June 8th 2013
The Soho Food Feast has become an annual charity event in aid of Soho Parish Primary School. It’s organised by Margot Henderson and held in St. Anne’s Church yard – local chefs, restaurants and bars are invited to show their support. The event costs £15 to attend and £2 tickets are on sale for sample/tapa food dishes. Due to the success of recent years, this years festival was held on the 8th and 9th June. Last year the event raised £35,000 for the school. All the tickets this year had sold out in advance.
We got lucky with the weather, it was sunny and not so hot you’d get sunstroke. The majority of the food was under a marquee and therefore safe from the elements regardless.
My first stop was at the St. John stall, where Margot Henderson was preparing ox heart
to go into ox heart buns,
with their special pickled walnut relish and horseradish cream. Fergus Henderson was in a grand mood, drink in hand – I teased him about getting his wife to do all the work! As usual the ox heart was excellent and very tender – it needs to sliced thinly and cooked fast or it gets tough.
I was given a sample of delicious empedrat, at the Brindisa stall,
a delicious Catalan, white bean and bacalao salad. They kindly gave it to me, no ticket required,
along with a sample of Mahón cheese from Menorca –
so I had to go back for a paid tapa later on. The cheese itself is aged, which gives it a nutty, sharp, salty taste and a hard texture. As seen above, it was served with little crackers and a tomato jam (a bit like a marmalade). I was given a sample of red Portuguese Douro wine (from Trevor doing the St. John wine tastings) to wash the cheese down.
Kopapa (a New Zealand restaurant in Covent Garden) had a real flavour and texture sensation in their spicy pork, coconut, tamarind and gapi ball, coriander, mint and crispy shallots on endive. The ball was soft and porky, with a savoury hint of fish, which went perfectly alongside the crunchy shallots.
Polpo, a Venetian restaurant, produced trays of bruschetta – grilled bread topped with whipped ricotta and crispy spring vegetables.
I had a fantastic lamb kofte from Belazu.
It came on top of barley couscous and rose harissa yoghurt – it was pungent and fiery, which made my mouth tingle in a very good way.
I was given some olives from The Fresh Olive Company, while I waited for the kofte. Those dark green ones, top right are a bit special.
The Wright Brothers had beautiful displays of Jersey Oysters, which Camilla told me were excellent.
Cinnamon cooked one of my favourites today, a chilli chicken
and massala mash.
This unusual fusion of Chinese and Indian was hot, savoury and creamy all at the same time.
Fiona let me taste her excellent Dorset crab, asparagus, broad beans, chilli and mint from 10 Greek Street. They also had some salted chocolate and caramel tart, which had all gone before I got round to a second lap.
My favourite of the day, was probably the cod and asparagus tempura with udon chips, curry sauce and a splash of citrus soy sauce from Koya.
This surprising food combination was all freshly cooked, on demand and looking back on a previous year, I’ve noticed that their creative cooking and hard work impressed me before – I’ll need to visit the restaurant soon!
Ceviche were wonderfully kind to me – I’m not crazy about sweet potato (or many other sweet things), but really wanted to try their Don Ceviche of seabass ceviche in amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, limo chilli, sweet potato and red onions – minus the sweet potato. They were brilliant and gave me a a cup of what I wanted. The fish tasted fantastic and the amarillo chilli tiger’s milk had a kick like a mule – just the way I like it!
Early in the day, I’d noticed some cute buns on the Quo Vadis stall – roast beef manchets – manchet often meaning small, high quality loaf of bread that will fit in the hand. These manchets contained lovely pink roast beef, watercress, horseradish and grain mustard.
…later on, they’d run out of the small rolls, but not the ingredients. Keen to promote their terrific bread (available to buy from the restaurant) further, they sliced up some rather unusual large sandwiches.
They got no hesitation from me, I nabbed a monster sandwich, three times larger than the buns!
Things in the food tent started to quieten down as the comestibles ran out, from about 4pm.
Unlike most of my friends, I concentrated on the amazing food for several hours before having a few drinks. We had some great Margaritas at the Chipotle cocktail stand and they gave us a free canvas bag each! The best cocktail however, was the Pisco Sour from Ceviche, who were quite keen to show us their new book, which will definitely be on my Christmas wish list.
All that eating and drinking had to be paid for with a dance – you might just be able to see Margot Henderson at the back left, who out danced everyone to 80’s disco classics for an hour!
We retreated to the French House later, but as the hoard got more drunken and my legs ached, a few of us sneaked off to Blacks for a long sit down with more cheese and olives…
This looks like one fantastic food fest, MD. For that price and with that portion size, one could really go from vendor to vendor, sampling a bit of everything. It would make for a very good day. At one time our Taste of Chicago was like this. Greed eventually took over and the portion size quadrupled as the prices skyrocketed. How do you walk around and share a roasted turkey leg or full-sized piece of deep dish pizza? Most now buy one item, a beer, and split their dessert with a companion. Hardly the same experience as tasting a little something from each of this city’s foremost restaurants. The directors of our festival should come visit yours to see how these things should be done. 🙂
Thanks John! Shame your festival has gone sour, you are completely right, it’s the perfect small portions with a low price that make it brilliant. You really can try lots of the best food in London in one afternoon, without bursting or breaking the bank 😉
Oh what an enviable day for a foodlover! I have not had a chance to go to the big Sydney one in our Hyde Park but have read the menus and the ‘wow factor’ [apologies!] is far, far lower! What exciting dushes! Now, I happen to love offal but have never attempted to cook heart: so have kept on going back to that and having learned a few hints, may try myself! You speak of cocktails; I do hope a glass of dry white or red was also on offer twixt the different plates . . .
It was amazing! There’s a link above to my ox heart recipe and this one is direct from the St. John:
There was plenty of wine, beer, cider, etc. to go with cocktails – we got excited by the margaritas and pisco sours because the prices were so good. The St. John wine tasting was ridiculously cheap too, at 1 food token (£2) 😉
Thanks for the link . . . since I was brought up on black pudding/blood cakes etc, bloody marvellous 😉 ! And the heart one is actually so easy – just takes a little time to be in the marinade: niente probleme!
What an amazing feast! Wish I was there :).
Thanks Tessa, it was a spectacular day 🙂
Everything looks appetizing! I’d also like to try your ox heart recipe.
Thanks Rosemary, the main thing is to slice it very thin and cook it very fast 😉
Back in the early 70’s, when I was a débutant to Soho, I remember being introduced to the French House by a very posh friend, Dugald Rankin. He pushed open the door of the pub so I could look in and said ” Like lifting a flat stone, Roger”. I should add that I have loved the French ever since then, and hope the Henderson’s Dining Room still exists upstairs. By the way, what a wonderful food festival, and I hate sweet potato too.
Polpo were running the French dinning room for a while and most recently Elaine Chalmers of A Little of What You Fancy was doing lunches there. Currently I’m not sure what’s going on, but I was surprised to see a bar up there. I’ll have to ask Hilary what’s going on…
What an amazing event – and all in a good cause too! I wouldn’t have been able to choose what to eat from all those delicious dishes, so it was lucky you didn’t have to. One of the great things about London is the huge variety of cuisines available, or temptations. Here we have a great choice of western Mediterranean, Spanish, French, Catalan…..so who’s complaining?….. but we have to make our own kofte and hummus!
It was absolutely brilliant! They sell kofte here in supermarkets and butchers now and I remember back in the 70’s when hummus was a new and unusual food which people either loved or hated. The chickpeas came from whole food stores and people boasted about the time it took to soak them 😉
Yes, I used to make hummus in those days too!
Absolutely fantastic! So many wonderful and exciting dishes. And Pisco sours too – love them! You’ll hav eto head to Hastings in September for the Wine & Seafood Festival and meet up wth Claire from Promenade Plantings. We had an amazing day there last year but not sure if we’ll be back in time this year 😦
Thanks Tanya! The Wine & Seafood Festival sounds great and I know a couple of people down there. Meeting Promenade Claire would be good too. If you can’t come, maybe you could do a mini food festival in your village 🙂
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Fantastic food tastings for a good cause is always high on my list of things to do. Sounds great.
Thanks Karen – it was a great day out 😉
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