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Preview: Foxlow, St John St, London

foxlow-kitchen-chef

St John St is a busy street, and in a very good way. Home to St John’s restaurant (from Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver), and also wine bar & restaurant Vinoteca (across the road), with Bistro Bruno Loubet (which I have eaten at 3 times but neglected to blog, a huge oversight), and The Zetter Townhouse around the corner (one of my favourite spots for drinks and bar snacks). There are lots more and I could type all day, but my point is, that this isn’t an area that has been crying out for great new restaurants. This hasn’t stopped the Hawksmoor team from taking a stab at it, and given their pedigree (I am a fan of their Hawksmoor steakhouses and bar), I was curious as to what they planned to deliver and how. I knew that this wasn’t going to be another Hawksmoor, but I was expecting it to be quite meaty. And so it was. In a very good way.[Read more]

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Auction fever

Will she every shut up about the blaggers’ banquet? Will she?! Afraid not folks, at least not for the short term, until we’ve finished our online auction in a couple of weeks and raised lots of money for that fantastic charity Action Against Hunger, I guess we could call this Auction Against Hunger (boom boom!).

But seriously, even if this were not for charity, and you’re of a scrooge like disposition, which I am positively certain you’re not, we’ve had some fantastic donations, and lots more to come. Make your xmas shopping fun and eclectic!

Instead of buying your sister that goat again, what about a Sashimi Masterclass with 7 course tasting menu at Feng Sushi and it’s ALL for charity. It’s a gift for your conscience as well as them. A little too much? Well, I’m serious.

A kitchenaid for your other half? Did I mention it’s pear green. Afternoon tea at the Ritz for your Mum? A Selfridge’s Gordons Choice Hamper, or the delectable White Christmas Tea Collection from our favourite tea lady at the Rare Tea Company.  Did you miss the amazing Chocstar prize of a visit to your home with lots of gorgeous chocolate desserts? Well, keep an eye out, we have many more wonderful tricks up our many sleeves.

Have something you’d like to donate?? We’re still blagging, I mean accepting donations. Please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Want to donate some cash? We’ve had some requests so you can do that too. We’ve setup a page on Just Giving.

Ebay Blaggers’ Banquet Auction (bling, bling!)

Just Giving page – please donate anything, small or big, for this worthy cause. It’s just been setup so is at zero, but we have raised over £6K already. A *huge* thanks and big smile for all who’ve supported us and everyone who donated.

We’ll be blogging about everything in detail here: http://blaggersbanquet.wordpress.com/

Diner reviews, blagger reviews, donor interviews. Every little thing! Keep watching.

http://shop.ebay.co.uk/blaggersbanquet/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25
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So… how was the Blaggers’ Banquet?

And so the banquet has come and gone. A flurry of activity followed by a burst of food and drink, leaving us all feeling fragile and happy, and keen to do it again.

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As you know, I was not a diner, but a worker bee. And as a result of this, and the fact that my lovely digital SLR camera was stolen recently, I have no photos, but we did have a volunteer blogger photograper on the night (Mark of Food by Mark) and so I can share some of his.

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The lead up to the banquet was frenzied, but supported by the wonderful Sig of Scandilicious managing the kitchen (read her fantastic build up post here) and a crack team of enthusiasts managing the other aspects – Kavey on ticketing, Susie & Ailbhe on the Goodie Bags, Denise on the wines, Mathilde on the auction and Linda on the organisational aspects behind delivery and ingredients – we could only succeed. Not to undermine the work anyone did on the day, it was a superb team effort, but these guys were keeping this going and driving it in the weeks leading up to the event. More on everyone else in my next post about the night itself.

Blaggers Banquet Preparation3

I had always been confident that we could do this. I knew that it would be very hard work and at times frantic, but with a good team that were ready to pitch in, I didn’t see how we could fail. Most of us are passionate cooks, but cooking for large numbers is a whole different matter, so we needed to be organised. I don’t want anyone in the trade to think I am being cocky, I’ve worked in kitchens and front of house while in University, I know it’s not easy, but, still… I knew we could do it.

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Shortly after we had our first meeting, it was clear that large meetings were going to make this impossible to deliver. If we had more time, we could have done it in this more sociable way, but we didn’t. So I formed a team that would manage all the aspects involved  and we met when we could and liaised online.

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I don’t really talk about personal stuff here, it’s about the food but sometimes life intervenes in unexpected ways. Less than a week after that first meeting, I got a call from my mother, my Grandmother had taken ill suddenly and I knew I had to go home. The trouble was, I was in Lisbon and it was looking increasingly like I was going to miss my flight. I loved Portugal, particularly the Portugese people, but their chronoptimism is worse than mine, and I was delivered to the station, with what looked like ample time to spare, but which quickly transpired as none. The staff at the airport were unphased when I arrived frazzled at the desk. “Relax! You have loads of time.” I had 3 minutes. Maybe I should move there!

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So, back to London and then to Ireland. Things were frantic and I was trying to do too much ending in the theft of my lovely digital SLR camera after I left it behind.  Bye bye camera, and bye bye lots of pictures of the Douro. Not a good week.

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Home I went, battling Aer Arann who were confused about my flight details, and First Capital Connect, who didn’t want to run any trains ending in an expensive taxi journey to Luton. Home for a few days and back again. Lots to do: the market, real work and then the banquet.

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Finally the day of the Blaggers’ Banquet arrived. I was up and ready to go when I got a call. Things were bad at home and my Grandmother had received the last rites (a Catholic tradition for the dying). I really wasn’t sure what to do, I felt very upset and wanted to be at home, but getting home is not that easy, especially at short notice. My sister told me to wait by the phone and they would call me with an update.

With a heavy heart, knowing what was going on at home, I carried on and went to Hawksmoor. I knew that I should be at home but I couldn’t get home fast enough for it to make a difference, so I comforted myself with the fact that the banquet had only positive outcomes, raising money for a fantastic charity. The next update, very  soon after, sadly, was a very sad one, she had passed away.

So, I am just back from a sad trip to Ireland for her funeral and I am feeling very tired.  I’ll be back soon, when I have a little more energy, and I’ll regale you with banquet tales and behind the scenes gossip.

For now you can read all about it on the following blogs/sites:

So what happened at the Blaggers’ Banquet? – Matching Food & Wine with Fiona Beckett

Scandilicious: Preparing for the BlaggersBanquet and musings on

Scandilicious: Preparing in every part of the BlaggersBanquet

eat mynels: Monkfish and Beet Tartare at the BlaggersBanquet

Kavey Eats: Blaggers Banquet: The Big Night

Blaggers Banquet… the review!! | Wahaca

The Princess and the Recipe: Blaggers Banquet – prep talk

cowfish » The BlaggersBanquet – The Day Itself

Quinta Lagoalva and the Blaggers Banquet « The Winesleuth

Can be bribed with food: Volunteering at The BlaggersBanquet

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All photography by Mark N – www.foodbymark.com

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Blaggers’ Banquet: almost there!


So… it’s two days to D Day or should that be B Day? Are we all blagged out? Certainly not!

Things are shaping up really nicely. Hawksmoor have been fantastically supportive, how very brave of them to let us run a restaurant there! Hats off. We have great food, details of which I will not reveal here, but suffice to say that there are lovely aperitifs and canapes on arrival at 5.30pm with live music, and 4 further courses, crafted with our fair hands, using fantastic donated produce and all drinks are included. The drinks are superb, we have lovely wines and artisan beers & spirits, many of which are boutique items, at the very least they have fine credentials and taste wonderful. We’ll be making cocktails, we’re extremely fussy about these ones, so expect good things. There’s an excellent goodie bag for everyone at the end, a raffle and an auction of superb food and drink experiences and other much sought after items, alot of which have been crafted especially for the event.

The auction should be excellent. Fancy tea cocktails at Hix Soho with the Rare Tea Lady? There’s lots more! A years worth of burritos at Chilango worth £2,400, a 1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish, a Mexican cookery class with Thomasina Miers of Masterchef fame and Wahaca, 2 nights at a bijou top floor apartment with terraces in the heart of Barcelona’s old city and 7-course Essència tasting lunch menu at the one-star Cinc Sentits donated by Citywire Holdings. And on and on. The generosity has been staggering. There’s hope for the human race yet!

Curious? We’ve just released the final batch of tickets. All single tickets, and £75 all in. Bargain, I say! All proceeds go to Action Against Hunger. It’s worthwhile AND you get to eat and drink your body weight should you choose to do so. It should also be lots of fun and a very sociable affair. Don’t forget the best bit, you can review us after on a Blaggers’ Banquet blog. We promise to publish eveything.

I’ve also written a Word of Mouth piece about the Blaggers’ Banquet, have a look: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2009/nov/13/bloggers-blaggers-freebies

Tickets available on ebay: http://good.ly/clxes

Hope to see some of you on Sunday!

1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish
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Blaggers’ Banquet – Update

Blaggers' Banquet

Well, the blaggers’ banquet is all systems go and we’re blagging like k-razy. We’ve had an amazing and very supportive response from producers, restaurants, chefs, wineries, breweries… it’s been really inspiring. Everyone’s really pulled together and gotten things done. Wonderful.

We had our first meeting at the new Draft House on Northcote Rd, who donated the whole bar for the evening which was wonderful. This helped galvanise everyone and get things moving bringing us nicely to where we are now. We had a great evening drinking Murphy’s of Cork on draught and blackberry whiskey with some fantastic bar food – I’ll be back for sure.

We’ve have some fantastic donations since, both for the meal and for the night itself. We’re not going to spoil it by revealing anything for the meal or everything from the auction, but here’s a taster of some of auction items. The auction will run partially on the night and for a month after the banquet online, so, even if you’re not in London or not at Hawksmoor on the night, you can participate.

Autographed cookbooks from Fergus Henderson at St John’s – these are definitely unique and I expect a battle for them!

A year’s supply of Chilango vouchers (£2,400 value).

A Mexican cookery class from Thomasina Miers: author, intrepid tv chef, winner of Masterchef, and of Wahaca in London. The course is being run exclusively for the Blaggers’ Banquet auction. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn authentic Mexican Cuisine in London.

A Kitchenaid worth £369 for all you passionate cooks.

A cookery lesson at La Cucina Caldesi followed by lunch + a signed copy of Katie Celdesi’s new book.

White Christmas Tea collection from the fabulous Rare Tea Company including 2 lovely white teas and a teapot and tea cocktails at Hix Soho with the Tea Lady.

Tasting menus from L’Anima, Racine, Maze, Theo Randall, Tom Aikens & Launceston Place.

1 hour cooking lesson in the Konstam kitchen, a seasonal dish from start to finish.

A lovely Gordon’s Choice Hamper from Selfridge’s worth £130.

There’s lots more, all of which we will write about soon. Thanks to all of the blaggers who are doing *sterling* work and to all those who donated. We really appreciate it all of the support, as do Action Against Hunger.

So, we still need more auction items and items for goodie bags, indeed we need the bags themselves! Drop me an email at niamheen@gmail.com if you have something you would like to donate. We would love to hear from you.

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The Blaggers’ Banquet – Details at Last!

It’s time to reveal the details surrounding the Action Against Hunger Bloggers’ Fundraiser. On November 15th, we will be taking over Hawksmoor, the revered steakhouse in Liverpool St, for the blaggers’ banquet. This will be an exciting dinner created entirely by bloggers and using only food that they have blagged and that they themselves will cook and serve.

There will also be a blaggers’ auction, where we will be auctioning exciting items we’ve blagged. This auction will be two fold, a portion of it on the night, and the rest in the weeks following. Further details relating to the auction will be announced as they become available.

We’ve got just over three weeks to pull all of this off but we do love a challenge. All proceeds go to Action Against Hunger too, a great cause (more on them here).

PRODUCERS: Want to donate some produce? Food, drink, items for the auction? It might be a good way to get your products seen by thousands of blog followers and sampled by the lucky few who get tickets for the banquet. Please get in touch – email blaggersbanquet@gmail.com. We want to hear from you.

BLOGGERS: We’ve had a lot of blogger volunteers, but we could always do with more! We will need people in the kitchen, people front of house and blaggers. If you are interested in getting involvedven’t been in touch already, please email me at blaggersbanquet@gmail.com. Those that have been in touch, I’ll be emailing asap.

AUCTION: We need lots of stuff for auction. Whatever you’ve got. Equipment, food, wine, trips, posh dinners. Whatever you’ve got, seriously! There will be an auction on the night and an online auction. Email blaggersbanquet@gmail.com.

Thanks to Amy who designed our fab logo for free in her own time, and at extremely short notice. Much appreciated!

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Hawksmoor – The Burger

The Hawksmoor Burger

The Hawksmoor Burger

The Hawksmoor Burger. Everyone loves it. Often touted as the best burger in London by the food bloggerati, I had to try it. Fast forward to a Friday lunchtime and a decadent solo lunch.

Not everyone loves solo lunches, but I do. Every now and then, there’s nothing nicer than being very nice to yourself, allowing yourself some quiet time. You, a nice meal and a glass of nice wine in nice surroundings. Enter a book that’s grabbed your attention, and for me, that’s a perfect couple of hours. Of course, I also love more gregarious ones, they’re the most fun of all, but life’s about balance and contrast and to appreciate one you need the other.

Hawksmoor at lunchtime on Fridays is busy. Very busy. Lots of people, lots of chat, lots of steak on the tables and lots of people drinking wine. I like it. I seat myself at the bar and on the barman’s recommendation (I told him I would be ordering the burger and would like a red wine with body but also some fruit), ordered a glass of Main Divide Pinot Noir, 2007 from Pegasus Bay in New Zealand. I love NZ Pinot Noirs, and yet this one takes me by surprise, it’s really fruity yet has lots of structure. It feels like a delicious and naughty interlude while I wait for my burger. It’s only 1pm after all.

The Hawksmoor burger is at the high end of the London burger market at £15, but then Hawksmoor is no ordinary steakhouse. They carefully source their product, after much research settling on the Ginger Pig Longhorn cattle. They serve, in their words, dictionary- thick steaks from North Yorkshire dry aged for at least 35 days. Their philosophy is simple, they source high quality steak and do very little to it, simply searing it on a blisteringly hot charcoal grill, and delivering it with a gorgeous char ready to be devoured. I loved it when I was there last time and the burger now awaited me.

It was time – the burger arrived. I put down my wine glass and my book and surveyed this delicious looking creature. Delivered with triple cooked chips, pioneered by Heston Blumenthal and now replicated elsewhere, the burger glistens from beneath a seeded brioche, smelling intensely meaty and covered with a thin coating of Ogleshield Cheese from Somerset with a little salad. Just a little.

Burgers are to be eaten with your hands, and even though this is a big one, this is what I did. It’s a burger! Eat it the way it should be eaten. The flavour was so rich and gorgeous, full of umami. I felt like, in the best possible way, I was licking a roasting tray having slow roasted some meat over night. It was gorgeous, intense, moist and fatty. People complain about fat, but that’s where the flavour is, a good burger needs it. The chips were good, but I really didn’t care about them now, I wanted only the burger. The wine was a lovely accompaniment, I was only sad that I could only have one glass. It is lunchtime and I must have some standards. Occasionally.

Why is the burger so special? Like most deceptively simple things, it’s the attention to detail that delivers something that stands out. Consisting of of 100% Longhorn, it includes old fashioned cuts like Clod and Sticking and small nuggets of bone marrow. Ah bone marrow, now I understand the intensity.

So, hats off to Hawksmoor for delivering the finest burger that I have tasted in London. I look forward to trying it again, with a delicious glass of that lovely Pinot Noir.