We came, we ate, we… er… trudged through lots of mud (but nowhere near as much mud as the Glastonbury revellers were enjoying!).
Yes, for four days, it rained on the 2011 Taste of London Festival at Regent’s Park. Did it stop people from visiting? Far from it, we came in droves in our wellies, brollies and sunnies (for when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds those rare few minutes). This year, I went to Taste of London as the official Taste Critic, thanks to the lovely people at Toptable and Taste. My prize for winning a competition through submission of a restaurant review (mine was on Pollen Street Social) was three VIP tickets and £200 worth of Crowns (Taste currency) to spend on our visit.
K, my friend Y and I didn’t really have a ‘plan of attack’ but just went along to any one of the 40 restaurant stalls which looked like it was serving up at least one interesting dish according to the little guidebook we received on arrival. The long queues and heaving crowds outside some restaurant stalls were rather reliable indications of good food too. Either that, or a celebrity chef was in the house. Speaking of which, we did spot Michel Roux Jnr doing some book-signing. We knew that Jason Atherton and Gwyneth Paltrow were in attendance that day but didn’t bother joining the crowds to see them – we were there for the food! We skipped these but there were also food demos, cooking classes and wine-tasting sessions to attend.
Here are some of the highlights of what we sampled:
Petrus: Braised pork cheeks with creamed potatoes and clove sauce
Rhodes 24: Lemon tart with fresh strawberries and coulis
Quo Vadis: Whitebait with tartare sauce; Fino: Roast suckling pig
Bentley's: Traditional fish & chips and raw oysters
Launceston Place: Spit roast suckling pig with black truffle roll
Opera Tavern: Iberico pork and foie gras burger with Manchego
L'Etranger: Crispy squid with chilli & spring onion; Scallop tartare with karasumi, black truffle & ponzu
L'Anima: Wild mushroom fettuccine with black summer truffle
I was pleasantly surprised by how good the standard of cooking was, certainly all the dishes I tasted were above average. I wish I could have tasted more but it’s simply impossible as each dish was a proper tapas size – 5 dishes was plenty. Good thing there were 3 of us so I got to taste a wider variety of dishes.
Great to see head chefs of some of the restaurants present – Tristan Welch and Nieves Barragan were proper mucking in with the rest of their teams at the Launceston Place and Fino stalls respectively. By the way, a big shout-out to the team at Barrafina, Quo Vadis and Fino. Excellent food and more importantly, what a great sense of fun and party atmosphere – love the dancing and hollering. Plus the chefs were all really good-looking :-)
My top three dishes from this year:
1. Roast suckling pig from Fino with its tender juicy meat and jus which was full of flavour
2. Lemon tart from Rhodes 24 with its rich buttery pastry and just-set lemon filling
3. Wasabi prawns from Kai with its Eastern flavours of spicy wasabi mayonnaise and mango with Thai basil seeds
So yes, some might say Taste of London is a place for celebrity chef-spotting and truth be told, the crowds can get a little overwhelming at times. But there’s no denying there’s a lot of good food served up by some great chefs and their teams. Try to find a quiet spot if you can and soak in the festival atmosphere; and enjoy your food with a (plastic) glass of wine. I can’t believe how fast the 5 hours passed – let’s hope it doesn’t rain (as much) next year!
To read more from Christine, check out her blog at www.thebountifulplate.wordpress.com