Taste of London, Regent’s Park

Taste of London is a food festival that celebrates the great culinary delights that London has to offer. It give people a chance to try dishes from the top restaurants for affordable prices, and to engage with chefs and food & drink suppliers. Taste festival started in 2004 at Somerset House in London, and since then it has spread to cities all over the world. What makes these events so likeable is that they take down the barriers between fine food and money. It allows people of any background and income to sample dishes from michelin starred kitchens without paying michelin prices.

This was my first Taste festival and it did not disappoint. The entry was very well organised and quick, considering the crowds of people they had to get into the park. Once you were in you could go and buy your ‘crowns’. This was the currency used to buy dishes from the restaurants, where 1 crown = £1. About 20 crowns is enough to sample a wide variety of dishes with most costing about 4-6 crowns. On the food and drink suppliers stalls you could generally just use normal cash to purchase items. What I really loved about this event when compared to other similar ones, is that there was plenty you could do and try for free. Samples of food and drink were being given out at every other stall, there was music to watch, a silent disco at Mortimer’s Orchard, cookery classes, and talks from many of the chefs exhibiting at Taste.

Chef Gina with Ox heart
Chef Gina with Ox heart

One such talk I attended was by head chef Gina Hopkins from The Drapers Arms. This was a fantastic talk as she talked about using offal in cooking. At the beginning when the crowd heard that this was what she would be talking about, there were a few disgusted faces. However by the end,  everyone was fully on board, mainly because of Gina’s genuine enthusiasm for her ingredients, and no doubt, her menu at The Drapers Arms will be a testament to this.

Calves brain
Calves brain

Another way that visitors could get hands on with cooking was through one of Taste’s sponsors, AEG. They had set up a cooking theatre, where guests could free of charge, take a cooking class with some of London’s top chefs. I was lucky enough to take part in a session with Jeremy Pang, founder of School of Wok. This was a thoroughly entertaining session, where we learned how to make wontons and venison stir fry, using AEG’s induction cookers, of which we also learnt about. Jeremy helped guide us through each step and taught us the correct way to use a wok. Although my wonton folding technique was questionable, and the end result looked nothing like Jeremy’s (a bit more practice needed I think…), they certainly tasted delicious, and in my mind, that was all that mattered!

wong coachcooking demo utensils

A bit of relaxation was needed after this, so we perused more of the many food and drink stalls, drinking cocktails, and sampling plenty of tasty morsels. We also headed over to Mortimer’s Orchard to take part in their silent disco, the perfect way to while away a summers afternoon. Highlights for me were the Chinese roast duck in mantou bun from Chai Wu, the iconic duck and waffle, from (you guessed it..) Duck and Waffle, macerated strawberries and yoghurt mousse from chef Ben Donkin (one to watch), and of course the gorgeous endless cups or refreshing iced T2 Tea that were being given out, which were appreciated by many I am sure.

mortimers silent disco

Overall I cannot praise this event highly enough, and I hope to return again next year. What I loved about it was that there was plenty to try and do without having to pay extra, and you could even fill yourself up without having to buy any dishes due to the many samples that were being offered. My only criticism would be that there were perhaps one too many coconut water stalls, but then of course, if you like coconut water, this is just one more strength Taste of London 2015 had to offer…

band stand

Early bird tickets on sale now for the Winter Taste festival at Tobacco Dock London: http://www.seetickets.com/search?q=taste+of+london&search=

Yauatcha, London

violet pretty ammended

In the heart of bustling Soho is this gem of a restaurant. What makes this so special is that it manages to combine two very different cuisines seamlessly. How they have managed to connect Chinese dim sum with European patisserie I do not know, but they have done it, with a michelin star for proof. The interior is slick and modern, dim lit low black tables, shelves of tea containers, and a cool blue fish tank wall. Then menu has plenty of choice and everything looks delectable, but for me there were a couple of stars. The first was the ‘char siu bun’. The steamed bun was fluffy and light and the filling of Cantonese barbecued pork complemented it beautifully. (Make sure you don’t agree to share when ordering these because believe me, when they come, you will want to eat them all yourself!) The sticky rice in a lotus leaf with chicken and dried shrimp was equally as scrumptious. In fact the food was so good, I didn’t even get a chance to take photos. The way they had steamed this dish meant that the gorgeous, tea like taste of the lotus leaf absorbed into the rice, giving it another dimension of flavour. menu For mains we shared the aromatic duck and the crispy sweet and sour sea bass. The duck was perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and sweet and succulent on the inside, and the pancakes that went with this were very much enjoyed, a classic winner. Perhaps, the only disappointment of the evening was the crispy sweet and sour sea bass. This was because it seems that they had deep fat fried the fish. This was such a shame because the sea bass inside was delicious but was ruined on the outside. I feel steaming would have done it far greater justice and would have kept it moist and flavoursome. So my tip for you if you are going, would be to have the steamed halibut or dover sole instead. Finally I move onto the desserts. Everything looked delicious, but unfortunately my stomach capacity was somewhat limited by this time, so I could only try the pomegranate yoghurt (pomegranate compote, yoghurt, wild flower honey, granola) and the chocolate pebble (65% Amazonian Peruvian chocolate, brownie, mousse, liquid chocolate). The pomegranate yoghurt was a hit with me as it cleansed my palette with its fresh and crisp taste and was not too sweet as I expected it to be. The chocolate pebble was of course the complete opposite, a sure favourite with any chocaholics, this will certainly give you your fix! Also on offer are handmade macaroons and chocolates, an accompaniment to your after dinner drinks perhaps? macaroons Overall this was a superb meal, food wise and service wise, and I cannot wait to come again. However next time I think I’ll leave a little more room to experiment their desserts, of which I’ll leave you with a couple of photos to tantalise your tastebuds… chocolate pebble Yauatcha, 15 Broadwick Street, London, W1F ODL Tel: 020 7494 8888 exotic pandan 2