Tag Archives: london

The Magical Urban Physic Garden of Enchantment and Poop Converters

Creep around the back streets and hidden alleyways of London and you find interesting things sometimes. With the Rambling Restaurant, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to cook and serve meals for cabaret and theatre performances under the cold grey stones of the railway arches near London Bridge, down narrow passages and past car parks. This summer, the Ramblers spent weeks hanging out just next to those dungeon-like spaces, but instead we were outside in the sunshine and the rain in the beautiful and inspiring Urban Physic Garden.
A collaboration between so many talented people including the visionary designers of Wayward Plants, the herbalists of Living Medicine and urban planners Publica as well as so many other wonderful volunteers, contributors and supporters, the Urban Physic Garden was a magical wonderland of greenery and delight, featuring curious seesaws, a dumpster pingpong table, an old operating theatre for workshops and performances, and herbs historically used to treat your every malady.
There was a dermatology ward…
an oncology ward..
a respiratory ward and a cardiology ward…
and of course a gastro ward…
but most importantly there was a kitchen garden with herbs and edible flowers and also an eating enjoyment area for Rambling celebrations of all kinds.
Abi the foodrambler, with the help of an assortment of talented and creative people set up the Rambulance – a cafe and kitchen run out of Bertha the decommissioned ambulance.

We served drinks, food and snacks during the week as well as some spectacular dinners inspired by the gifts of the garden.  We even had a Loowatt!  It’s an outdoor waterless toilet system developed by some fellow Imperial and RCA students where you do your business in a toilet made out of poop from the Queen’s cavalry – the horses, not the soldiers – and the waste gets emptied into an anaerobic digester (chilling behind Abi) that converts the waste into fertilizer as well as methane gas that powered one of our stoves! SO AWESOME.  It was very cool how many people got excited rather than disgusted by the big canister of poo behind us in the cooking area.
It was so fantastic being able to marinate meat, grill pizzas, brew tea, and toss salads by just walking over to the garden and picking multiple varieties of mint, basil, parsley, lemon verbena, coriander seeds, sorrel, nasturtiums, thyme, and whatever else tickled our fancy.
We served salads grown by friends in community gardens in nearby Walworth with vibrantly colored edible flowers and dressing to be squeezed from syringes..
followed by what is in all likelihood the peak of my cooking career – the simultaneous grilling of 28 pork chops –
and topped off  by Abi’s beautiful lemon verbena creme brulee topped with edible flowers.
Beyond eating, it was a place for firepit hangouts…
seesaw shenanigans of all kinds…
–  watch Jenny flex her up&down skills –
and a wide array of other activities ranging from nature walks to concerts to a seriously cool site-specific theatre performance by the Flying Orchard where I got to dress up as a nurse and order people around and of course death drawing.
It’s been a wonderful place to spend time, but sadly is all closed down after a summer of lovely outdoor experiences.  You can no longer wander through the garden of delights doing your best to avoid eating from the poison cabinet or falling off the seesaw….
RIP Urban Physic Garden…you’ve been a magical space. Can’t wait to see what enchanting things this crew comes up with next!
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I’m in a bit of a yogurt obsession.

I’ve never been a huge breakfast person (eggs Benedict on the weekends doesn’t count, that’s BRUNCH), nor much of a routine person and yet, every morning like clockwork for the past month or so, I’ve been waking up early and eating yogurt. Who is this new me? Usually sprinkled with blueberries and muesli, maybe granola, almonds or walnuts,  sometimes bananas, apples or strawberries, sometimes even dates, and ideally a spoonful of flaxseed.  I’ve tried Greek and probiotic, everything from whole milk to low fat to fat free, and multiple brands from Rachel’s Organic to Yeo Valley to Total, almost always plain or natural because I don’t like it too sugary. It’s delicious, healthy, and oh so easy –  no porridge pots or eggy pans to wash in the morning rush and all is good.

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Once Upon A Rambling Time in the Enchanted Fairytale Forest of Bumpkin…

Welcome friends, to the mysterious enchanted forest of Bumpkin, where last week the Rambling Restaurant transformed a skyhigh attic dining room for a fabulous fairytale feast. As one of the Three Little Pigs, let me welcome you into the lush and glittering Rambling Fairytale…

The whole event was a fantastic collaboration between so many talented people – Sarah demonstrating her chef skills in the kitchen along with the versatile and knowledgable Bumpkin staff, Abi aka the Little Red Riding Hood and I doing the serving with the help of Ali and Billy behind the bar, the gorgeous decor creations of Miss Ali O’Malley (previously of Moulin Rouge fame), and a participatory cabaret full of wit, wonder, and wows led by Lucy from The Little Show Off as the very Wicked Stepmother, Matt the contact juggler, and Simon who dazzled the crowd as the surprise secret ingredient. Although not one of the listed performers, the man behind these lovely photos, our photographer Martin – had our diners shaking with laughter at his spectacular poetic rendition of Hansel and Gretel.

I’ll let the wise and wonderful words of the Wicked Stepmother take you through the evening….

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Sunday Farmers Market Trips and an Easy Cheesy Recipe

Since I moved to West London about a month ago, I’ve been trying to make it to my local farmers market at Queen’s Park almost every weekend.  It’s a different style of market for me  – my favorite markets back east were all about discovering and eating the incredible prepared food, from eating extravaganzas and grilled cheese happiness at Borough Market to wild mushroom risotto and salted caramel cupcakes at Broadway Market just behind my old flat.  In contrast, my new local market has some good snacks, but here it’s more about the grocery shopping  – you can buy everything from excellent free-range meat to fresh eggs to heritage cheeses to lots of local produce all grown within 100 miles of the M25.  I’ve been trying to maximize farmers market shopping and minimize supermarket shopping as much as possible, so each Sunday has been a big shopping spree to buy as much as we can for the week.

We’ve been obsessively experimenting with happy chickens – here you can see Old Hall Farm and Fosse Meadows Farm stands, both of which offer a perfect bird for a Sunday night roast with market vegetables. And pretty bunting.

Perry’s Farm and Ted’s Veg are great for stocking up on produce – I’ve been trying all sorts of fun and colorful things like green and red kale, red cabbage, Isle of Wight tomatoes, sorrel, cress, local apple and pear varieties, rhubarb stalks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

It’s all excellent quality, grown by small farmers and producers, and a great way to get involved in supporting the local community. Plus, it’s delicious.  Showing up at the market and buying whatever looks exciting is a great way to try out new vegetables and play around with different recipes.

I love broccoli, especially when it’s pretty and purple. I think it’s delicious on its own, but let’s be honest…isn’t everything a little bit extra awesome when you add cheese into the mix?

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It’s a fruit! It’s a meat!? It’s…AMAZING.

Recently, I had meat and fruit for dinner.  To be precise, I had meat fruit at Dinner, the new London restaurant from insanely inventive culinary evil genius, Heston Blumenthal.  Look at my appetizer: it’s fruit!

Or so you think…

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Community Feasting and the Best Cupcake Frosting You May Ever Put In Your Mouth

I always wish I had access to a table large enough to seat 20 of my best friends around it for an epic dinner party. I still haven’t managed to acquire such a table or a room large enough to put it in, but I got a taste of what it might be like at a great event last night called the Hub Feast.  It’s a potluck and a dinner party,  a chance to meet great people and talk about all sorts of cool food things, and an opportunity to make an unnecessary amount of insanely indulgent peanut butter cream cheese-frosted cupcakes.  What more could you ask for?

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A Night of Moulin Rouge at the Rambling Restaurant

Welcome to the Moulin Rouge Ramble, a dimly lit den of cabaret, cake  & corsets that popped up on Great Windmill Street a few weeks ago.  Hosted by the amazing word-of-mouth agency 1000heads, decorated by the creative visionary Ali O’Malley, and captured on film by the fantastically talented Mark, it was quite the evening to remember…as long as you didn’t down too many absinthe cocktails.

Come check out Mark’s amazing photos of our ephemeral Parisian creation filled with candlelit erotic poetry, beef bourguignon,  fishnet stockings and freeflowing champagne…

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I’m On A Roll! Or, The Painfully Punderful World of Sushi Making

I love salmon nigiri, I love cucumber maki, I really love shrimp tempura and avocado hand rolls and, as the mini button says, I love Yelp.  Thanks to the brilliant folks on the Yelp team here in London, I got to attend a sushi-making class at the brand new location of the paper crane-bedecked, double-fried soy garlic ginger chicken-producing Tsuru Sushi.  In case you’re wondering, I also love paper cranes and all things double-fried.

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Almost 99 Bottles of Wine on the Wall…and Nearly 99 Courses to Follow.

Imagine a world where your bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich comes in one surprising multitextured bite of  Essence of BLT. Where Death of Elvis is a completely bizarre and completely delectable mouthful of  solid yet somehow softly melting banana, peanut butter, nutella and jam.  Where the cheese never seems to end and where the wine flows like the water dripping from the ceiling…

It sounds like Wonderland, but don’t be fooled by the 7 foot tall cross-dressing Alice in spectacularly tall heels opening the door. It’s 99, a pop-up restaurant run by friends Whetham and Dave, who have combined their impressive and inventive artistic, hosting, and culinary talents to create a spectacular and stomach-busting evening of performance, gastronomy and often a topsy-turvy combination of the two.

I was honored to be invited along to help out in the kitchen on the final night of 99’s first run. Donning pristine chef’s whites in the kitchen of their Victorian mansion in Hackney, I joined chefs Dave and Hugo to whip, dip, bread,  layer, chop, and see the magic happen behind the scenes.

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Rambling Restaurant at the Market Estate Project

We’ve cooked in old train depots and darkened car parks and city centre squats and sprawling warehouses. Last week, Rambling Restaurant added a soon-to-be demolished 1960’s North London housing estate to the list of odd and unusual venues, swooping in just ahead of the wrecking balls.  In the amazing Market Estate Project, artists from around the world took over empty flats to create imaginative, engaging, thought-provoking and awe-inducing installations ranging from short films to death-defying performance art to covering entire apartments in building plans or blue plastic.  We were honored to be a part of the day by cooking up all sorts of meals and snacks for people involved with the project.

Sarah and foodrambler conjured up massive pots of beef rendang and aubergine and sweet potato coconut curry with rice and creamy cool banana chutney to fill up the many volunteers before their very very cold outdoor shifts.

Once people began trickling in, we Rambling Restaurateurs turned our attention to making canapes for visitors and staff and lucky wanderers. Homemade chickpea and beetroot hummus on crackers, carrot and cumin dip on crispbreads, mini onion quiches, and Michelle’s famous fried-on-the-spot fish and chips.

In between dishing up cute little newspaper cones and assembling sandwiches for staff sustenance, we found some time to explore the incredible and inspiring works of art. Like an entire flat – bedroom, living room, bathroom, balcony and all – transformed into an enormous blue plastic balloon:

And another apartment entirely papered over, top to bottom, in building plans:

More art photos and some thoroughly inauthentic banh mi sandwiches after the jump…

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