New Starts and Madcap Dinners with Oliver Rowe

Rebecca Hobson


Welcome to my first post as the Abergavenny Food Festival’s blogger! As a London-based journalist, I’ve been visiting the festival for a few years now, and hope to add a little extra to the wonderful work it does by adding tasty little blog bites right here…

This week’s been rather manic to say the least. Having just started a new job after six weeks travelling across Mexico, I found myself craving indulgence…

I was delighted then, when come Saturday, I was treated to a seafood fest cooked by the (rather dishy) celebrity chef, Oliver Rowe. Food telly addicts among you will remember Ollie from the ITV series ‘Ten Mile Menu’, where he ran around Abergavenny hunting down ingredients – all within a ten-mile radius – for a three-course meal.

Ollie with girlfriend Rosy

And there was the BBC series, The Urban Chef, too. For that venture, Ollie endeavoured – and succeeded – to source all his ingredients from within the M25, before showing viewers how to cook proper. Innit bruv, as they say around here.

It’s little wonder then that Ollie agreed to the rather madcap task of cooking a three-course meal for 65 people – as a “friendship gig” – in the Old Cholmeley Boys Club in North-East London. A snip for an experienced chef like him surely?

The revellers

Well, judging by the quality of the food yes. But considering the tiny, ill equipped kitchen (which couldn’t have been wider than two metres); that Ollie was determined to source as much as possible – you guessed it – from within the M25, on the day itself; and the highly unenviable task of getting 65 champagne fuelled revellers around a table, it couldn’t have been that straightforward.

“I do this sort of thing, friendship gigs, all the time,” says Ollie casually.

“But it’s not always easy, I got food-rage this afternoon. I hadn’t eaten anything and I got into a bit of a strop – but then I had a bacon sandwich and it was all ok,” he adds laughing.

Refusing to opt for the easy way out, Ollie strives to source all his ingredients locally. “I have to put my money where my mouth is,” he says.

And that he’s done, and often in Wales. “When I cooked at the Green Man Festival I got as much as I could from local producers. The same went for the Winterwell Festival in Gloucestershire, Welsh produce is amazing.”

And by Saturday night’s standards London’s not too bad either. For starters we had smoked mackerel on a bed of melt-in-your-mouth beetroot that was ever so slightly sweet. Bringing the dish alive (and countering the champagne) was its accompaniment of freshly made, thick horseradish sauce.

The mackerel starter

Having spent the morning in East London’s famous Billingsgate market – (open between 5.30-8.30 am, Ollie is a true friend) – the main course was a generous, hearty fish stew. But for me it was the desert that made the night.

The saintly trifle

You see, I’ve always been a bit scared of trifle – I am half French, think tarte tatin and then think trifle, I know who my money’s on. So I was a little disappointed when a large bowl of the creamy stuff arrived on our table. Trifle? Really? Yes. God yes. I’m a convert – not to God that is, I’m still unconvinced about that – but to trifle.

Ollie’s trick? Bay leaves. Put bay leaves in your trifle. Now I’ve just tripe to face…

Originally from East Devon, Rebecca is a London-based journalist and blogger who has written for a variety of publications. Passionate about food, sustainable living and travel, she divides her time between cooking for friends, exploring London and chiding flatmates who let things go rotten in the fridge. She has never eaten a McDonald’s and has an unhealthy obsession with butter, the effects from which she tries to counter by cycling everywhere.


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1 Response to New Starts and Madcap Dinners with Oliver Rowe

  1. More Aged Starts & Madcap Forays as far as I was concerned at AFRF last year. Having chatted with a film crew at AFF2010 I ended up filming a fungus foray with Market Kitchen’s Mark Sargeant in ‘a wood’ in deepest Monmouthshire a couple of days after the event. Great fun – and I think the results were OK (I may be biased) but it all started at AFF! Foraying for wild food, in particular but not exclusively fungi is a passion of mine and have much enjoyed leading the odd fungus foray for AFF for several years now.

    They are great fun as you never know quite who or what you are going to find along the way, and as with so many of life’s experiences, ‘one thing leads to another’!

    Talking of which I have spent some of the winter months making liquers from mainly wild ingredients, sourced locally of course and am now starting to enjoy the fruits of my labours. though I think they will be even better this time next year!

    Enjoyed your first blog by the way, great fun isn’t it!

    best wishes


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