Wednesday, 12 September 2007
London Food Festival
On Sunday Cowie and I visited the London Food Festival on behalf of Trusted Places. Walid sent me off with an open brief and a free ticket. It gave me a chance to eat some free food and Cowie a chance to play around with her new and amazing camera...
We got a feel for the scope of the event by checking out their website in advance. Having been to Taste of London in Regent's Park earlier in the summer were a bit underwhelmed by the line up of chefs and exhibitors. The fact that the website was still advertising for more exhibitors wasn't the best sign either.
I don't want this to be negative because it is the event's first year. They have chosen a great and really accessible venue in the London Business Design Centre in Angel. It's huge and is frequently home to some very prestigious events. It's a great space for an event, so long as you fill the room and have plenty of visitors.
We arrived on Sunday morning eager to get stuck in. My immediate concern was that my pre ordered ticket was 15% more expensive than buying one on the day. This is probably a teathing problem and down to the quirks of online ticketing. Still, this was a bit of a luke warm start.
So far, our expectations were fairly low.
A brass band greeted us as we entered the exhibition space. Spurred on by this we spent the next couple of hours exploring the 40 or so exhibitors. Initially the atmosphere was a bit flat due to the lack of visitors. But in a way that is what made this event work. Whereas at the Good Food Show in Earl's Court there was a constant threat of being crushed, at the London Food Festival you had the space to move freely and the chance to have lengthly conversations with the people on the stands. I remember leaving Earl's Court with bruises and a sullied view of the world. It was too successful for its own good. This show on the other hand allowed you the intimacy of a Farmers' Market but on the scale of something much larger.
Exhibitors ranged from well know brands such as Tanqueray gin, Brown Brothers and Rachel's Organic to smaller scale, more personal enterprises such as Diablo toasty makers and Royal Berkshire Pork. Most of the stalls were companies I had never heard of. Very few of the big foodie brands had turned up which seemed bad to begin with but actually turned out for the best. It gave me a chance to talk to some really passionate people who love food.
Peter Green is from the South Coast and loves tea. He and his wife visited somewhere on the continent last year and were amazed by the quality of speciality teas on offer. Inspired by this they brought the concept over to England and set up their own speciality tea company 6 months ago. By the look on Peter's face he was enjoying every moment of being a tea merchant. His philosophy is simple. He wants people to experiment with tea and try new things. He aims to do this by using clear packaging which shows off the beauty of the tea leaves inside. So often with other tea companies the leaves are hidden by opaque packaging. Not so with Cha Dao. It's all on show. He is passionate about the art of tea with style. I walked away from Peter's stand understanding what this show was all about. It's a great platform for emerging foodie companies to get themselves on the foodie map.
We then met a man demonstating Diablo toastie makers. I'm all for gadgets, but am conscious that they often go unused so was a bit sceptical when watching the demonstartion you can see below. But it was brilliant and looks so cool. It's great when products are simple, functional and have a personality too. This little gadget is clean, efficient, fun and makes great toasties. You can get them on I want one of those.
We then spent the next half and hour talking to the two charming chaps on the Berghoff cookware stand. They were demonstrating their range of non stick saucepans in such an engaging way that Cowie bought an entire range of non stick pans. They looked fantastic. The ultimate non stick heavy duty pans. Currently they aren't well know in the UK. They mainly produce white label products that are rebranded by Siemens and Bosch. Good value and heavy duty. But above all, they guys showed the art of good salesmanship. Cowie bought me a new frying pan which I am currently knocking in! Cowie simply couldn't cope with the twisty removeable handle which could cause a few problems!
I was completely duped by the charming Indian stand serving very tasty chicken curries that are about to launch on the UK market. Succulent chicken turned out to my shock to be soya! But it tasted fine and I can imagine them doing very well indeed.
We briefly watched the demonstration by Ready Steady Cook's James Tanner but lost interest through a combination of not being able to see because of the camera pointing at the wrong thing and a lack of excitement for what he was cooking. We saw Ramsay at the Good Food Show along with Greg Wallace so I couldn't help but judge them in this bracket. Maybe next year there will be some more interesting demonstrations.
By this point we were starving. So we had a spot of lunch on the balcony. We loved the look of the quiche and palma ham on offer which was lucky because that was the only option! Unfortunately they ran out of palma ham and the quiche despite looking fantastic was really dull. It's a bit of a shame that a food festival can't sort out decent catering. On the other hand they did sell Belu water and they do have Dyson Air Blades in the loos. Giles Coren from the Times would love it!
We finished our lunch and decided against doing a wine tasting given the delicate nature we found ourselves in from the night before. The speaker looked energetic, but it all looked a bit forced from a distance.
Once we understood what this show was all about we loved it. Don't expect big glitzy foodie brands and top of the range celebrity chefs. The London Food Festival is all about up and coming producers and small companies reaching hardcore foodies. It's a great chance to have a personal chat with them and you get a realy feel for their passion. We're looking forward to seeing how this evolves next year and will be back for year 2.