I’m still not convinced by family-style dining. Perhaps it’s the fact that this past Sunday at the Riverford Travelling Kitchen I witnessed a surprising amount of food not touching diners’ plates, and heading back to the kitchen. It’s not that the food was poor – it was excellent, in fact – but is this the inevitable consequence of English strangers sharing a table? Why was everyone too polite to take his/her fair share, and later, too polite to take second portions? It was laughable to watch a couple each take 2 spears of asparagus from a platter that could have easily fed twice the number people at our table. This anxiety over portion sizes slowly crept over the table, and no one seemed prepared to take second portions. This hungry American could deal with it no more, and 15 minutes later took her second portion of beef and salad. It was hard to sit back and watch the waiters return platters still half-full of food to the kitchen – why did diners find it awkward to finish the food they had paid for? I hope it didn’t all go completely to waste…I imagine that any leftovers may have provided a bountiful staff lunch later on. (I’m off to Studio East on Friday – I’m actually hoping for greedier neighbors at my table now).
The veggies were, of course, the star of the meal. There were no starters, and 10 minutes after taking our seats, our communal table was laden with platters of broad bean and sun-dried tomato salad, roasted asparagus, sweet roast beetroot and carrot and and herbed new potatoes. It was all accompanied by thin slices of roast beef, which I’m sad to say was slightly disappointing. I like my meat with a bit more pink, and our table seemed to get 2 platters that had just crossed to the wrong side of medium. Looking around the room, one could see the doneness of the meat was inconsistent – bleeding red at some tables and approaching dead at others. Thankfully, it was (partially) saved by its wonderful rosemary gravy and the sugary sweet roasted red onions and garlic that accompanied it.
There was a wonderful array of desserts on offer, including a good, (albeit predictable) strawberry and rhubarb crumble. I opted for the blueberry pavlova, and whilst the meringue was cooked to perfection – crunchy and light on the outside, slightly chewy inside – something in the dessert resulted in it being overly sweet. Big shame- if the blueberries were of the same outstanding quality as the vegetables, they must have been lovely and sweet all on their own.
But all in all, it was a fantastic experience. I’ve been a customer of Riverford for some time now, and the pop-up brought their farm in Devon within easy reach of us Londoners. We had a great afternoon, and it was most definitely something out of the ordinary compared to our usual restaurant experiences in London. The yurt provided a great setting and kept us warm from the cold and wind on the farm, and was filled with families in their finest pastels, as well as a younger, artsier crowd. Freightliners Farm is a little gem in Islington, and I’m surprised I haven’t once been in, despite the number of times I’ve walked right past it.
Total damage: £17.50 x 2 for the food, £22 for a surprisingly good bottle of organic prosecco, and a few quid for coffees.
Riverford Travelling Field Kitchen
Freightliners City Farm