Just a few months ago, in July, I was sat at my laptop browsing Twitter, as per usual, and I came across the chance to vote for the best restaurants and food producers in England with The Observer Food Monthly awards. I jumped at this chance and at the end I entered my own recipe, pulled pork.
Just a month ago in September I received a call to say I had won. I had won reader’s recipe. My recipe had been tried and tested by people such as Angela Hartnett, Gizzi Erskine and Jay Rayner (just to name a few!) and I had won. I couldn’t believe it. (I still can’t)
This month, just one day after I turned 24, I went to these awards, and it was amazing. And here’s why.
The awards where being held in London, so me and my boyfriend Stu, booked a one nights stay. We did all the touristy things. the London eye, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben, etc.
Oh, I could show you so much more. But it is time to get to the good bit…the food.
We walked around Covent Garden, it was excellent for freshly made food. There was a massive dish of paella being cooked in front of a big crowd, a home-made pie store and a market full of tasty dishes such as freshly cooked sausages, pasties, noodles and fresh juices. But I was tempted by the Salt Marsh lamb, which was being cooked to order. Served in a soft ciabatta roll with salad and topped with beautiful, chunky caramelized onions and a dash of mint sauce it was heaven in my mouth.
The lamb was soft and full of intense flavours, working well against the minty sauce and sweet sticky onions.
For dessert we found a cute cupcake shop called Candy Cakes, which sold bright fun cakes. I choose one with a lovely chunk of fudge on the top. It was delicious!
Next came the awards. Before we even got inside we saw Tom Kitchin (who we spoke to later on) and spotted Nigel Slater walk past.
The night was all about the food and drink, we sped through the awards, but they of course where still very important. Some of the winners include The Seahorse in Darmouth for best restaurant, Martha Payne, who won an award for her blog Never Seconds, the school dinners blog which has raised £120,000 for charity, and Raymond Blanc who received the outstanding contrubation award. All the winners can be seen here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer-food-monthly-awards
Stu sat next to Nigel Slater, Raymond Blanc was only a stone throw away and I got a hug off Gizzi Erskine and Jay Rayner, it was so surreal. And I am pleased to say that Jay Rayner pronounced my name correctly!
So, next came the food. Before the ceremony there was canapés and champagne. Afterwards came a feast like no other. My pulled pork was going around, and people like (here comes more foodie heroes spotting) Valentine Warner, Masterchef winner, Shelina Permalloo and all the winners of the night sampled it.
The food didn’t disappoint! Not that I thought it would. We started with a flat bread topped with the best pork I have ever eaten, salad, a delicious sauce, sunflower seeds and a pinch of chilli flakes. Wow, just wow. It was fantastic!
We were amazed by the Everybody Love Jhal Muri Express, which sold Jhal Muri, a puffed rice mixed with all sorts. It had a strong citrus-y flavour which ended with a big spicy kick. There were soft bits, crunchy bits and specks of coriander all served in a cone. It tasted so fresh, healthy and like nothing I have ever tasted. Wonderful stuff from a terrific guy.
To cool our mouths down the next stop was Sorbitium, which offers delicious hand made ice creams and sorbets. I went for salted caramel, which was strong in flavour, the strong salt combined with the sweetness made it taste like whisky! Stu chose lemon curd with spiced biscuits, which was so refreshing and exciting with the occasional chewy piece of biscuit throughout.
Sadly by the time we reached the last vendor, Yum Bun, there was nothing left. But the buzz around the room proved it was just as tasty as the rest.
The cocktails where also flowing. The winners cocktail, You Me @ Six, created by Pete Nielsen, was just how a cocktail should be. It was strong, bitter and had a citrus tang. This recipe can also be found on the Observer website.
The next day (sorry guys that isn’t the end of my culinary adventure) we went to one of Jamie Oliver restaurants, Jamie’s Kitchen. It was simple and trendy inside. Red chairs, white bricks walls and funky lamp shades all set the room alive.
I am not going to give a full review of the food. But the menu was full to the brim of all things Jamie. Simple dishes, with his own twist. I was tempted by the sausage papperdelle. Bits of slow braised fennel sausage mixed in a tangy tomato sauce tossed with funky shaped pasta and topped with Parmesan and crunchy herby breadcrumbs. It was those breadcrumbs that brought the dish alive. The sausage was soft and flavoursome, the pasta was cooked perfectly, but the crunchy breadcrumbs brought a new flavour and texture to the dish.
Stu chose the burger. The prime juicy British chuck and flank steak burger was the best burger he has ever tasted. Now that is a compliment. Stu has tried many burgers, from all sorts of places, and this topped them all. It was served in a seeded bun with sweet and sticky onions, tomato, pickles and chillies. Perfect.
We also ordered some of Jamie’s famous polenta chips on the side, which where unlike any chips I have ever had. The cubes of crunchy potato had a soft centre and were covered in Parmesan cheese with a touch of rosemary. They were very strong in flavour, and had the perfect texture for chips.
To end the meal we also spotted Gennaro Contaldo, the guy who taught Jamie everything he knows, and also one half of the Greedy Italians the crazy duo who cook Italian food, the traditional way.
My adventure finished at Borough Market. I have been dreaming of going there for a very long time, and it didn’t disappoint. It was huge, every corner and walkway was full of fresh seafood, home-made cheeses, colourful vegetables and meat of all kinds. I managed to pick up a pheasant, which I am very excited about cooking, and Stu got an ale to add to his collection.