Another summer and another Food Festival; aside from the Olympic screenings and ticketed attractions, there is much to tempt the tourist and local away from the Stratford end of London.

This weekend (3-5 August) we saw FEAST excite The Quad, Guys Hospital in London Bridge; over 30 stalls of ingestive galore from a variety of well known restaurateurs, made more accessible in the form of ‘Street Food’. By definition, this inspires thoughts of aromatic, speedily spooned-up dishes that you could buy on any street corner; cooked up fresh and exchanged for a minimal cost with hungry passers-by. It would seem that this branding has turned it into yet another ‘must have’ for foodies and the like.

These days, it’s more about WHERE you are EATING rather than WHAT you are WEARING.  Food is the new Fashion and its opening evening on Friday night could be compared akin to a Catwalk after party as ticket holders were privy to not just food but also entertainment, cocktails and the occasional cuisine-associated celebrity spotting.  Long wooden tables & intermittent deck chairs offered a seat, whilst tea-towels & kitchen implements acted as decoration, with live and DJ music providing noise to drown out the sound of scoffing.

Keen to gain a clear landscape view before the post-Friday workers descended to gorge and glug, I arrived early with my chef friend Dinu to stroll around and ponder on the offerings.  I spotted Gizzi Erskine who had the same idea, flitting excitedly to Jose Pizarro and various other vendors with her enthusiastic energy for their food.  I have long been an admirer of Gizzi’s cooking style and her recipes can be viewed on Channel 4’s Food site as well as her personal site http://www.gizzierskine.com.  Her ‘Cook yourself Thin’ series (partnered with her impeccable retro style) perfectly complements the fashion conscious crowd, with her endless ideas on cooking familiar dishes in a healthier, equally scrumptious way.  I can vouch for her Singapore Noodle version which offers wholesome yumminess with every chopstick-full.  After a suitably posed picture was taken, ONWARDS to eat!

My eyes did not know where to begin; perfect meringues in every colour of the rainbow, bite-size French delights ranging from adorable micro croque-monsieurs to sugar-kissed waffles and freshly shucked oysters on a bed of seaweed….. I was agog with the cuisine on offer.  Over the space of 3 hours, we chomped our way through a racing circuit of dishes, swerving through the smooth smokiness of melt-in-your-mouth salmon to the most lovingly handmade French macaroons.  So to encapsulate this dizzying experience, let me provide you with the abridged version:

First bite was captivated by the smoked salmon of Hansen & Lydersen (Norwegian owner Ole-Martin Hansen’s grandfather’s recipe with his own twist), followed closely by crispy, light Tonkatsu-coated tempura prawns from Soya and a marinated catfish with a tongue-tingling Vietnamese rice noodle salad by Banhmi11 – cocktail intermission provided by another strawberry Aperol Spritz from Background Bars staff.  Refuelled but not yet sated, we decided to conquer carne after the seafood opening, so next up were pork tacos from L.A. Sueño, immediately followed by a wet goose rillette and a lick of salted, olive oil chocolate spread on rye from the charming ladies of Le Petit Paris.  Cocktail pit-stop courtesy of the dandy boys of Hendricks Gin. Without time for breath, a vegetarian Fattoush salad offering from Morito, zooming straight over for a bresaola & rocket envelope (crispy thin piadina from La Piadina Pronta), rounded off with a sweet side step of warmed walnut & cherry brownie with a trickle of rum & cream from Original Beans. Interjection from a Ginger Monkey Mojito.  Another visit for a few slivers of ‘Hansen’ salmon (MY-oh-MY these are addictive!) followed up speedily by a tabasco-tickled oyster shot at Wright Brothers (fresh as the ocean they came from) crowned off with the softest pistachio meringue from the Meringue Girls.  A mocha macaroon could not be ignored from the precious Le Petit Paris again but whilst this clouded my mouth with pleasure, that damn Hansen and Lydersen seemed to have possessed my soul with their enchanting salmon!  It was to be my finish line.

This whistle-stop tour of cuisine was not my usual excursion dear readers, however, with such a decadent array of good food in such a setting; resistance was truly futile.  So we indulged.  Repeatedly.

This festival was a true example of how spoilt the average Londoner now is in terms of available foods on the doorstep.  Culturally London IS the world and although you must not desist from venturing abroad to sample the authentic items themselves, the possibility of attaining such delicacies is supremely possible in the Capital itself.  What could be next for us to explore or expand our horizons in terms of cuisine?  How else can we push the limits of oral excitement and cross undiscovered territories?  These questions filtered through my mind as I savoured the lasting flavours in my mouth.  At least the memory of good quality food can still be replenished at a food market in Broadway or Borough (to name a few).

For now, let’s comfort ourselves with the joy that we are in a Renaissance of food appreciation and trot along to support any number of the dedicated and passionate artisans that I had the honour of meeting and sampling (quite a few) fruits of their labour.

London, I SALUTE YOU!

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