Friday 2 November 2012, 15:33
Portobello Road in west London contains some of the most expensive shops and houses in London, but that is only at what one might call the Notting Hill or Hugh Grant end of the road.
Follow it north under the tube line towards the Regent's Canal and a different London appears, a relatively poor, multi ethnic and multicultural one. There are franchised pizza restaurants of course, but among the halal butchers and African food stores you can still find an old fashioned cafÃ© specialising in jellied eels and pies.
On Wednesday morning this week I got off the tube at Ladbroke Grove, walked a few blocks north before turning right, crossing the northern end of Portobello Road, and entered Golborne Road, part of which has been taken over by Moroccan families. Parked along the side of the road were vans dispensing freshly cooked North African food. There I found two of the judges of this year's Food and Farming awards, chef Valentine Warner, who looked as if he runs a marathon every day, and restaurant critic Charles Campion who does not. Hovering around them as they tasted a variety of soups and tagines was the Food Programme producer Dan Saladino (and that is not a nom de plume).
I was there because, although the programme is very popular, it has a number of critics among Feedback listeners who think it is largely for rich foodies, who can afford to buy the finest organic ingredients and who mostly live in the south east of England. Now undoubtedly we could have recorded our feature at restaurants with eye wateringly priced menus, instead of tasting Mohammed's food which cost between Â£2.50 and Â£5.00 a dish.
His cooking was superb however, and Mohammed had been nominated by one of his clients for the best street food/takeaway award. Afterwards I had some of the pea soup, price Â£2.50 with bread. Wonderful. (And don't worry, dear licence fee payer, I did not charge it to expenses).
One thing I did not really have time to pursue was the crippling embarrassment that some of us feel in an intimidating restaurant when the food is not up to scratch or had not been cooked as requested. Some of us, OK, I still find it difficult to make a fuss and ask the food to be sent back, particularly if my daughter is pulling at my jacket and begging me to be quiet .
But perhaps we should not be silent when the French make their hoary old prejudiced complaints about the food we eat.
Charles Campion claims that there are more varieties of food to eat in Britain than anywhere else and that the quality is often outstanding. Well I can certainly recommend Mohammed's fast food in West London, and if you are anywhere near Brampton in Cumbria, it has a cracking farmer's market and some of the best meat and cheese sold in Britain. Couple that with the local beer, try Hellbeck for example, and you really do not need to visit Paris anymore, well for the food anyway.
Here is this week's Feedback feature on food.
We also followed up our item last week when listeners told us how hard it was to get a ticket for the recording of some BBC shows, and that getting a ticket was no guarantee of getting a seat since some licence fee payers, ticket in hand, had been turned away at the door. The BBC , like airlines, routinely hands out more tickets than seats , claiming 40 per cent of ticket holders do not turn up for recordings.
Why not charge? Well the BBC says licence fee payers should not have to pay twice for a programme.
Some programmes do charge however, such as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Its producer, Jon Naismith, is a firm advocate of charging, which pays for larger venues, and ensures that every ticket holder who turns up gets in.
He points out that the Proms charge as well and that you can still listen to them and his programme for free . Being present for a recording is a different, additional, experience.
What do you think?
Do let us know.
Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.
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Friday 2 November 2012, 14:32
Thursday 8 November 2012, 17:40