Taste of London 2010

It was a fine summer evening and hubby and I made our way to Regent’s Park for Taste of London 2010. We scored free tickets through an online competition, which I was pretty chuffed about as the entrance fee is £26 per person.

Per the Taste of London website http://www.tastefestivals.com/london/ there are 40 restaurants participating in the festival taking place from 17-20 June.  As we were ushered into the festival grounds, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the level of response, interest and effort gone into making the festival happen.

We bought 2 books of crowns, the festival ‘currency’. Each £1 was worth 2 crowns, and each booklet contains 20 crowns. We were keen to look around before deciding on what to spend on. We walked into Malaysian Kitchen, a big area devoted to Malaysian restaurants (Awana, Satay House, Tukdin), bars, shops and a cooking demonstration tent. We settled on watching a demonstration by Chef Anna Hansen of the Modern Pantry who made a caledonian prawn laksa with green tea noodles. 

Some lovely ingredients went into the laksa broth – onions, galangal, lemongrass, prawn shells, kaffir limeleaves, coriander, fish sauce, coconut milk – the smell was fantastic, and you have to appreciate that the last meal hubby and I had was about 6 hours beforehand.  Just as we were wondering when Chef Anna was going to serve up, she dropped a bombshell – apparently we weren’t allowed to taste any of it! Without further ado, hubby and I left the demonstration in search of much-needed food.

We saw a mini-Mardi Gras like parade with drummers and fancy costumes providing mobile entertainment.

I think hubby enjoyed the eye-candy, but I was really looking forward to something edible! We chanced upon Tamarind,  a 1 star Michelin restaurant specialising in Indian cuisine. We shared a portion of Keema Lamb with potatoes and peas.

The dish cost 10 crowns I think, and as far as portions go, you need to accept that this is a ‘Taste’ festival. This was a pretty tasty dish, but I’m not sure if it had any real wow factor. 

Our next stop was Le Gavroche (2 Michelin stars), and Michel Roux Jnr himself was at the counter taking orders. Hubby ordered a Braised Beef with olives, served with soft polenta (10 crowns). I gave the sacred cow a miss, but hubby said the beef really hit the spot.

While hubby was beefing himself up, I made a beeline for Theo Randall’s Penne with violet aubergines and plum tomatoes (8 crowns).  The dish was heaven-sent and it was selling like hotcakes. It was freshly cooked, well-seasoned and the was a generous serving of parmesan cheese which melted in the heat of the penne and tomato sauce.  Theo himself came out of his very busy kitchen to oblige a patron’s request to sign a book of his which she had just bought.

For sweet treats, we shared an Eton mess from Tom’s Kitchen (Tom Aikens) which cost 6 crowns. The dessert had crushed meringue, cream, strawberries and wait for it, basil sauce! It was absolutely delicious and you could tell that it was definitely a popular dessert amongst the festival go-ers.

We also shared a Mexican Doughnut served with Mojito sorbet from Asia de Cuba.   The portion was quite generous for 6 crowns. The doughnuts tasted fresh, but I think the winner was the Mojito sorbet, and we didn’t waste a drop!

This was our second Taste of London experience in the last 5 years, and the 2010 event did not disappoint. Although the entrance fee isn’t the cheapest and you’ll have to buy crowns on top of that, some of the food on showcase were fabulous and gives you a taste of what each restaurant has to offer. A taste of Michelin-starred restaurants on the cheap, I guess.

We recognised a lot of the faces from Saturday Kitchen and the Great British Menu competitions, which I think have given these chefs a lot of exposure since the shows took off a few years ago.  Matt Moran, when are you going to set up shop in London? Here’s to the next Taste of London.

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