‘Tis the season of joyous bites with exclusive menus and events around London
As a foodie resident in London, this is the time of the year where my diary fills up more so than ever. This is because the month of October marks the return of the London Restaurant Festival, the capital’s annual citywide celebration of eating out. In its fifth year, the Festival is comprised of two key elements, ‘Festival Menus’ and ‘Events’, and culinary passports are given out instead of tickets. Both aspects, culminating in a gastronomic extravaganza, have generated an immense amount of excitement in the capital.
Close to 350 restaurants are taking part this year and they range from Michelin-star-winning venues to small local noodle bars. Many of these restaurants have come together to celebrate by creating a special series of bespoke menus at varying prices, starting from under £10 a head to over £40. In addition, some of the capital’s best chefs have designed multiple-course, great value Festival Menus with the aim of making normally exclusive restaurants more accessible to all food-lovers, and this is why, for the next two weeks, there is barely a day when I’m not heading out for a meal.
Among some of the high-end restaurants which are offering stand out Festival Menus, the ultra-stylish Sketch restaurant and bar is offering a three-course lunch menu for £40 per person. This two-Michelin-starred restaurant has held a prestigious star since 2005 and their sumptuous menu is not to be missed. Asia de Cuba, one of the very few restaurants in London fusing Cuban and Asian cuisine, is housed in the chic five-star St Martin’s Lane Hotel and their special Festival Menu offers three courses for £40 per person, providing a perfect excuse to visit.
The most outstanding value Festival Menu is offered by Trishna, which has recently been awarded its first Michelin star. Offering two courses for £10 per person, Trishna delivers an innovative twist on the coastal cuisine and curries of South Western India at a price which is truly unbeatable. Iconic London restaurants are also taking part in the London Restaurant Festival, including the OXO Tower offering a Festival Menu of two courses for £20 per person. With some of the best views in London, the OXO Tower’s menu includes a range of dishes such as Thai spiced coconut pumpkin soup and grilled black bream and plum bakewell with fudge ice cream.
As well as the high end restaurants, there are also many local neighbourhood restaurants taking part. My personal favourite and, one which I cannot wait to visit this weekend, is Imli Street. This restaurant brings Indian street food to our capital city, specialising in dishes inspired by those served on food carts, coastal shacks and on Indian railways. Their dinner menu of 7 plates and 3 sides for £24.50 per person allows diners to experience distinctive flavours from the diverse regions of India.
But the Festival Menus are only one aspect of this celebration, as the Events section features over 30 dining events. These include culinary tours such as a Tapas Tour of London’s specialist Tapas restaurants, most popular of which is Copita. There is also a Cicchetti Trail, where diners visit the six best London restaurants for cicchetti (Italian small snacks) such as Poplo. Finally, and most exciting, is the Japanese Journey through half a dozen of the best sushi and Japanese restaurants, including Inamo and Kurobuto pop-up on King’s Road. These culinary tours give festival-goers the chance to experience the best of London’s specialist cuisines.
If the sound of restaurant-hopping appeals to you, then the Gourmet Odyssey provides London’s most original gastronomic road trip, where guests have one course in each restaurant. This tour includes many exclusive restaurants such as the much-talked-about Shard restaurants, Aqua Shard and Hutong, as well as Benares and Wild Honey, and the newly opened Gymkhana, which is another restaurant I cannot wait to visit. Guests will travel across the capital in our fleet of Routemaster buses and courses will be served with Champagne Laurent Perrier matched to the dishes, creating a unique and unforgettable tasting event.
As well as culinary tours, Graze is an event which allows food lovers to enjoy all the best restaurants within a neighbourhood. With a London Restaurant Festival Graze passport, diners will receive a complimentary drink when they purchase a Graze dish in up to six participating restaurants over the festival period. With up to 12 restaurants to choose from in each of the three areas, there is sure to be something to suit every palate.
This year the London Restaurant Festival also has celebrity appeal. For the Eat Film event, Jonathan Ross has been invited to curate a three-course dinner inspired by the 2001 Japanese animated fantasy film, Spirited Away, which will be happening in the stunning cinema and restaurant at BAFTA headquarters, 195 Piccadilly.
With this irresistible combination of events and menus, there is something for everyone. The London Restaurant Founder, Simon Davis, commented: “It is about getting out and discovering as many restaurants as you can in a fun way and for all budgets. There’s an insatiable appetite in London for eating out and sharing that experience and LRF feeds it”.
In the month of September, London saw 30 new restaurants open: that’s one for every day of the month, and something that is unlikely to be matched in any other city. This depicts the sheer passion that this capital has for the wide variety and quality of its restaurants. Personally for me, there is no better way to brighten up cloudy autumnal days than heading out into London and celebrating one of best things the city has to offer: its food.
The London Restaurant Festival runs from the 3rd to the 21st of October 2013.
Tickets for events and a list of all participating restaurants can be found on http://www.londonrestaurantfestival.com/events/.
Photo Credits: London Restaurant Festival / Cicchetti Trail: San Carlo Cicchetti Restaurant
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