If you've ever found yourself frequenting Annabel's, or anywhere cigar-related around London, chances are you would've heard of (or just heard) Syafiera Rosidi. A Master of Havana cigars and contributor to our blog, we caught up with the fascinating Syafiera—purveyor of all things flavoursome—in London's St. James's.
EGM: You’re from Liverpool originally and moved to London in 2019. What made you venture to the capital?
Syafiera Rosidi: Having fallen in love with hospitality after graduating university (with a Biomedical Science degree, of all things), I had set out to learn all aspects of the trade, including coffee, bartending, basic pastry and sauce sections in the kitchen, and the foundations of the world of wine. I had also briefly touched on cigars. Having covered the basics, I knew back in 2018 that not only was it time for me to leave the city that had been my home for 20+ years, but also to challenge myself and build upon my front-of-house knowledge. Funnily enough, I never came to London with the intention of working with cigars initially—that came about as a happy accident and being at the right place at the right time (which happened to be Sunday brunch at a high-end Mayfair bar).
EGM: Of course. So how did you actually first get into cigars?
SR: Food. Wine. Restaurants. These became the springboards to what is now my passion. From a young age I had an appreciation for all aspects of flavour, fanned by the flames of A.A. Gill’s tempestuous restaurant reviews. His writings inspired my take on flavour description and therefore, fascination of what is—and what can be—great tasting. As I explored different aspects of hospitality I connected the dots within the different disciplines of food, beverage, and restaurant service, which all enhanced my curiosity for tobacco. Why serve one dish this way and pair it with that drink? What texture is greatly enhanced by, and compliments, this particular flavour? The more knowledge I collected, the more I understood that timing was also a key flavour aspect, and so, when I took the time to taste my first real Cuban cigar properly, the Romeo y Julieta Short Churchills (floral, woody, sweet, wavering), that experience cemented my love for the exploration of cigars.
EGM: Is there a big cigar scene in Liverpool?
SR: Unfortunately not enough that I know of. Although Liverpool started my passion, I have not been around long enough to see it flourish. However, witnessing the growing cigar scene around the UK, I’m sure that it has since grown following my departure.
EGM: Let’s talk more about wine…
SR: I give credit to my love for wine to Devin Stewart, a gentleman who helped kick off the natural and biodynamic wine scene in Liverpool, back in the early 2010s. A man of few words but so much meaning behind them. “This wine happens to be funky and weird.” A quiet turn of phrase that stuck with me since 2013. Wine before had been stuffy, boring, and had fifty different descriptions of fruit. After spending time with him, wine took on a whole new meaning and actually became appealing. His main descriptor always centred around texture, hence if you ever read my past reviews, you will see his influence in my writing.
EGM: When you’re not looking after all things cigar-related at Annabel’s, where would someone typically find you?
SR: Usually occupying a bar somewhere around the city (half and half Sazerac, Pol Roger NV, Cristalino Anejo—whatever’s on the counter), smoking a cigar in any given established lounge, or, more than likely, eating at whatever restaurant that took my fancy that day. Alas, you will always be guaranteed that I will be talking someone’s ear off, one way or another.
EGM: What cigar have you been enjoying the most, recently?
SR: The one that has struck me recently has been the Trinidad La Trova LCDH. A cigar best smoked at least a year after the release date. This creamy, sweet, truffley, lengthy beast always holds my attention when lit.
EGM: If you could only smoke one cigar for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
SR: I could not possibly answer that question indefinitely. To explore flavour is to always be ever changing, and so to stay with one cigar for the rest of my life would be nigh on impossible. I could never stick with the same meal for the rest of my life, let alone the same cigar. What is life if all that existed was monotony?
EGM: You’ve been able to sample the EGM Cigars debut collection. Is there a particular cigar that stands out for you?
SR: From the 3 sizes I have tried so far, I have highly enjoyed the Robusto. Although there is presence of sweetness in all the vitolas, the Robusto seems to have an enhanced take on this particular sweetness and sharpness, with understated charm.
EGM: What’s something always worth paying for?
SR: A good pair of shoes. If you’re going to explore the world, look after your feet.
EGM: If you could recommend any book for us to read, what would it be?
SR: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I have a feeling if Hemingway and I had ever crossed paths in real life, we would get on like a house on fire. And more than likely start a fire, too.
EGM: Finally, Liverpool or London?
SR: Liverpool for home comforts and the changing pace of life; London to explore. Both have their positive aspects, they just don’t happen to be the same ones.