Taste has the ‘kid-in-a-candy-shop’ type of effect on foodies and non-foodies alike: Where do I go? What do I eat? Do I go to the demos? Do I just try and run around getting as much free shit as possible since I already spent over £20 on my entrance ticket? It can be quite overwhelming.
Americans usually say to me, “Isn’t the food in London a bit crap?’ While the age old stereotype of England having ‘bad food’ may not have been completely eradicated in the 21st century, at culinary celebrations like Taste, it is clear to see London’s culinary ascendance in the present day. Not only is it the quality of the food, but the range of cuisine and different fusions has shown that London does take its gastronomy quite seriously.
One of the reasons I love Taste so much is that it allows me the opportunity to sample food from a selection of high-end restaurants that I might not necessarily (who am I kidding? I definitely couldn’t) be able to afford to eat at on a regular basis. This way when someone says: “Have you ever eaten at Alyn Williams?’ I can say “Oh yes, the smoked egg and truffle soldiers are exquisite’. Which sounds a little better than ‘What, you think I can afford to eat at that restaurant?! Mental’.
Whilst Taste is ‘more affordable,’ it is certainly not catering to the foodie masses.
Tickets cost around £28, and then visitors have to buy ‘crowns’ – vouchers redeemable at the various stands and restaurants. This ensures that you spend money in multiples of ten (and don’t have any left over), and lets the organisers take 40 per cent of the restaurants’ proceeds. And if you have expensive taste like me, you’re constantly drawn to the ‘Icon Dishes,’ listed anywhere from 20-50 crowns (£10-£25). Bearing in mind these are sample sized dishes you’re being provided with, some of these prices are quite extortionate (remember that you already paid an entrance ticket).
The £50 I spent on the festival (60 crowns + my ticket), considered a conservative spend at this type of event, only got me 4 dishes from 4 different restaurants. Whilst this would have definitely bought me a full meal at one of these high-end restaurants, it would have only been one.
Highlights food-wise were the chargrilled chicken breast with fenugreek crust and morel korma from The Cinnamon Club and the roasted Chianina beef fillet with peas, broad beans and summer black truffle potato puree from Babbo.
The Cinnamon Club has always been on my list of ‘must visit restaurants’ and given the sheer tenderness and magnificent flavor of the chicken, that visit will have to be occurring sooner rather than later.
The beef fillet from Babbo was my ‘splurge’ purchase at 24 crowns and was worth each and every one – the beef was succulent and the potato puree rich and smooth. Wasn’t too crazy about the broad beans in this dish but it didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment.
The pulled pork shoulder with jalapeno corn bread, BBQ sauce and coleslaw suffered from the mass production and open air – the cornbread was mealy and not moist enough whilst the pork was a little chewy. I assumed it would just fall apart when I picked it up with my fork but I had to go back and get a knife to cut it. Having frequented the restaurant Barbeoca twice, I was quite disappointed.
The Iberico pork and foie gras burger with manchego and guindella from Opera Tavern was nothing spectacular – the description sounds better than how it actually tasted. I did like the concept of a pork burger but I’m not sure the combination of ingredients in this dish was the most complimentary.
Other good lookin’ food that couldn’t be purchased because the beast ran out of money. Wonk wonk wonk.
If you’re a foodie, this is the place to be, no doubt. It gets a little miserable when it’s raining, but just throw on some Wellies and tromp on through. Bring your own bottled water – trying to find some to buy is a bitch at this festival and if you’re like the beast, you will get cranky.