Holy mackerel, I thought summer was busy but September just flew by.
Welcome, by the way, if you’re new to this little corner of the web, and hello to those who indulge me in my regular rants, ramblings and the occasional reminiscence about Scandinavian food!
Where to start? Between a wedding anniversary in Paris, an actual wedding in Dubrovnik, finishing off recipes for the book and (hurrah!) the book’s photo shoot with the fabulously talented photographer Debi Treloar, followed by seemingly endless copy-edits (not a dyslexic’s idea of fun let me tell you), darting off to Wales to take in my favourite food fest in Britain Abergavenny food festival…
*pauses for breath*
There’s hardly been a moment to surface for air, let alone update my neglected blog with some long overdue nourishment.
So instead of a recipe I thought it best to proffer a summary of what’s going on as London’s food scene is hopping at the moment. All the Tories’ talk of cuts and tightening belts doesn’t seem to have percolated through to the capital’s gastronomic giants. We’re all eating and drinking with great gusto, as evinced by London Restaurant Festival (LRF) which kicked off this week and runs til October 18th.
There’s everything from gourmet odysseys, food markets, awards and festival menus to the Big Debate on food to celebrate all that London has to offer a greedy gourmand. Longstanding favourite restaurants of mine such as L’Anima, Racine, St. John, Great Queen Street, Corrigans and Tayyabs, to mention a few, are taking part and there are some fantastic offers to be nabbed while the festival is on so do have a look at the LRF website and scoff your way through this dirty old town.
My own, admittedly miniscule, contribution to the festival is working as sous-chef to the mighty MsMarmitelover for her Pygmalion night tomorrow. To quote MsMarmite herself the menu is as follows:
“Awright me old empires, come dahn me Colonel Gadafi (cafe) for some Michael Winner (dinner) at me Mickey Mouse (house) next Saturday. Apart from having a nice rabbit (talk) and bubble (laugh) I’ve got a typical London menu for you cockneys.
I’ve been on the blower to get some Penelope Cruz (booze), a Gerry Cottle (bottle) of Vera Lynn (gin) for a Philharmonic (gin & tonic) from Sacred Spirits, an award winning micro distillers in Highgate.
For the grub I reckon….
Mini chip buttie, Marmite on toast
Got that? If you’re curious about Pygmalion night there are a few tickets left so book here and let us know you’re coming. I’ll be the dyspraxic one staggering around in red shoes, trying not to blow up MsMarmite’s AGA.
The past week’s scoff fest kicked off with the launch of the Innocent 5 for 5 pop up where I managed to inhale 4 cocktails and, er, not sample much food. Perhaps I took the 5 a Day mantra a little too seriously. Heck at least I didn’t wander off with one of the dwarf apple trees dotted around the pop-up. Nice idea the Innocent cafe, if you’re in Shoreditch pop in and sample their fare, it’s only a fiver, though I can’t promise you’ll get blitzed on cocktails. Which is probably a good thing.
Needless to say food was necessary. My man suggested we wander towards the safe realm of Hawksmoor for much-needed sustenance, ie. porterhouse steak, red wine and the best salted caramel ice cream I’ve sampled in years. This certainly rescued the evening, not to mention my liver (well the wine didn’t), and as always Hawksmoor was lively with diners chomping on steak and slurping good wine, encouraging signs during such straitened economic times. Do check out the Seven Dials branch of Hawksmoor which opens in Covent Garden on November 1st…
The following morning I made a dash for the Macmillan Coffee Morning at Wild Card where 13 lovely ladies baked up a storm with delicious cakes ranging from the winning ginger cake to malteser cake to fabulous orange muffins. As judge I had the excuse to sample EVERYTHING which meant the rest of the day was spent in a state of delirious hyperactivity.
Thankfully a bacon sandwich brought me down to earth! Lovely cakes by lovely ladies, and for a great cause too. I highly recommend doing something similar for a cause you support.
Two superlative meals at Petersham Nurseries supper club and St.John followed and embodied all that is great about eating in London. Roast fillet of beef with chanterelles and the best potato dauphinoise I’ve ever eaten was the highlight at Petersham Nurseries. Honestly, it’s worth the trek to Richmond, head chef Skye Gyngell is a woman of immense talent and you won’t be disappointed. St. John’s classic roast marrow on toast was just as good as the last time I ate it a year ago and the Eccles cake is so stupendously moreish I picked one up to bring back to my boyfriend. We’re now fighting over who gets the last bite. As if I need it, waddling around fat and happy after all this gluttony.
Hix Soho was the antithesis of those two excellent meals. If ever a restaurant epitomised style over substance and all that is wrong with the capital’s dining scene Hix tops the list of crimes against gastronomy. Slow and indifferent service coupled with a beetroot salad that was annihilated by the most putrefied cheese made for a bad start. I love stinky cheese but this stuff was bile itself. Bland, overcooked fish fingers and cold chips followed, and frankly by then I should have known better than to order the safest option on the dessert menu: mint chocolate chip ice cream. Not only was it absurdly sweet but grainy rather than smooth, meaning the custard had split and they still decided to fob it off on their clientele. Was I imagining that half the diners around us spent an inordinate amount of time in the loo, returning to their tables looking glassy-eyed and twitching their noses? Who knows, but it made for an unpleasant atmosphere.
Suffice to say the crowning moment of this infuriatingly mediocre dinner came when the cloakroom lost my umbrella. On the wettest night of the year.
So in London you win some, you lose some. I don’t expect to lose my umbrella when I go to restaurants but there’s plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to food here, Hawksmoor, Petersham Nurseries and St. John all being prime examples of the tops.
Finally as if there weren’t enough festivals to sate your gluttony, Chocolate Week is on from 11-17th October. Again, plenty of talks, events and tastings to explore all things chocolate. I’m eagerly awaiting the imminent delivery of chocolate from Chocolate By Trish which I’ll report back on next week.
On that note, before I go bake some Chelsea buns for tomorrow night’s Pygmalion menu what do you think, does London have much to offer foodwise? Where have you eaten recently that blew you away rather than left you feeling blah? I’d love to know…