Police barricades and bomb squads were probably not the introduction to the Taste of London festival that the organisers had in mind but this was what were greeted with on the first day of the Festival. Scheduled to start at 5.30pm the gates did not end up opening until almost 7pm. Apparently the problem was that someone had sent a letter threatening a bombing. To me, Taste of London seemed a strange event for a terrorist event. What do the terrorists have against middle class food lovers?
Freshly made chocolate sponges with orange sauce from the Vienna tourist board and Cafe Demel
Eventually we made it past the barricades and into the Taste of London. Set in beautiful Regent’s Park in the heart of London despite the queuing crowds once you were inside there was plenty of room. White tents dot the arena each one housing a different restaurant or producer. We head straight for the wine section to chat to some of the friendly vignerons and pick a cheeky glass of white to begin our journey. Everywhere you turn there are free samples; cheese, sausage and pies galore.
Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche
First stop is Chapel Down English Wines where we try a glass of English bubbly with three freshly shucked oysters for £6. The bubbly is a light pink colour and tastes very young but still light and refreshing. Oysters are served with a simple wedge of lemon and shallot and red wine vinegar which enhances their natural flavour rather than masking it. After much debate we end up at the stand for Le Gavroche and opt for the braised beef in red wine with creamed potatoes. Michel Roux Jr himself is at the stand signing books and helping serve up the food. The creamed potatoes are a little starchy for my liking but the braised beef is phenomenal. When you can cut through a chunk of beef using a plastic knife and fork on a paper plate you know that you are eating a seriously tender piece of meat. Dessert involves several courses in itself. We sample a few macaroons, a scoop of ice cream and then finally a trip to the Boxwood Cafe stand for their chocolate fondue which is served with marshmallows, biscotti and strawberries.
The Taste of London festival is an expensive day out when you factor in the ticket price (£21 for a standard ticket) and then the fact that you have to buy “Crowns” at the equivalent of 1 crown for 50 pence to order any substantial portions of food. However, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere combined with the chance to experience so many restaurants in a short space of time means that I think it was money well spent. Clearly the rest of the crowd agreed since even a bomb threat did not deter them.
Details: 18-21 June 2009, Regents Park, London