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On Your Marks For A Summer Of Foodie Heaven

BY Boon Koh
Published 11 August 2012

In the midst of all of this Games madness, we’ve started to notice that the East of the capital is becoming a foodie’s dream. With everything else that’s going on, it’s been easy to forget about the amazing opportunities that the Games will offer for the smaller, interesting restaurants and food stalls that finally have their time to shine.

With such a vast collection of food on offer outside Olympic venues, the Food Standards Agency is ensuring all businesses, from restaurants to street traders, understand that it’s more important than ever that the food they sell is safe. They have launched the Play it Safe campaign, which aims to ensure the food we buy and we eat is the best it can be – and so far, it seems to be doing the job.

To discover the breadth of eateries around the East that have geared up for this hectic time, I headed to The Gun, the impressive gastro pub in the Docklands which dates back to the early 18th Century. A must for food lovers and history lovers alike, The Gun is famously known for the romantic liaison between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton and serves impeccable, well priced, modern British food, perfect for visitors from across the pond in particular.

The Gun is also host to the fantastic ‘A Grelha’. This entirely al fresco Portuguese inspired sunspot boasts not only a remarkable BBQ style menu, but stunning views over the river – ideal for those wanting to be in the heart of the Olympic action, but with enough distance from those Golden Arches.

Another great destination for those on the go is Big Apple Hotdogs based on Old Street, an iconic venue in East London’s burgeoning street food scene. Abiye Cole, the genius behind the “sausages that make you smile” has made sure he’s ready to take on the masses. To give you an idea of the scale of visitors, Tower Hamlets Borough is expecting to see 300,000 visitors per day during the Games, which hopes to create an enormous knock-on effect to stalls similar to Abiye’s in the nearby area.

Abiye is confident that tourists and his regulars will continue to enjoy one of his “Big Franks” (the “Pimp Steak” is a very close second) despite the potential rise in demand. The FSA will be pleased to hear that Abiye has embedded food safety into his business model – water filled vats ensure the dogs reach the required internal temperature before being dropped onto the adjacent smoking-hot griddle which gives them their irresistible skins. And by deliberately choosing to sell a simple offering, it allows him to ‘entertain’ the customer, ensuring you come back time and time again.  If you’re lucky, you might spot one of his new staff, each trained to the required food hygiene standards before being let loose on the public during the Games. And you’d hope so too, however this isn’t always the case: the FSA is reminding visitors to a closer look at when eating out, as a busy environment can increase the temptation for businesses to cut corners. It’s all an essential part of running a food business and one that particularly helps the best street food vendors to stand out from the crowd.

The Play it Safe campaign by the Food Standards Agency aims to raise awareness among food businesses and visitors of the importance of good food hygiene and food safety.

For top tips on how to eat safely this summer, check out the advice on: food.gov.uk/olympics or the @playitsafefood Twitter feed.