Although Mayor Boris had to send his apologies, the press launch for the London Restaurant Festival had an impressive turn-out this morning with no less than 25 of the city’s best chefs turning up in support. Hot-dinners spotted the likes of Richard Corrigan and Angela Hartnett to Tom Aiken, Racine’s Henry Harris, Pierre Koffman, Mark Hix and many others as they mingled for a photo-call in Covent Garden.
Such was the bonhomie on display, that festival organiser Fay Maschler was moved to describe it in glowing terms: ‘Just being with those chefs this morning and feeling the camaraderie they share the and the warmth they have for each other and the support they give to each other just reinforces my feeling that it’s a very nice business on the whole and one we very much want to celebrate.’ She was also keen to quell any idea that she might be stepping down as restaurant reviewer for the Evening Standard, saying, ‘I’m not planning my exit – whatever rumours you may have heard to the contrary.’
Fay’s fellow conspirator, Simon Davis was on equally ebullient form, saying; ‘We’ve signed up almost 500 restaurants to run the festival menus...several of the chefs have come up to say they’re already taking reservations for people to try the festival menus in five weeks time, which is hugely encouraging.’
Davis admits to being particularly excited about the pop-up restaurants on the London Eye and explained that one of the capsules will become a 10 seat pop up restaurant opening after the London Eye has shut to the public. ‘You turn up, you meet the chef and sit down have the first course as it goes round the 30 minute revolution. It’s good that it stops as I’m sure there’ll be a lot of refreshments drunk and we have arranged a toilet.’
Other tidbits released today included the welcome news that Pierre Koffman’s pop-up restaurant on the top of Selfridges would be extended for a further week as bookings had gone – if you’ll excuse the pun – through the roof. To book your tickets while there are still some on offer, click here.
Festival Week will clearly be party week here in London – with a launch party co-hosted by Vanity Fair at Quaglinos and a closing party at Nick Jones’s new Shoreditch Pizzeria – Pizza East – which will host that party on its opening night.
Maschler finished with an explanation of what to expect from the first London Restaurant Festival awards. ‘We’re not looking for haute cuisine or fancy flourishes, we’re going to reward attributes like bravery, passion, discovery, ceremony, wit and warmth.’
The London Restaurant Festival runs from 8-13 October 2009.