With the tagline- World’s Greatest Restaurant Festival, I had high hopes. Did Taste of London live up to those? Quite simply, yes. With its mix of mini restaurants, food stalls, and bars, whittling away the evening was really as easy as a walk in the park.
For five days a corner of Regent’s Park has been turned into a foodie wonderland, with over 200 exhibitors showing off their gastronomical delights and 41 restaurants creating pop ups serving up their signature dishes. The event has been running for 11 years with thousands of people crossing those gates so they must be doing something right. I’d heard great praise for the event from friends who had been in previous years so was looking forward to my first Taste of London experience. But to be honest, I didn’t take much convincing, it sounded like a perfect combination of two events I loved in Wellington- the Food Show and of course, Wellington on a Plate, all condensed into several hours.
Your Taste ticket allows you entry for only 4 hours on your designated session, so with that time restriction in mind, coupled with my fear of food envy, I knew we needed a plan. Like my method for tackling the Wellington on a Plate menus, the key here would also be preparation. A certain someone and I perused the menu options a day earlier and devised a bit of a short list, of just under 40 dishes. I know what you’re thinking- that’s a rather broad definition of ‘short list’ but it’s not too shabby when you consider we narrowed it down from 159.
Armed with our list, we made our way to Regent’s Park on a gloriously sunny London evening, jumped in line and waited for the gates to glutton’s paradise to open. Once in, we wasted no time- another key part of our preparation on the day was to eat very little, so by 5:30pm we were more than a little peckish. Some people might stroll around the whole site first, get their bearings, survey their options… that would be a sensible option, but we’re not here to be sensible are we? We’re here to eat, and eat we did… first stop, not that far from the entrance.
Our feasting started with the braised octopus from Assado, a dish which had intrigued us both on paper and lived up to the flavour punch in the flesh- a great way to begin! From there we were plied with samples of gin and whisky, dutch cheeses, Hungarian chocolates made in Sussex, honey beer, wood fired pizza, sushi, frozen parathas, fancy popcorn, terrible wine coolers, Lithuanian salami, champagne, mustards, teas, ice cream… there really is something to tempt anyone’s tastebuds. The stand out was the black pudding, some of the best we’ve ever had. You could easily sample enough to fill your tummy and make the ticket price worth your while.
While I love a freebie, we didn’t lose sight of the main event- we indulged in dishes from various restaurants- some we had heard of, some we hadn’t, too many we’ll put on the must go list. The food was all of a quality you would expect from these high flyers, but as always there were some highlights and some lowlights. The bahn mi from House of Ho was rather average, lacking the punch of pickle or spice, and the lobster risotto from Bleeding Heart was not as luxurious as one hoped. But then there were some knock outs- Plum and Spilt Milk’s beef Wellington was so tender my plastic knife basically slid through it, however my dish of the day was Roka’s cod, crab, and crayfish dumplings. Those better be on their main restaurant menu.
If after all that traipsing around in search of the next bite, you find yourself a little tired, take a break and sit back at with a cocktail or vino at any of the comfortably decked out bars. Then perhaps learn a few tips and tricks from the pros at any of the various demonstration theatres and classes, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to indulge again. I’m definitely keen to go back for seconds!
PS- we did go back for seconds… enjoyed a Korean lunch cooked by Gizzi Esrkine and ticked a couple more things off the shortlist…