Herbfest is a new “botanical experience” for summer 2013 at London’s riverside Southbank Centre. It’s part of the centre’s greater Festival of Neighbourhood which runs until September 8th and offers locals and visitors alike with a nicely scented opportunity to learn about herbs, eat food prepared with fresh herbs and simply relax in a leafy green urban oasis.
A big part of the Southbank’s herbaceous celebrations is a temporary greenhouse curated by Britain’s leading herb expert, Jekka McVicar. Organic gardening expert, author and broadcaster – McVicar knows her stuff too and shares it with enthusiasm. She owns the UK’s largest collection of culinary herbs (Jekka’s Herb Farm near Bristol) with more than 600 varieties and has been awarded 62 62 Horticultural Society Gold Medal for her organic herb displays, including 14 at the Chelsea Flower Show.
The greenhouse is located right beside the River Thames outside Southbank Centre’s Riverside Terrace Cafe. It’s free to wander through and is well worth doing so with nostrils flared to take in all its headily herby goodness. And if you think there’s just one type of, say, oregano and you’ve only seen it chopped and dried in a dispenser at your local pizzeria, then a couple of minutes meandering through the greenhouse is definitely in order!
Transcribing the herbs from the soil to the plate is Company of Cooks caterers with renowned pastry chef, Claire Clark MBE. Claire’s had a delicious career having shared her delectable creations at everywhere from French Laundry, to the Ritz, Claridges, and a whole lot more.
Venues involved in Herbfest – and will be using herbs from the greenhouse on their menus – include the following:
The Royal Opera House
Bow Street, WC2E 9DD
Nearest London Underground station is at Covent Garden.
Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR
Nearest London Underground station is at Hampstead.
Southbank Centre’s Riverside Terrace Café
Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Nearest London Underground station is at Waterloo.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
With fantastic views of the Thames and a long stretch of London’s skyline as well as plenty of garden plants and grassy spots, the Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden is an especially worthwhile spot to keep in mind for sightseers of all ages looking for a quiet place to rest their feet. Find out more about the Southbank Centre’s summer activities and the Festival of Neighbourhood at southbankcentre.co.uk.
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Photo: Chris Osburn