The annual giant outdoor food spectacle in Regent’s Park has once again come and gone. Five days of amazing chefs, live demonstrations, masterclasses, and food samplings galore.
From legendary fine dining establishments and exciting new openings, to leaders of London’s buzzing new food trends, to eager vendors, Taste of London offers a very diverse mix of all types of food. Only here can you find a place such as the fast food chain Shake Shack next to a Michelin starred (twice over) establishment such as Le Gavroche. It is truly an event of extremes.
Highlights included the mac and cheese crisps, breaded and drizzled with smoked tomato sauce from Avenue, a contemporary ‘New American’ cuisine venture headed up by chef Michael Blizzard, formerly of Bar Boulud. Normally hesitant to try the British take on mac and cheese owing to my fond childhood (and adult) memories of traditional authentic mac and cheese in America, this was a hugely pleasant surprise. The mixture of cheeses was spot on and the dish itself was not too saucy, an often unfortunate characteristic of British mac and cheese. The mac and cheese, coated in breadcrumbs, was fried to a crisp perfection and the inclusion of smoked tomato sauce was reminiscent of old American summer camp days where we used to actually dip grilled cheese sandwiches into tomato soup for our lunches.
The Huitlacoche ‘truffle’ quesadilla from Peyote was a bit different. Huitlacoche, also know as Mexican corn truffle, is actually fungus (yum!) which grows on ears of corn and then is harvested and treated as a delicacy in Mexico. It has an earthy and somewhat smoky flavour and is similar in texture to mushrooms. The quesadilla also contained beans and melted cheese and was served as a generous portion size, but was surprisingly a bit too bland. I wouldn’t rule out visiting the actual restaurant as some of their other dishes such as chargrilled corn with chilli mayo and queso fresco looked quite appealing and intriguing.
The high end Indian cuisine continues not to disappoint. After having had the pleasure of consuming delights from Cinnamon Kitchen and Benares in years past, this time it was onto Tamarind with their murgh makhni, chicken tikka in smoked tomato sauce with dried fenugreek laves served with cumin pulao. The chicken was tender, the sauce creamy and the spices perfection. I only wish I had room for the Pudhina lamb chops.
I told myself I would not return to the same vendor if I had tried them at a previous Taste, however, owing to the extraordinary lack of Chinese options at this year’s festival, I had no choice but to return to Yauatcha for some much desired dim sum. Go big or go home is the beast’s motto — and the going ‘big’ involved the dim sum platter with scallop shui mai, a venison puff and a wild mushroom dumplings. The scallop shu mai was the favorite, followed by the venison puff which was a tad dry. Wild mushrooms as the dumpling filling didn’t seem like the best choice to complement the other platter items — a traditional vegetable dumpling would have done the trick.
It would do no good to reflect upon Taste of London 2012 where 1 crown was equal to 50p and all seemed right with the world. Oh well, we’ll reflect anyway. The prices this year just seemed to climb and climb with onsite ticket prices starting at £28 for standard entry. And if you didn’t want to be left just running after minuscule free samples and licking your lips at the 40 restaurant stands present, you’d also have to dig deep into your pockets and buy some crowns – a whopping £1 will get you 1 crown. All dishes ranged from 3 to 20 crowns.
For the third year in a row, the beast left with an empty wallet and a full belly.