Taste of London
Just in case I wasn’t full from lunch at Hibiscus I went to Taste of London, too. Obviously it’s not still on as it only ran from 20 – 23 June, but the ‘Taste’ brand is the same the world over; i.e. Taste of Sydney is run by the same people so I’m sure it will give you a bit of an idea of what the event is about. Anyhow, it’s only 7 months until the next Taste of Sydney
I was actually really pleased that Taste was on during my time in London because it showcases some of the best that the city has to offer and meant that I could get a feel for a couple of restaurants I either didn’t have time to book in to or had decided not to go to because they just weren’t quite right.
I went for the evening session on the Saturday and the weather had turned quite miserable. Being held in a park meant that the majority of punters were wearing gumboots to navigate the muddy grass but I was ill-prepared and had ballet flats and jeans on and I was absolutely freezing!
I was so thankful to have bought a pass to The Secret Garden which included fast-track entry, 30 Crowns (the currency of Taste), a special ‘Taste 2012‘ cookbook with recipes from the chefs and restaurants present at Taste, a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Champagne, a Tatler Restaurant Guide 2012, private bar and toilet facilities and a substantial seating area for The Secret Garden pass holders only, with indoor and outdoor sections. All of that cost me 90 pounds which I think was extraordinary value.
The indoor section was really cosy with couches everywhere and a section where Q&As were held by restaurateurs, chefs and sommeliers. I happened upon one by the sommelier from Bocca Di Lupo specifically on Malbec which was timely as I have just really gotten into them. Bocca Di Lupo was also a restaurant which had been on my short list but didn’t make the final cut so it was good to hear some more about them – maybe next time I’m in London.
The outdoor section of The Secret Garden had live bands and a great cocktail bar. I spent a fair bit of time here.
When I had warmed up a bit I ventured back out into the main part of the festival where all the stalls are. For those who aren’t all that familiar with Taste, what happens is that each restaurant has their own little booth which will display a small selection of their regular menu (or a specially prepared menu for the festival) either in miniature size or just a smaller portion in take away style for a certain amount of ‘Crowns’. These Crowns are pre-bought tickets which can only be used at the event and are the only form of currency accepted by the majority of vendors. One Pound is the equivalent to 2 Crowns so as an Aussie I could imagine that what I was paying in Crowns was roughly the same as Aussie dollars.
A lot of the dishes involved seafood which is understandable as I realise most people like it. I ‘get’ that I’m the exception and that’s ok. I was so happy, however, to get a few really comforting foods which lifted my mood and took me out of miserable London weather mode.
Standouts were venison puffs from Yauatcha (which one of my friends described to me before I left as Adriano Zumbo meets Dan Hong) and braised ox cheek with smoked mash and oxtail sauce from Heston Blumenthal’s pub, The Hind’s End. I also had a nice cocktail style dessert (rum, rhubarb, pineapple granita and yoghurt) from Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, Maze so between that, my champagne and all the cocktails I was consuming in The Secret Garden I was feeling pretty good!
Unfortunately, there were heaps of stalls that I missed. Either because they were too busy or simply because they were not serving anything that I could eat. I was also sad that I didn’t know prior to the day about the Wedgewood marquee which was offering high tea. Although late in the day for afternoon tea the room was decorated so beautifully and what says tea in London more than sipping out of a pretty little Wedgewood tea-cup? This is a definite on the list for next time.
Some of the other things I didn’t look at in too much detail were the different cultural areas. The event’s sponsors was Taste Thailand so they had a big set up as well as a Trinidad & Tobago section and vendors selling all things British.
I think my only negative point about Taste of London is that, being there on my own, I got bored quite quickly. The day itself wasn’t boring but having nobody to share it with was disheartening and because I was drinking it made me want to socialise and I really had nobody to talk to. I talk a lot at the best of times, let alone when I’ve had a few!
I think going as a group or in a couple would be ideal unless you really love your own company because you could try a lot more dishes and treat it as a day or night out. I ended up being quite tipsy and was headed out to meet two of my really good friends who’d been at Ascot so it worked out well in that regard, but I don’t think I’d attempt to go it alone again.
Aside from that I can’t fault the food, the selection of vendors, the staff on the day, the range of activities like the Laurent-Perrier Champagne masterclass and the Q&A’s or the layout. A very good event overall.
Ticket prices for Taste of London 2012 started at £24 for standard entry for adults and went up to £90 for The Secret Garden package listed above. In between these two prices there are a range of other packages including masterclasses or entry and Crown packages. If you attend next year or go to one of the other Taste festivals around the world, I’d opt for a package because it really was great value.
Really looking forward to Taste of Sydney 2013 now!