Taste of London 2016 is back again for another year. And after a visit to the opening night last night, I think it’s fair to say, food fans are in for one helluva good few days of eating and drinking.
The problem I have with Taste of London is as soon as I arrive, the sheer vastness of the event turns me ga-ga. With more than 40 of London’s best restaurants dishing up more than 170 culinary delights, I end up walking around in a state of indecision, not knowing where to start. I either act too quickly and eat everything in sight, or I go and calm my nerves from the over-excitement, with a glass or two of champagne.
Yesterday, I did the latter, thanks to the gorgeous Laurent-Perrier tent which lures you in with all its loveliness, just metres from the entrance. (Oh and the staff in there were great). Yes, I did eventually get my tastebuds around some actual sustenance, but I merely dented the long list of celebrity chef events, tastings and demonstrations as most of our experience involved tastings of the liquid kind (oops).
So, if you are serious about this festival and want to make the most of it, here’s a list of what I consider the highlights of Taste of London 2016. My advice? Plan ahead, be willing to queue and go prepared to EAT.
Highlights of Taste of London 2016
Food by Top Celebrity Chefs
As always, the UK’s best celebrity chefs are out in full force for Taste of London 2016 and you will find menus from the cream of the cooking crop scattered around Regents Park this year. Some of the best ‘celebrity’ chef restaurants being showcased include Roux at Parliament Square, Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, Heddon Street Kitchen and the Michelin starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction.
Each restaurant offers three dishes plus one ‘icon dish’ throughout the evening. My advice is to grab your Taste of London 2016 booklet, circle the ones you want and then make a bee-line for the queue because the icon dishes have limited availability!
Food with a Conscience
One thing I noted this year was there was a real emphasis on charitable organisations and food that was organically or ethically sourced. You may already know it, but we discovered Amico Bio, a ‘green’ vegetarian restaurant based by Pasquale Amico. My friend enjoyed the pan-fried Mediterranean vegetables and tofu wrapped in a piadina bread with a vegan garlic mayonnaise dip. If you don’t catch them at the festival, you can find Amico Bio in Barbican in East London.
If you have your ethical head on, you may also want to stop by the Action Against Hunger stall which had a very long queue outside it on Wednesday night. They’ll be serving up a 5 star burger which is essentially 5 varieties by 5 five-star chefs (try and say that without slurring). The chefs in question are Raymond Blanc, Jason Atherton, Gizzi Erskine, Shaun Searley and Nieves Barràgan Mohacho. I spotted a few people tucking into the 5 star burger and it looked very good.
If you look forward to the liquid offerings at Taste of London 2016, you are in for a treat. Yesterday, I clocked eyes on a whole host of craft beer, artisanal wine and small batch spirits stands.
Keep your eyes peeled for House of Hops where you’ll be able to try some of the best craft beers out there. And look out for spirit brands such as Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Gun Dog Gin and Havana Club – whose super mojitos I wrote about last year.
For wine connoiseurs, you will be utterly spoilt for choice as the likes of Go Brazil Wines, Mirabeau Wines and Digby Fine English among dozens of others are all making an appearance.
There are cocktails galore at Taste of London 2016 so look out for some amazing stands by mixology masters Mr Fogg’s. They’ve created a pop up safari camp with African-themed drinks! If the sun’s out (fingers crossed) there are endless places to stop for a nice chilled cider too.
And finally, if you like a bit of fizz, you will also be right at home at Taste. Don’t miss the Finest Fizz, fabulous aforementioned Laurent-Perrier Club House with its lovely sofas and the Prosecco DOC and Grana Padano PDO Cheese which I LOVED last year.
But one of this week’s highlights was discovering emerging producers such as Wines of Germany. Pop over to the stand and try a glass of their Riesling. They also do a bold sparkling wine, which is a really nice – and affordable – option if you’re not up for swilling champagne (or your bank balance doesn’t allow). It also goes brilliantly with Thai food. Who knew?
Taste of Thailand
Speaking of Thai food, I just recently returned from a great trip to Cambodia and Thailand, so paying the Taste of Thailand stand was high on my list of things to do. They have quite a big presence at Taste of London 2016 and it’s worth stopping by to see some of their lovely hand-crafted homeware and kitchenware. Plus, did you know Thailand have their own wine-producing region in Hua Hin Hills? The new Monsoon Valley Wines are crafted by Siam Winery and it tastes much bolder than other wines I’ve tried before. Give them a go and let me know what you think. You can find Monsoon Valley Wines at various restaurants across the UK including Thai Square, Pataca and Chaophraya. It was great to try them, (and to stop to see the lovely Khun Bee from the Thai Tourist Board too).
If you’re not into walking and eating too much, Taste of London is a great place to take a seat and watch the world go by. We clocked Marco Pierre White having a chinwag at one of the bars (and amusingly trying to look away when one fan very indiscreetly walked over to have a stare ). There are also plenty of places to find a giant deck chair and just relax and digest all that food you’ve been scoffing.
Live tastings and demonstrations – AEG Taste Theatre
This year’s live demos seem to be bigger than ever. The AEG Taste Theatre is the big stage on the left hand side as you walk into the park area and that’s where you can book into a an eat-along screening based around four different ‘source, chill, heat and experience’ chapters. It’s also here where you can watch live demonstrations by international chefs and cook alongside chefs like Jeremy Pang from the School of Wok. Tasteology tickets are on a first-come-first-served basis. Find more info on the Taste website here.
If it’s cooking demos you are after, you might also want to check out the Whole Foods Market Kitchen. Adam Byratt of Trinity, Selin Kiazim of Oklava and Tomos Parry of Kitty Fisher’s are hosting masterclasses on some of the key cooking techniques. Find more info and a schedule here.
Markets & Small Producers
If there’s one thing I look forward to when Taste of London arrives, it’s the farmer’s market and small stalls of new emerging producers and businesses that are new to the food and drink scene. Whether it’s bakeries, confectioners, ice cream makers, food delivery companies or new-to-the-market snacks, you’ll find it here. And if you’ve had a tipple or two, you can guarantee you’ll be persuaded into making a purchase. Or two.
There’s only one thing missing from good food, good booze, some cookery classes and shopping. And that’s live entertainment. This year, you can expect performances from Ellie Rose, Steel Strum, The Hoosiers, Into the Ark and The Carnabys. Good news if you want to work off all those burgers you’ve eaten.
That was it for Taste of London 2016. It was a whistle stop tour for me but hopefully this has given you an erm, ‘taste’ of what’s in store for this year. There will of course be hundreds of other highlights which I haven’t mentioned but hopefully this will help you prepare and make the most of this mammoth event.
Until next time x