Compiled by MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBY
The couple that reviews together. . .
This is Jason Atherton and team, cooking a truffle-inspired banquet at the home of London couple David and Nicole Williams, perhaps the city’s most influential restaurant reviewers drawn from the blogging community. Writing online as thecriticalcouple.com, the pair have covered just about every Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK, as well as further afield, and are always among the first in the door of notable new openings.
They snagged Atherton to cook at this private dinner while he was in the throes of setting up his new restaurant, Pollen Street Social, which opened this week, and which took 5,000 reservations on the day booking opened. The experience was such as success that the well-connected pair have lined up several other high-profile chefs to cook for them, and some of their readers. “This is an opportunity to see top chefs deliver their own dream menu,” they say, and they are inviting readers of their blog and Twitter feed to join them; details on their website. If you’re thinking of booking a big-ticket restaurant in London, give the website a glance before picking up the phone. They are no-holds barred, forensic reviews, and worth consulting.
Former Voguemagazine colleagues Daisy Garnett and Francesca Martin run this listings website that has the inside track on everything hip, happening, and just downright cool in London. Of course there are lots of cultural, musical and artistic references, but the girls also love to eat, so they have the lowdown on the city’s best restaurants and bars – and they know a bargain when they eat one, such as the well-kept secret that you can eat lunch for £5 (two courses) or £7 (three) at the bookshop and recipe kitchen Books for Cooks in Notting Hill. It’s all in the best possible taste, as you’d imagine.
Welcome to the Underground
This could be the book that makes me throw Nigella’s How To Eatout of my desert island haversack. Kerstin Rodgers, better known as MsMarmiteLover, is a former rock photographer and creator of one of London’s first and possibly best known supper clubs, the Underground Restaurant. Rodgers has cooked at anarchist cafes, music festivals and anti-G8 camps. Now the mother of a teenage daughter – and an Aga-owner, for goodness sake – she’s still a bit of a rebel and hasn’t cast aside her activist tendencies.
Supper Club(Collins/£25) is her first book, and a pure joy to read as well being a thing of beauty. MsMarmiteLover doesn’t eat meat, but her recipes are so interesting you’ll not notice (in any case there is a chapter with meat recipes contributed by cooks and professional chefs from other supper clubs). “I couldn’t tell you if they are any good, I haven’t tasted them. But the testers told me they were delicious,” she says.
MsMarmiteLover likes to arrange her supper club menus around a theme – there have been midnight feasts, where all the food was black; the Harry Notter menu that got executives from Warner Bros up in arms; a menu created around dishes mentioned in films; a floral dinner to coincide with Chelsea Flower Show; and a recent feast with chocolate in every course.
So she’s creative, but also widely travelled and has soaked up food experiences and techniques from every corner of the globe. That’s why this book will tempt even the cook-book lover who has sworn off buying any more; it’s exciting, fresh, and extremely well written. But watch out, before you know it MsMarmiteLover’s advice on how to set up your own supper club will have you rolling back carpets, putting the sofa in the bedroom and opening for business.
Billingsgate Fish Market, an east London landmark in the shadow of Canary Wharf, is home to the Billingsgate Seafood Training School, as well as being the UK’s largest inland fish market. There are practical kitchens and demonstration areas; there’s even a dedicated knife skills room that can accommodate up to 16 blade-wielding students. And, of course, there are regular forays into the market, where more than 120 types of fish and shellfish are sold. Classes range from parent and child mornings – great to get picky kids eating more fish – to advanced sushi masterclasses with Silla Bjerrum of the Feng Sushi restaurants. The full programme is at seafoodtraining.org