The Ship, Wandsworth
23 September 2011
It’s been three days now and I think we’ve only really, just recovered from what was a truly mammoth voyage into the competitive world of Best Scotch Egg. What started out as a cheeky ‘anything you can do I can do better’ conversation over twitter, rapidly turned into a list of truly outstanding pubs and restaurants all intent on winning the prize for something they all knew they could do well, but, the question was, who could do it just that little bit better? Victory came in the form of round, runny, yummy perfection from The Devonshire Arms in Chiswick who scored 83 points out of 100 for their Haggis and Burford Brown Recipe. Joint second runners up were The Old Dairy,Stroud Green and The Bull and Last, Highgate who were hot on their heals with 79 points.
With 33 entrants on Tuesday night, the pub was buzzing as crowds gathered in the restaurant to watch over the pass as the competition began. The judges, neatly tucked away out of earshot and view of the kitchen took to their seats, a mixture of both excitement and definite apprehension on their faces.
And so we got started… chefs galore turned up to the kitchen at their allotted slot times, eagerly awaiting their 15 minutes in the kitchen. Some more relaxed than others, we made our way through three hours of celebration for the genius creation that is simply egg, meat and breadcrumbs. There were probes flying about, stop clocks and alarms, there was heat, there was sweat, there was almost tears!
We had ritual songs being sung, we had customized t-shirts, there were shouts and there were cheers. But what emerged out of fryers and ovens, no one could turn down. Overwhelmed waitresses launched themselves egg after egg into the restaurant to give out these works of art to the crowds and get opinions flowing, a separate competition developing for which one of them could try and get the furthest through the masses without having to return to the kitchen with an empty board.
Huge thanks have to go out to our judges Chris Pople, MiMi Aye, Mat Follas, and self confessed King of Scotch Eggs David Constable (who we hope still wishes to maintain that title after being force fed almost seven in one sitting) for their expert opinions. They were also joined by special guest judge Eric Lanlard of CakeBoy fame and whose hobbies are soon to include trips to space, who kindly stepped in and saved the day at the last minute to fill the fifth spot on the panel. Not knowing who’s egg was who’s they endeavoured to judge on appearance, smell, texture and taste, 20 being the maximum points each judge could give an egg (5 for each category). At about 11pm we had a result. Tallying up the points to give each competitor a score out of 100, Osh made his way up to the judges table to announce a winner. The Devonshire’s Egg was truly outstanding and with four out of the five judges ranking it top, they deservedly lifted the cup.
Top points for best non retail entry went to Friday Food Club and David crowned The Hind’s Head, Bray as the winners of his own award for eggcellence. Commentary and laughs from Douglas Blyde on the mic all evening doing interviews and egging on the judges topped off a great night and very successful event. A massive congratulations to everyone who took part, ate, drank and went into the bar afterwards to be merry amongst a few local irish musicians.
About The Ship, Wandsworth:
On the banks of the Thames by Wandsworth Bridge, The Ship has been supplying fine ales, wines and food to its surrounding residents since 1786 when it was founded as a Thameside Waterman’s Inn.
Interview by Carl Pendle for PrimeLocation - see him talk about life after the competition and he reveals details about his real and dream homes.
Film by Tandem Marketing
Tandem Marketing was tasked to produce a video for the Dorset Seafood Festival 2011 which communicated all elements of this increasingly popular event. Using testimonials from stall holders, sponsors, participating celebrity chefs and visitors the video clearly demonstrates the success of the event for all involved.
The Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink
24 January 2011
It's the morning after the night before and my husband, his brother, his brother's girlfriend and I ooze slowly down from the comfort of the lovely apartment and crumple into a little heap at the bottom of the stairs.
"Morning," chirps a jaunty-hatted Mat Follas, in a pinchably cheerful manner, "Don't tell me you've just got up?".
"Grhmmmhrth", I say as we sit down at the long wooden table for some reviving coffee and cake. It's not that early to be fair - 9.30am.
The restaurant is full of other sprightly looking people - we've all gathered for a foraging course at the Wild Garlic led by expert Theo Langton and Mat himself.
"You're wearing city shoes" says Mat about my tough, plain black Clark's boots, "You're going to get mucky".
I make another noise of disdain and nurse my cup of coffee.
The brother-in-law and girlfriend are a good bit younger than the husband and me and, thoroughly perked up, they excitedly flick through their mini Food for Free foraging handbook they've brought along.
Theo gives us a short talk about what to expect and some house rules ("No eating anything unless we say it's okay") and then we're off.
Our first stop is rather unexpectedly a little lane just off the Square where the Wild Garlic is located.
Plants which look like weeds to me and which I see so often I don't "see" them any more turn out to be ground elder, jack-by-the-hedge and hogweed.
Down another lane we go, and there's walnuts and blackberries, cobnuts and nettles.
Every discovery comes with a story from Theo and some culinary tips from Mat, and we make notes and take pictures and begin to think "Ray Mears has nothing on me".
Now it's time to go further afield and we hop into a minibus driven by Mat himself and end up in a sun-dappled copse, where we traipse about merrily spotting different types of mushrooms.
Picking them the proper way (slice and not uproot so as not to kill), we offer them up to Theo for identification in hushed tones as if bearing tributes to a mighty potentate.
We punch the air when we come up with an edible one and sigh when we come across a dud.
We find russolas and chanterelles and ceps and amethyst deceivers, different shapes, different colours, every one fascinating.
It's all fantastic fun and we're genuinely sorry when we're told it's time for a mid-morning break and driven back to the Wild Garlic.
The sorrow doesn't last though as, back at the ranch, there are glorious brownies, fresh strawberries and more tea and coffee on offer.
Refreshed, it's back in the bus for a journey to another beautiful part of the countryside - rolling hills, sheep and a fort on Eggardon Hill.
Hardy country is indeed stunning; I later find out that much of Hardy-inspired Tamara Drewe was filmed in the area.
Here we come across wild apples and peppermint, sloes and damsons, sorrel and yarrow.
The fresh air and the feverish joy of finding nature's bounty is one of the best feelings I've had in a while.
We sit for a while and we contemplate the beauty before us (well, Mat checks his iPhone and the rest of us contemplate).
Finally it's time to return to the fold where a delectable spread awaits the foragers and Mat and Theo who stay with us to chat and to answer more of our excitable questions.
The foraging theme is continued through to the food - the soup is nettle; the ice cream is sharp sorrel; the jelly is made from damsons; there's sloe sauce with the confit duck.
And to add to our giddy joy, at the end of the meal Mat comes out with gift bags for us all containing a Wild Garlic mug and a small packet of ramson seeds ie wild garlic ...
Fabulous day, fabulous course and yes, you do get muddy, but it's all very gentle. Best of all is the nifty little price - £95 all in.
The wonderful thing is that it's obviously seasonal - I cannot wait to go back to Dorset in the Spring and in the Summer to be shown what else Nature has in store for us.
This post is dedicated to Tash Samways, who was one of the reasons I loved The Wild Garlic.
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