As we head into the autumn months, the London Restaurant Festival is back again to help foodies cope with the shortening days.
The festival runs from October 1 - 15, with two weeks of special events happening all over town and it is supported by a raft of special menu deals on at hundreds of restaurants across the city. We've taken a pick of some of the best events around...
The Gourmet Odyssey
When? 6th, 13th October
What? Every year at the London Restaurant Festival, the food equivalent of a pub crawl takes place across some of London's more interesting restaurants. The Gourmet Odyssey, which has been running since the festival first kicked off, takes you on a Routemaster bus tour in a fixed area of London, so you have an aperitif, starters, lunch and dessert at different restaurants. This year, there are two central London jaunts - a "classic" affair taking in Brown's Hotel, HIX Mayfair, Wilton's, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and a "New restaurants" route, visiting Novikov, Banca and Brasserie Zedel. It looks as though the classic tour has already sold out but there are still tickets for the new route available at £125.
When? Various dates throughout the event.
What? If you fancy a little walk between courses to make room for dessert, then there are two walking tours which are new to the LRF this year. Graze is setting up on several streets throughout London - Marylebone High Street, Exmouth Market, Bermondsey Street, Soho, Charlotte Street and Brixton Village. At the participating restaurants, you'll be able to order a special course and get a complimentary glass of wine to go with it - if you show off your Graze keyring. Restaurants taking part include newly Michelin-starred Trishna, Antico, Bubbledogs, Caravan, Morito, 10 Greek Street, Tonkotsu, Duck Soup and loads more. Get your Graze keyrings here - they cost £12.50 each or £10 if you buy them in pairs.
The Tapas Tour
When? Weekends - 6th/7th, 13th/14th October
What? The tapas tour does a similar thing to Graze, but with (no surprise there) tapas and with one single route through London. Restaurants taking part in these events include Fernandez and Wells, Iberica, Brindisa Soho, Copita, Barrica and PIX. You have to buy a passport for a stated day and visit the restaurants between 12pm and 9pm. A passport costs £49 and you can order yours via the London Restaurant Festival website.
Taking in some culture
When? Saturday 13 October
Another mainstay of the LRF is Eat Film, which lets you eat food 's inspired by a film before going on to watch the film in question afterwards. This year's events are My Big Fat Greek Wedding hosted by TV chef Michela Chiappa, Tampopo hosted by writer Tom Parker Bowles, Withnail and I hosted by Polpo's Russell Norman and The Funeral hosted by bloggers Lady Velo and the Fairietale Foodie. Tickets for Tampopo ond My Big Fat Greek Wedding cost £49 and include a Grey Goose cocktail to kick things off, parmesan popcorn during the film and the three course dinner at either the Charlotte Street or Covent Garden Hotel. Russell's evening is at the Sanctum Soho Hotel and costs £45 while The Funeral is at The Garrison in Bermondsey and costs £37. Tickets for the latter two can be found here.
When? Saturday 13 October
What? This is a celebration of Street Food that is being run by KERB (AKA Eat Street) and will feature an host of street food vans alongside music, poetry and other exciting performance arts in the Old Vic Tunnels on October 13. More vendors are to be confirmed but you can expect to see Kimchi Cult, The Ribman, Ruby Violet ice creams, Big Apple Hot Dogs and Pizza Pilgrims among loads more. It's an all day, and free to enter, event. Huzzah!
The Big Debate
When? Monday 8 October, 8pm.
What? This year's Big Debate, which sees some high profile foodies get all defensive about their pet subject - is all about the proliferation of TV chefs - more specifically "Too many TV chefs are spoiling a domestic craft".
On the side of the TV chefs will be Oliver Peyton and Grace Dent, while those wanting a break from cookery programmes are Jonathan Meades and Matthew Fort. This is going to be a hard-fought contest and definitely one of the key events of the festival. It takes place at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill. Tickets cost £25 and include a glass of vino.
The Gastropub Quiz
When? Tuesday 2 October, 8pm
What? The LRF foodie pub quiz can be fiendishly hard, if our experience is anything to go by. The year we tried it we spent most of the evening doodling on our entry sheets trying to look as though we knew any answers at all. This year sees five pubs across London taking part simultaneously (with a distinct focus on North London). The pubs are The Drapers Arms and North Pole in Islington, The Royal Oak in Twickenham, The Well in Clerkenwell and the George Shillibeer in Holloway. The winning team from each pub will get an LRF hamper, with the overall winners getting a special prize of something special but unspecified. You can book ahead, or just turn up on the night - full contact details for the pubs taking part can be found here..
The Big Event
When? Sunday, 7 October
What? American Express, as sponsors of the London Restaurant Festival, always put on something special, previously pairing up chefs for a one-off event - a theme they're repeating this year. The difference this year is that each chef has chosen to pair up with someone who's either a protégé, friend or soulmate. So you'll see Jeremy Lee & Rowley Leigh at Le Cafe Anglais, Sam and Sam Clark with Jacob Kenedy at Moro, Vivek Singh & Eric Chavot at the Cinnamon Club plus loads more. The only snag is that you'll have to be an American Express cardholder to bag a table at these one-off events.
On the Side
Each year, the festival also has a number of "Side Order" events - here's our pick of them:
When? Monday 1 October
What? Kicking things off on October 1 is #FlashHob, a special event throughout London, which will see some of the city's "hot young chefs" pop up in surprise locations all over London to cook food for whoever finds them. Ollie Dabbous, Jackson Boxer and Ben Spalding are among the chefs involved and you should keep an eye on Twitter @lrf2012 for more info on the day. One of the biggest draws is that fresh from winning his Michelin star, Ollie Dabbous will be giving away a table for dinner for two at his restaurant - which as we all know is one of the hardest to get tables in town. Look out for an old converted yellow ambulance which will be ferrying the #FlashHob chefs around town.
The Scone Club
When? Saturday, 6 October, 3.30pm.
What? This is a special afternoon tea event in aid of Action against Hunger which sees a number of top chefs - Alex Gauthier, Ravinder Bhogal, Anna Hansen and Chris McGowan (head chef at Corrigan’s Mayfair) - team up to pair a menu for a tea tasting event at The Burlington Social Club in The Royal Academy. They're suggesting a donation of £25 which you can do by booking here - that seems great value for such fine company and you get to do good into the bargain.
Faviken's Swedish Wild Meat Breakfast
When? Monday 8 October, 9-11am.
What? Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken (34 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list) is hosting this special breakfast with Mark Hix at Tramshed in Shoreditch which will see him create sample dishes from his latest book prepared by the Tramshed team and he'll give a talk about the book too. Tickets cost £30 for the food and drink or £50 to include the book too.
For more on all of the events and to view the special menus, visit the London Restaurant Festival Website.