If you love food, then Taste of London is an absolute must in your life. This year was the first time that I’ve been (or heard of it), but I can tell you now that it’s already in my diary for next year, and the year after, and the year after…
Taste of London is an annual food festival in Regent’s Park. Most of the best London restaurants and chefs have a stand showcasing a small handful of their best dishes, for you to munch your way through until your heart’s content. This year’s festival has now sadly finished (or I’d still be there too busy stuffing myself silly to write this), but restaurants that took part include the Cinnamon Club, Duck & Waffle, Kurobuta, MEATliquor, the Palomar, Roka, Sushisamba, Tredwell’s and many, many more.
Aside from all of the INCREDIBLE restaurants & chefs all shoved in to one easily edible space, there were also loads of other brands offering goodies, and a LOT of freebies. Green & Black’s being a particular favourite of mine yesterday evening; I must have munched my way through two free bars of their salted caramel! But there were also interactive cookery & cocktail making classes; whisky, wine, beer and champagne tastings & masterclasses; great live music & a silent disco, with an all-round excellent vibe.
Basically, it’s a place where you would never, ever, get bored. I went with my trusted food partner in crime, William, who you might remember helped me gobble up every last crumb at Homeslice and Eight over Eight. We’re quite the dynamic duo when it comes to the expanding stomachs and invincible appetite.
We started our feast at Clove Club sampling this year’s winning ‘Best in Taste’ dish; the grilled lamb cutlet, gochuchang, black sesame and mint (£9.00). The meat was incredibly succulent, the flavour divine; deep & smoky, and utterly delicious dipped in the creamy gochuchang sauce. That said, I did think that it was a little on the small side with a lot of fat to be worthy of £9.00.
Next up, the spicy tuna roll, ponzu jelly pearls and crispy shallots (£5.00) from Aqua Kyoto. The roll was wonderfully fresh with exceptional rice. The tuna was generous and the fried shallots provided great texture. It might even have been the best sushi roll that I’ve had this year…
Then came (what we all know I’d been waiting for) Roka time. If you’ve read my review of Roka, then you will know how much of a deep & real love I have for this restaurant! Hence I had my birthday meal there again this year.
With a cheeky sample of kumquat shochu in hand, we began the Roka rounds with the dishes available from the iconic robata grill. First, the baby chicken, lemon, miso and garlic soy (£6.00). I never usually order chicken out as I find it a little simple, safe & boring, however, this chicken skewer was on a whole other level of chicken glory. The chicken was unbelievably moist (very difficult to accomplish on the BBQ), the skin crunchy & deliciously charcoaled, and all smothered in a moreish marinade. William declared it his favourite dish of the day.
Second, the lamb cutlets with Korean spices (£10.00), for which you got a helluva lot more bang for your buck versus at Clove Club, with two fair-sized, much leaner chops for only 1 pound more! My chop was tender & tasty, with the Korean spices bringing welcomed fire to the party, but William’s chop was a little dry, most probably due to it being a little thinner than mine. Ya win some, ya lose some.
Moving to the indoor part of the stall, we continued the Roka rounds with our third dish from their menu; the signature black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings (£4.00).
Much better value than what you pay for the dish in-house, but probably due to the notable lack of heavy black cod stuffing that I’ve become accustomed to. Still, tasty. But nothing great, and definitely not better than the fabulous black cod gyozas at Eight over Eight.
Fourth, and finally, we had the sushi pastry with char grilled fresh water eel in teriyaki sauce (6.00). New to Roka’s menu, I really enjoyed this dish. I think eel is hugely underrated, with delicious texture and flavour, which, combined with the creamy avocado & kick of wasabi, made for a very yummy (and unusual) mini sushi pastry sandwich.
After a quick catch-up and snap with my favourite waiter, Daniel, we waved goodbye to Roka and roamed further afield.
Up next was Jose Pizarro. Having recently read a multitude of reviews on his new opening in Broadgate Circle, and having watched him on Saturday Kitchen Live that very morning, it’s fair to say that I was a little excited to see him in the flesh just a few hours later.
We tried his grilled octopus, creamy potato, pimenton and egg caviar first (£5.00). William really enjoyed this dish, but my piece of octopus was inedibly chewy, however, to Jose’s credit, he switched it for a fresh piece no problemo!
But, sadly, I still wasn’t convinced. A little slimy and goo-ey, I was reminded of Josie’s aversion to the octopus that we had at our fresh fist feast in Sicily. I also thought it was a little bland and lacked seasoning. But onwards & upwards, as up next we ordered what Jose is most famous for; the St Jamon Iberico, 100% Acorn fed (£6.00). The slices of meat were thick, salty & tasty, and went down a treat.
From The Palomar we tried the Yiddish Bruschetta with chicken liver pate and Chrain (£3.00). Both big lovers of pate, we thought that this dish would be a slam-dunk, but the pate was coarser than I personally like and not as buttery-rich as classic French-style pate is, which I prefer. I did, however, enjoy the Chrain spread, both for its visual effect and subtle fiery flavour kick.
We then crossed to the other side of the park to continue our food tour, appreciating our surroundings en route.
Sushisamba time. You can read lots more about this iconic restaurant in my recent review. I loved that they implemented a miniature orange tree in the centre of their stand, to replicate the huge version which stands tall & proud at the centre of the restaurant’s outdoor terrace.
Dish wise, there was no choice for me; it had to be the shrimp tempura, quinoa, shishito, coriander, spicy mayo and red onion (£6.00).
Sushisamba’s shrimp tempura is my favourite in London, and this dish served in an edible paper wrap did not disappoint. Naturally, I could have taken some more shrimp, but that would always be the case no matter how generous they were!
And just as in the Heron Tower with the adult-sized restaurants, Duck & Waffle and Sushisamba’s stalls were stationed next to one another. At long last, I was going to get my teeth stuck into the bacon wrapped dates, linguica and manchego (£6.00), and I was seriously happy about it. The dates were huge, soft & sticky, wrapped in salty, meaty bacon. I found the combination delicious, however, William and I agreed that the bacon could have been a little crisper. The sauce more than made up for this minor error though.
Of course, it would be rude to visit Duck & Waffle and not order the renowned duck & waffle, crispy leg confit, fried hen’s egg with mustard maple syrup (£12.00).
As soon as I cut into the fried egg and experienced yolk porn, I knew that we were on to a winner. The duck was tender & plentiful, which, combined with the crisp & doughy waffle, sweet maple syrup and runny yolk, made for a mouthful of pure food ecstasy.
It was easily my favourite dish of the night. William popped open our second bottle of wine (top tip – they don’t search bags; thank me later!), and on our way we went.
I think he’s got great taste; the LV bag and pink bottle opener really suit him, dontcha think?
Having overheard rave reviews of The Dairy, we strolled over to try their BBQ 75-day aged Denver beef, aged Compte, onion treacle (£6.00). The beef fell apart like butter and melted in the mouth; it had amazing texture, but it was missing a deep & delicious BBQ flavour, in my opinion. The veg, however, was well-cooked and tasty.
Neither William or I can resist any take on salted caramel, so we were sold as soon as we spotted the salted caramel, malt barley iced parfait, and cocoa nib brittle (£4.00) on the menu. This dessert was divine. The creamy parfait combined with the sugar-y, crunchy, nutty cocoa nib brittle was a match made in heaven. William definitely let me have more than my fair share and, for me, this was the second best dish of the night.
Bucking convention (mostly because we still had some crowns left (the currency used at the festival)), we went back to savoury and headed to Chai Wu for the chili salt & pepper squid with adjud sauce (£5.00). Excusing the ratio of sauce in this picture (I asked for extra, obviously), the squid was tender & tasty, and the batter oil-free, although I could have done with it being a little crisper.
Our final dish of the night was Chai Wu’s Chinese special roast duck, hoisin sauce and mantou bun (£5.00). Plentiful duck drenched in delicious hoisin, sandwiched between a light, doughy pillow, made for the perfect finale.
Well & truly stuffed, and utterly pleased with ourselves that we’d gotten to try so many famous and tasty dishes without having to visit each & every restaurant individually, we both left Taste of London riding on a food & happiness high.
Till next year, Taste of London. I’m already counting down the days.