I quite like festivals, they’re lots of fun. An opportunity to socialise, try new things, and, come the summer, that might even involve sunshine. This was the case yesterday with Taste of London, an annual food festival that takes place in Regent’s Park and showcases some of the best food that London has to offer. Added to that there’s tastings, talks and demonstrations.
It runs over four days, Thursday to Sunday. Sunday was the day we went, and fortunately for us, had the best weather. We got down there for the opening at 12pm, determined to get the most out of the day. It wasn’t so busy at this point, and almost the first thing I saw was the Aitkens brothers walking purposefully towards the stage, decked out in their whites & aprons, preparing for a demonstration.
We lingered a while, but we were keen to do some wine tasting. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone, there was already an enormous queue when we got down there, so we decided to grab a bite, a glass of wine and see what else was on offer. At this point it was incredibly busy (it had sold out), so a glass of Chapel Down Rosé Brut was most welcome. I am a very big fan of Chapel Down Wines, and am quite partial to their Chapel Down Bacchus, so I was really happy to get a chance to chat to them and taste some of their other wines, at 6 crowns or £3 a glass, an absolute bargain. My favourites on that lovely summers day were the sparkling wines: the Vintage Brut and the Rosé Brut.
Having missed one wine tasting, we made sure we were early for the Spanish one at 2pm. It was quite interesting but a little quick for my liking, I would have preferred to have a bit more time. I know a bit about wine, but am by no means an expert, so, it was a pleasant hour. Mind, I didn’t use the spittoon as much as I should, or atall. I didn’t see anyone else using it either!
Next up was a talk and book signing by Jay Rayner, the Observer food critic. He was very entertaining and had some tips for us amateurs. His favourite places to eat in London include one of my favourites New Tayyabs in Whitechapel (I really need to blog about this place – it’s also one of my favourites!) and one I really want to try Aiden Byrne at the Dorchester, especially after tasting some of his food at Taste, more on that later.
It was definitely time for some food by now. The choice was immense. It was very difficult! I chose to sample the Warm Salad of English Peas, Flaked Salt Cod and Young Shoots from Arbutus, the Squid Salad with Passionfruit Dressing from Benares, the Meen Kozhambu (a kingfish curry with rice and green beans) from Tamarind, the Beetroot Gazpacho with Avocado Sorbet and Vodka Jelly from Aiden Byrne at the Dorchester and the Spit Roast Belly Pork from Le Cafe Anglais. Worry not for my health or appetitie, these were small portions priced at £4-5 and spread out over a couple of hours. All of it was good but the beetroot gazpacho and spit roast pork belly were superb. The beetroot gazpacho was smooth, rich and fruity, the vodka jelly cut right through it and the avocado sorbet was a treat, I was genuinely upset when it was over. The spit roast pork belly was the best that I have had. Le Café Anglais and Aiden Byrne at the Dorchester are now next on my list.
What else? Live music including a very entertaining and very summery jazz band. Some cocktail competitions, cookery classes. The culinary glitterati were out in force, I spotted Atul Kochar, Gary Rhodes and Aiden Byrne.
There was so much on and so much to taste, it was impossible to do it all. What did I miss? Arthur Potts-Dawson from Acorn House gave one of the afternoon sessions, I would have loved to try the parmesan custards with anchovy toast from Le Cafe Anglais and everything on Aiden Byrne’s menu. The Canteen hog roast was very tempting as was the Cinnanmon Club stand. I could list the things I wish I had tried all day, but there was only five hours and one stomach.
What’s the verdict? All in all a very pleasant day, with lots of opportunities to taste great food from great restaurants and new & old food products from producers, small scale and larger, at the producers market. Added to this the tastings, classes and demonstrations, it’s just impossible to choose what to do, five hours goes very quickly! We had lots of fun. It’s definitely worthwhile and I’ll go again.