Holborn’s Rosewood London Hotel already has a reputation as the luxe hangout of choice via acclaim for Scarfes Bar, Holborn Dining Rooms et al. It occupies the deliciously ostentatious Edwardian landmark that was once HQ of the Pearl Assurance Company, complete with splendid stone courtyard designed to accommodate horse-drawn carriages. Every Sunday, this inner sanctum now hosts what must be London’s most glamorous farmer’s market.
Slow Food is a movement with Italian origins that boasts its own manifesto and mushrooming numbers of devotees across the world. It celebrates virtuous production methods, flavours and small scale provenance; the antithesis of grab, gobble-and-go fast food in every sense.
This is the first time a market based on Slow Food principles had had a weekly home in the capital, and the beautifully aged wooden carts, tasteful straw bales and crates brimming with plump produce suit the grand cobbled space a treat.
Around thirty stalls set up each week. Not all are food (look out for crafts, clothes, candles and such like) and not all are conventional, either. We were first tipped off on the joys of a Sunday ambulation here by Camden Lock distiller Mark Holdsworth, whose regularly parks up his Half Hitch Gin Land Rover at the market, complete with pop-up bar in the boot.
Enticed through the imposing iron gates by the stacks of colourful slow chocolates, our kids were actually first captivated by a taster of Woodford & Warner’s sorrel drink, a very grown-up yet non-alcoholic tipple from Walthamstow by way of Trinidad.
They also loved the creamy raw milk from the Hook & Son cart, which was proudly festooned with promotion for the movie about their back-to-basics farming, The Moo Man, (a recent hit a Sundance, no less.)
Meanwhile I had a nip of the heart-warming Hiver honey beer, sweetened by the efforts of London bees, ogled further luxuriously golden pots of honey direct from the neighbouring Midtown hives, before moving over to admire slivers of impressive ruby-pink Hansen Lydersen salmon, taken from a sustainable farm in farthest reaches of Norway, then smoked over juniper and beech just up the road in Stoke Newington.
But aside from the usual opportunities for sampling a nugget of tangy slow cheese or a slice of garlicky slow salami, the masterstroke of this particular market concept is revealed in the brunch offering at the hotel’s adjacent Mirror Room restaurant.
There, Sunday brunchers have free reign to tuck in to a bountiful spread of produce supplied each week by the various traders outside. It’s like a scene from the wildest dreams of farmer’s market sample aficionados, where everything is available to try (and try again), in full-sized portions, in comfy seats, and there’s no need to make an embarrassed purchase of a jar of chutney after having been seen to graze through the lot a little too greedily.
The hotel’s executive chef, Amandine Chaignot, curates the market, then creates dishes from the seasonal produce, which on our recent visit included a delectable lamb supplied by Jack O’Shea’s the butcher, now based in Primrose Hill, alongside a surprising range of biodynamic ‘slow’ wines by the glass.
At £60 per person, this could feel an indulgence, but is actually keenly priced for the unique variety and consistent quality of the food on offer, all to be enjoyed in very special surroundings. They even had staff on hand in a special room to entertain the kids, ensuring ours was probably the most relaxed, slow Sunday eating experience we’ve enjoyed in years.
Full review of Slow Food Brunch at the Mirror Room to follow on Gasholder next week.