The Greenwich Food Festival

Greenwich doesn’t get enough attention. Well, for the right reasons at least. The whole ‘Nelson-Queen’sHouse-Observatory-CentreoftheWorld’ thing can get a bit tired for a Greenwich resident like the Hoodooist.

The GFF (not to be confused with Greenwich Market, though they share the same venue) was set up to raise money for the Greenwich Foodbank is exactly what we needed to get Greenwich to recognize it is more than cosy village and tourist trap. The Festival was spearheaded by students of the University of Greenwich and contacted food vans and stalls across London to sign up for the event.

Considering we’re looking at roughly 40 stalls, the Hoodooist will narrow it down to what he thought could rank as the top 5 in separate categories:

For lunch spots, I was a bit disappointed at how many wanted to put food in a toasted brioche bun. The burger fad is losing momentum, but it didn’t take away from the fantastic work of Sambal Shiok’s spectacular Beef Rendang (NOT A BURGER). Marinated in 10 spices and dripping with further chilli sauce, the melt-in-your-mouth meat was coupled spectacularly with the cool Kerabu pickled cucumber and red onions. And though I complained that brioche buns are overdone these days, it was nice to not have a burger for once. Sambal Shiok’s (NOT A BURGER) rendang was easily the best food stall of the day, although did run out really early around 2PM, three hours into the event. Mandy Yin who runs the stall is an absolute diamond as well – hunt Sambal Shiok down if you haven’t been yet.

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Sambal Shiok

We had some of the usual suspects like HornOKPlease (who I still find odd considering its mixture of food from various parts of India served up in one box) and Burgatory, who I finally tried for the first time. I wasn’t as impressed as people make it out to be. Not saying it’s a bad stall, but I’m not going to go charging to find it, is all.

For desserts, the festival was absolutely *laden* with sweet stalls. And we get two winners to tie. First, usual suspect Bad Brownie for their incredible creations. The Bacon and Maple brownie did not really do it for me, regardless of its uniqueness, but at their flagship-pop-up on 19 Greek Street, I will always hold their Chai Tea Brownie as the best brownie I have ever had that wasn’t slightly illegal.

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Bad Brownie’s assortments, including their award-winning Salted Caramel Brownie

The Comptoir Gourmand gets a necessary shout out because I’d like to distinguish brownies from patisserie. The Pistachio Financier was to die for; not to mention bread and butter pudding that an Englishman would never be able to whip up.

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Comptoir Gourmand’s delights

Drinks stalls had everything from wine to smoothies, but the Kalopsia Coffee wins by a landslide. Decent coffee vans are few and far between, and the smoothness of their Allpress Beans coupled with the incredible service made them natural winners. The van can be hired for various events and I am definitely keeping an eye on these guys.

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A truck full of dreams

For stores to buy ingredients from, Bee Mercy takes it without a doubt. Smooth talking Stefan is more than happy to walk you through tasting and benefits of each of the raw, unpasteurized honeys on sale – and remind you of all the ways they can be used mentioned on their website from treating hypertension to facemasks. You can also eat them (in case you missed that). Each honey comes from hives that feed either on separate flowers (for example, hives that live around primarily oak trees, or lavender fields); or in specific environments (1,700 meters above sea level in their ‘Mountain Honey’ or in deep forests with ‘Forest Honey’).

 

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Bee Mercy’s to die for raw honeys

Will throw in a mention of That Cheese Stall with their wonderful wild garlic yarg (pair this with Bon Bon Café’s preserves and jams); and CoCo Gourmand for their coconut brittles and tablets.

In short, the GFF kicked major gastronomical ass and is highly encouraged to be hosted again – and I’m excited to say that is has been considered. Follow it, folks!


Greenwich Food Festival

Greenwich Market,
London, SE10 9HZ

http://www.greenwichfoodfest.co.uk/

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Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Chinese, Speakeasy, Lounge
Damage£££
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups

 

I do like Opium. But you have to be there at exactly the right time.

There are two floors, both are not always open at the same time, but each feels totally different from the other.

 

In the evenings, the bar can be absolutely empty, and though I do love a good empty bar – Opium’s upper floor is one of those that really needs every seat filled to make it a great experience. Those bizarre 70s grandma’s living room seats need to be hidden from view. Especially when randomly placed beside black leather alcoves. It’s why I prefer to snatch the bar seats, which are in a kitchen setting with wonderfully engaging bartenders.

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I think my issue with the chairs is just personal

The upper floor bar is unnaturally dark, making it reminiscent of the Shochu Lounge at Roka. The best way to enjoy it is to get a reservation for a late Saturday evening, crowded and pigeonholed with a few good friends, with each drink accompanied with the bar’s dim sum menu.

The lower floor, though, has an excellent atmosphere, better lighting. But the bartenders are just as engaging and thoughtful. They’re half the experience here.

 

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The beautiful lower floor bar

Said bartenders are excellent for crafting personal cocktails with good reason. The menu comes with a custom cocktail section, where filling out a little questionnaire on your tastes in flavours and drinks will have them craft a little masterpiece for you. The cocktail list in itself is a treasure for making itself accessible to the less libationary-aware. Other than an ingredient description, each drink is given a three word summary. For example, the Long March (Bombay Sapphire gin, Plymouth Sloe, pomegranate juice, cinnamon and sweet red bean puree) is ‘Long – Complex – Fruity’.

On my first visit, I went straight for the Blind Date: Heaven Hill bourbon, Pedro Ximenez sherry, date puree and szechuan pepper. Definitely an after dinner drink (necessary, following my lunch at the Holborn Dining Room), the intense date flavour might have needed more pepper to balance it, but for the sweet tooth, works perfectly. Perhaps too many ingredients in each cocktail, but I’m willing to let it slide, since they end up working.  The Feather of the Phoenix is an excellently contradictory cocktail: Olmeca Altos Blanco meets blood orange puree and ginger beer in a long drink, topped off with smoked chilli infusion. I needed a bit more bite in mine so asked for more chilli, which makes the drink what it is. It’s up to you to judge whether or not a good drink hinges on one ingredient, but I certainly won’t turn it down.
Maybe I’d be a bit more forgiving if each drink came at 10 pounds instead of 11.50 to 13. Please do not ignore the tea, a great break from a long night out – and hey, no one said you couldn’t add some G to your Tea. A dim sum box comes at about 6.50 to 8 pounds, or grab a platter at 16.

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All in all, besides the peculiar environment, the Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour does a good job as a hidden away den, and certainly makes a much less pretentious alternative to the Experimental Cocktail Club next door that I abandoned because of terrible service. Opium has gone for the speakeasy-but-not-speakeasy feel by simply avoiding the conspicuous bouncer or massive signs – just come in through the Jade Door.

 

Also, for those in the know, query about a certain New Orleans tune, or perhaps an old Soho brothel of the same name that dear Nina Simone crooned about. The waiters will first insist they have no idea what you’re talking about. But at your own risk, Nina did tell us that it brought down the reputation of many of the curious over the years.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere:  Upper floor: ***, Lower floor: ****
Service: ****

 

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour
15-16 Gerrard St,
London W1D 6JA

http://www.opiumchinatown.com/