Location: Regent’s Park, London 12-4pm 23.06.2012
When I think of Taste of London I think Benares Food, Caramel Rum Cocktails, White Marquee’s, Shaking hands with the celebrities of food and the cleanest portaloo’ in history.
Me and my boyfriend have always been foodies, investing free time in testing new recipes, trying new restaurants, and walking through specialised food stores in search of something new. As soon as I saw the Taste of London Festival advertised I knew it was meant to be. To think that we had the opportunity to watch live demonstrations of Britain’s best chef’s and get an opportunity to meet the men that we watch everyday? When we aren’t eating we are watching cookery shows, so this was the perfect event.
The Diversity of Cuisine in England
For people who do not live in England there is a very judgemental view of British Cuisine. When travelling I found many were very ignorant of the food culture in our country thinking that we were linked to the junk food, fast food tradition of always eating out, cooking greasy foods and living on chips. Now I like chips like the next person and I am not going to deny that it has a place in my diet but the eating habits are far more complex that people may think. Food cultures also tend different according to class and geography. Much like the French with their fresh meats and cheeses, many of the country and coastal regions of England host an array of fresh produce. People who live in rural areas of British countryside rarely dine on just fish and chips in fact game like pheasant and quail is popular and fresh vegetables are used substantially. We do tend to have classical, earthy dishes using natural flavourings within meat like the good old roast and hearty pies.
Of course, this is just the traditional British Food. People in England have taken alot of dishes from other cultures and I would say I personally eat very little of these dishes. I eat chinese, indian, italian and thai food and not the takeaway kind. I enjoy cooking these from fresh and when eating out I go to authentic restaurants. Even if we indulge in ‘eating out’ it can hardly be connected with mere fast food culture. British are becoming more health conscious and there are alot of people who eat out in establishments that serve good quality food. The misunderstood eating habits are namely due to foreign peoples connection with UK and USA. The idea that we speak the same language and therefore have the same diets is ludicrous. Unlike USA, our position in Europe and closeness to many European countries, and our ease of being able to travel to these places has given us the opportunity to learn and experience different cooking techniques. Places like London are such a melting pot that it is a food heaven and as of late many people are starting to recognise the culinary beauties of the city. = Anyway this may have ran on a tangent, how patriotic am I on British food. Lets move on..
Back to the Festival…
Taste of London is the perfect place to enjoy the fine food London has to offer, letting you taste different dishes in London’s finest restaurants. There are many stalls for both michelin starred chef’s and more reasonable priced dining (Like Busaba Eatthai). This was event was held in Regent’s Park and it was lovely sunny day for most of it.
Is it worth the Price?You can go to this event for as little as £20, but we paid £60 for the VIP + £20 Worth of Dining currency. Unfortunately you do have to pay for everything whilst in there but our £20 each sufficed for what we needed. I do not know that the VIP was worth while considering the fact that there wasn’t much of a queue for entry, and the priority seating for demonstrations seemed to not be present even though it was mentioned at purchase. Many just sat where they pleased on first come first served so the VIP wasn’t worth much. We did get a glass of Champagne and the VIP lounge but the lounge was just as nice as the bar marquee’s and the VIP ticket paid for the champagne and the Taste of London Recipe book. It was an okay price but next time I would probably buy a basic ticket.
The VIP lounge
My Favourite Taste of London Moments
Food Stalls TOP 5
I wasn’t there to see the restaurant’s I would usually indulge in, for me it was all about michellin and 5 star dining experiences.
1. BENARESAtul Kochhar’s Mayfair based restaurant was the highlight of my day, and also my partners. The Saturday 12pm entrance ticket was chosen because we wanted to watch his demonstration and hopefully taste his food. It did not disappoint. The dishes varied from creative to classical Indian dishes with fullsome flavour. My boyfriend was immediately over the moon in seeing the Lamb Chops because Lamb is his favourite meat. We have always been fans of full flavoured, strongly spiced dishes over the classical as we find them exciting and different. We adopt these in our kitchen. Benares food stall had us eating seconds and thirds of the Lamb chops, as well as trying the Chicken Tikka Pie. The woman at the stall was nice enough to give us a dish for free and by the end we decided upon buying Atul Kocchars book and were happy to get it signed by the man himself. http://www.benaresrestaurant.com/
Chicken Tikka Pie and Wild Berry Compote An inventive mix of flavours and interesting take on a Shepherd’s Pie
Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Chutney Tender meat in a lovely Tandoori Spiced Sauce
This was a new opening restaurant in London and we had not heard of it or it’s chef. This meant that we went in on it with no expectations but were delighted by the display of dishes and the menu was to our liking so we tasted a couple of their dishes. The tomato soup was delicious, with very robust flavours and very nice texture with the bread within the soup and the buffalo Mozarella on top. The food was Italian at it’s best and we will be visiting it soon! The man also gave us a taste of the Beef Tartare. This is usually a dish not to our liking and we were dubious of trying it but we tried it and it was heaven! On later reading it turns out to have the head chef 7 michelin starred Italian chef Bruno Barbieri. Renowned for being the best chef in Italy it is not wonder the food was so good! http://www.cotidierestaurant.com/
Pappa al pomodoro Tuscan Style bread and tomato soup with buffalo stracciatella
Traditional Italian Tomato Soup with a simplicity of flavour
Tartare of beef cured in spices with taleggio cheese fondue, Star Anise and orange pannacotta with balsamic and red berry coulis. A Modern take on Italian Cuisine.
3. LE GAVROCHE
This was a must try at the festival as usually I couldn’t afford such fine dining and having watched the Roux Brothers at work on TV on various occasions, being invited into their beautiful homes, their family business and watching them create food that can only be described as works of art. A surprise was that we didn’t expect to meet the man himself, we got yet another signed book and tried the Beef cheeks and Polenta. When served on a plate it did not look amazing, but much of it was in the taste. The beef crumbled in our mouth and the polenta served as an interesting take on the traditional mash potato.
Daube de boeuf a la nicoise
Braised beef cheeks, olives and creamy polenta
With Michel Roux, The most influential man in food
I was not sure which restaurant this was at first, but then remembered passing it many of times when going through Soho. The restaurant stood quite intimidating with its dark tinted windows, but you found yourself wanting to enter when seeing its array of deserts and cakes displayed in a massive room on the other side. I remembered looking at the Menu and wanted to try it, especially as we usually eat at our regular dim sum joint Ping Pong and the prices at this place seemed similar. We are always in search of good Dim sum as we love the way the little parcels of goodness can be enjoyed with a variety of flavours leaving you excited by your food from beginning to end. We tried the Venison Puff and it was delicious with it accompanied chilli sauce. Admittedly similar in flavour to puff’s in Ping Pong it was still lovely and we will definitely be giving this place a try next time we are in the centre.
5. CINNAMON SOHOThis establishment is far more down to earth but we were tempted by the All Balls! platter with it’s mixture of indian treats. It was delicious though I wasn’t a fan of the name of the dish. I would recommend it for the more hungry participant of this festival as it had 6 different balls rather than merely 2 or 3 that other stalls displayed. Quantity and Quality though flavours were usual of Indian food.
Bengali vegetable cake, crab cake, and Lamb Shammi Kebab
Cocktail Stalls TOP 3
1. RON AGUERE CARAMELO
This Tenerife made Caramel flavoured rum was to die for and so were the cocktails! We had a cranberry juice and pineapple juice mixed concoction and it was like being on a beach. Tasted on its own it was still beautiful. We were gifted a bottle of this from our friends but hadn’t yet tried it, unsure that we may not like it and then be stuck with a huge opened bottle its been in our cupboard for a while. Now we have tried it I am eager to open it up. The cocktails we tasty, cheap and the rum the best I have ever tasted- of your a sweet tooth you will love it:)
2. PLANTATION RUM
There were many Rum bars but this was hugely popular because of the massive punch that was filled with 3 types of rum into a Pineapple! for those who miss the sun this was a great way to feel the summer. They had a bit of an issue with pineapple carving in that they kept getting holes and leaking, but they were well worth the wait and because of the pineapple issues, they poured a nice sum of plantation rum down our throat to apologise for the wait- well worth it!
3. MAKER’S MARK
I have always hated the taste of whiskey, both in a mixed drink and straight but this stall had me reconsidering my belief’s. I had a delicious Maker’s Mark cocktail that consisted of sparkling wine, appetiser and Maker’s Mark. It was yummy- and free!
The two events that were fun to watch were the Weber BBQ Bake off and Atul Kocchar Food demonstration. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to sit in on more of the demonstrations.
Meeting the chef’s, watching demonstrations and eating good food and wine made this an amazing day. Please share your photos and Taste of London experiences with me!