Restaurants: Business is mushrooming
Autumn is mushroom season, and the best time to find fungi on the menu. By Nikki Spencer
Saturday 10 October 1998
With the UK mushroom season in full swing, restaurants all over the country are offering everything from chanterelles, girolles and the rather frightening- sounding trompettes de la mort (so-called not because they kill you but because they look like angels' trumpets) in soups, sauces and main courses.
Watch Masterchef or any other food programme and you'll soon see that everyone uses wild mushrooms now - or so says Antonio Carluccio, who was one of the first to start the trend in Britain.
His Neal Street restaurant (right) and adjoining shop are currently decked out with displays of all sorts of varieties of wild mushrooms, including giant puffballs. These fungi are incorporated into dishes of pasta, fish, beef - everything in fact, except desserts. Although that hasn't always been the case.
"A few years ago I did pickle some chanterelles in vermouth and apricot liqueur to use as a decoration for puddings, but it was more of a gimmick than anything else," Carluccio says.
But it isn't just consuming wild mushrooms that appeals. More and more people are attracted by the thrill of the chase, with mushroom-picking days organised nearly every weekend, particularly in Scotland, Norfolk and the New Forest. Only last weekend dozens of enthusiastic amateurs turned up at the award-winning Chewton Glen Hotel for a day of foraging followed by a feast of fungi.
The hotel is limited to running just one such event each year, due to controls on mushrooming by local authorities, but even at a cool pounds 85 a head it's booked up the moment it is advertised. Business, it seems, is quite literally mushrooming.
Not everyone who appreciates mushrooms is into picking their own. John Swerdlows, chef and proprietor at Helter Skelter in Brixton, always uses wild mushrooms on his menu but prefers to get his supplies from London company Wild Harvest, which started selling mushrooms six years ago from a back room and now has a thriving business supplying hundreds of restaurants. "I find there is something about picking mushrooms yourself that makes you a bit worried about eating them," John Swerdlows reveals.
You understand what he's getting at when Joe Simonini, the deputy manager at Chewton Glen and leader of the hotel mushroom hunt, explains just what they find in the forest.
"We let people pick whatever they want, but then go through their baskets with them. There are always one or two poisonous ones in amongst them. Luckily, they are easily recognisable."
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 iPhone 6 review: bigger, thinner, faster, brighter - Apple proves you can make the best better
- 2 Sports Direct security guard allegedly banned Jewish schoolboys and told them: 'No Jews, no Jews'
- 3 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 4 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
- 5 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Emma Thompson admits being frightened ahead of Sweeney Todd West End appearance
Robin Thicke admits he did not write 'Blurred Lines'
Colin Firth and Emma Stone on starring in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Doctor Who series 8: Time Heist pictures revealed ahead of episode 5
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'