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Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Words & Photography by Felicity Spector
The nearest I normally get to a farm is the omnibus edition of the Archers and my carefully chosen Marc Jacobs-slash-Opening Ceremony outfit was more Shoreditch than the Shires.
So it was with some trepidation that I ventured down to The Farmers Club in Whitehall, where I had been invited to a special gourmet evening hosted by chef Brian Turner, to mark the start of British Food Fortnight.
I soon discovered I was the only one who had asked for the vegetarian option at this very meat-centric dinner, which was supported by the organisations promoting Britain's exports of beef, lamb and pork.
There was some consternation as the starters were delivered: plates of Trealy Farm air dried ham. Mine was quickly snatched away, along with my cutlery, eventually replaced by a terrine of indeterminate composition, which I have to admit I left.
However things swiftly improved. Brian Turner came out to welcome everyone, jovial as ever, waxing lyrical about the saddles of lamb he'd been roasting off for the main course. "It's not the cooking that's important", he declared, "It's how long you rest it. And these are beautiful pieces of meat." He couldn't resist a slightly retro joke about the "ladies in the room" and the calories in the blackberry Eton Mess dessert - before marching back towards the kitchen, ready to oversee the rest of service.
Despite the focus on British meat, there was a fish course: a fillet of mackerel simply grilled with some roasted tomatoes: good, and fresh.
Next came the main event: that saddle of lamb with huge chunks of fondant potato for everyone else, and a sizeable piece of salmon with herb oil and (slightly overdone) fennel and carrot for me.
The lady opposite me peered at my name tag, which proclaimed, rather grandly "Felicity Spector: The London Foodie." She clearly thought this meant I was some kind of culinary guru, and started quizzing me in detail about her meal. "What is the saddle? How have they cooked it? How did they do this potato we've got?" With all the confidence of a non-cook who has, however, watched many, many editions of Masterchef, I talked her through the boning, stuffing and rolling process, and how to baste a fondant potato. I hope I was right.
The Eton Mess arrived: far nicer than I had imagined, with a thick pool of tart blackberry compote, and a rich, but light blackberry mousse.
An unusual London night out for me, then - but all credit to The Farmers Club for showcasing such fine British produce - and Brian Turner as its tireless champion.