20 June, 2009
what to do tomorrow?
I'm catching you just in time to tell you to hotfoot it to the Taste of London tomorrow, because I promise you it will be one of the most enjoyable afternoons you can spend in London, especially if the weather is decent, which I believe it is meant to be. Of course, I must be honest and confess that you won't be able to have quite as much fun as I did, because my friend Charlie was available only to me, yesterday, and his banter, wit and general English gentlemanly charm added that indefinable something to the day. But more on that later. Right now, you just need to book your ticket for the last day, Sunday. Let me tell you why.
My God, we ate. As in years past when I have gone to this event, I've felt completely exhilarated by the sheer variety and virtuosity of the cheffiest food you can imagine. Here's the concept: you buy your ticket just to get you in, and then you spend more money on little tickets called "crowns," which enable you to buy little tiny dishes (usually not more than three or four bites, which means you can share, but not with Charlie) from THE top restaurants in London. So you get a little "taste" of a dish that might set you back 30 pounds at the restaurant, and would probably be a lot more than you wanted to eat, for just about 3 pounds or so.
Charlie and I tucked into many, many dishes, sharing nearly all of them, which was quite perfect, because it doubles the different bits and pieces you can enjoy. I had, all to myself because it was tiny, dressed crab with toast at Launceston Place, home of the adorable young chef Tristan Welch, then it was onto completely delightful and inventive sushi rolls - would you believe FOIE GRAS and sweet soy - from Dinings. Then we returned to my favorite of last year's festival, the T&T sushi roll, truffle and tuna, from Sumosan, as good as I remembered. Fusion food can be brilliant when it's not tormented or random, and somehow truffle and sushi work perfectly together, the slimmest, most delicate of seaweed completing the perfection.
Then we enjoyed a dish from Nahm (the first Thai restaurant in Europe to earn a Michelin star, in case you care) , and while I cannot remember the name of the dish, it was white crab with citrus, peanuts, shredded coconut and ginger in a betel leaf, very inventive and fresh. At Tom's Kitchen, we shared an impossibly creamy and luxurious chicken parfait with grape chutney and brioche, Charlie had Daylesford Organic seven-hour braised shoulder of lamb with mash and caramelized red onions. Finally, last treat was at Le Pont de la Tour, seared Scottish salmon with fennel salad and grapefruit juice. Everything (and there were hundreds more tastes we left behind) such a pleasure.
Here's Charlie in a nut (and I use that term precisely!) shell. As we were leaving, we bought a couple of jute bags from a nice Taste employee at the gate. As we exchanged bags for money, she asked if we'd had a nice time. Yes, very much so, we assured her. But, Charlie said, "The only disappointment was that we did not see more celebrity chefs. That's always fun." "Oh, there've been loads of them here, though," she said earnestly, definitely wanting to please. "I saw Richard Corrigan today in the BA VIP tent, and of course Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall has been demonstrating." Charlie didn't skip a beat. "How about that hot new television chef, Kristen Frederickson? Have you seen her?" "Oh, yes, indeed, she was here yesterday!" the lady enthused, grinning from ear to ear. Oh dear! Charlie, Charlie. We chortled over that all the way to the tube station.
Right, before I close, I'll tell you what to do with the rest of your day after you've feasted at Taste. Go straight to Trafalgar Square and see the BP Portrait Award show at the National Gallery. The image I've included here is the first prize winner. It's a stunning show of perhaps 100 portraits, chosen from the 1900 submissions the museum received. Some are rather abstract, some quite photographic in their realism, but all are interesting. And it's culture for you, isn't it? I went with my friend Jo last week, still in the throes of suffering over the burglary here, and it was a soothing balm to the soul, to be in the presence of so much artistic effort and loveliness.
And while you're there, check out the exhibition called "Fabiola." If you're anything like me, sheer whimsey and personal eccentricity is cheering, and wait till you see this installation. Apparently in the 5th century there was a saint called Fabiola, the patron saint of abused women, and a 19th century portrait of her became iconic: THE representation of this esteemed lady. So iconic, in fact, that a sort of cult of copying the portrait grew up all over Europe. And now, an artist has gathered over 300 of these copies and brought them all together for this show. Two rooms FILLED floor to ceiling with copies of the same portrait. Some in oil on canvas or board, some pastel, some embroidered, if you can imagine it, and some in glass. Plus a case full of cameos and ceramic boxes, and even a hat pin: all bearing the enigmatic profile of... Fabiola. Fabulous.
More soon on foodie things, because I brought home a lovely thing from Taste in the form of cured halibut. Charlie and I succumbed to a sample that was cured in wasabi and ginger, sort of like the concept of salmon cured with salt and dill. So refreshing and light! So I'll make a sort of salad of it tonight and let you know. And you can tell me how much you loved Taste. Go, there's JUST time.