Taste of London is a pop-up restaurant festival that is held every summer in the beautiful surroundings of Regents Park. It’s a total foodie event, with more than 40 restaurants offering a selection of their dishes, alongside a whole load of other stalls selling everything from cupcakes to alcohol. You buy dishes with the festival currency (“crowns”), where £1 = 2 crowns. There are also have various chef demonstrations throughout the day, and some of the chefs that are at Taste this year include Heston Blumenthal, Jun Tanaka and Tristan Welch.
I went to Taste twice this year (what can I say, I’m greedy) – for the Friday afternoon session, and the Saturday evening session. On Friday, I was joined by the lovely Davina of The Sugar Bar, and the ever cheerful Mowie of Mowielicious. And on Saturday, I went with R.
Davina doing what all food bloggers do best – taking photos, and eating. :D
Mowie very carefully studied the menu card and ensured we didn’t get lost… (he was not posing for the photos despite it looking like he is – such photogenic-ism!)
I took a LOT of photos over the two days, and Ive managed to cut it down to a semi-respectable number for this post. Will try to keep the words to a minimum and let the photos to the talking.
So first up – the FOOD. I shall do this by restaurant:
I ate in Dinings a while back, and really enjoyed the food. And of course, it’s sitting in my pile of blog post backlogs… one day I’ll get there. Anyway, they do a seared wagyu beef sushi that is mindblowingly awesome, and I was so excited to find that they would be serving it at Taste, as their “icon dish”.
Seared wagyu sushi with foie gras (12 crowns). The richness of the foie gras and the barely seared piece of wagyu sound like a strange combination (especially with sushi rice), but believe me when I say it tastes beautiful. It’s also cheaper than eating it at the restaurant as they charge £9 for this there, and at 12 crowns/£6, it’s a steal! We errr… had this twice. :P
Sea bass carpaccio with ponzu jelly and fresh truffle (8 crowns). This was SO good I wanted to cry. But I didn’t – I just licked my plate clean (discretely, of course).
Chilli garlic black cod (10 crowns) – perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked, this was a delight to eat. The flavours in this were very mild which I appreciated, as it meant the cod was not overpowered by chilli.
Yuzu champagne sorbet with fresh shiso leaf (8 crowns). This was by far, one of the best sorbets I’ve tasted. Mowie and Davina were in agreement, and we truly wished there was more of it in the glass!
Pig trotters on toasted pain polaine, fried quail egg, sauce gribiche and crackling (12 crowns). This dish was actually voted as the BEST dish of the festival by a group of judges, and I could see why when I put a spoonful of it into my mouth. The pig trotter meat was so tender it literally melted in my mouth, and the paper thin pain polaine that it sat upon provided a perfect contrast of texture. And then there was the stick of crackling. I could snack on that all day…
Roast belly of middle white pork, smoked apple, watercress and shallot salad and crackling (10 crowns). One of the best pieces of roast belly pork I have eaten, ever. I would love to be able to cook belly pork that tastes like this…
Cochifrito suckling pig (14 crowns). Voted the 2nd best dish of the festival, this was always going to be on my list of things to eat. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. A definite must try.
Spit roast Old Spot suckling pig and black summer truffles (10 crowns). Yes, more suckling pig. I don’t know why but I seem to gravitate towards all the pork dishes… I loved this. Loved it so much that we had to get two – no sharing when it came to such deliciousness. The suckling pig was again cooked beautifully, and paired with the truffle cream and freshly shaved truffles… oh my. The burger bun was surprisingly good, and tasted a bit like brioche.
Bife de Chorizo: Argentine black angus sirloin served with a humitas chimichurri (10 crowns). Seduced by the smell of beef on the grill, we wandered towards the Gaucho stall. Now I had no idea what humitas were, but I figured they were some sort of corn side as it was wrapped in what looked like corn husks – and you can never go too wrong with corn. I’m glad I had this: the steak was cooked well, with just the right amount of charring on its surface. The chimichurri sauce went well with it. And the humitas I really liked too, though I felt it didn’t necessarily complement the steak all that well.
Carpaccio of line caught yellow fin tuna with fennel blossom salt crust, served with toasted almonds, currants and sweet and sour red onions (8 crowns). This was refreshingly light, and the currants in this were quite a revelation – never thought that currants would go so well with a fish carpaccio!
Turbot, braised oxtail, cockles and samphire (20 crowns). This dish was very elusive – it was served at a particular time of each session, and supplies were very limited. We went prepared though (partly because this was on the Saturday), and the reward for that was a plate of this dish – which was a winning dish (for Wales) on the Great British Menu, and was actually served during the Queen’s birthday meal. The turbot was cooked beautifully well, and when eaten with the tender oxtail meat and the cockles…. heaven. I did feel that the samphire didn’t add much to the dish though, and I love samphire. Maybe there was just too little of it that it faded away into the background.
Daube de boeuf Ia la nicoise: braised beef with olives and soft polenta (10 crowns). This beef must have been braised for hours, because it was really tender and full of flavour. The olives were an interesting addition and gave a nice twist to the dish.
The Grill at the Dorchester
Roasted rack of lamb served with slow cooked cherry tomatoes, baby courgettes and a shallot puree (12 crowns). The only lamb dish I ate in a pork dominated weekend. I enjoyed this – the lamb was cooked well, and the cherry tomato juices provided a great jus for the dish.
Summer cherry trifle (6 crowns). This was complimentary: “a dessert for the lady” apparently. Do I exude greediness? But anyway, I never say no to dessert. The trifle was very light and I’m glad I got the chance to try it.
York & Albany
Champagne and elderflower jelly served with a gooseberry compote (8 crowns). This was very good. The champagne elderflower jelly was perfectly set, not too sweet, and very refreshing. Ditto for the gooseberry compote.
The Modern Pantry
Garlicky snails and chorizo mash (8 crowns). Is it wrong that I enjoyed the chorizo mash more than the snails? :P This was a nice and hearty dish – give me mash anytime!
Atari goma pannacotta, saffron poached rhubarb and pistachio praline (8 crowns). This was a dissapointment, and we expected more of the dish which sounded so good.
Chocolate mousse with strawberries, coconut whip and hazelnut crackling (6 crowns). More crackling, but this time it wasn’t from a pig. I daresay the crackling was my favourite part of the dish, and I’m already making plans to recreate it in my kitchen. I’m normally not a fan of whipped cream, but the coconut whip was ultra yum. Great dessert.
Spicy chicken wonton dumpling (8 crowns). These were good, and the spicy chilli oil gave a nice kick to it. I wasn’t blown away though.
So that was the food. But I was also there to celebrity spot… *ahem*
The amazing Heston Blumenthal. I was SO excited to see this man in person, as sad as that is. He held 2 sessions – one on BBQ tips, and the other was a Q&A session. I enjoyed the Q&A session – found out that London restaurant will be opening in December; that there’s an upcoming Channel 4 show (where he takes on hospital food, airline food, submarine food etc); and how he sometimes goes home to a pot of prawn cocktail in the fridge (put there by his wife). Oh, and apparently the Fat Duck gets 12,000 calls a day from people trying to secure a reservation. So now you know why you constantly have to press ‘redial’…. I managed to get an autograph, and I shall be guarding that very preciously! :D
The lovely Jun Tanaka from Pearl. He comes across as someone who’s really down to earth, he’s funny, and he’s nice to look at. Perfection. Mowie was quite amused at how star struck Davina and I were! ;) He demonstrated 3 dishes, photos of which I’ll include below. I’ll try to give a description of each, but be warned that they may be wrong as I can’t actually remember what was in each dish! He also gave many helpful cooking tips along the way, which were very well received. But yes, the dishes. (Unfortunately we were not allowed to try the them, due to health and safety regulations. Pah.)
Fillet of (enter appropriate name of fish here), served with a creamy sauce made from clams and broad beans. See, I told you I couldn’t remember what was in it.
Beef (cooked in a salt crust), pan cooked Jersey Royales and seared asparagus, served with a horseradish cream.
Berries en papillote, served with a vannila cream. This was rather interesting dessert, as it can be modified to be cooked on the BBQ (just replace the parchment paper with aluminium foil). And I love the concept of how the dessert can be concealed until the packet is cut open at the table!
Davina taking notes diligently…
Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche
Paul Merrett, from The Victoria
Jay Rayner, the renowned food critic
Tristan Welch of Launceston Place
And now for some non-pork, non-stalkeresque photos…
David at the Jing Tea stall. If you haven’t heard of them, do check out their website. The provide a wide selection of high quality teas, and both Davina and I are huge fans. The shiny gold tin also helps, of course. :D
A very attractive dancer from the Caribbean Drinks Ltd stall
The art of “teh tarik” (translated as ‘pulled tea’) – this is a popular Malaysian drink, and was part of the Taste of Malaysia feature in the festival. To read more about teh tarik, please click here. I didn’t take too many photos of the Malaysian stand as I was largely distracted by this man and his antics (believe me when I say it takes lot of practice to do what he was doing!).
British Airways VIP Lounge
And a few last photos of the area in general:
So yes. After what seems like an endless number of photos, I hope I’ve managed to give you an idea of what Taste of London is all about. And if you’re reading this before Sunday (June 20th), you still have a chance to go! It’s not necessarily the cheapest dining option (all those crowns do add up, unfortunately), but I think it’s worth it. I can’t wait for Taste London 2011…
Taste of London
17-20 June 2010
Regents Park, London
p.s. To see what some other food bloggers thought, check out Kang’s review of Taste, and Mark’s photo set on Flickr.