January can be a notoriously quiet month in London kitchens, as dropping temperatures, drained bank accounts and depleted serotonin levels conspire to keep punters in their living rooms and off restaurant seats. Instead of breaking out the chicken suits and going flyer-dropping, however, more and more chefs and restaurateurs are using the downtime as an opportunity to get together and have some fun outside the scope of normal operations. So here are five events to check out in London this January which promise just that.
“When in Ombra”
Ombra, Mare Street’s canal-side answer to a Venetian bacaro, will be hosting a series of kitchen takeovers in the coming months, as chefs from around London venture east to try their hands at a four-course Italian menu.
Priced at £39/head, each menu will follow the traditional format — shared antipasti will be followed by a primo course of pasta or risotto, a secondo “main” course, and a dolce course to finish. A curated list of low-intervention Italian wines selected to complement each menu will be available on the night, thanks to selections from Tutto Wines, Passione Vino, and Les Caves de Pyrene.
The series will begin on 15 January when Ben Rand — Head Chef at The Dairy — steps up to the plate, already promising a knockout take on Zampone; a dish of stuffed pig’s trotter traditional to Modena.
While later dates are yet to be confirmed, Chris Trundle (Lyle’s), Edgar Wallace (Koya Bar), and Maxine Thompson (Polka Pants founder) have all committed to taking on the “When in Ombra” challenge.
Bookings can be made with the restaurant directly.
Ombra — 1 Vyner St, E2 9DG
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar Pita Party
Throughout January, the Berber & Q Shawarma Bar will be showcasing a series of guest pitas in the lead-up to their second annual pita party on Sunday 4 February.
David Carter (of Smokestak), Nud Dudhia (Breddos Tacos), Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (Honey & Co), and Israeli chef Oded Oren will each create a pita that will be offered for a week at the Shawarma Bar, before all coming together for the pita party, where guests will be served a miniature of each pita, topped off with a “dessert pita” from the Shawarma Bar’s head chef Vicky Heafield.
Carter’s aged gochujang pork belly, toasted sesame, cucumber, mint, and crackling, will kick off the series on January 8, and will be followed by Dudhia’s concoction of beef short rib birria, guajillo chile adobo, burnt hispi cabbage, brined tomato salad, habañero gomashio and bone marrow mole, and the Honey & Co team’s spiced beef kofta, lemon tahini sauce and tomato and parsley salad pita, before Oren’s hand chopped sea bass and hake kebab, with spicy peppers and sour cream rounds out the series.
Come the pita party, each chef will also be contributing their influence to the soundtrack, while the Shawarma Bar team have put together cocktail and wine flights to accompany the pita service.
Salon Fifth Birthday Party
Following their successful re-launch in 2017, Salon are having a on-off blow out feast on Sunday 28 January to celebrate their fifth birthday. Chef Nick Balfe will be welcoming five of London’s foremost young chefs to join him on the pans in Brixton, promising a proper knees-up to mark the occasion.
Josh Katz (Berber & Q), John Chatarasak (Som Saa), Lee Tiernan (Black Axe Mangal), Doug McMaster (Silo, CUB) and Ravneet Gill (Llewelyn’s) will each contribute to the menu, which will include dishes like crispy fermented pork belly, granny smith and sour leaf salad with sea buckthorn and orange chilli dressing, and chervil roots, whey and red flesh apple, supplemented by snacks from Balfe like January king cabbage taco with beef short rib, buttermilk and kraut, and pheasant popcorn with sea buckthorn ketchup.
Ryan Chetiyawardana (a.k.a Mr Lyan) will be on hand to kick things off, serving a celebratory “Salon 75” cocktail, while Salon co-directors Matt Bushnell and Mark Gurney will keep the wheels turning, pouring a range of wines focussed on volcanic whites and Jura reds.
Glandstonbury at The Drapers Arms
Glandstonbury returns on February 8 for its fifth instalment at Islington’s Drapers Arms — bringing together a lineup of chefs from across London for what the pub pun-tastically describes as “the capital’s most offally good night out.” Offal indeed.
Luke Frankie is joined by Shaun Searley (of The Quality Chop House), Andrew Clarke (Brunswick House), James Knappett (Kitchen Table), Merlin Labron-Johnson (Portland), and others, for a multi-course extravaganza of various innards and off-cuts. Variously described as a celebration of nose-to-tail eating, or a marathon of forced bites and pinched noses, previous menus have included dishes like veal sweetbread with cep spätzle and madeira, or smoked lamb heart, chicken liver, cured egg yolk and squid ink as well as deviled chicken feet and ox kidney pastries.
Quo Vadis and Friends
Sold out in 2017, this year’s edition of Jeremy Lee’s curated series of guest appearances kicks off on 25 January when the Black Axe Mangal crew return to host an alternative Burns Night feast. Last year’s Burns celebration featured “glitter, numbing spices and an NSFW ‘cock em bouche’ pudding”, and they’re promising the 2018 edition will be bigger and bolder. So there’s that.
Throughout the first half of the year, other takeovers will include a Valentine’s Day dinner by the team from Salon, which promises communal dining and a “non-prescriptive foodie love-in”, followed by Heston Blumenthal’s Bray restaurant The Hind’s Head, “next big thing” Tommy Banks cooking a selection of dishes from his debut cookbook “Roots”, and a feast by Olia Hercules celebrating the cuisines of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova.