Taste of London 2016 – the world’s greatest restaurant festival

Cooking with Danilo Cortellini... smiles abound

Cooking with Danilo Cortellini… smiles abound

Taste of London markets itself as the world’s greatest restaurant festival, and rightly so. From Masterchef candidates to Michelin-starred chefs, the talent and culinary delights were staggering. And whilst the weather has been grey and horrible for the past couple of weeks, Sunday yielded sunshine in Regent’s Park, my favourite green space in London!

The beautiful rose gardens in Regent's Park

The beautiful rose gardens in Regent’s Park

I was incredibly excited this weekend to spend not one, but two days eating to my heart’s content at Taste of London, so I made sure to arrive hungry. Suffice it to say, I left full to the brim! There was so much to soak in, eat, drink, and enjoy, I could go on for pages and pages. But for your sanity and mine, I shall be as short and sweet as I possibly can.

Best dish: Kangaroo tikka roll, Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen

A masterpiece of marinated meat, paired perfectly with cooling coleslaw. I may have eaten two…

Couldn't get enough

Couldn’t get enough

Second-best dish: Kobe bacon nigiri, Sushisamba

Subtle, but beautiful. It melted in my mouth, and left me wanting oh so much more. Slightly overpriced, but that’s what I expect from Sushisamba in general… read more about that here!

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We also ate:

  • Dorset crab, brown shrimp, gazpacho ketchup, brioche, Roux at Parliament Square. Fantastic flavours encased in a perfectly soft brioche. A favourite for sure!
  • Smoked bacon, potato, Arlington brown egg yolk, Roux at Parliament Square. A somewhat strangely textured dish, but with an amazing egg yolk inside.
  • ‘Farang Burger’ – Gloucestershire old spot pork belly, shrimp & coconut chilli jam, Thai basil, pickled cucumber, Farang. Absolutely amazing flavours, with just the right amount of spice. A winner all round!
  • 72-hour smoked rib of beef, Club Gascon. Very tender meat, but didn’t blow my mind
  • Gindara to kani no gyoza, Roka. Good, solid gyoza, with some lovely seafood colours within the casing, but nothing to write home about.
  • The Classic Goan Coconut curry with shrimps, served with organic red unpolished rice, Mr Todiwalas Kitchen. I was upset that the rice was quite overdone in this dish. The shrimp curry was good, but not outstanding, and it by far did not measure up to their kangaroo tikka roll!
  • Fettuccine with Grana Padano, broad beans, peas and black truffle, Sartoria. Perhaps the most disappointing dish of the festival, as we’d been looking forward to it for days. It looks absolutely beautiful, and I loved how they prepared it inside the Parmigiano wheel (see photos below), but it tasted surprisingly ordinary.
  • Trufón – The Big Truffle, Ametsa. Loved the presentation gimmick, with the chocolate sauce bursting the truffle casing beneath.
Disappointing fettuccine

Disappointing, but beautiful fettuccine from Sartoria

A special mention to the Chocolate pot with salt and olive oil, Gin Mare biscuit from José Pizarro, which was so amazing that… it sold out. Two days running! Absolutely gutted I didn’t get to try it, but apparently it’s on their menu in Broadgate, so a trip there is definitely in order. Particularly after José Pizarro himself apologised profusely to me – what a charmer.

Best food producer: Eatapas

With an enormous selection of jamón, chorizo, queso, and more (they even have pata negra, the king of all jamóns), Eatapas were definitely the winner. I came home with a bag full of meat and a giant slab of goat’s cheese, and will probably be ordering more from their website soon!

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Jamón, sobrasada, queso de cabra, y pimientón

Special mentions: Yum Yum Tree Fudge for their incredible flavours, including diabetic and dairy-free versions. Cider in the Barn, not just for their delicious cider, but for providing hipster hay bales to sit on, from which we spotted the Grano Padano stand and a certain Masterchef candidate (more on that below!).

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Best drink: DOC Prosecco, of which we tried 3 different kinds and got rather merry. Special mention again to Cider in the Barn.

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Best experience: Danilo Cortellini’s show cooking with Grana Padano and Prosecco DOC

I signed up for the Take Taste Further session with School of Wok (whom I know and love from a cooking class a couple of years ago), but it felt like a big publicity stunt for AEG, Whole Foods, and School of Wok, rather than actual cooking. This is why my top experience was another: penne cacio e pepe with a Masterchef finalist!

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Pretending to cook, Prosecco in hand

Thanks to my knowledge of cacio e pepe from my trip to Rome last year, and to my embarrassment and delight, I was called up to help prepare the dish (and by prepare I mean stir, whilst sipping Prosecco)! I loved the experience, and cooking alongside Danilo was great fun after seeing him on Masterchef last year. I wish his cooking weren’t just confined to the Italian Embassy – rest assured that when he opens his own restaurant, I’ll be the first in line. He even gave us a little bonus dish at the end, a wee plate of turbot with truffle shavings!

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Tips for next year’s Taste of London Festival, if you plan on attending:

  • Bring a bottle of water (I learned my lesson after Taste of Xmas)
  • Don’t worry about the crown system or bringing a load of cash, all the restaurants take card
  • Don’t waste valuable stomach space on something you can easily eat outside of the festival. I skipped Duck & Waffle, as I’ve had it before, as well as simple dishes like sweet potato fries or similar
  • If there’s a dish you know you want, go and eat it first, else you may risk it running out (like the José Pizarro choc pots!)
  • Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be standing and walking around for most of the day, and there’s no place to sit down (apart from some surprisingly comfortable hay bales)

Here are some more photos from my weekend!

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Cooking with Jeremy Pang from School of Wok

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Sartoria’s fettuccine, prepared in a giant cheese wheel

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Danilo Cortellini, prepping for the final cooking show of the week

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Dorset crab brioche from Roux at Parliament Square

I was invited to Taste of London by Eatapas, but my views on their products and the festival are entirely my own (taste them, and you’ll know why!).

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