Bloggers are a curious species – especially the ones with culinary concerns. Their relationship with food seems to be as follows: kidnap a stranger’s plate, take their food hostage, then photograph it. I was given ample opportunity to observe their eccentricities recently, when I attended a glitzy dinner party held in honour of all things bloggy. The venue was the Cuckoo Club in Soho, an easy stroll from the elegantly aristocratic St James’s Hotel & Club.
Entering the club’s vampish purple dining room is like stepping into a box of Milk Tray. The dining room was abuzz with polished PRs and meedja types, and cocktails flowed like water. I heard one girl murmur, ‘I love peppers’ (that’s the kind of chat you can expect from a food-bloggers’ night out). Five seconds later, she was clutching an incredible alcohol-laden red pepper, topped with all manner of drinking paraphernalia: umbrellas, sparklers and so on. She probably had a sombrero and a cactus in there.
Dinner was equally extravagant: duck with a coriander spring roll and crispy seaweed; that fashionable favourite, Wagyu beef; a silky cauliflower purée, and a mind-bogglingly delicious chocolate pudding with sea salt crumble and malt ice-cream. Our attention at the table was split between eating, and talking about eating. I sat next to Zucca‘s lovely sommelier (and part-time food blogger), Zeren, who picked his best London restaurants for us…
1) Viajante: ‘Nuno Mendes is one of the most exciting chefs in the UK. Ultra creative food, the legacy of El Bulli and Noma, is brought to life here with dazzling plates of artistic intricacy. Try the squid tartare in a deft lattice of tiny squares. Big ambition and big impact, in the badlands of east London.’
2) St John Bread and Wine: ‘The second outpost of St John is the perkier venue, with former Fat Duck chef James Lowe delivering duck hearts on skewers, sand eels, and impeccable crab with the wobbliest mayonnaise ever.’
3) Hakkasan: ‘Still seductive after all these years, this restaurant raised the bar with the first Michelin star for a Chinese restaurant in the UK. Sleek black panelling, atmosphere of illicit excess, and dim sum up there with the best in London.’
4) Barrafina: ‘Best tortilla in London. Best jamôn croquetas. Best grilled prawns. The closest we get to the proper Spanish experience in London. No bookings, so jostle for a bar seat, then sink back a manzanilla sherry. Soho at its best.’