It’s that time of year again…
When Regent’s Park is transformed into a culinary extravaganza offering a one-stop shop for tasting your way through London’s best and most avant garde restaurants, interactive cooking classes with your favourite master chefs, wine and cheese pairings, champagne sessions, beer and whisky tastings… the list goes on. There’s even a silent disco on for a quick shimmy if you fancy a break from all the nomming!
The much awaited evening finally upon us, fellow food enthusiast Anisha and I excitedly headed to Taste of London last Friday, appetites at the ready. Here’s a taste of our very memorable experience…
Our first stop was at Duck and Waffle the creative brainchild of visionary British chef Dan Doherty. Coal charred aubergine for me, laced with Sriracha and sumac for a wonderfully tangy texture, with a cooling yogurt on the side to counter the spicy undertones. Bacon-wrapped dates for Anisha – the perfect balance between sweet and salty.
Next up, L’Autre Pied – the Michelin-starred restaurant with a modern approach to European fare. Anisha found the Cornish crab delightful, slightly crispy and subtly flavoured with a light bisque vinaigrette, tomato and parsley oil. Simple but delicious.
Having heard that MEATLiquor does a mean veggie burger (a bit paradoxical, I know), I was quite excited to try the halloumi & mushroom slider. Essentially just halloumi and mushroom sandwiched in a bun with shred of lettuce, red onions and pickles… but it hit the spot.
Of Moroccan and Kurdish heritage, Tomer was brought up in Israel, developing a profound respect for food and diverse cultural traditions over the years. In his words “comfort (food) is comfort (food)”, regardless of which cuisine you look at. Food for thought which reflects well in his cooking, as the Palomar offers a taste of modern day Jerusalem absorbing cultural influences from further afield.
The salmon ceviche was incredibly moreish, creatively textured with Harissa, pomegranate and crushed savoury Abadi cookies for an added crunch. While I loved the bold but wholesome flavours of the Jerusalem-style polenta combined with asparagus, mushroom ragout, parmesan and truffle oil.
Michelin-starred restaurant Club Gascon was high on Anisha’s list, a mouthwatering French affair. The cornetto of sweetbread “popcorn” with frosted Worcestershire had been creating quite a stir on social media, but Anisha opted for a delicate yet firm prawn burger with fresh spring vegetables.
Having been on a winning streak thus far, we were left a tad disappointed by a lacklustre stop at Pont St. Helmed by Britain’s youngest female executive chef, Sophie Michell, the chic restaurant (part of the boutique Belgraves Hotel) is somewhat a neighbourhood favourite in Belgravia for it’s focus on clean and healthy dishes.
However, their offerings at Taste were on the more indulgent side. The hot cheese balls with quince jelly brought back memories of the club food I grew up on in Bombay, but was lacking the melt in your mouth gooey centre that really makes this dish.
A keen avocado-aficionado (I live by a simple mantra of an avo a day), the margarita POPs had to be tried – tequila popsicles flavoured with avocado, agave, chilli and lime. An interesting combination, but it didn’t work for us. The sharpness of the tequila just didn’t sit well against the creamy avocado base, and after a slurp or two we gave up…
… Shaking it off with deliciously heady booze-fuelled ice cream from the Drunken Dairy, often found grazing at food markets and events. OMG and the Dark Destroyer would please chocolate lovers everywhere, but it was the kahlua-infused Caffeinator that emerged a definite winner in our books.
We then nibbled on little bites of harissa-glazed aubergine with coconut at Marcus Waering’s Tredwell’s and appetising Greek-style courgette cakes at Mazi – more like deep-fried balls but pleasingly so, especially when dunked in the herby cucumber and mint dip.
Saving room for Shake Shack was one of the best decisions of the evening, as the gourmet burger king from the States is simply unparalleled. The lil’ shroom burger was as heavenly as I remembered, with melted cheese exploding from the portobello mushroom patty with every bite.
And of course, we plumped for the malted marshmallow peanut butter frozen custard topped with crumbled chocolate covered pretzels. Overly sweet? Yes, but would you really want it any other way?
A bit overwhelmed by the number of cocktail and wine bars around us, not to mention pit stops for beer, ale and cider, we ultimately sprung for summery strawberry pisco sours from a tiny stand exhibiting British spirits, drawn in by the charming if slightly inebriated bartender, who may or may not have consumed a few too many himself!
Having started on our culinary exploits early on in the evening, we were stunned to realise that it was almost time for the curtains to fall back at 9.30pm.
In a mad scramble to spend our remaining crowns (the currency at Taste, 1 crown = £1), we sprinted to the finishing line at Theo Randall’s, where we caught a fleeting glimpse of the whiz himself while sampling little morsels of parmesan, freshly carved from the wheel, and tucking into a hearty penne with slow cooked aubergine (clearly the veggie highlight at Taste this year, not that I’m complaining) and plum tomatoes.
The good people at Draper’s Arms also presented us with a vibrant salad of courgette, mint and strawberry with fresh cow’s curd. It tasted just as good as it looks.
Last but certainly not least, we made sure to visit the Clove Club (the restaurant renowned for reinventing the wheel with often neglected British ingredients and produce), for the most creative ice cream we’ve sampled to date – Amalfi lemonade married with Sarawak pepper. Zesty and cooling but with a warm tinge from the pepper flakes. We were hooked.
Having comfortably eaten the equivalent of a good chunk of our body weight that evening, we left more than satiated and armed with a long list of restaurants that we’re convinced of going back to. A fantastically fun experience, Taste of London this year was every bit the delectable adventure it promised to be.