Looking back to December 2011, specifically the 2nd, my husband and I went to the ‘Taste of Christmas’ at the ExCel Centre in London. It was an foodie exhibition with stands for food producers, as well as demonstrations by celebrity chefs. Since I watch nothing else much these days other than cookery programmes, and two of my favourite UK TV chefs are Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who were both going to be appearing at the show, I needed to go! We had a great day with very close to the front seats for both Jamie and Hugh’s demonstrations, and we even got to meet Hugh at his book signing afterward. The stars of the show for me were Jamie and Hugh, but we also sat and watched Gary Rhodes.
Here’s Jamie Oliver. He made a couple of Christmas dishes. He showed how to roast a goose, and then use the leftovers to make a very tasty sounding (and smelling!) salad.
Hugh, following the showing of his ‘River Cottage Veg’ series, made vegetarian dishes. One of them being creamed kale crostini, which my husband and I (and those sitting around us) got a taste of, owing to me answering Hugh’s question correctly *sunshine* and the food being passed to us first. I then made this appetizer at home and blogged about it.
One book purchase and wait in line later, I met Hugh, had a quick chat, photo and autograph and hubby and I went on our merry way around the exhibition.
And Gary Rhodes…I am sure we watched him make a bread and butter pudding
Now, getting back to the reason for this post…the review of Jamie’s Big Feastival Pop Up Restaurant. In the centre of the exhibition hall was a ‘pop up’ restaurant, with long tables and benches with service by Jamie’s students from Fifteen. (If I remember correctly)
We decided to treat ourselves to a meal here, not that Jamie was cooking, but his students were so that was close enough for me!
I did take a photo of the menu, it isn’t the best, but I’ll leave it here…
We made our booking for later in the day, received a free Jamie cookbook each (one which I already had…) and paid our bill in advance. It was £55 per head for a 2 course meal with half a bottle of wine each. Quite pricey for what we got in my opinion, but with a big name like Jamie’s attached, I wasn’t shocked.
Whilst waiting for our time slot, hubs and I wandered through the exhibition. I took several photographs, which I’ll put in another post showcasing the goodies we saw on display. So stay tuned for that!
We then went in and was treated to a cup of mulled wine. I’m not a big fan of this drink – don’t like red wine at the best of times, never mind warmed up! But it was quite nice and I didn’t have much trouble knocking it back! Whilst waiting I took a couple of photos of the kitchen area, and saw our starters being plated up.
We were led to our lo-o-o-o-o-ng table, and were sat right on the end. Laid with burlap cloth under blue checked table cloths, silver buckets with cutlery, plain white plates, little pots of sea salt and cracked black pepper, and randomly, cans of tomatoes. The feel was casual and relaxed. (As it could be in a huge exhibition hall with hustle and bustle all around and glaring strip lights!)
There were also bottles of water and our choice of wine – red or white – we went for the white, an Australian Chardonnay. I have no clue about wine, so if it was good or bad, I couldn’t tell you!
As I said, we were sat on long tables, with benches either side, in groups of four to share the starter, which was antipasti . I know Jamie is big into sharing platters, but it was a bit odd to be sharing food with strangers! But you have to roll with the punches!
When the waiting staff brought out long wooden boards laden with delicious meats, cheese and olives, we discovered what the random cans of tomatoes were for…to raise the board up off the table!
The platters contained San Daniele prosciutto, pistachio mortadella, Tuscan fennel salami, schiacciata piccante, vegetables – grilled, chilled and marinated in blasamic and herbs.
In the bowl to left are black Gaeta olives, mammoth green olives, pickled curly chillies and caperberries.
In the dish to the right of the board are bocconicini with chilli, mint and olive oil.
It didn’t stop there, we also had pecorino slices on crackers with a chilli jam.
A crunchy root vegetable salad with zesty Amalfi lemon and mint.
A.M.A.Z.I.N.G smoky mozzarella and porcini mushroom arancini. Just looking at the photo is making my mouth water, remembering how delicious these little bites were! We also had some equally delicious squid with lime and chilli (I don’t seem to have a photo of that)
There was also a selection of breads.
We helped ourselves to all the tasty treats in front of us, here is my plate piled high! It was a long time ago now that we had this meal, but wow, I remember it being delicious! You can just see the squid I mentioned at the bottom of this photo. My husband isn’t overly keen on squid, so I got his portion :D As I’m typing this up, hubby has just walked in the door from work, saw what I was blogging about and the first thing he said was “yum, that was good food”. So, definitely a memorable meal!
For the main course, there was a meat option (lamb) or a vegetarian option (baked spinach and ricotta cannelloni). We both went for the meat choice, which was roasted shoulder of lamb, served with potato dauphinoise and tray baked seasonal vegetables.
The portion of lamb was on the small side, but it was soft and cooked to perfection. The potatoes were yummy, you can see them on the left, just under the meat, and the root vegetables which included parsnips and carrots, and I think celeriac were nicely cooked and everything complemented everything well. The best part was the gravy – delicious!
When we finished, the waiting staff came over and offered desserts – at a few pounds per dessert – chocolate brownie and another cake I think…people were muttering around us how, for that price, dessert should have been included. By now, we were quite stuffed, so passed up on dessert, but bought some to take home with us.
Whilst an expensive meal, it was all very well presented, thought out and, most importantly, delicious. I don’t know how this will compare with other Jamie Oliver restaurants, but when we get a chance to visit one, I’ll be sure to let you know!