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Charles Campion, food writer and critic, takes on today's fine food issues

“Happy New Year?”

It’s the optimism that impresses. Anyone opening a restaurant must have a thick hide and determination aplenty. Every year hopeful restaurateurs remodel their dream restaurant sites and then watch their life savings gurgle down the plug hole as the public gives its verdict

“Happy New Year?”

What did you get for Christmas?

“Breaking fast”

Next time you find yourself in a hotel breakfast room, take a look around at the other guests. This sensible folk will have got up early to tuck into double fried everything. Once upon a time everyone would have been breakfasting like this. A combination of the decline in manual labour reducing our need for fuel and constant battering from the health lobby has put a dent in the world of breakfast and now the “Seagull’s breakfast” rules supreme, (for nonmariners the components are “a look around and a drink of water”). What a pity that serious breakfasting is reserved for a treat, or those occasions when breakfast is already included in the hotel’s B&B tariff. Big breakfast is beleaguered

“Some like it hot”

Stand by to be swept away by a tide of melted stuff – cooked cheese is coming to town

“The march of the seasons”

I have a guilty secret: I cannot bring myself to throw anything away. I feel happiest in my office surrounded by cookery books; their mere presence is comforting and I tell myself that I can just reach out and pluck wisdom from the shelves. I also have an obsessive relationship with the weekend papers, clipping and filing anything to do with food, drink or restaurants. These cuttings make interesting reading and conclusively prove that there is nothing new under the sun

“Cooking up trouble”

Connoisseurs of the inappropriate one liner will be sad that Prince Phillip has withdrawn from his endless round of engagements. He recycled jokes mercilessly and showed little patience with the dignitaries he met. The Duke has an abrasive and inspiring legacy. His comment on the cooking at Buckingham Palace in the 1960s: “I never see any home cooking – all I get is the fancy stuff”. Or at a dinner party when the predinner drinks ran on: “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner”. In 2002 he breakfasted on bacon, eggs, smoked salmon and kedgeree, croissants and pain au chocolat before exclaiming: “The French don’t know how to cook breakfast” - at last, a good reason to Brexit

“Flamin’ June”

For anyone interested in cooking and eating, deciding which of the 12 months is best for food and drink is like picking a fantasy football team – it’s perfectly alright in theory but will soon be overwhelmed by events. November has its supporters – think of all those unctuous stews, crumpets that drip butter, roast gamebirds and heart-warming soups. But the golden month must be June, if only because it is such a contrast to the “hungry months” of January and February. The weather is better in June and the fisherman can put to sea, mackerel and crabs are top quality. The spring flush of grass has worked its magic on the cheeses. In June there are new potatoes, peas and tiny beans. Strawberries, rhubarb and gooseberries. The exotic stuff is also at a peak – gulls’ eggs, calcots, elderflowers. Most accomplished cooks know that every great meal stems from buying the very best ingredients and interfering as little as possible. If you cannot cook up a storm with June’s bounty there’ll never be a better time. At this time of year, food and drink should be celebrated everywhere

“Trends bubbling under”

Earlier in 2017, when the year was but a pup, Greggs the high street baker announced an impressive rise in several key financial indicators. For investors lucky enough to hold Greggs shares, dividends were up by 8.4%, and all of this despite a background of gloom and doom and low interest rates. There is always something to cheer about if you look hard enough and a healthy options range now accounts for 10% of Greggs’ turnover. The strategists at the bakers have pulled off something of a coup as there are very few bedfellows as uneasy as the Greggs “Balanced Choices” range and their own formidable sausage roll

“Let me tell you a story”

Some would say that Damon Runyon was one of the greatest ever masters of the short story. He wrote reams of them and was still churning stuff out on his deathbed in 1946. They are well written tales and peopled with stylised characters like Harry the Horse and Nicely Nicely Johnson. Eventually Runyon amalgamated all these characters into a smash hit – Guys and Dolls

“Gung hay fat choi!”

This year the Chinese New Year was early and the main festivities ran from 27th January until 2nd February. For everyone else this is a quiet time of year, with both food shops and restaurants choosing to lie low in January. Eventually St Valentine’s Day will encourage an upward blip in the sales figures and things will perk up

“Happy New Year!”

Welcome to a New Year as yet untarnished and still full of optimism. Magazine editors everywhere will have got together and commissioned a raft of pieces about the future for January. What are the trends for 2017? Will there be some new 'must-cook' foods? Will there be developments so earth-shattering that the face of retail is changed beyond all recognition? This time last year, all the speculation was about Brexit. No one knew how it would end up and we still don’t, although it is fair to say that the result managed to be both unexpected and inconclusive

“Shop happy”

Every year, early October sees a good number of restaurants holding their breath in anticipation. Setting aside the merits of a tyre-maker’s opinion about gastronomy, the Michelin Guide to Britain and Ireland is a plump red book much beloved of chefs. For many otherwise sane and sensible cooks this guide is the one, and to win a star is the ultimate cheffy ambition

“How to make a food town”

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Potato Spirit Company's distinctive drinks are currently going down a storm. And with…

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