Last week I won two VIP tickets to Taste of London through the MetroTwin blog (British Airway’s site promoting the London/NY similarities, and also BA’s routes to and from), which included fast-track entry, access to BA’s VIP lounge, a glass of Champagne and 40 crowns – Taste of London’s made up currency (£1 = 2 crowns). My lovely friend from work, Elaine, was kind enough to accompany me.
The event itself is where some of the best restaurants in London set up shop in Regent’s Park to sell smaller versions of their best and new dishes. Basically, it’s a way for cheapskates like me to go sample food I would never be able to afford otherwise.
Naturally I wanted to try everything and naturally there wasn’t enough time, money or room in my stomach to do so. So here are the highlights:
Cocoon – Regent Street
Sizzling Wagyu beef on hot rocks with champagne teriyaki
Beef was seared just right. Full of richness, although I didn’t taste what was supposed to be the sauce. No matter though, the beef had enough going on that even if the marainade wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have realised.
Asia de Cuba – Covent Garden
Honey-rum glazed pot roast of pork with sauteed bok choi, fried plantains and enoki mushrooms
Asia de Cuba does exactly what it says on the tin: Asian food with a Cuban twist. Sounds weird, but it’s amazing how well it works. This dish was absolutely AMAZING. I couldn’t get enough. The plantain gave it some sweetness, as did the glaze, but it was balanced nicely with the saltiness of the pork. I will be going here for lunch or dinner as soon as I have enough money get the chance. If you want to join me, I have a voucher for a free cocktail with every meal. Score!
Pied-a-terre – Goodge Street
Soup: Pickled crab with chilled pumpkin and ginger soup with toasted seeds
Another winner here. This chilled soup was perfect for a summer’s day. Only problem was by the time we made our way over here, the temperature outside had dropped dramatically! The soup itself was light and creamy, and the crab added just the right amount of buttery-ness to it. Love it. It reminded me a bit of one of my favourite Ann Arbor restaurants, Pacific Rim‘s, chilled avocado soup, which is also delicious and has a bit more spice, which I love.
The Grill at Dorchester – Park Lane, Mayfair
Ballotine of ham hock, apricot chutney and country toast
Seared scallop with sardine pie and cauliflower puree
My dining partner wanted the scallop and I wanted the ham, so this is the only time we opted for two dishes from the same restaurant. They both were lovely, but I preferred my choice. The apricot chutney on the ham dish was sweet without being overly so. Very nice. However, the country bread left a little to be desired. It didn’t seem to be too fresh.
The scallop was perfectly cooked. They’re so easy to mess up. I was a little weary of the cauliflower puree because I’m not such a fan of the vegetable, but it was great. Sardine pie was just ok. The pastry shell tasted a bit like it was ready-made.
Hereford Road – Notting Hill
Braised Rabbit with fennel and old spot bacon
My least favourite dish of the night. It’s not that the flavours weren’t pleasant, but it was incredibly difficult to eat. There were bones everywhere. I hate biting down into something yummy, only having to fish around my mouth with my fingers for whatever it is just poked me on the inside of my cheek. The fennel, however was perfect.
The Ledbury – Notting Hill
Dessert: Strawberry and hibiscus bellini with a warm strawberry and vanilla doughnut
I should explain: The thumbs down is not because this wasn’t good, it’s because I’m an idiot because I spilled half of it all over myself. To be fair, the bellini glass was perched precariously on the plate and it was very wobbly from the beginning. What of it I did try was a little too sweet for me. The doughnut was perfect. Only doughnut I’ve had better was at Fino.
The Ledbury had some other amazing dishes that we didn’t get to try. The celeric baked in ash with hazlenuts looked particularly interesting. I want to go so I can try it.
Tom’s Kitchen – Chelsea
Dessert: Vanilla and raspberry mouse with raspberry jelly
This is the last thing we tried and it was at the very end of the night. It must have been popular because they had to serve it to us without the foam that was supposed to go on top. I wish that they had the foam, it was a little too sweet without. While it was good, it wasn’t very original. I kept thinking that I’ve had similar sort of dessert in the form of the mousse jelly cups you get at Tesco. Presentation was not its strong suit.
Of course in addition to the restaurants at Taste of London, you get access to hundreds of other little goodies that will ensure you pretty much won’t have to eat for at least a day after. Best sample by far has to be this lovely tiramisu-esque trifle tart thing from Almondy. It was just about the tiniest sample at the event, but my god was it good. I think I actually liked it better than the other fancy-schmancy desserts we had. Two thumbs up!
And of course I should mention the VIP lounge. It was very nice to be able to take a load off and enjoy our free champagne. Even better we got free 15-minute head and shoulder massages, which in hindsight probably wasn’t a good thing since it showed me just how many knots I have in my back. I’ve now spent the last two days trying to find a cheap, but amazing deep tissue massage because – omg – do I need it.