In order to get an early start at the show we arrived in London on Friday night and dined at the Bel Canto restaurant on the North side of Hyde Park. Staffed by classically trained singers, the restaurant offers good, french food accompanied by impromptu scenes from popular operas. We had a very entertaining evening before settling down at The St. Paul’s – a pleasant boutique hotel just a few minutes walk from Olympia – to complete a promising start to a much anticipated weekend.
We arrived at the show early, fortified by a good breakfast at the Hand and Flower pub just across the road from the venue (Eggs Royale for Ian; Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon on a Bagel for Angela). Our VIP tickets gave us access to a pleasant lounge, complimentary refreshments and dedicated toilet facilities and we both thought it was well worth the additional expense.
The show boasted a wide variety of products including kitchen equipment, food, wine and spirits. There were many demonstrations, interviews and formal presentation to attend during the day. Our VIP ticket included an early, live-cooking demonstration – Oeuf brouillés Alexandra presented by Michel Roux, given in a more relaxed and humorous style than we normally see on TV. So we set off in good spirits to explore the products on offer.
And ‘good spirits’ turned out to be an apposite description of our first show ‘takeaway’. Sampling a number of whiskies from the Glengoyne, we found the familiar light subtle characters in the12 and 15 year olds, getting gradually richer with age. Then came the ‘no age statement’ Cask Strength edition – and what a revelation! It was rich, spicy and complex, more in the character of a Glenrothes than a Glengoyne. Our first hit of the day.
By the nature of the event, the products that were most accessible to taste were either ‘finger food’ – such as cheeses, chutneys, biscuits and spreads – or drinks. We did see some very impressive demonstrations of ‘no oil’ non-stick cooking. But we would hesitate to draw attention to a product like this having no idea of its durability in practice.
Of the chutneys and spreads that caught our interest, the product that stood out from the crowd was Cyrus Todiwala’s range of chutneys. The range of flavours comprises Beetroot, Date and Tamarind, Minted Mango and Ginger, Tomato and Garlic, Apple and Mango. We particularly liked the Date and Tamarind and the Minted Mango and Ginger – so much so that we bought a jar of the Minted Mango and Ginger. It is particularly good mixed with olive oil to produce a fresh and tasty salad dressing. Our second hit of the day.
In the afternoon we attended the IWSC world of wine event where a number of interesting producers and industry figures made presentations. We particularly enjoyed the IWSC president elect and CEO of Australian Vintage, Neil Mcguigan. Standing on a table with an outstretched wine glass he bellowed, somewhat disingenuously, ‘We don’t put any alcohol in our wines so you can drink as much as you like!’. You can see Neil McGuigan crafting a wine with John Torode here.
But the wine that really caught our imagination was the Waipara West Pinot Noir. After a day of sampling wines and spirits perhaps our palates were not in ‘tip top’ condition, but on the day we really enjoyed this cherry scented pinot with a lovely depth on the palate. These Kiwi winemakers seem to get much richer flavours from the Pinot Noir grape than their French cousins. Our third hit of the day.
Then, quite unexpectedly, the product that stole the show for both of us was a gin. Even more so as the hall seemed to have any number of newbie, ‘me too’ gins and it would have been easy to tar them all with the same brush.
By chance we stopped at the stand for Warner Edwards and following a quick chat with Tom Warner we decided to attend his private talk in the VIP lounge. What an entertaining and interesting fellow! He admitted straight up that he and his business partner Sion were beer-swilling, rugby fans, and neither had a particular interest in gin (‘We used to drink beer, but we drink Martinis now… because we have to’).
Tom and Sion’s main goal was to get out of the high pressure produce industry and their first thought was to produce essential oils. This needed a still… Alcohol sprung to mind. At first they tried distilling Vodka but the product was not a success.
And so via a circuitous route they became gin distillers. A route, you may think, that would not bode well for the quality of the product. But from this point on they took a fastidious interest in quality, importing a specially made copper still from Germany and taking great care to ensure that all ingredients and processes were of the highest quality possible. The result? A silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition on their first attempt; followed by a double gold a year later. Angela particularly liked the Rhubarb and Elderflower gins. Ian, as usual, preferred a Martini. And this gin being subtle, smooth and flavourful is beautifully suited to making Martinis. So there you have our final hit of the Good Food Show – Warner Edwards gin – and you can see Ian’s recipe for the perfect Dry Martini cocktail here.