Every friendship group needs a David Paw. The International Editor at the restaurant guide and booking app, Resy, knows his way around the foodie scenes of most of the world's big cities, so if you were trying to herd your friends to a meet-up one night, David would be the one to tap for all the intel. And so we did. Passionate to the core about the restaurant scene and the hospitality industry, David's also a talented writer and brilliant editor, bringing to life thousands of restaurants through the digital tasting menu that is Resy. Here's the inside track on the London dining scene and much, much more...
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Hi David, could you briefly describe your career to date and what passions, decisions or serendipitous events led you to where you are today?
I trained as a doctor, but I’ve always been super passion driven, and quickly realised that on-calls and ward rounds weren’t for me. I went the college paper route into a job at Wallpaper* where I focused on luxury travel and hotels, launched The Infatuation in London, and then I got approached for the international role at Resy, so I’ve dipped into everything from print media and digital to tech, all under the umbrella of hospitality and restaurants.
As an editor, I’ve always tried to pay attention to the little things while not being afraid of taking big swings and commissioning stories that explored a variety of topics, like identity, social justice, or community, through the lens of restaurants. My editing style has grown and been inspired by reading and working with world class writers like Anna Sulan Masing, Melissa Thompson or Raven Smith, and likewise, I feel honoured that journalists have felt that they could approach me to tell stories they’re incredibly passionate about.
Why do you think the combination of food and travel has such an emotional pull on us humans?
I think a lot of dishes and cuisines in the West are viewed through this prism that links them to a specific place or geography, even if those communities are generations removed. And I think with the era of affordable air travel and more recently, this idea of the travelling cook, there’s a desire to want to try things in situ. I think most of all though, experiencing a place through the lens of its food is the easiest way to understand it, because you’re literally consuming it.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I had a lot of really good meals with my dad in LA. We basically couldn’t travel abroad from when we first arrived in the UK as we had Burmese passports, and I spent childhood summers in Burnley, basically being this feral teenager, so I didn’t really grow up travelling and trying new cuisines.
LA was the first place we travelled to abroad when I was 16, and I just remember things like eating really good tacos and In-N-Out and trying Cambodian food and banh mi for the first time. Also, I remember having so many Chinese seafood dinners at a place called NYC Seafood in Monterey Park which I’m pretty sure is closed now. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the soy sauce and ginger dressing on the steamed flounder we ordered at every meal.
Anyway, I’ve definitely travelled for more big-ticket dinners since then, but that first LA trip was really instructive on eating at restaurants and experiencing lots of different things for the first time, and I’ve found the memory to be really centering.
How do you rate London’s restaurant scene versus the other capital cities of the world?
It’s very good. I think as Londoners, we tend to compare ourselves to cities like Paris and New York when it comes to eating out, and I’m not sure how helpful that is. For example, we’re chronically insecure about our lack of certain cuisines like Mexican food, which doesn’t make sense as the community here is small, and it’s an insecurity that comes through consuming content created primarily for the US market, but also in terms of a dining out culture, London still has a little catching up to do.
I’d love for us to celebrate the things we do well like regional South Asian cuisines and the establishments in neighbourhoods like East Ham or Green Lanes, in the same way we’d celebrate Borough Market. But our primary strength, I think, is the breadth and depth we can offer in terms of sheer variety, and that comes through a combination of London’s geography, wealth, and size. The level of hospitality as well, is excellent, and it’s amazing to see so many places that are prioritising the needs of their staff and investing in their teams. I see that reflected in the wonderful restaurants that we feature on Resy on a daily basis.
What food trends are you seeing at the moment that we should be dining out on?
Resy recently published a dining industry report called Future Forward: The Future of Dining Out that picks out ten trends we’re seeing a lot of lately. We commissioned some surveys and asked our data team to dive into the numbers to see what was happening in London and the UK. I’ve loved seeing the fluidity of veg-forward cooking on menus and how much it’s been embraced, and of course, I’m curious to see how migration will impact the kinds of restaurants that appear at the end of 2022 and beyond – we’re already seeing a few Hong Kong-centric cafes opening up like Hoko and The Eight.
On top of that though, right now, I would just emphasise that those of us lucky enough to still have some disposable income should just be visiting their favourite restaurants, full stop. It’s going to be a really challenging winter for the industry, more so coming off the back of an historically difficult period, and most operators will be jumping through hoops to stay open and provide amazing hospitality for Londoners. So, I’d pick three to five places you couldn’t imagine living without, and try to visit them as much as you can.
What are your three favourite restaurants in London right now? Expensive, moderate, and cheap/underrated.
Most often, if I’m having a casual dinner with friends, I’ll get a table at Ombra or Elliot’s for the food and overall experience. If I’m celebrating, I’m booking way in advance for an order-the-whole-menu deal at Singburi in Leytonstone. And the place I not-so-secretly wish I’d rather be at if I’m in central London is Cafe TPT in Chinatown.
If you can have lunch tomorrow, anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would you take?
I’d love to take my parents to Island Foods in Toronto for doubles. The Trini food there is so good.
Who's on your fantasy dinner table?
Can I also travel in time?! My fantasy dinner table would be author Ina Garten and her late husband Jeffrey, the poet Ocean Vuong, actress Michelle Yeoh, actor Simu Liu, and the entirety of BTS all around a table for a late-night dinner at Golden Century in Sydney. We’ve been hitting the drinks and Jimin is just smashing through those clams.
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