Now, I must admit that the thought of going to expat events is usually enough to bring me out in hives. Toast NZ is meant to be a celebration of New Zealand food, drink and music. It’s also held on Clapham Common, which makes sense as Clapham has the largest concentration of New Zealanders in London. I don’t live in or anywhere near Clapham. But I had been offered a free ticket instead of the normal entry price of £25, and as I’d never been before I decided to check it out.
As soon as I stepped off the tube I was surrounded by New Zealand and Australian accents. Beer bellies abounded. It was a stinking hot day, the kind of weather that would normally see me sheltering indoors, but it meant that Clapham Common with its burnt off grass and complete lack of any kind of sheltering trees, was very effectively transformed into New Zealand Town for the day (Flight of the Conchords in-joke).
The two restaurants with top billing were Suze in Mayfair and Smith’s of Smithfield. Smith’s is run by John Torode and is in the middle of the Smithfields meat market. So even if you’ve never heard of them before you can guess what they specialise in. And it is always spoken of very highly by my meat-loving friends. They were actually offering a vegetarian option of falafel, but to tell you the truth that just seemed wrong!
Suze is apparently a New Zealand restaurant and was offering up NZ mussels, prawns, “lambwiches” and pavlova. I decided to try a small plate of mussels with a white wine-celery-type sauce. The sauce was served up from a huge soup tureen and I have to say it did not look that appetising. A bit too thick and gloopy. The taste wasn’t anything special either, and while the mussels were your usual delicious greenlipped NZ variety, they hadn’t been debearded which put me off even further. A girl came up to me and asked if they were any good. When I said no she tried to engage me in a long conversation about them! I’d forgotten some New Zealanders are completely unreserved when it comes to talking with strangers! This actually happened a few times and I felt like if I wanted to I could have made new friends quite easily. Maybe I’ve been in London too long but this just scared me a little.
The place was unfortunately also full of loud, obnoxious, drunken Kiwi types. I was queuing for some wine when a group to the left of me, who had been loud and annoying the whole time I’d been queuing (one guy had a particularly ear-piercing laugh) jumped the queue, demanded beer, and when there was no beer bought wine instead. Really enough to make my blood boil. However as soon as I got my wine, more of the O:Tu Sauvignon Blanc I first tried at Taste last weekend, I found my happy place. Yes, that wine really is as good as I thought it was. It’s available from various places online or direct from O:Tu by the half case (£53 as I recall) with free delivery. I suspect it’ll probably win a slew of awards so buy it now, ok?
Some of the best food I ate was some prawns and tempura prawns with fried noodles. This was just proper, honest street food, looking at it being cooked I knew exactly what it was going to taste like and I wasn’t disappointed. I grew up eating street food from market vendors on hot, sunny days so this just took me right back. A far cry from the food I had at Taste last weekend but the right food at the right time.
My alarm has just rung three times to tell me it is time to go to Italy now, so I will leave you with this, which is just wrong wrong WRONG:
A crime against strawberries!!!