Taste of London ’09

I’m sure you all know the format of the Taste of London festival by now – a selection of London’s top restaurants serve up miniature versions of their dishes for Monopoly money (festival currency or ‘crowns’ – £1 for 2) and hungry punters like you and me snap up as many as possible while swanning around Regent’s Park in the sunshine. So, on Sunday, the final day of the festival, a group of us hungry bloggers did exactly that. Here’s my pick of the dishes that wowed and those which could have done better…

No sooner had we walked through the gate than Fino sucked us right in with their impressive paella pan brimming with arroz negro – deeply satisfying rice cooked with squid ink, which packed a hefty umami punch and bore treats of prawns and squid in its rich, murky depths. Their lamb cutlets with ajo blanco were also spectacularly juicy and tender. Both simple dishes but both packed with flavour.

Seven hour braised lamb with balsamic onions and mash (Tom’s Kitchen) was another stand out dish and apparently the most popular at the festival on the previous day. Heavenly melty tender pulled meat with sweet and sharp onions and the lightest cloud of mash. A bit of a gamble serving up roast meat and tatties on a summers day but one that clearly paid off.

Another honourable mention must go to this seared marinated salmon with fennel and grapefruit salad from Boxwood cafe. I can’t really be bothered with cooked salmon but adore it raw and this generous portion was just lightly seared without and raw and silky within. Perfect. Slivers of wafer thin fennel and a citrus burst of grapefruit freshened the dish.

My highlight of the day (from my favourite restaurant overall) was this strawberry and hibiscus bellini from The Ledbury. A fragrant hibiscus mix lay underneath the most intensely fruity strawberry foam. For me, this drink was perfect in every way. We started giggling with our very first sips and didn’t stop oohing and aahing until the whole thing was gone and we walked away giddy with pleasure. It was served with a freshly fried jammy doughnut which satisfied the inner child but seriously, it was all about that bellini.

The Ledbury’s main course was also a winner – celeriac baked in ash (made using hay apparently), with hazelnuts, summer truffle and a kromeski of wild boar. The kromeski turned out to be a little fried parcel with a super crisp outside encasing deep, rich, tender boar meat. The celeriac was totally transformed – slightly bitter, slightly sweet and visually unrecognisable although, it has occurred to me since that it isn’t in season. Still, whatever, I really don’t care because it tasted great and I am now saving furiously (as are my festival companions) for a full on dinner at The Ledbury (that’s their starter at the top by the way).

And here are the dishes I felt were disappointing…firstly, this tomato pasta from L’Anima was just rather boring. Perhaps at a different time and place it might have been ambrosial (e.g. your mate’s house on a weeknight) but in the midst of all the exciting flavours at Taste, it was simply lost. I’m sorry to say their chicken alla Romana also fared quite badly with our group for the same reason. Perhaps we just had palate fatigue. That said, their offering of fettucine with wild mushrooms and summer truffles was spectacular (it carried a price tag of £24 crowns (£12) to match).

And finally, probably the worst dish of the day for me – sweetbreads and lamb’s tongue from Hereford Road which sounded fantastic but in reality was absolutely crying out for seasoning. The accompanying parsley salad was also a let down. It was just all parsley but not in the same way as the vibrant, piquant salad which comes with roast bone marrow at St. John is all parsley – it was just dry and uninspiring.

Happily, most of what we ate at Taste was delicious but, at £25 per ticket before you’ve even bought any food, you’re really crossing your fingers that it will be. On this occasion, The Guardian dished out press passes to readers and bloggers as part of their #tastefringe event, which allowed us free entry in exchange for tweeting in tandem with our munching (read our collective tweets here). The festival provides the opportunity to sample dishes from many different restaurants and of course I thoroughly enjoyed doing just that but I must admit – without the privilege of the press pass, the cost of Taste of London would have been a prohibitive one for me this year.

You can see the full extent of our gluttony in my Flickr set here.

Category: Food Events 10 comments »

10 Responses to “Taste of London ’09”

  1. Lizzie

    We had very similar thoughts on the dishes – I’m still upset I didn’t get to try Chris’ favourite, the crab and mackerel fishcake from Cinnamon Kitchen. I agree though, without those blessed press passes mere mortals like yourself and I wouldn’t have even been able to get in.

  2. Douglas

    The gent in your Flickr photo pool you annotate as ‘dancing’ looks like he’s doing what I believe is technically known as the ‘toilet dance’…

  3. oysterculture

    Its nice to see the photos after seeing your “real time” updates on Twitter, I was very curious. Whether or not the bellini was your favorite, just the looks of it, made it mine. The colors just leap off the screen.

  4. James

    Hey I was getting excited there – Ledbury’s just up the road. Alas, it’s just Ledbury Road in Notting Hill. They have muntjac on the menu though – I see them ever so occasionally in the fields around here – maybe could get the dog to move up the scale from catching rabbits & baby badgers to muntjac….

    A bit of parsley is always nice. That looks a lot of parsley.

  5. Y

    Wow and wow. All the food looks amazing!

  6. Gourmet Chick

    Sounds like you had a great day Helen and it is quite funny because we ate totally different things but I really enjoyed my dishes as well. Mind you I am upset I missed those bellinis from the Ledbury!

  7. Helen

    Lizzie – Yeah, us poor gits would have missed out if it wasn’t for the wonderousness of the press pass. The crab and mackerel fishcake was also delish. I was going to write about it but then it was the first thing we tried and I couldn’t really remember it too much after our 21 dishes!
    Douglas – omfg it was so funny. The best thing was he was completely un-self conscious about it, I think he had been going all day. I agree though, he does look somewhat ‘strained’.
    Oysterculture – Yes it was stunning to look at as well as taste.
    Ha ha – Yeah, or maybe see if the dog can catch some squirrel?
    Y – It was! Well, with a few exceptions…
    Gourmet Chick – I must get around to reading everyone elses review. Have you seen my full flickr set? We ate 21 dishes! If we didn’t overlap somewhere then we clearly didn’t try hard enough!

  8. Melanie Seasons

    I thought the bellini was great as well. That is, until I spilled it all over due to its precarious position on the plate. I was more impressed with the doughnut though. Fried goodness all around!

    My favourite savoury was still the pork from Asia de Cuba. I think I could have had 4 of them.

  9. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen

    Sounds like a great time! I always enjoy these posts of yours, Helen, they make me feel like I was right there with you!

  10. Mathilde's Cuisine

    Hi Helen,
    I didn’t know you wrote about Taste of London as well! Very nice article, really like it!
    Have a look at it: http://tastefestivals.com/london/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=156

    And that’s the article I wrote if you’re interested to read it:
    http://mathildescuisine.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/taste-of-london-the-unique-culinary-journey/


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