Saturday, 26 June 2010

Taste of London

Last weekend I went to the Taste of London in Regent's Park. The seventh incarnation of this annual event was the first time that I had attended. I went on the recommendation of my friends SiD 'n' Liv who also accompanied me for the Saturday evening session. (I actually went on the Friday night too with Karen).

The Friday was actually the better day despite the ghastly weather (cold and rainy). There weren't many people as the nation seemed pre-occupied in watching the perpetually under-performing England team play out a boring no score draw with Algeria.

This culinary festival is a mix of three things:
  • a selection of London restaurants offering small portions of three of four of dishes from their menus
  • culinary "shows" from various chefs
  • stalls of small/artisan producers trying to promote and sell their wears.
As usual with these sorts of things, it's the food that does it for me. I went with the primary aim of tasting the food of restaurants I haven't yet been able to go to, or may not be able to go to for some time.

I wasn't too interested in the theatre events, I always find these things quite underwhelming. They generally show recipes I'm never likely to cook or even if I want to there's never access to the recipes afterwards.

Generally I don't get to excited by the producer stalls either. These tend to fall into one of four categories: sauces, cheese, baked goods or sausages. Great for snacking on, I'm not going to knock a freebie sample, but I'm not likely to make a purchase either. These stalls always seem to be for people who don't cook. I don't have kitchen cupboards filled with half-used bottles of sauces or a fridge full of half-eaten jars of an "exciting" new condiment.

Although I can say that I did enjoy myself, on both trips, I do have a gripe. It based on getting value for money. Just to get through the gates cost £26 minimum! Then once you are in you have to buy the festival currency of "Crowns". This seems to be nothing more than a money making exercise. You have to buy dishes from the restaurant stalls using these Crowns at a cost of 6 to 12 Crowns each. Now, Crowns can only be bought in books or 20 (costing £10). So the whole trip is based around making sure you spend all your Crowns by carefully buying dishes that add up to multiples of 20 Crowns. I wonder just how many people went home with Crowns in their pockets (aka profit straight to the organisers)? This just seems like a cynical ploy to make money and I don't like it.

Anyway on to the food:

Crisp fried summer squid salad from Benares run by Atol Kochhar.

I have never had anything as crispy as these squid rings. Absolutely brilliant. The squid has a great little chilli kick. The salad was lost to be honest.

Traditional fish and chips from Bentley's run by Richard Corrigan.
I got some small goujons which were well cooked in some very crispy batter. The tartar sauce was deliciously piquant (and I'm not normally a fan). the chips were pretty limp affairs and the mushy peas I could have done without.

Classic fudge brownie from Paul A Young

This was possibly the greatest brownie I have ever had. Pure chocolate indulgence. A deeply rich chocolate experience, almost more chocolaty than chocolate!
The brownie was dense and smooth. Each mouthful was utter bliss.

Daylesford 7-hour confit lamb with balsamic onions and mash from Tom's Kitchen run by Tom Aitken
This was my biggest disappointment. The onions were harsh with the overly strong taste of balsamic totally killing the flavour of the lamb. the mash was curiously pure white. The dish was just a mix of soft textures with a single flavour. Such a shame. What a waste of 7 hours of cooking.

I've long wanted to try Aitken's food but on the strength of this I'll not be in a hurry to go to one of his restaurants.

Rabbit Siciliana from L'Anima run by Francesco Mazzei

From one end of the scale to the other. This was my second favourite dish. Plenty of well cooked flavoursome rabbit with a very savoury sauce and the interesting addition of pistachio and mushroom.
I can only imagine what the full dish tasted like, as I don't think my portion was that representative. Just look at the picture from the official website. Can you spot the difference?

On the subject of presentation, I'm pretty sure none of the dishes I had would be good advertisements if placed next to their restaurant counterpart. However, one exception must be the spice crusted bream, masala mash and tomato lemon sauce that Liv had from The Cinnamon Club:
This tasted as good as it look and, boy, does it look good.

Braised pork cheek, garlic and bay leaf, various onions and curry oil from Maze run by Jason Atherton.

My dish of the event. It was everything you want from a braised piece of meat, soft yielding flesh (it was so tender I could have eaten it with a spoon) packed with flavour.

The onions and other garnishes provided beautiful accompaniments that managed to enhance the pork without upstaging it. Delicious. I cannot wait to go to Maze.


  1. Everything really did look quite good.

  2. We've just published an exclusive video interview with Lello, L’Anima’s Head Chef at">London Let us know what you think!


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