Archives for posts with tag: British

Jubilee fever comes to Regent Street

Jubilee fever has taken over the nation.

You have to have been stuck in the London Dungeon for a long time to have missed the build up to this weekend and no retailer worth his or her weight in sterling could possibly miss this opportunity to sell fun products and engage with the optimistic vibe that has pervaded the country as a result.

Those lovely people at moneysupermarket.com have tried to quantify the commercial benefit and estimated we Brits will be spending £800m – double the amount paid to celebrate the Royal Wedding last year. Personally I think that is modest and with the long bank holiday, all the street parties and festivities as well as the promise of the weather just about holding out, it will be so much more than that.

So yah boo sucks to those grumpy senior economists who are predicting doom and gloom because they say our manufacturers are going to suffer disproportionately with the bank holiday closures and the effect will trickle through to the British economy. Come on!! Get with the programme…and crack a bottle of British sparkling wine.

So I smiled to myself when I read a comment from Matthew Rice, co-owner of Emma Bridgewater, that well known manufacturer of pottery in Stoke-on-Trent. They originally estimated to sell £1.5m pieces of commemorative product and are already over double that in their actual sales.

Emma Bridgewater crown shaped dish, £100

It seems we Brits are more than happy to splash out, which is proven by the fact that this £100 dish with crown lid has sold over a thousand against an estimate of 300. So I guess Mr Rice has every good reason to say to those cynical economists:

“I think ‘bah humbug!’ … Get a grip! Shut the doors! Get out and have a good time. If you are so sold on your business that you can’t enjoy a few days of bank holiday, then something has gone very wrong with your life,”

Whilst I admire those people who are prepared to pay £100 in celebration, it is a little too pricey for me. Personally, I was looking for more fun pick me ups that embrace the occasion in a cheaper, more creative way. And I wasn’t going to be disappointed. As ever, those clever people at Marmite have got it right. Love it or hate it, you have to smile at this bit of marketing.

Love those clever people at Marmite

And for my favourite Jubilee product of all, I once again turn to those wonderful boys at Melrose and Morgan who always do these products so well with an understated elegance. They have taken their popular Battenberg cake, which is a traditional recipe first created by the chefs in the British Royal household to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. So it is totally clever of the M&M team to adapt that British historic celebratory cake into something that marks the current Queen’s Jubilee. No street party or bank holiday picnic should be without this. Genius!

The Jubilee Battenberg. Pure, unadulterated brilliance.

I couldn’t believe my ears whilst watching Saturday Kitchen this weekend. It all started very innocently with Alexis Gauthier, French chef extraordinaire, making a chicken wing dish and talking about his London restaurant. The debate moved onto France and how narrow the food choices are with Alexis claiming he only discovered new varieties of cuisine once he had crossed the Channel. The French, he said, are “a bit too French sometimes”. He went on to say that he found the UK and specifically London food scene more progressive than France. Interesting.

Then yesterday there was an article on chocolatier Paul A Young timed perfectly for the Easter weekend. In it, the Australian head chocolatier Michael Lowe said he moved from Australia to work in the chocolate industry over here because “Brits are more open to ideas”.

So what is it about the British and is this all true?

I thought Jamie Oliver showcased the unique position we Brits have in his Great Britain series where he played homage to the multicultural influences that pervade our country. There is no doubt that the heritage of our  British Empire alongside an openness to welcome in people from all over the world has led to local communities making wonderful authentic food and we saw many examples on that show.

Marry that authenticity up with the passion that drives food industry experts and out pops some really great cooking in restaurants, markets, shops and more all across the UK. But that is not enough to make us the most progressive food scene. And indeed, if you look at the top 50 restaurants of the world as voted in Restaurant Magazine by over 800 international experts, the UK comes 5th in the stats with 4 restaurants listed, as opposed to France at 8, Italy & USA at 6 and Spain at 5.

Maybe the clues come from the actual restaurants listed. In fifth place is the Fat Duck which fell two places in 2011. I guess we all know about Heston and his style. He is a food geek which is not only demonstrated by his choice of glasses. Geek-i-ness is a must have trait for someone doing superlative food. But I also see quirkiness and that feels like a British thing to me. How else do you explain Boris Johnson and his Wiff Waff escapade? Look it up!

'Mock Turtle Soup' awaiting the soup element which came via a gold tea bag of flavour

The Sound of the Sea

There is no doubting the genius of dishes like Sound of the Sea and Mock Turtle Soup which we have all seen on those TV shows, but for me there were other dishes that really endeared me to Heston’s Britishness, creativity and skill. The Whisk(e)y gums were a celebration of a great UK product and the sweet shop takes us all back to a bygone era of our childhood which many are trying to reproduce in new outlets opening today.

Whiskey Gums

The Sweet Shop

The other top 50 restaurant that has stood the test of time is St John and Fergus Henderson really does encapsulate that eccentric British character. Nose to tail cooking may not be your thing but it certainly celebrates the British farming industry in all its glory. And we shouldn’t knock his “buttock-like buns” either.

Ironically, the other two restaurants in the top 50 are The Ledbury and Hibiscus, with an Australian chef and French chef respectively. Well – clearly they came here to explore their ideas in a more conducive environment.

So there you have it. A combination of international influences, multiculturalism, eccentricity and quirkiness which all add up to a unique and wonderful place to explore food. Now where shall I go for dinner?