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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Learnings from London

My recent working vacation to London over the Christmas period was my chance to seek out  inspiration from restaurants and all that London has to offer in the food scene.  The two things that immediately struck me was the amount of consumer choice available and competitive pricing on groceries and food treats. This is probably driven by simple supply and demand economics and population numbers. Both of these features are integral to two particular items of food for thought (pardon the pun!)

Supper Clubs & Tasting Menus

In the wake of a recession, the secret world of supper clubs have emerged in the heart of London. Ordinary people make delicious gourmet food and serve it to the public in their home and accept donations as recompense. One or two have even got the likes of Jamie Oliver hooked.

I am not aware of the health and safety intricacies of these clubs and am sure that this would not be easily done in Canada but there is an interesting idea to take away from this and the key is in the word "donation". The concept goes a long way to introducing different dishes and choice to people at affordable prices. . While in London, people are making money from it, they are donating choice to people. What a great fundraising  or launch idea this would be for budding chefs or restaurants.

Tasting menus are huge in the London restaurant scene. Previously associated with high end restaurants, this is now becoming a popular way to draw customers in to try a range of dishes the restaurant offers and often at very reasonable prices. Trishna restaurant (sadly not quite named after me!) is offering a 5 course tasting menu with matching wine for  
£25 or C$40. This will be my final dinner out next week.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

Apart from being a great inspiration read by Susan Jeffers, this motto is exactly what I witnessed when dining out in London. Every restaurant I went to was at full capacity, the demographics varied widely and the food was always affordable but very good. First was the Wolesely for afternoon tea. From business meetings to ladies catching up, this was a very popular food option indeed! Then there was Bangalore Express, a modern Indian tapas style restaurant. Normally, if you see Indians in an Indian restaurant, it is a sure sign it is good and there were a few there (including me of course) but there were students & seniors there too. The tapas nature of this eatery meant the menu choice was huge! Finally and probably the most enlightening was Vanilla Black. A pure vegetarian restaurant recently awarded the AA 2 rosette award and Michelin nominated. Innovative use of vegetables in every dish, excellent presentation and yes, you guessed it, packed! Families, Indians, Asians, English, people in jeans, suits & dresses. I am pretty sure that the majority of people in that restaurant were not 100% vegetarian but they were there to try it or came back because they loved it before.

This experience was the epitomy of two of the quotes on the Spice Sanctuary website:

"Food is our common ground, a univeral experience" James Beard
"Food is for every person, whatever age, gender or creed"

So, don't be afraid to try something new: at worst you'll never have it again and best you've just treated your taste buds to something fabulous!

As I re-read this post to write a conclusion, I realize that the words "choice"and "affordable" recur and are the two very concepts that Spice Sanctuary offers. So I guess you can take me out of London but can't take London out of me!

p.s. how are those new year resolutions going? :)

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