Taste of London is held in Regent's Park in a series of large white tents, large enough to cover the vendors and the stands and the people buying, but potentially crowded if the throngs actually all needed to dive indoors with the advent of rain. We've lucked out on the weather; indeed, thinking it would be sprinkling on Saturday afternoon, we brought umbrellas when really, sunhats or a parasol would have been more useful.
Tickets admit you to a four hour time slot - there are two per day for most of the days of the event. Four hours is enough to use up tickets and browse all the freebies courtesy of the non-restaurant vendors which makeup the physical heart of the event. The restaurants were spaced out around the periphery of the event - they're the heart and soul of it, and this way there was more room for eating and more room for queues, when necessary. We sampled loads of free drinks, alcoholic and non, picked up free magazines, sampled fudges and dips, tried out bean bag chairs - but mostly we ate. There wasn't time to go around all the non-restaurant vendors in the allotted time this year, in part because the event has grown, and in part because we didn't arrive quite as promptly as we did last time.
Impressively, although everything's on disposable dishware, the plating was generally admirable. But really, it's all about the food. In order, here's what we ate.
- Guinea fowl, lightly roasted in a tandoori oven. The sides were what really made the dish: a lovely mint sauce and a yogurt sauce with sprouting grains for a light crunch. (Cinnamon Club)
- A meltingly soft beef, fairly rich, with a pleasantly creamy gratin dauphinois. (Le Gavroche)
- A light, classic bisque, getting richer with armagnac and a lump of lobster towards the bottom. Classic, utterly competent. (Le Gavroche)
- Fish goujons, light, soft, crisp, nicely spiced, although a little heavy on the cumin. There was a gentle afterburn to the dish which was balanced by the accompanying lentil(?) salad. (Benares)
- White tomato soup. It really was. It tasted like a perfect summer-ripe tomato-based soup. It was whimsical, classy, and quality. (Rhodes 24)
- Eton mess - good berries and cream, but not nearly enough meringue. (Butler's Wharf Chop House)
- An excellent amaretti and black cherry Eton mess with mascarpone - a lovely sophisticated twist on the classic dish. (Fifteen)
- Chicken xacutti with rice. Wonderfully fragrant and a bit spicy, not what I needed when I was already on a dessert kick. Of course, it wasn't my dish. (Café Spice Namaste)
- Valrhona milk chocolate fondue with homemade marshmallows, three little strawberries, and a wonderful toffe-like biscuit with pistachios for dunking. (Boxwood Café)
- An extraordinary piece of sticky-sweet tender beef with sublime parsnips puré and a silky-smooth mash. The best dish of the day, and not a jolt in the midst of desserts - its sweet intensity complemented them nicely. (Tom Aikins)
- A very mango'y dish of mango rice, with mango cubes hiding at the bottom, topped with fluffy mango parfait. (Tom Aikins)
- Roast pork salad, with the roast pork decoratively light, more for texture contrast than anything else, topping long, thin strips of marinaded cucumber, and dressed with a delicate dressing involving spices and mint. (AWT)
- Delicate lime and basil pannacotta, with marinated strawberries. A light and refreshing conclusion. (Kensington Place)