Soho Food Feast still stands out as one of my highlights of last year, so many things fell into place to make it’s success unavoidable; cheap, central and with some of the absolute best local restaurants and bars involved, the weather was balmy and it was all for charrideee to boot. I raved about it back then too.
What are the chances? But once again, the planets aligned to grant us the weather of champions. Bigger and better than the previous two years, this one boasted a whole weekend of feasting, doubling the length, and although the price of entrance far higher than previous, with just a £5 difference between a day and weekend pass, the decision was an easy one. Even more restaurants were involved with a different selection of participants on each day, meaning the Saturday and Sunday sessions were quite different beasts. The charity, Soho Parish Church, clearly has friends in high places as Sean Bean was multi spotted enjoying the fun and food.
It’s all very well and good trying to employ a strategy for this sort of event, and everyone seemed to sport a different technique, however my tendency to amble and eat, as and when I stumble upon something, waiting for cues from my stomach was clearly not the approach to adopt on this occasion. This list of restaurants involved is a lengthy one and panic set in fairly quickly for a couple of reasons; dishes were selling out FAST and how the hell was I going to eat all the food??? I was clearly going to have ignore sensibilities, over ride normal instincts and keep feeding that belly.
I was quickly able to narrow my choices down by scrubbing out fish or seafood dishes, of which there were numerous over the two days, and then the length of queues required tactical thinking; were they long because of hype or because the dish was really worth having? Finally, I always find it hard in these situations to ignore old favourites and make room to try something new; HOW I implore you to resist one the delightful miniature squishy, swishy, MEATmarket cheeseburgers or indeed a St John doughnut?! Luckily on day one the decision was taken out of my hands as both were sold out by the time I arrived.
Day one is brightened by that contrary ball of yellow in the sky that makes the English come over a bit funny, lends an edge of excitement and casts a polarised effect over photos. I head first to Koya, reasoning that anything they were offering was bound to be worth it. Luckily they have an alternative to their battered cod, and I scarf down a fabulous first dish of deep fried asparagus, tender in an ethereally light batter, with clever little crunchy udon fries and proper chip shop curry sauce; fun and genius Japanese inspired fish and chips.
I’d seen Polpo tweeting pictures of the prettiest bruschetta and to be fair they were always going to be one of my selections, I love what they do and their meatballs and asparagus last year were a hit. I head there next, always with the FEAR in the back of my mind that things I want are going to have sold out. I feed in softer than expected bread, lightly toasted and crammed with an overture of ingredients to compliment the bright sunshine; sweet broad beans and peas tumble across whipped goat’s cheese with slivers of radish and fresh mint.
Stopping off at Lina stores rewards me with a surprise free brownie, all wrapped up to take home as a treat later. It’s the pasta that I’m here for though; four ravioli pillows are dressed in the sheerest of sauces, butter and sage cling elegantly to toothsome pasta that’s just the right balance between softness and bite. The filling is as good as that heavenly combination of aubergine and scamorza can be.
For Saturday’s finale I go to Cabana, mainly based on the memory of the excellent chicken I had the previous year. It’s as good as I remembered, a good portion, juicy, saucy with some of the best, crispy sweet potato fries I’ve tried.
A friend and I waddle to The Dean Street Townhouse for a digestif as you do…
I approach Sunday and day two with a hunger that has me fearing for my expanding waist line, I’d better not get used to these long and lingering lunches. Who am I kidding, this is no lunch, this is verging on competitive eating and, sod it, I start with a burger. That burger I missed out on yesterday, neatly swerving the chain names. Ok, it’s a miniature version, but it’s still not doing much for my arteries and it’s as delicious as I’m expecting, a perfect scaled down replica.
There are two quail dishes on offer, I had intended to try both but don’t remember to go back to get the Rochelle Kitchen one, however the Dock Kitchen dish I try is a triumph of spicing; sumac, chilli and rose petals mingle to create an exoticism that enhances the rich, crispy and tender meat below.
It was the grating of fresh and pungeant black truffles that caught my eye at Mele e Pere and I thoroughly enjoyed my generous scoop of nicely stodgy, creamy risotto, dredged in parmesan and topped with that dark luxury.
I’d seen that Pizza Pilgrims were there but told myself sternly that I needed no more pizza in my life this week, it’ll simply fill me up and I definitely ate more than my share just a few nights earlier at Forzawin. Mmmmmm pizza. But I’m feeling strong. Until someone tells me they’re serving PIZZA FRITTA. All sensibilities go out the window as I join the end of the queue all a quiver at the thought of my deep fried delight.
I know some may turn their noses up at deep fried dough but WHAT DO THEY KNOW? I’ve been bemoaning the lack of this Neapolitan delicacy on our streets, I had high hope for Coppa who have a cart and lovely roof top restaurant in London Fields but they failed to have the goods when I rocked up, and I’ve been bugging my local pizza restaurant who seem to finally be cracking under my pressure….anyway, LOVE the boys for pulling this out of the bag – I see lots more pizza fritta in my future. Oh yes; puffed up, crispy exterior, molten and gooey middle, fragrant with basil and salami and doused in a lively tomato sauce. Glorious. I wash it down with a Fog Horn from The Travelling Gin Co, a particularly refreshing combination of Sipsmith gin, ginger beer and lime accessorised with a jaunty stripey straw.
Stuffed, but with tickets burning a whole in my pocket I scout the stalls for something to take back home, zoning in on the brown sugar and honey tarts from 1 Leicester Street that seem to draw comments of awe from all who’ve tried them. Spending my very last ticket on a pisco sour I join my friends for a final half hour, resting my tarts carefully in a napkin for protection.
Imagine my horror then when I look down to see one of my tarts is missing. Who could have whipped it away from under my very nose? Confused, I scrutinise my friends, peering from one to the next, trying to detect a guilty halo of crumbs. After much brow furrowing and peering around from me, a group of men sat at the table where we’re standing admit theft. Not with an apology or with remorse but with a cheeky delight that they’d gotten away with the crime. At first, quite amazed I assume they’re joking until one of them produces a discarded crust. Horror. Frankly shocked and disgusted, trust me they were more than old enough to know better, I’m left gawping like an old fish wife until one of the party feels at least guilty enough to buy me a glass of champagne as the tarts are now sold out.
Anyway – sorry about that. My singular tart was certainly worth waiting for, and possibly even worth theft…. Once I’d regained enough appetite later that evening and whilst watching the fabulous new The Returned, I savour that deep honeyed sweetness encased in a rich and crumbly case; utterly divine. Shame I had to share it…
In retrospect I don’t think I did too badly, despite forgetting entirely to go back to the lush looking goodies on the Natoora stall and simply not having room for a Galupo ice cream cone or one of the ice cream and salted caramel sandwiches. You can’t eat everything right?! It’s hard not to resort to holiday mentality and down bottles of prosecco like a loon in these situations, especially when the weather is as glorious as it was on Saturday, but I maintained an unnusual calm and saved room on both days for actual grazing supplemented by gentle sipping.
I topped and tailed the feast with coffee; first one at Daily Goods in new Kinoko Cycles on Golden Square – LOVE this place, please all go- and finishing with one in my old faithful Rapha. It does beg the question as to why there were no stalls at the event though. There’s no shortage of cafes in the area that could have participated, and an abundance of coffee carts that I’m sure would have been willing. I like an alcoholic drink as much (more) than the next person but the lack of coffee, even an iced coffee option, here was obvious and most puzzling. Maybe something that could be rectified for mark 4….
Soho food feast 2013, coffee grumbling aside was another roaring success. Where else can you graze on dishes from some of the best restaurants in town, for just £2 a pop, whilst mingling with friends old and new, in the space of two sun soaked afternoons? Not to mention the booze – £4 very generous measures of prosecco, £10 pints of cocktails, dainty pisco sours and the most lethal margheritas I’ve tasted.
If you know, tell me!