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Central London becomes woodland wonderland for foraging and feasting event

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An evening hosted by caterers H+J demonstrated the often overlooked potential of foraging in foodservice, as Thomas Lawrence reports

Held on 29 June at the exclusive 41 Portland Place in London, the event marked the launch of the venue’s new experiential catering and menus. In the grand location of this historic venue, attendees were treated to a plethora of freshly foraged insights on this growing foodservice trend.

The night began with a tour of Portland Place, home to the Academy of Medical Sciences. A combination of spacious and more intimate rooms, as well as an outside terrace, made it the perfect setting for the evening’s proceedings.

A range of botanical themed gin and tonics set the tone for the evening, complemented by guests’ first taste of foraged produce. Appetisers included macaroons with a salty salmon garnish and irresistible lamb lollipops.

The doors to the main event room were thrown open to reveal Miles Irving, author of The Forager Handbook, and a table replete with foraged produce for attendees to sample. These ranged from the familiar (sweet peas and peppery rocket) to the unusual (Douglas fir shoots and fragrant mugwort). An insightful talk followed, with Irving explaining the nutritional benefits and sustainable advantages of foraging.

The grand unveiling of the evening’s menu followed from H+J head chef Julian Moore. Notable highlights of the bountiful buffet included smoky beef brisket and freshly made bread, all lifted by the presence of ingredients hand-harvested only the day before.

Pudding canapés concluded the feast. With them came more macaroon centred highlights; this time, lavender and honey provided a flavour sensation.

Foraging for success

The foraging and feasting event was particularly timely. In the same week, renowned Noma chef Rene Redzepi launched his educational ‘Vild Mad’ (‘Wild Food’) app at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 15th anniversary celebrations, part of his campaign to raise the profile of foraging. Foraging, once seen as the preserve of eccentric pressure groups and experimental high-end dining, is entering the foodservice mainstream.

As Irving pointed out, foraging is not new; in addition to chefs like Rene Redezpi expanding their influence and more new cooks than ever getting stuck in, humans have an ingrained ability to acquire food from nature stretching back thousands of years.

Yet the Portland Place event demonstrates how foraged food can exceed mass-produced alternatives both in flavour and sustainability when wielded by innovative restaurateurs and vendors. Foodservice consultants should get ahead of the foraging curve while they still can.

Thomas Lawrence

 

Picture: chef Rene Redzepi and team forage for Noma (credit: Vild Mad, MAD)