The streets and restaurants in and around Soho were unusually quiet for a warm Saturday in June. One could be forgiven for thinking that there was some big sports game on or they had announced that there was another chance to not get hold of Olympic tickets. In fact, everyone had congregated to one small part of Soho and it was bustling with familiar faces from the restaurants in the area. The courtyard at St Anne’s Church on Wardour Street had been turned in to the Soho Food Feast for one day.
Forget trekking into the deepest darkest parts of Regents Park in your Hunter wellies to pay for overpriced tasting portions with things called crowns, Fergus and Margot Henderson organised a culinary mecca for all the great Soho establishments (and a few from further afield) to raise money for the Soho Parish School on Great Windmill Street. Not only did this offer us the chance to have the likes of Anthony Demetre of Arbutus personally cook some food for you or the pleasure of having Shuko from Koya offering you second dibs of fresh udon noodles, we were doing this all for the kids of Soho Parish school.
In one corner, Dean Street Townhouse were dishing out their boiled mince and potatoes flanked on either side by Wright Bros and Trullo. In the other corner Sam Hart was manning the Barrafina stand alone as his brother Eddie was at Glastonbury along with Mark Hix and Russell Norman. A few stalls up, the life and soul of the party Mr Jeremy Lee was serving a summer pork dish that had been pillaged by the ravenous punters (his words, not mine) which meant he could kick back early with a bottle of fizz for the afternoon.
Meatwagon, St John and Bocca di Lupo kept the carnivores pleased with burgers and sausage sliders while Polpo were going strong to the end offering chopped chicken liver crostini and polpetto with a cheeky thimble of house Merlot.
Despite having the best restaurants and chefs in Soho prepare dishes for you, the atmosphere was that of a quintessential English school fete with bunting and white tablecloths hand painted with the names of the restaurants. Innocent bystanders or oblivious tourists may have easily walked in thinking this school has some parents who are pretty handy in the kitchen.
Congratulations to Margot and Fergus for organising such a top afternoon. The Soho Food Feast felt like a community event for a school that is very much at the heart of a community. Despite being the extraordinary confusion that it is, most of us forget that Soho is still a home and a community for many.
I am already looking forward to Soho Food Feast 2012.