If any one image captured the spirit of the Moët & Chandon Carlton Restaurant Awards it was probably the pairing of highly respected, but in stature diminutive, chef Raymond Blanc and elongated It girl and restaurant-habituée Lady Victoria Hervey. The odd couple shared the podium at the Le Meridien Grosvenor House to present the award for French restaurant to The Square. Mixing seriously considered awards with a degree of glamour required by Carlton Television, which broadcasts the event on Taste/CFN tonight at 7pm, tomorrow at 3pm and on Monday at 7.30pm (you've missed the terrestrial Carlton showing), the event celebrated some of the people whose talent and dedication have made such a difference to the London restaurant scene. Alan Yau, who launched Wagamama (and inspired countless noodle bar imitators) was recognised for his outstanding contribution to London restaurants. Giorgio Locatelli was a wildly popular choice as Outstanding London Chef. Assaggi was Italian restaurant of the year, Mela was Indian restaurant, and Le Gavroche won the award for outstanding front of house. Al Waha was recognised as the best Middle Eastern restaurant in a category that changes each year to highlight the cooking of different parts of the world, and the gong (actually it looked more like a ceramic bucket) for new restaurant went to Incognico. Pint-sized gastronome Ronnie Corbett presented St John's Fergus Henderson with a magnum of Moët & Chandon's Esprit du Siecle, one of only 323 ever bottled. The champion chef came up to accept the London Restaurant of the Year award, chosen from all the winners, in recognition of its unique contribution to London. The audience was relieved that Henderson, who is known for waving his arms around enthusiastically (as well as serving exceptional, often offal-rich British food), did not shake and uncork the precious bottle in the manner of a triumphant racing driver.
¿ Two of last year's winners of the London Restaurant Awards, Richard Corrigan of The Lindsay House and Mark Hix of The Ivy, helped devise the menu for this year's event. Diners were treated to plum tomato and basil galette, wild seabass with samphire, wild asparagus and Jersey Royals, and a dessert that had chefs and critics guessing. What was the sauce with the iced Scandinavian berries? Evap? Surely not. Condensed milk? Closer. It was Mark Hix's truly scrumptious, deliciously sickly hot white-chocolate sauce, made with nothing more than white-chocolate buttons and cream, although a more precise recipe can be found in The Ivy Cookbook.
¿ Not quite a silver lining, but a chink of blue in a cloudy sky. Truffler is sorry to report that Spam Appreciation Week has been cancelled. It was due to take place to mark the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the luncheon meat to this country from the US. The Spam now sold in the UK is made from Danish pork. According to a disappointed organiser, there is residual affection for the stuff, the nation's fish fryers were poised to reintroduce Spam fritters for the week, and proceeds would have gone to Barnado's. Still, there's nothing to stop anyone making a donation to Barnado's without actually eating Spam.
¿ Farmed salmon has come in for criticism of late, but salmon is not the only seafood where organic farming is infinitely preferable, causing less damage to the environment and to the health of the stock. Prawns farmed in Thailand, India and Bangladesh have also wreaked damage on the coastal environment, and viral diseases have affected Asian farms, where antibiotics are often used liberally. But in Ecuador, prawns are now being farmed organically and Sainsbury's has introduced these, the first certified organic farmed prawns. The farm, near the Ecocity of Bahia de Caraquez, grows organic produce to feed its shrimps, and recycles waste to fertilise tropical crops. The prawns, sold cooked in 125g trays for £3.49 in more than 300 Sainsbury's, are certified in the UK by Organic Farmers & Growers.Reuse content