The proper review is below. In the meantime, here’s my personal bit gushing about HOW EXCITED I was about my favourite movie, one of my fave TV personalities and a three-course Japanese meal all in the same evening.
We arrived late and so missed the cocktails and almost missed the hirata buns, which was bad news because I was starving. I desperately asked randomers where the food had come from and was told to find ladies in red.
The bell rang to tell us to go upstairs for the movie. I charged at a woman in red, nearly knocking over a poor sane guest – ironically the same who’d tipped me off. My
greed persistence paid off and I made it to the auditorium armed with three of these tasty morsels. My friend Loz and I were feeling like BOSSES with our posh water and popcorn.
We then watched Spirited Away for the umpteenth time (go see it if you haven’t) and devoured some seriously gorgeous gastronomic goodies.
The absolute highlight, however, was encountering Wossy himself, not only because I love his show but because WE SPOKE JAPANESE TOGETHER.
We approached him and asked for a photo. Wherever I am, if I want to take a photo, I always shout “Shashin wo torimashou!” (Let’s take a photo!) The one and only time I refrain from doing this, Jonathan Ross says to Loz and I, “Nice dresses, ladies. Shashin wo torimasenka?” (Shall we take (not) take a photo?)
Sheer and utter delight burst from me and I practically screamed at the poor man, “Nihongo wo hanashimasuka?” (Do you speak Japanese?)
Well, the answer is YES. Maybe not fluently, but I think he might trump my rather novice level.
One photo wasn’t enough for Wossy and he asked to pose for a second as below. Needless to say, I thanked him profusely in Japanese and he told me I was welcome.
Cue: Phoebe and Loz skipped down the street with happiness. Sadly not into the sunset. Because it was already dark. The end.
It’s a pretty exciting time if you love food right now. London Restaurant Festival sees a feast of gastronomic events across London with several restaurants offerings gloriously discounted menus. The great thing about food is that it’s easily combined with other forms of entertainment, and so last week BAFTA hosted the Eat Film event combining two art forms – film and food.
BAFTA is at the grandiose location of 195 Picadilly and sees a sweeping staircase lead guests to a large reception-cum-dining room on the first floor. Guests, many of whom had gone for red carpet glam, were sipping cocktails whilst waitresses in dazzling red uniforms handed out hirata buns. Originally gua bao for Taiwan, these delicious, soft steamed buns filled with belly pork, hoi sin and sriracha, have become a major food trend in the West and have been popularised as Japanese under the term ‘hirata buns’ after the New York chef who introduced them. Music from a Japanese koto (long stringed instrument) drifted through the chatter. In the midst of the crowd was Jonathan Ross.
Sadly, Jonathan Ross was not there by accident – for that might make an amazing story – but rather he was responsible for the whole evening. He had been invited to host the Eat Film event and had determined the theme of the evening: Japan. Because whilst he may be renowned as a charismatic, if sometimes controversial, interviewer and film geek, his interests and expertise also extend to the Far East: he is huge Japanophile and he had selected tonight’s movie, Spirited Away.
We shuffled upstairs into the auditorium. Nestled into our seats with Voss mineral water that looked a tiny bit too swanky to just water, we munched on sweet and wasabi-flavoured popcorn – surprisingly successful – whilst Jonathan Ross took to the stage to say a few words. Not only does Wossy love Spirited Away – it’s the film his family put on if one of them is feeling unwell – but he got to meet Hayao Miyazaki, its legendary director from Studio Ghibli. Ross asked him what made truly great animation and Miyazaki had replied the landscapes.This is certainly what strikes the viewer about Spirited Away or indeed any Studio Ghibli offering as they create some of the most startlingly beautiful animated movies that will ever grace your eyes.
Spirited Away tells the story of a sullen and annoying young girl called Chihiro, who discovers an abandoned theme park with her parents. Things start to get a little creepy when she bumps into a mysterious young boy, and then the plot fully embraces the surreal as her parents turn into pigs and she finds herself working for a witch, who runs a bathhouse for spirits. It is takes weird to the level that perforates the imaginations of the majority of us, but this is what makes it so absolutely enthralling; so richly imagined is the world that you don’t question it, but accept talking frogs and a one-way train through water, over ethereal watercolour backdrops.
After our two hours of heart-warming escapism, we made our way for the three-course dinner. 195 Picadilly’s Head Chef Anton Manganaro had prepared an intricate plate of Japanese-inspired starters beautifully laid before us atop a large green, leaf. We sampled salmon temari – thinly sliced raw salmon on a rice ball- with a delicate soy dip and wasabi. Next to this was chakan-style sweet potato and the classic, and frankly addictive, miso aubergine. There was also pork belly cooked in dashi – the sweet, smoky fish stock prominent throughout all Japanese cuisine – and chicken so tender and delicately flavoured that it took us all by surprise.
Needless to say, there was much excitement about the main, and needless to say, we were not disappointed. We were served a very sweet miso-glazed hake that was beautifully counterbalanced with the earthiness from azuki bean rice.
Dessert, however, was a departure from Japanese produce and a tribute to Miyazaki. When Jonathan Ross visited the director at his house, Miyazaki served up an English afternoon tea with one of his favourite sweets – ginger cake. So a moist ginger cake with chestnut ice-cream and yoghurt foam graced our plates, albeit briefly because it was so good it was hastily devoured.
All too soon the evening was drawing to a close. But there was one last thing we had yet to do. Jump Jonathan Ross for a photo of course! But he was very friendly and even gave us a few words of Japanese.
Domo arigatou Wossy. Domo arigatou Eat Film. May the event return to the next London Restaurant Festival for it was one of the most unusual and tastiest nights out we’ve had.