I couldn’t contain my excitement when Taste of London came around again this year. And I couldn’t believe after five years of living in the city, I’d never actually been to this annual event. Things just always seemed to get in the way of me going. And although I missed the opening night, (as I was checking out the Eagle Eye cocktail at GONG) I made sure I kept the Sunday free to catch an afternoon of eating and drinking some of the city’s best food.
While Mr C generally has to have a strategy when it comes to these kinds of events, I generally just wander around and wait to see what happens. We met half way and did a general reccy to see what was what. We then spent the next few hours doing what you’re supposed to do at Taste of London – eat and drink your way around Regents Park.
First Stop: Roka
When I first ate out at the Roka in Charlotte Street many years ago for my birthday, I was blown away by how unique their restaurants are and how beautiful their food is.
Plop them in the middle of a London park and shove hundreds of hungry punters in front of them and it appears this fantastic restaurant still lives up to its high standards.
I’d tried eel before, in Denmark, but I wasn’t expecting to be eating it today. So when we were invited to try their choux-shi buns filled with sushi rice, tamago, arima sansho and ginger, a shiso leaf and teriyaki freshwater eel, it was a nice surprise.
The meat-loving man couldn’t get enough of the lamb cutlets (nor could I actually), which were oh so tender and came straight off the BBQ.
And they’re an interesting bunch over at Roka. The very lovely lady who looks after Roka’s social media told me all about the Shiso leaf. It’s a Japanese herb that’s part of the mint family – and you can tell when when you smell it – but it’s also likened to basil. It adds a brilliant fragrance to those choux-shi buns.
Prosecco and Gran Padano pairing
I guess our culinary experience did take quite an unexpected sharp turn after that (It’s kind of a given at Taste of London). So from fragrant Asian BBQ and dumplings, we veered off to Italy for some Prosecco and Gran Padano cheese.
Italian cheese and Prosecco are definitely two of my favourite things, so this was a hit for me. Why Gran Padano? I guess they were trying to remind us all that it’s not all about parmiggiano you know. Gran Padano is just as good! I agree with that one. We tried a couple of different processcos and paired with the strong flavour of the cheese, it really worked.
I’d like to say that our afternoon carried on in a civilised hop between cuisines, but it was at about this point when this happened. Cuba got in the way.
In case you hadn’t guessed, this is the Havana Mojito hut – a brilliant hut where you could go along to make your own mojito cocktails, under the tutorage of the Havana Mojito mixologists.
I’ve made mojitos before, but these guys were very entertaining. And being one with a competitive streak in me, I was determined to make the best one.
If you need any mojito making tips, just ask. I am now an EXPERT. I reckon I could put these dudes out of a job.
Several returns to the bar later and as you can imagine, things got a bit giddy and we were doing a little bit more drinking than eating. That wasn’t really the plan, but it was all brilliant fun. We were trying to take the best picture in the hope of winning the Havana Club prize – a trip to Cuba.
No holiday has popped into my inbox so I don’t think I’ll be jetting off to Havana any time soon, but it provided a bit of entertainment as I tried to be inventive with several cocktails inside me. You can also check out this slightly crazy Vine video of our cocktail teacher.
A Demo by Michel Roux
After finally dragging ourselves away from the Havana Mojito stand, we managed to catch an interesting demo by Michel Roux. He was joined by his trainees cooks and waiters who all have a learning difficulty of some sort and appear in the chef’s Channel 4 series, Diner. It was great to hear him highlighting how skilled his team were and how this might sometimes be overlooked. Big up Michel Roux, we love you. And so does everyone else by the looks of the crowds who beat us to the front.
Things we didn’t see, which I really hope to catch next year, include The School of Wok, A Taste of Samoa with Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes and various wine tasting events.
It was like we only scratched the surface of this year’s Taste of London, but it was a lovely relaxed afternoon and it will only give me a better idea of how I want to tackle it next year (possibly every day, from all angles, leaving nothing out). Yep, it really is that good.
Make sure you go! I’ll perhaps leave the mojitos ’till the end.