The whole concept of a UK based music festival has never greatly appealed to me. Sure you get to see some amazing acts live but the whole camping with no running water and electricity thing whilst being exposed to our rather unpredictable and more often than not rainy summer weather has ultimately always seen me spent the money I would on a weekend festival ticket on other equally useless but great things like clothes and cocktails.
City day festivals however have slowly won me over and have grown into somewhat of a favourite of mine after I first experienced the wonder of feeling like you are at a festival but being able to go back to the comfort of your own flat once it's all over for the day when I first went to Field Day a few years back. This summer I've not only been lucky enough to see one of my all time favourites Jamie xx at Sunfall festival but was also kindly invited by Jose Cuervo to go to Lovebox festival and explore their Tequila Town pop up - think a mini Mexican village serving up food and drinks, tucked away to the side of one of the stages in the grounds of the festival. It didn't take much convincing on their part for me to jump at the chance to go. Being in Victoria park, the festival is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from my house and to top things off also happened to have some seriously good headliners this year, the big return of LCD Soundsystem getting me particularly excited.
Now some festivals can be a bit overwhelming in terms of crowd size and the sheer number of places you can drink and dance at and acts you can choose between which is one reason why I enjoyed Tequila Town on this occasion so much. Yes, my recent trip to New York may have made me a real frozen margarita aficionado ( and the ones served up at Tequila Town proved en par with the incredible ones I sipped on Salvation Taco's rooftop a few weeks back on the Upper East Side) but that wasn't the only reason why me and my friend spent a good chunk of our entire day at the festival here. With lovely Mexican bites served up alongside a variety of delicious tequila cocktails, changing DJ's spinning some seriously good tunes throughout the day and enough outside seating as well as space to dance this felt like a scorching mini festival within a festival that had a colourful and authentic Mexican flair and made us nearly forget to move to the main stage for the big headlining acts as the sun began to set.
Despite waking up with a rather sore head the next day (thank God by the way for my current obsession, the ubereats app, allowing me to continue the Mexican theme by delivering a delicious prawn salad with guacamole from Chilango straight to my bed), I had an absolutely brilliant time not only at Lovebox but also at this little yet brilliant tequila fuelled sanctuary that Jose Cuervo created!
I rarely venture out of my east London comfort zone when it comes to eating and drinking which luckily for me tends to work out pretty ok as a lot of my favourite restaurants and clubs happen to be in walking distance (Visions and Berber & Q being prime examples of this). Sometimes however I will make an exception especially when a restaurant presents itself with a particularly intriguing and to me enticing menu just as Farmacy in the heart of Notting Hill did on this occasion.
I may not be a massive advocate of "clean eating", personally enjoying ice cream, cookies and wine a little too much, a little too regularly, but I also love cooking with vegetables more than anything, have a few intolerance problems (as many of you may know I don't react too kindly to gluten) and don't eat meat so instantly liked the look of the mostly vegan and gluten free fare with inspirations from around the world, think mezze to Asian salads with some spelt tagliatelle thrown in, that get plated up here. And they don't limit themselves in that sense- it may be mainly health orientated in its ethos, a whole section dedicated to Buddha bowls, but they still want you to have some of the kinda bad stuff offering a great selection of organic wine (we sampled a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc on this occasion) and equally yummy cocktails that were both refreshing but also packed a much needed alcoholic punch on the Friday evening we went for dinner here after a long day at the office- the Cool As A Cucumber cocktail in particular a must try mix of gin, cucumber, basil leaves, fresh apple and lime juice.
Yes, it is all a bit Made in Chelsea with its beautifully polished brass interior and even more beautifully polished diners ( MIC's Proudlock was actually there that evening surrounded by an army of glossy haired tall vixens) but even the cynical east Londoner in me couldn't help but love it. Why? To put it simply they make seriously fresh and healthy food that also happens to be tasty, served in a refined yet cool environment, all at pretty decent prices.
It is also a vegan's or anyone who suffers from a serious food intolerances dream, offering dishes that are usually far from it as completely dairy free. A prime example of this was our nacho stater, freshly made tortilla chips served with guacamole, refried beans and 'sour cream'- God knows what they used to emulate the dairy element so well but it tasted pretty much like the real deal if not better! That finesse and creativity in their cooking is visible across the entire menu, a favourite of the night the middle Eastern Buddha bowl, took classic elements of this type of cuisine and gave them a modern, health conscious yet nonetheless flavour packed twist (in this case beautifully succulent sweet potato falafel combined with incredibly fresh tasting spirulina hummus, baba ganoush and quinoa tabbouleh). Another main and yet another take on the "oh so of the moment" Buddha bowl, the 'Green Eggs' bowl, proved equally good, bursting with fresh notes of the green veg and an incredibly flavourful garlic aioli.
Despite this all being relatively light fare we were feeling pretty full and satisfied after the mains (definitely also having gotten our five a day by this point) but couldn't say no to dessert after a glance at their menu. Desserts are of course typically quite dairy and gluten heavy and not many alternatives to them I had tried up until this point had really measured up, often a very lacklustre and almost too "healthy" version of the original. At Farmacy however the dessert were not a mere afterthought. No, they were pretty much as close to sweet tooth heaven as we were going to get regardless of that neither of the option we tried as it turned actually contained any refined sugar, dairy or gluten!
Their sundae was a glorious concoction of gluten free brownie chunks, vegan cream (which was super silky), seasonal fruits, raw cacao and maca caramel which tasted so much like its buttery real caramel brother that we almost had to ask that they were really sure it contained no dairy. It was decadent, rich and, though no doubt still containing a lot of calories, left us feeling a little less guilty than after devouring a normal sundae. The real star of the show for me though was their take on a lemon cheesecake. Presented as deconstructed bowl, it consisted of a beautifully light raspberry mousse on a biscuit base served with a zingy lemon sorbet and maple meringue. It was such a fine composition of flavours and textures that it could have easily been served up at any top London restaurant, vegan or not.
A lot of people may be negatively predisposed when they hear of a health focused, vegan/vegetarian restaurant in a fancy part of town but in this case don't be. Farmacy serves food that has moved with the times and our evolving ideas about food and nutrition without compromising on the flavour and presentation that we expect from a top restaurant. Go now and be surprised what they can do with a few simple ingredients and even less dairy.