The ten London caterers to know
The caterers whose food will be the talk of the party and make you the most desirable host
Everyone knows it's the food that makes or breaks a party. Whether you're hosting an intimate dinner or an elaborate celebration, the catering has the most impact. Here's how to ensure your soiree is deliciously food-minded whether it is an intimate and important supper for six, a party that calls for lavish theatricals or simply the yummiest of street food. These are the caterers to have on speed dial.
The art crowd caterers who specialise in British comfort food
Alongside cooking for the likes of Tracey Emin and at their brilliant Rochelle Canteen restaurants (now at the ICA as well as Shoreditch) Margot Henderson (whose husband is St John's nose to tail Fergus Henderson) and her co-founder Melanie Arnold run a catering company. They specialise in the kind of ultra-seasonal, posh comfort food that their restaurants are much loved for. Use their impressive party rooms in the Nash ICA building above the restaurant, though they happily work with other venues too.
The fashionista caterers known for interactive food stations
Besides their ES Magazine column and catering for Kate Moss, Stella McCartney, British & American Vogue and many more, Tart London's Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones and their team happily turn up their sleeves for all manner of parties. They are especially good for catering larger scale events. Tart London are particularly known for offering interactive food stations from poke to tacos.
The caterers who specialise in delicious food that makes you feel fabulous (it is all gluten and dairy-free)
Catherine Sharman's day job is running the delightful, plant-filled Clerkenwell cafe Apres Food with her partner Danny from a tiny kitchen where they have a sign saying "Dancing in the Kitchen" is a must! Catherine is also an indefatigable caterer with many design clients and trained nutritional therapist who specialises in delicious food packed full of good nutrient profiles (and gluten and dairy free) that makes one's body feel amazing . Don't mock quiches, Apres Food's quiches are incomparable with fillings like home-baked ham. Serve up with almond butter coleslaw and beetroot, lentil, pistachio and cranberry salad for a vibrant, in every sense, buffet. Her cakes are stupendous, especially the dairy free chocolate truffle cake with a delectable intensity and truffle texture.
The caterer who specialises in Valencian fideua
Serving a whole hog is so last year, paella too. What's absolutely now is authentic Valencian speciality fideua. It is made in a dramatic huge pan with a special short pasta rather than rice and the most intoxicating intense fish, tomato and herb rich stock, plus masses sustainably sourced: monkfish, mussels, squid and prawns. For an even more upscale version, opt for scallops and lobster too. It is truly spectacular to behold. Nik and Caroline of Nik's Kitchen do not stint on using the best quality ingredients. What's more, Nik's Kitchen are the only caterers in London serving fideua presently, so for competitive foodies who like to be in the gastro vanguard this is the dish to feast on.
The caterer who does the best doughnuts sweet and savoury
Sabel, run by ex restaurateurs Toby Williams and Lianna Jewell, is produce-led, bold, big-flavoured cooking with plenty of cured and smoked ingredients. There is much emphasis on vegetables and herbs, served with good-looking style.
Their canapés are exceptionally on trend: crab doughnuts, pickled cucumber; spikelets; cured sea trout and horseradish; smoked steak tartare; crisp potato; arancini of porcini and aged parmesan; prawns with pancetta and sage.
Sabel cater for sit down parties and weddings too. A summer menu might include salad of Isle of Wight tomatoes, rosehips, Ticklemore cheese and parsley or seabass tartare, chamomile yougurt, pickled apple, nasturtium followed by butter poached cod, radishes, samphire or Romney Marsh lamb, creamed beans, savoury and crisp garlic. Rum baba, vanilla cream and roast pineapple is, unsurprisingly, their bestselling dessert.
The caterer when cake is required, who keeps it natural too
English rose Henrietta Inman trained as a chef and worked in Michelin kitchens before creating her own cake and catering business, and writing bestselling books – her latest is The Natural Baker. Hen's cakes are always beautifully decorated with edible flowers and use unusual flours, honey, coconut sugar to make them tastier and healthier. A favourite is buckwheat, caramelised orange, yoghurt and olive oil cake. One of her most unusual carrot, beetroot, parsnips & apricot cake with honey yoghurt frosting.
Besides purely cake, Henrietta caters for full afternoon tea including highly creative savoury ideas such as caramelised red onion, parsley & cheddar scones. Henrietta will happily cater for both intimate dinner parties and medium scale parties, she is especially good on rather different breakfasts too – Gruyere gougeres with crispy bacon and watercress anyone?.
The caterer with ice-cream cart and delectable Persian flavours
Laura Dawson started Darlish two years ago as a way of reconnecting with her Persian roots. Her exotic flavoured hand-churned ice-creams were such a sensation at the BBC Good Food Show that she has now launched an ice cream parlour in her home town of St Alban's and has regular pop-ups at Selfridge's. For parties and weddings, Darlish have an adorable staffed ice-cream cart for hire with ice-cream flavours including orange blossom & pistachio, chocolate & halva, rhubarb, pomegranate and rose sorbet, abstain (saffron, pistachio & rose) sweet cream & sour cherry and tahini. Irresistible.
The caterer for an intimate dinner party supposedly cooked by you
Truffflehound can create a menu cooking using your serving dishes and leaving before guests arrive. Ssssh – it’s a secret.
Or they can provide a personal chef to create your (or their) menu in the kitchen with professional staff to wait on table. And they leave you with a spotless kitchen and no washing up. They also do scruffy high teas too presented on vintage bone china crockery teaming up with Vintage Tea Party to serve sandwiches, cream teas, sponge cakes and more. Trufflehound are as happy to cater for a children's party as adults. As they say, you will always find them in the kitchen at parties. Location-wise, they specialise in Chiswick and SW London.
The ultra-sustainable foodie caterer with a round-the-world canapé repertoire
Suzanne James has run her East Dulwich catering company for more than 30 years and seen off a few food fads and catered for more weddings than she could possibly calculate. Quite simply she is unflappable and has seen everything. Her canapés are always scrupulously seasonal and span the globe: broad bean, pea and mint risotto cakes with lemon mayo, Comte cheese and tomato scones with homemade ricotta, fish and chips and minted peas, duck confit and tamarind pastilla with sumac yoghurt. Likewise her sit down menus are as appealing as going to a top end restaurant.