Friday, 30 September 2011

How Not To Cook Meat At London’s Oldest French Restaurant

By Alistair Martin

Finely diced steak, dressed in a concoction of minced anchovy, chopped gherkin, raw egg yolk and hot pepper sauce, served on a plate, room temperature and uncooked, with a side of French fries. Probably not everyone’s idea of fine dining, but for devotees of this classic French dish, like myself, a well-made steak tartare is amongst the most delectable things that you can treat your palate to.

Since I first accidentally discovered steak tartare as a young boy holidaying in France with my grandparents – my pre-GCSE understanding of the French language led me to mistakenly believe I was ordering Bolognese and chips – I have been in thrall to the exquisite blend of soft red meat and delicately spiced flavours that fate put in front of me that day.

My years since have been spent in a exhaustive quest for the perfect tartare; a quest that has taken me to numerous restaurants on both sides of the channel, and has seen me sample variations that have ranked amongst the highest of haut cuisine, as well as versions that can only be described as a bag of raw mince on a plate. Yet, as I discovered in what will hopefully become the first in a series of masterclass evenings at Covent Garden’s French restaurant, Mon Plaisir, with a little expert instruction, I could have been manufacturing my own perfect steak tartare all this time.Well, almost. Mon Plaisir owner Alain Lhermitte, who led the masterclass, had begun the evening creating a quite sensational tartare on the table in front of us, whisking his ingredients together like an apothecary from yore and producing a concoction every bit as magical. Yet when I blended what I thought were the very same ingredients in the same proportions – exactly five drops of Tabasco, eight drops of English Worcester sauce (superior to the French equivalent, we were told), and so forth – the resultant tartare, though perfectly serviceable, seemed less well emulsified and without the same exacting balance of flavours.Still, I didn’t take it as too hard. After all, Alain has helmed one of London’s finest French restaurants for the past 40 years, and made his first tartare a full decade before then. The only reason I have even eaten steak tartare is that, as a 13-year-old boy, I was unaware that the French word for Bolognese is in fact the radically different ‘Bolognaise’.

In any case, it was on both mine and Alain’s tartare that I subsequently feasted, with a crisp leaf salad and crisper French fries to accompany them, and an endless supply of violet Champagne cocktails and carignan Vin de Pays to keep the palate moist.

And as the conversation between masterclass attendees flowed, with Alain – a man so delightfully, stereotypically French that he could have walked straight off the set of Allo Allo – regaling with us a myriad of hilarious anecdotes, an evening that I had anticipated being a short instructional event soon evolved into an occasion more akin to dinner party amongst friends.

The current (as yet unconfirmed) plan is for these masterclass evenings to become regular events at Mon Plaisir. If they do, I have no doubt that they will rightly become as popular as Alain’s culinary skills and Gallic charisma deserve. Even if they don’t, however, this evening revealed enough charm and quality to warrant repeated visits to Mon Plaisir. The steak tartare is worth the trip alone; far better than you could expect to make yourself, no matter whose recipe you use.If you cant wait to find out when the next masterclass is set for, just book a table using the below form and let Alain take care of the rest.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Around The World In 80 Cuisines: New Zealand (Kiwi)

(4) Kiwi by Philippa Morton.

It’s great to live in the big smoke. But then again, every now and then it’s pretty normal for me to experience a hankering for good old Kiwi cuisine, being that I am from New Zealand. Most of the time Kiwi food is tricky to find in London, unless you know about the restaurant Suze in Mayfair.

A New Zealander herself, Susan has been away from her homeland for many years, and understands those little cravings. Granted, this restaurant is not wholly Kiwi, with dashes of dishes from our bros in Australia, but considering its menu has so much variety, I’m going to take it easy on them, mate.

From London’s big smoke to smoked NZ eel as a starter: it’s great for the taste buds. I thought I might have had some luck with NZ Whitebait as a starter, but I guess that really was wishful thinking! However, nothing says Kiwiana like NZ Green Shell Mussels smoked in Manuka honey! It was definitely a Doci Doe for me between the mussels or the lamb. In the end, I had to go for the NZ lamb and sweet potatoes (aka Kumara in NZ). Mains range from £13.95 – £17.95 at Suze in Mayfair, hardly a hole in the pocket for kakato (delicious) Kiwi cuisine.

With a diet like this, no wonder our All Blacks are so big. Us Kiwis swell with pride for our rugby team, but we should be proud of Suze in Mayfair as well as she imports heaps (!) of NZ wines for us. Her latest is Michelle Richardson wines, formally from Villa Maria. Who does Michelle think she is to have her OWN wine? Only New Zealand Winemaker of the Year, six times over! That’s who. And on the advice of Suze in Mayfair’s manager Joe (one of only 5 Kiwis to be a member of the Champagne Academy), there was no way we could go wrong with our Pinot Noir.

A gorgeous New Zealand Cabbage Tree sits outside Suze in Mayfair, creating a slightly tropical feel. Inside, the restaurant has an undeniably homely feel about it: plain tables set in white cloth; unfortunately, the white did not remain for long, as in my excitement my heart skipped a beat or two when I discovered to my delight that Suze in Mayfair serves New Zeland pavlova and, HOKEY POKEY ICE CREAM, a dollop of which I dropped on the pristinely white table cloth. Pavlova and Hokey Pokey Icecream! Ka Pai Suze in Mayfair! I was so happy, that I could have Haka’d my way out of there. But honestly, I think I’ll leave it for the boys all in black.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Partial Nudity Is Always Better Than Cabaret Cuisine

By Christian Rose-Day.

Kitty Bang Bang has just removed every item of her clothing in double quick time and is now pouring a bottle of Champagne down her naked back and over her perfect arse. Can I get a ‘whoop whoop’?!

Prior to her, Pippa The Ripper (pictured above) displayed her incredible dexterity and level of concentration whilst spinning more Hula Hoops than I can count in more directions than I care to mention.

And prior to her, ballerina Vicky Butterfly (pictured below) had also de-robed, twirling a length of ribbon with one hand and doing something very inventive with confetti in the other.

So why am I not completely satisfied? I love burlesque. It’s an acceptable form of striptease, devoid of all seediness, at which men and women sit agog, side by side, quietly lusting after the temptresses before them with their own private seediness.

I’ll tell you why I’m not entirely in the realms of nirvana (and this has nothing to do getting equally naked with the aforementioned temptresses): because cabaret cuisine never seems to live up to nipple tassles and frilly knickers. The comestible perv never seems to measure up to the visual perv.

Case in point at the West End’s Cafe de Paris on a Friday evening for a front table dining experience at La Rêve, the weekly cabaret showcase. In addition to the delightful talents of the ladies mentioned above, the tap-drum duo, Up & Over It offer a lesson in timing and ingenuity, Jo Foley shows what hours of practice on a suspended aerial ring can do for an audience, and charismatic compere, Dusty Limits (pictured below), steals the show with his witty comedy and well-trained singing voice. And yet, despite these remarkable performances, the acts that appear from the kitchen are predictably standard.

Every vegetarian's worst nightmare: an entree of goats cheese followed by, you guessed it, wild mushroom risotto for a main. Could they appease the common Englishman any easier? Has Harvester now opened up in Leicester Square? I am not vegetarian so instead choose the boneless Tamworth pork rib to start which, although delicious, arrives cold.

For the main, I get lucky with the Magret duck breast and steamed Bok Choi because everyone else on our communal, and very sociable, table has opted for the free range (happy) chicken breast or the rib eye steak; the former apparently too dry and the latter too sinewy. Overall, a below par production from the kitchen. Fair on stage: 1, fare on plate; nil.

This, I have found, is an occurrence that happens often at gatherings such as these. At Crazy Bear, the garlic tiger prawns with black pepper were no match for the feathered majesty of Bouncy Hunter’s burlesque act. At Volupte, the afternoon tea and sandwiches paled in comparison to the sovereignly sexy, and hilarious, Ginger Blush (the best burlesque act I’ve ever seen). Whilst at east London’s Brickhouse, the (alleged) pear and almond tart was by no means as compelling as the Gothic prowess displayed by Betty D'light.

Don’t get me wrong, cabaret cuisine is far from horrid; but it never quite lives up to the expectation that sexy lace and tight corsets can deliver. I’d love to be proven otherwise.

If you do choose to visit the La Rêve at Cafe de Paris on Friday night - and I encourage you to do so - I offer you these meagre hints and tips:

- If you are going to eat, just remember, you cant go wrong with meringue and berries.

- Don’t pick the 10 of Hearts. I did. I was duped by the girl in the bright red wig. How did it happen?

- After the show, take advantage of the VIP room because you can meet all the acts you’ve just been privy to.

- Leave the VIP room after a maximum of 1 hour otherwise you’ll soon be trapped by teenagers determined to turn the Cafe de Paris into a provincial disco after the tables have been cleared away to expose a dancefloor.

Image courtesy of Flickr user

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Most Fashionable Bar in London

By Leah Harper.

What are London’s fashionistas doing the night before the prestigious London Fashion Week? Are they meticulously planning what to wear to each of the upcoming shows? Placing cucumbers over their eyelids and getting an early night to ensure they look fabulous the next day? Of course not! Like most nights, they’re out and about, being seen at the most fashionable venues in London, which, last week, happened to be Sartoria bar in Mayfair.

Of course, London Fashion Week is no longer simply about the fashion; if, indeed, it ever was. Yes, there are the catwalk shows and collection exhibitions, but for those not directly involved in the industry, it’s far more an excuse to see who went where, and, of course, what they were wearing.
The newly re-launched Sartoria bar was certainly up against some stiff competition if it hoped to be the trendiest new opening in the run up to LFW’s events. The bar, like the main restaurant, serves Italian food, but only in the form of Stuzzichini (or appetizers), as well as cocktails and canapés. However, with Covent Garden’s newly opened Italian osteria, da Polpo, offering similar mix-and-match chichetti plates, and Westminster’s Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar promoting their low fat crudos, there’ll certainly be plenty of venues offering model-friendly portions during London’s super-skinny week.

Of course, not all of London’s bars can boast a location which is so intrinsically linked to the world of fashion as that of Savile Row, where the Sartoria bar happens to be situated. The bar’s neighbouring bespoke tailors are said to have once been frequented by customers such as Winston Churchill and Lord Nelson – no doubt the A-listers of their time – and so it makes sense that the sophisticated bar should be a hot spot for visiting fashion fans. Unfortunately, with many of LFW’s key events being held closer to the Strand, it is perhaps possible that Sartoria bar may lose out to bars and restaurants with far less fashion heritage. Fashionistas are also notoriously attracted to big brand names, so with Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa located not so very far away, the temptation may prove too great, even for those in heels.Of course, as any true follower of fashion should know, trends tend to pass. Quirky bars, like the eccentric Callooh Callay, and even the super-stylised Anthologist, are perhaps the equivalent of ‘trying a new look’; they’re certainly fun, but there’s always the chance that they might not be in fashion come next season.If the Sartoria bar launch party proved anything, it’s that this extension of the highly esteemed Sartoria restaurant will continue to excel in being perfectly chic and undeniably stylish. With top-class service from the exceptionally polite staff (who ensured that corks were being popped from bottles almost constantly throughout the evening), this venue is a timeless classic, and one that you’ll be happy to be seen in again and again; wearing your in vogue attire, of course.

Book your evening at the fashionable Sartoria bar using the booking form below.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Pub With The MOST Beer Gardens In London

By Christian Rose-Day.

There are a number pubs in south London that can legitimately claim to have the biggest beer garden in London. The Hope in Wandsworth and The Spencer Arms in Putney both utilise parkland adjacent to their respective taverns as beer garden space (aided by plastic pints), the latter even installing picnic benches in the park (smart move).

The Grand Union in Brixton has possibly one of the best and biggest beer gardens in London (please comment if you know otherwise; would love to hear your thoughts), and The Leather Bottle certainly provides lots of fresh air, benches and pétanque possibilities for the residents of Earlsfield and its surrounds.

But it’s not always the size that matters; the quantity is also important. So which pub in London has the MOST beers gardens?

One new contender for this particular crown is The Rosendale pub in West Dulwich which recently reopened with a new lick of paint, a British menu, some yummy local ales, fancy chandeliers, vintage theatre posters, a wall of butterflies (what self-respecting pub could be without one) and a giant wall map made from just one sheet of paper (so I’m told).

This erstwhile Victorian coaching inn was procured by award-winning pub company, Renaissance, providers of such greats as Avalon in Clapham and The Tommyfield in Kennington.
Much like Avalon, The Rosendale pub has not one beer garden, or two beer gardens, but three beer gardens!! The front beer garden is your normal roadside, leafy neighbourhood sort of affair (usually favoured by smokers). The side beer garden is more secretive, shaded and favourite of those who aren’t enamoured with kids, and that’s because beer garden number 3, the rear sun trap, is popular with young parents thanks to the children’s play area filled with a decent supply of toys.

See for yourself.

That’s one.

That’s two.

And that’s three.

If you know of any pubs in London that have more than three beer gardens, we’d love to hear about them. In the meantime, Renaissance, this accolade is yours.

To book a table at the new The Rosendale pub in West Dulwich, use the clever widget below.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Foodie’s Errand: Dinner In A Supermarket

By Arthur Browne.

Ever considered eating dinner at a supermarket? We all know Fluid London readers are an adventurous lot but when my editor gave me the nod for that particular experience all I could bring to mind were rows of frozen peas and boxes of detergent. Oh, and having to wear seven fleeces to keep the air conditioning chill out of my bones. Yet, The People’ Supermarket in Bloomsbury, a place that would have made Abraham Lincoln proud - because everything they do is for the people and by the people – is no ordinary supermarket.

By day the place sells British produce wherever possible, sourced as locally as they can manage. But the aim is not exclusivity or to price ordinary folk out of shopping there. In fact, said People’s Supermarket is a social enterprise whose whole raison d’être is to give something back to its members for a wallet/purse-friendly annual sum. These members run the show, making the decisions on stock, working shifts in the supermarket itself, and generally helping to make the place a part of the local community rather than a corporate cut-out cornershop. Anyone can shop there but members benefit from a special discount.

I was present at the second ‘Supper Club’, a charming evening when the fruit and vegetable section is put to one side and tables are clustered together in an intimate but also thoroughly friendly gathering. Any supper club worth its salt needs to be convivial and this one lived up to expectations: I had excellent conversations with a lawyer, a coffee aficionado, a tech entrepreneur and a cultured Canadian. The topics came thick and fast, with feminism, footballers’ wives, fresh fruit and other topics that don’t begin with ‘f’ all featuring.

Showing that the People’s Supermarket founders are all-round good eggs, we were treated to cracking yummies from the supermarket which would otherwise have gone to waste, with every item on the menu coming from a sustainable source. I’m bound to say that it is an experience invented for foodies: among the numerous highlights were a juicy mackerel pâté, a delightfully coarse yet hearty British game terrine, and a ‘Little Black Pig’ hog roast featuring the most sumptuous pork, which truly melted in the mouth. It was even rounded off with a splendidly punchy Café Direct coffee blend which had me from the moment I caught a whiff of its aroma on the other side of the room.

We might have been on Lamb’s Conduit Street but with the People’s Supermarket going strong day and (sometimes) night they can take their pick from the produce it has to offer. So take your pick from Gazpacho’s Conduit Street, Hog Roast’s Conduit Street, Borough Wine’s Street...

If you’re interested to find out more about sustainable fish restaurants and gastro pubs in London, follow this link.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Brixton’s Big New Nightclub: Is It Ready?

By Christian Rose-Day.

In a word: no.

Remember The Fridge nightclub in Brixton? You probably recall a number of unsavoury “incidents” occurring there at alarming regularity. You might even recall a few nights that were drama-free and actually loads of ravey fun. After shutting its doors for the final time in early 2010, what was once The Fridge is now Electric Brixton, set for its grand launch this weekend.

A million quid has been spent on refitting this 1700 capacity club and the launch has been pushed back by a month already. When we visited the site for a press gig on Tuesday to watch indie band Hard-Fi, it was easy to see why it’s taken longer than anticipated. This club is far from ready. Baring any miracles that have happened in the last few days, Electric Brixton still looks a building site. In fact, whilst we were sipping our first pint of Gaymers prior to Hard-Fi’s set, a group of dusty workmen strolled through the bar with their tools. And down on the main dancefloor, a crane was still in place as revellers were ushered in through the front door. In the toilets, sink basins sat atop exposed piping and wooden frames. The black sheeting covering the crumbling ceiling wasn’t very convincing either and the steel pillars seemingly holding up the roof above the stage didn’t instill a sense of security.

I did consider taking photos of this definite work-in-progress, but I reconsidered; I’m not one for needless churlish behaviour. Instead, I’d rather comment on the fabulous noise that emanated from the vocal chords of Richard Archer and the fingers of his Hard-Fi bandmates: top gig lads!

The electro-house grand opening of Electric Brixton this weekend, featuring Felix Da Housecat and DJ Hell, certainly sounds enticing, but my advice would be to give it another month before paying Electric Brixton a visit (and hold out for the billed weekly Friday slot at Get Loaded). Hopefully by then south London’s brand new answer to the Kentish Forum or Camden’s Koko will a fully functioning fortress of fun. All new venues go through a teething stage when they first open, right?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

No Need To Fly To Bangkok To Feast On The Streets Of Thailand

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

Underneath the Mango Tree (from James Bond film, Dr. No)
Underneath the Mango Tree
Me +1 and me can eat Thai cuisine
Underneath the Mango Tree
Me +1 and me will dine on mung beans.

When I was 18 I decided to do a mini world tour in an attempt to ‘find myself’. I didn’t find anything. In fact, I lost two sets of earrings, my beloved Nokia 3330, and my eyelashes from standing too close to a spit roast fire pit. Despite my losses, I had a brilliant time because of some sound advice from a Jolly Uncle Laval: ‘if you want to get to know a culture, eat its street food’ (very true). Uncle also told me that drinking rice whiskey by tipping the head all the way to the right side doesn’t get you drunk (a big fat lie and one that led to a nasty egg sized bump on the forehead).

There’s only so many museums, temples, and scenic routes to cultivated landmarks you can take before secretly screaming to get back on the bus, back to your hotel for a bubble bath and bedtime. I’ll admit, Thailand’s River Kwai is stunning and a sight not to be missed, but the country’s street food is where Thai culture is truly at it’s best.

Alas, Britain is apparently heading into a new recession, and a plane ticket to Thailand isn’t in everybody’s immediate price range. What to do? Well, fear not folks, because you don’t have to fly all the way to Bangkok to sample the delights of Thai street food. All you have to do is head to Belgravia; hoorah!

The Thai Street Food Festival at London’s award winning Mango Tree restaurant is already well underway (from 5 September to 9 October), and diners are promised authentic Far East flavours to tickle the taste buds in a fine-dining environment. The décor is very feng-shui and minimalist which is fantastic for keeping everyone in a composed Zen-like manner when, around 8pm, the place starts to heave with bodies squeezing themselves in to any available space (see before atmosphere and during atmosphere photos below).

Mango Tree is one of those restaurants that you can easily miss if you don’t know about it. Somehow the place manages to stand alone round the corner from Victoria. Entering through the less than flamboyant doors, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a hidden lair. For a moment the senses heighten to new extremes. Your eyes adjust to the soft lighting, your ears forget the sound of traffic and take in the sound of busy chitter chatter, the air is fresh and spicy, and the mouth waters as you glance at the earlier diners’ already disappearing dishes.

Kai Nok-krata Tord. Pla-muek Yang. Kuay-tiew Kuae Thale. Pad Khee-mao Nuer. Ruam Mitt Yen.

If you can get your tongue round these, I salute you. It’s all Thai to me! Luckily, the so-beautiful-it-hurts waitresses are on hand to offer smiles, translations, and a menu with a description of what each dish my +1 and I have selected:

Kai Nok-krata Tord – deep fried quail eggs wrapped in golden wanton skin served with home made sweet chilli sauce
Pla-muek Yang – grilled marinade squid in Thai style served with spicy lime sauce

Kuay-tiew Kuae Thale – stir fried thick noodles with mixed seafood in soya sauce and egg
Pad Khee-mao Nuer – stir fried thick noodles with beef, bamboo shoots and Thai sweet basil and spicy sauce

Ruam Mitt Yen – Kidney beans, plum seed coconut meat, jack fruit and mung bean noodles served with sweet coconut cream

While the Zen-like environment of Mango Tree isn’t exactly ‘street’ (you’re more likely to hear the sound of champagne bottles popping than cars back firing) you can, at least, adopt the street food ethic of sharing your chosen dishes. My +1 chooses Jasmine tea instead of dessert so I gobble the concoction of beans, coconut and noodles (sounds weird but tastes wonderful) with greedy relish; a rather sweet and refreshing end to a what’s been a sophisticated street evening.

There’s only two and half weeks left for a chance to feast on the restaurant’s street food festival menu. While Mango Tree has a variety of menus on offer from A La Carte to Business and Pre Theatre to their Sunday meals, the Street Food Menu is not to be missed. The menu caters for both meat eaters and vegetarians.

Word of advice: book a table in advance. Yes I know, again that’s not a very ‘street’ thing to do, but don’t forget you’re still in Belgravia. Treat the booking as if you’re arranging a flight to Bangkok. Both situations will lead you to a cultural feast of experience.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hitting The Mall Wall, Rescued By The Cow

By Claire Roberts

Hallelujah, finally we have shops in Stratford. That’s not to say that the area was devoid of shops before. There’s a WHSmith, all the supermarkets, a Body Shop and even a small Dorothy Perkins, but when you’re in the market for new shoes, like I am, up until now it’s meant a hike into town.

But no more. Finally the hulk of building materials that has been ascending higher and higher into my local skies over the past year has completed its transformation and the doors to Westfield Stratford City Mall are now open.

I venture forth on opening day, in need of said shoes and also in the hope that the odd little freebie might come my way. 11am and I’m anticipating a fairly gentle stroll through the mall interrupted by a nice coffee and something.

Not so! Turns out my excitement (not sure why, it’s only shops after all) has been replicated several thousand times over in East London’s other residents. The whole place is heaving. And it’s not a small place, it is a city within a city, hence the name. Hotels, restaurants, outside shopping, inside shopping, four different levels and just for me, shoes.

But there’s no way I’m getting shoes today. A vast crowd has accumulated for Nicole Scherzinger’s opening turn upstairs and I can hear her through the mall’s seriously effective speakers. A good PA? Yes, she performs well, I like her. The right choice for the day? Not sure. Local boys JLS might have been better.

Two hours later and it’s still crazy mad. I have a good look round as much as the seething crowds allow. A huge M&S and John Lewis, hairdressers, jewellery shops, fashion, food in its many guises from Mr Pretzels to Jamie’s Italian outside. Yes, it’s a bit different to Westfield in Shepherds Bush (no Prada and the like) but shoes it does have.

The Mall Wall hits me though. I can’t do shoes at the moment. Too many people and too little space despite the fact I’m in the biggest shopping mall in Europe. So I press on through the crowds and head outside for some lunch and hopefully a bit of relative tranquillity.

The Cow calls (or moos) out to me from the end of a small avenue of restaurants with great views over the soon-to-be Olympic park. I go running. It’s allegedly the only pub on the Westfield site (although I’m certain I saw a work-in-progress Tap East pub down in the Great Eastern Market section) and that suits me fine. It’s an up-to-date pub in the vague guise of a cow shed; milk churns intact. Upstairs it’s relatively serene, thankfully. Relatively, as it’s still really busy. Clearly Mall Wall hits other shoppers too.

The food is good quality, British bloke-y pub grub. I’m getting my breath back. And it’s great that the Westfield mall has provided a few more places for local eating.

I hear the wine list here is chosen by a Master of Wine; I’ll be back for the wine another time. Same goes for the brilliant home-made Scotch eggs. And the fish platter. And those new shoes.

The UK’s Hottest 8-Minute Competition

By Christian Rose-Day.

How hot?

“Fucking hot!”

That’s right ladies and gentleboys. You heard it here first. These wings were fucking hot. This was the official confirmation from the Judge, Ashley Letchford, concerning the piquancy of the spicy Buffalo chicken wings that were given to all 31 competitors in the King of the Wing 2011 heats (no pun intended) held last week at Mr Letchford’s pub, The Jam Tree, in Chelsea.

Although King Of The Wing may sound a little biased towards a certain sex, there was most definitely representation from the ladies in this competition, with almost every round containing at least one brave lass; (besides, there’s always potential to hold a flatulence-based contest called Queen of the Bean in the coming months involving bowls of smoking hot Heinz).

The contest was simply: eat as many “fucking hot” chicken wings in 8 minutes as possible, with the top 8 eaters to go through to next week’s final. The prize? Eternal respect for achieving the status of King Of The Wing 2011. That, and a £500 bar tab to spend at The Jam Tree.

Whilst the atmosphere inside The Jam Tree was subdued and filled with civilised conversations, outside on the garden patio there was a huge crowd of hot, baying youngsters from the Chelsea sect - long blonde hair for the ladies, ironic quiffs for the men - egging (no pun intended) other people to vomit on chicken wings.

Round 1: four burly chaps with tats approach the table looking very much like the full line up of an early Metallica incarnation. They were joined by one very skinny young lady. Any doubts about the challenge from the fairer sex were quickly allayed when a member of the crowd was able to enlighten those gathered with the adage about the world record holder in chicken wing eating: a slight lady in the USA - who calls herself The Black Widow - ate 183 in just 12 minutes.

Once the sick buckets were in place and crowd-participation countdown completed, the contest was very much underway. It is understood that one contestant was called Gonad, as there was much cheering for Gonads in the initial phases. Four minutes in, tears began to stream down the female contestant’s face and calls for her to “Swallow the bone” were largely ignored.

In Round 2 the faces taking part were less hirsute and much younger. Again four chaps and a chappette, the latter choosing to limber up for the contest by placing her right foot completely behind her head to garner support. Towards the end of the round, one contestant was caught ‘chipmunking’, a tactic that was frowned upon by the judges. This lead to a bit of afters, with the chipmunker throwing a jug of water over foot-behind-head girl (both pictured above moments before the altercation) for reasons yet to be disclosed.

Round 3 was, for want of a better moniker, the Rambo round, with several contestants choosing to don John Rambo or Samurai style headbands.

Round 4 was the bib round, with most wing-eaters opting for paper tucked into the collar, in conjunction with a popular tactic of ‘Stand & Rip’, which, instead of the orthodox, seated, bone-to-mouth technique, instead applied a standing-only method that involved ripping the flesh from the bone before thrusting it mouthwards.

Round 5: controversy! This round included one Duncan Welch, the MD of Fluid London, who, as a tall Kiwi (a New Zealander, not a flightless bird) is well known for his proclivity towards eating vast amounts. Having seen him consume a double full English breakfast whilst holding a meeting at which everyone else was still working on their croissants, I knew the outlook for Fluid London’s representation in the final was propitious.

And yet Duncan was duped. A draconian decision by the judges saw Duncan’s final tally of chicken wing weight (0.97kgs) reduced by 0.2kgs for a momentary and ineffectual peccadillo during battle, thus taking him from 4th place overall to 9th, losing out on a place in the final by the slenderest of margins. Here is the infringement in question.

Fowl play (pun intended), it may seem! But look again in slow motion. It’s clear to see Duncan is actually attempting to aid his fellow contestant as a passing wasp tries to sting him in the eye.

Duncan was humbled by the judges decision, though, citing that “It’s not the winning, it’s taking part!”; followed swiftly by “we wuz robbed!”

In the ensuing kerfuffle, we completely missed Round 6. However, it was later broadcast that a total of 23.5kgs of wings were eaten by the contestants, with the leading weight (and obvious favourite for the final) from Leo S, with 1.2kgs.

The King of the Wing 2011 final will be held on Thursday 22nd Septmember, 7.30pm at The Jam Tree, make sure you are there to bear witness to the awesomeness.

The calm before the storm.

That has GOT to hurt!

Friday, 16 September 2011

We Will Not Sacrifice Dessert For Dior

By Anastasia Hancock.

It’s that time of year again when London is awash with Champagne, and food tends to take a bit of a back seat as the calorie-conscious size zero madness reigns supreme.

However, here at Fluid, we’re not distracted by razor sharp cheekbones and sculpted thighs. We don’t care for skipping meals in the interests of couture, and damn it; we will not sacrifice dessert for Dior!

Luckily, we can sniff out a canapé at a hundred yards (it’s a gift) and there were a few blessed London bars and restaurants that came to our rescue last week. Vogue Fashion’s Night Out was hosted at several locations across the capital, such as Harvey Nicholls and J Sheekey, who were offering the ultimate in low calorie dining featuring oysters and Pol Roger Pure (a zero dosage cuvee with no added sugar). A good idea if you simply must shoehorn into Chanel, but vastly missing the point of Champagne, which is all about decadence, surely?

So while the great and the good of the fashion world schmoozed and boozed at Vogue's opening party at Asprey, Johnny Borrell DJ-ed at Gap in Oxford Street, Dior's cocktail party kicked off in New Bond Street, and Rupert Sanderson hosted a 70s-themed roller disco in his Bruton Place store, I headed over to the aptly named Sartoria on (where else but) Saville Row to sample this classy Italian restaurant’s new stuzzichini (Italian ‘tapas’) menu.

Whilst we were there, Sartoria treated us to a sartorial show with a display of the latest collections from several designers, worn by real models who were free to walk amongst the guests (no touching the models, no feeding the models!). Those who were fortunate enough to live off more than a journalist’s wage were able to shop from their seats, while grazing on star chef Lukas Pfaff’s beautifully crafted Italian menu, and I would urge you to do the same asap (use this booking form to secure a table).
Luckily, I’m more of the form-follows-function school. There were no thorax restricting corsetry on my person so I could guzzle freely while gazing at the ‘living models’ parading round the room showcasing the soon-to-be winter wardrobes of the sartorially-minded guests. I resisted the urge to force feed the size zeros with canapés like foie gras geese, and anyway, the food was too good to share. Along with fine bresaola, super-fresh calamari and a gorgeously peppery olive oil from Puglia, guests also consumed the ‘Vogue’ cocktail, available for one night only.

London Fashion Week is now in full swing, and if, like Bowie you want to be part of the Goon Squad, check out Fluid’s guide to the best bars and restaurants in the brand spanking new shopping Mecca that is Westfield Stratford City.