A perfect foodie Saturday: Maltby St market, Monmouth coffee and Catalan treats

London foodieness can be a tad exhausting. The best places to eat take months to get into, the newest places don’t take reservations and keeping up with what’s hot and where to go often makes me want to retreat to a land where baked beans on toast is a completely acceptable evening meal. But sometimes you have an experience that reminds you how absolutely brilliant it can be, how completely innovative, inspiring and exciting and just, well, just so damn good. Yesterday I went on a food photography course run by Paul Winch-Furness and not only did I finally, after seven years, learn how to use my much-loved workhorse of a Leica on the manual setting but, in the process I ate amazing food, met wonderful people and came out feeling totally reinvigorated about blogging, photography and how I still have so much to try, cook and eat.

The course took place in Bea’s of Bloomsbury diner in Maltby Street which is not only so hip you need a visa confirming your knowledge of pata negra to get in but also so far away from North London that yours truly was knackered and late by the time she arrived. Paul was already in full flow and, after a latte (none of your goat latte, mind, a proper Monmouth one) and a notebook were delivered to me in quick succession, I concentrated on the discussions of f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO ratings. We then spent the day being treated to endless new tastes (black rice with cuttlefish) and old favourites (buttermilk pancakes) whilst learning how to improve our pictures of said delights. The pancakes were not only delicious…

…they also helped me grasp depth of field on a digital, having lost that knowledge when I left film behind. We then moved onto chicken liver paté on toast…look at that lovely blur at the back…which was divine.

That was followed by some beautiful cheese and smoked ham from Reiner’s Austrian fine foods.

After this, bread, olive oil, aïoli and, I kid you not, bucket after bucket of the best mussels I have ever eaten arrived. At first, I spent ages taking styled pictures of them, wanting to keep practising so that my new-found manual ability was not lost…

but then I started eating them and the joys of photography were forgotten for a bit. Somewhere between the ham and the mussels, there was a pea soup…

and by this stage we were all feeling rather full. But, unbelievably, we had only just had our starters and Rachel McCormack and her team were busy prepping us more Catalan delights, this time fideua and black rice with cuttlefish. I can eat a lot but, sadly, delicious as it was, by this stage I could only manage mouthfuls. In true Spanish fashion we started eating at 2pm and were still going at 5pm, eating our way through mountains of food whilst learning the delights of Lightroom and Snapseed. Then, in a moment which made me think of Mr Creosote, Rachel asked when we wanted dessert…I don’t think any one of us managed more than a mouthful of chocolate cake or apple strudel though we did take plenty of pictures of them:

It was a brilliant day. I learnt how to take better photographs, I plan to take a Catalan cookery course and I will be returning to Maltby Street for French toast and cheese and ham shopping. Or at least I will when I have my appetite back…

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