I had a little taste of what hard-core foodies get up to in their spare time last night and I enjoyed every minute of it! My foodie friend Felicity Spector took me as her ‘plus one’ to the launch of “Hubbub” at the delightful Melrose & Morgan shop/café in Primrose Hill.
Hubbub is a bit like the online grocer Ocado but it’s a lot more focused on local artisan food products. Basically, you go onto the website and you enter your postcode (they only operate in London at the moment), then based on where you live, they link you to amazing produce from independent grocers, butchers, delis and fishmongers close to you. You can then place a food order from a range of different food outlets, then Hubbub delivers it to your door!
It’s a fantastic idea and it was originated in 2008 by a lovely lady called Marisa Leaf who I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to last night. She quit her job as a Lawyer and decided to set up her own business. Four years later and she has this amazing independent food business. Very inspirational. Marisa wants to eventually spread it all over the country.
When we arrived at Melrose & Morgan we were confronted with a swathe of beautifully presented nibbles on granite boards – all supplied by the small food producers that supply Hubbub at the moment.
We began by tasting crab-cakes, mushroom arancini balls and deep fried prawns made by Raoul’s. The arancini balls were the star of the show – squishy, cheesy and with a risotto-like texture. Dipped in sweet chilli sauce they were just divine.
I then realised free wine was on offer from Borough Wines – one red, one white, still in the keg. What a great way to drink it!
A large glass of red in hand, I made my way to the three types of sausage I spied on show by the Hampstead Butcher and Providore. The chicken chipolata sausage dipped in English mustard was particularly tasty.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a friendly looking man (whose name turned out to be Jonathan Norris of Jonathan Norris Fishmonger), who was shucking oysters. “Caught in Essex this morning – fresh as a daisy!” He told me. That may well be, I thought to myself… but me and oysters don’t always like one another. However, I then remembered back to that time back in 2010, when I ate freshly shucked oysters on the beach at Bruny Island in Tasmania. They were so fresh in fact, I could actually see the traps in the water where they were caught only a few hours before. (See image above.)
I remember how fresh those oysters had tasted – yes, the texture might have been soft, if a bit slimy. But the fresh, salty and cold taste of the sea had made me realise that not all food has to be stodgy, savoury, sweet, sour or spicy… it can just taste of freshness and that’s all, end of story.
With that in mind (and with my focus firmly back in London) I peppered the large oyster in hand with tobacco, tipped my head back, closed my eyes and thought, “bottoms up!” The taste took me right back to Bruny Island and for a moment I thought I could hear waves…. (ok, a slight exaggeration there.)
Felicity and I then moved to the other end of the room, once I realised (to my shame) we had completely forgotten about the cheese. Yes, I know… I deserve my brains tested. But once we were there, we were there for a while. We tried five or six different types of French cheese from La Fromagerie, on delicious crackers. My favourite was a smoky creamy white goats cheese, which I gobbled down despite my rotund belly.
So yes, I was feeling rather full at this point, but it would have been wrong not to eat pudding! We headed for the little cubes of cake that were on offer by Leonardo Gioacobazzi’s. The gluten-free chocolate cake was obviously flourless, and had a gorgeous gooey texture. But, totally unexpectedly, I fell head over heels in love with the polenta, almond and lemon cake. Now, I’ve never eaten polenta cake before, but now, I can’t wait to learn how to make it. At first it seems like any ordinary lemon sponge cake, until you begin to chew and it has this grainy very slightly crunchy texture. Unbelievably moreish!
If Hubbub delivers food of this quality, I’d better sign myself up for a delivery or two!