I’ve been meaning to go to Roka for quite some time now. Since Taste of London 2014 to be precise; I never forget a meeting, first impressions do count, and Roka’s cod and crab dumplings made quite the impression on me. After fighting a certain someone for the last one, I made a mental note to book in a proper meal at the restaurant soon but that plan fell by the wayside. It was my first year in London so all the old restaurants were new and shiny to me, and all the new restaurants were even shinier… Roka was soon forgotten.
Until Taste of London 2015; same delicious gyozas, same mental note, and even more conviction in my vow to book in a proper meal as I had since learnt of its excellent reputation and IT-restaurant status amongst fashionable food bloggers who dabble in a fair bit of Japanese fine dining! However, once again I was thwarted by my fickle and forgetful nature and it took me almost another year before I finally set foot in one of Roka’s four London restaurants.
Another year, another five days of London’s foodies flocking to Regent’s Park to overindulge in their favourite past-time of wining and dining. Naturally, we were right at home at Taste of London. And we’ve been before so we knew the drill… over thirty of London’s top restaurants dishing up small plates of their finest food, over 200 exhibitors plying you with samples of their delectable goods, and a myriad of cooking demonstrations, masterclasses and entertainment! You can go in the afternoon or evening, (or both as I’m sure some greedy guts did), where each session gives you about four hours to stuff yourself silly with anything from sliders to ceviches, as well as all those little tasters from well known food companies and artisan producers.
Between bites, cooking skills could be sharpened at the AEG Taste Theatre where chefs such as Scott Hallsworth of Kurobuta or Thomasina Miers of Wahaca showed off some of their techniques or you could even stop into the Wild Kitchen and Mr Vine Wine Kitchen. Foodies who wanted to get their hands dirty could do so at the AEG Let’s Taste Live Cooking experience, learning how to whip up wontons and ribs with School of Wok, while those of us lazy gluttons just continued grazing, stopping every now and then for some music at the Bandstand, a spot of petanque at the Baranis Bar, or just continued weaving around the event to walk off some calories and make room for more!
If faced with the cruel conundrum of only eating one thing for the rest of my life I think I’d choose sushi. It’s quite a clever choice if you think about it because there are so many different types, in all shapes, sizes, and flavours. Of course traditionally each of these variations has its own name- nigiri, temaki, sashimi, but outside of Japan most would consider ‘sushi’ to be an acceptable catch all. Well that may be a push but it’s what I’d argue anyway to the person who made me choose.
You’re sitting there thinking I’d get sick of it pretty quickly but honestly, it would take a while. There was a time when I almost did eat sushi everyday; during my law school years I was a Midland Sushi devotee but in a moment of fickleness, shafted them for Sushi Bi and their crispy chicken roll topped with Japanese mayonnaise. Even when I moved to a different office in Wellington’s CBD Siberia of Molesworth Street I made the regular trek to Woodward Street for my beloved sushi lunch. Those were the days indeed. I hadn’t realised how lucky I had it until I got to London and was faced with the prepacked, cold and sweaty sushi of Wasabi and Itsu. It’s edible but not as enjoyable to eat as those individually selected pieces which were only rolled minutes before being placed in the cabinet.
The weather gods may have been playing a cruel trick on us a couple of weeks ago with some unseasonably warm weather but those days are well and truly over; winter has arrived in London. There is a distinct chill in the air, and we can’t ignore the fact that darkness rolls in around 4pm but it’s also the time when things start getting festive. I don’t think there’s any point trying to hibernate and wishing for warmer weather, so just slap on a few extra layers and embrace it!
With my newfound enthusiasm for winter, we braved the cold last Thursday and headed to the opening night ofTaste of London Winter 2014to eat ourselves silly once again. Held at Tobacco Dock, this has a much cosier and compact atmosphere than the sprawlingsummer editionat Regent’s Park but there’s still plenty to explore and I was surprised to find how easily we whittled away all four hours. Once through the gates, we stopped off for a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne in the VIP lounge then set out to spend some crowns! With the menu being half that at thesummer edition, it was a lot easier narrowing down our must-have dishes and getting to them, so there was no excuse to go home with regrets.
Being the little greedy guts I am, a certain someone and I were lucky enough to go toTaste of Londonnot once, but twice this year. After a rather gluttonous evening on opening night, we went back a couple of days later for a lunch time session, though this was not just another ordinary walk in the gastronomical park, we were going to get a Korean feast cooked by Gizzi Erskine! I think Gizzi is a bit of a household name in the UK; she’s got a couple of tv shows, books, rocks up to a lot of foodie events, has a wicked sense of style, and she is a legitimately talented chef. Cue major excitement.
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.