I’m a good girl who can keep a secret when asked.
Let’s just say that the past three Choose Love parties have featured some pretty sensational special guest DJs, but that next week’s guest is pretty much the crème de la crème of electronic artists right now. It’s someone who is truly a force of nature. It’s someone who has previously graced the decks at Pikes just once (for a roadblock debut party) and called it the greatest gig of their career. It’s someone who still believes… ah, I’ve said too much. You’ll just have to Choose to find out on the day! Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got falafels? And a super special top secret DJ that my heart is going to burst if I can’t share the secret soon? Photography by Elliot Young Photography for Pikes