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London’s mushrooming food scene is “intoxicatingly vibrant”

The intricate food at The Ledbury earned it a place in the world's top 10 restaurants
The intricate food at The Ledbury earned it a place in the world's top 10 restaurants

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
10:27 AM

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Try out a butchery course in Bermondsey. Pic by Edible Experiences.Try out a butchery course in Bermondsey. Pic by Edible Experiences.

For the first time, two London eateries have been named in the world’s top 10.

The World’s Best Restaurant Awards placed Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at number five, climbing two places from last year, and The Ledbury, headed by chef Brett Graham, rose three places to number 10.

William Drew, group editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, said: “The appetite for reaching new gastronomic heights continues to grow and grow and we are honoured to play a small part in that process. It’s fantastic to witness the strength and breadth of talent that exists across all corners of the globe.”

The commendations cement London as a foodie haven. But it’s not just the high-end cuisine which makes this city among the best globally.

London is bursting with fantastic neighbourhood restaurants, pop-ups, markets, supper clubs, rooftop pizza hangouts, tasting masterclasses, cupcake-making courses…the list goes on.

So why is London enjoying such a revival?

Wen Li Soh founded the website Edible Experiences, which connects Londoners with all the best foodie events in the capital.

He says London’s food scene is “intoxicatingly vibrant and increasingly accessible at the moment”.

“There’s a mushrooming of underground supper-clubs and pop-ups, fiesty street food markets, as well as restaurants with great, sometimes very intricate, food, but with a relaxed laidback vibe.

“You can now eat very well at many price brackets in London, starting with a £5 street food lunch made with great ingredients and lots of care, which really wasn’t available even just 10 years ago.”

Two aspects fascinate him the most – the rise of previously unfamiliar international cuisines such as Mauritian, Filipino and Korean, and increasing pride in well-husbanded UK produce.

“It’s absolute magic when it comes together,” he says. “For example, a Korean pop-up that makes kimchi with British cabbage and bulgogi with local beef. I’d be absolutely delighted if more chefs take that approach.”

Wen attributes the revival to two big trends combining.

He says: “Food continues to dominate our imagination. It’s in the mainstream media with its constellation of food celebrities, but also via grassroots-level social media where even if you are a young chef starting out with a supper club or a street stall, you can use Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to build a following at next to no cost.

“In between big TV and magazines and social media, there’s also niche champions of the burgeoning food scene spreading the good word, like us, London pop-ups, and also well respected food blogs such as The London Foodie, London Unattached, Rocket and Squash, Lizzie Eats London and so on.

“Secondly, a huge but under-discussed aspect of any food scene is space. Space to serve the food, to cook the food. And even though space is scarce, London is relatively ahead of the curve when it comes to making crucial kitchen and dining space available to food entrepreneurs. The KERB street food collective works with councils and private landlords to open up space for street food markets”.

And more and more venue owners are contacting Edible Experiences, keen to tap into its wide community of food event hosts to create unique events at their venues.

“It’s a win-win,” says Wen. “The venue owner gets to draw in new audiences and ultimately make money at the bar, and food entrepreneurs get to test their ideas without having to commit to onerous long-term real estate leases. London is very fortunate that some of its venue owners and councils are more progressive about sharing space compared to many other cities.”

Three of the best London food events

Enjoy a ‘de-formlalised social banquet’ at Ferdiesfoodlab supper club, set in Toynbee Hall, a grade II listed building near Brick Lane.

Everyone sits together while you enjoy six to eight courses for a very reasonable £45, with bring you own drinks to keep the cost down.

The produce is as fresh as can be and a sommelier will help you with wine matching if you need it.

Be warned, it’s “not a restaurant, nor a wee intimate space” so bring your best dinner chat and prepare to make new friends.

Two weeks of performances, talks and exhibitions are planned during the E17 Arts Trail, which runs May 31 to June 5 in Walthamstow.

To compliment the event, you can order a packed lunch from Bestowed Kitchen (choosing from three different varieties) to give you sustenance as you make your way around the E17 venues.

They cater for carnivores, veggies and gluten-free and each one comes with a special one-off piece of art by local artist Yanire Sylva Delgado. Order your box before midnight on May 28 and collect it on Saturday May 31 from 10.30am at either The Mill (Coppermill Lane) or Walthamstow Central Library (High Street).

Tweet @bestowedkitchen

Learn how to chop up a whole beef carcass, wrangle a sausage or handle choice pork at The Butchery - a large space under the railway arches in Bermondsey.

The classes are led by Nathan Mills, who promises to be very hands-on and even better, you get to take home all the meat you work on.

Alternatively, The Butchery will store and age it for you.

On joining a class you will be provided with a white butchers’ coat and apron, to wear during the class and basic butchers’ tools, saw, chopper, boning and steak knives. And do bring along some large bags to take home your goods.

See more cool London food events on

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