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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Taste of London Festival in Regent's Park

I have the intention of going to the Taste of London Festival every year, so was delighted when I was offered tickets for this year's extravaganza. Every summer Regent’s Park is transformed for four days into foodie heaven, acting as a showcase for the best of London restaurants and the finest British produce. This year forty restaurants set up makeshift stalls, selling three of four specially designed starter-sized dishes. Amongst these exhibitors, other food and drink companies were tempting crowds with their wares.

The Regent’s Park setting was sadly less idyllic this year thanks to the endless rain - instead of bouncing across the green lawn between stalls, visitors had to wade through metres of mud and sludge; it made the whole experience rather less romantic. After fighting through the hordes to buy your favoured food, you had to then find a sheltered place to eat it away from the rain!

In the cause of press research, I tried a large range of the dishes on offer. First we headed to a cluster of Michelin starred restaurants: at Maze we ate glazed veal shin with white onion puree and rocket pesto, interesting flavours but a bit sloppy - a slightly disappointing first taste of Ramsay’s famous restaurant. However next door, from York and Albany (Ramsay’s Camden eatery), the chargrilled lamb cutlets with caponata and salsa verde were tender, crispy, flavoursome and delicious.

Next I couldn’t resist visited the Opera Tavern stall - it was swarming with eager guests wanting to try the celebrated Iberico pork and foie gras burger, we got one to share and savoured every morsel, it is the best burger out there, though it cost a ridiculous £7, more than they sell it for in the restaurant!

The best savoury food we ate was probably the chicken satay sticks and sauce from Malaysia Kitchen, warmly spiced chargrilled chicken with the most deliciously sweet chunky peanut sauce. On the sweet side my absolute favourite was the scrumptious freshly made ice-cream from Gelupo, I sampled a few of their exotic flavours and, after much deliberation, decided the refreshing coconut was the best.

There were a few enticing rum stalls offering fresh cocktails - we tried a delicious version of the familiar Mojito from the Pyrat Rum stall, a tangy and sweet concoction made with lots of mint and premium Caribbean golden rum. Aside from the cocktails, I was invited into the VIP area and kindly offered free champagne and a refuge from the rain.

The Taste of London Festival is geared towards a middle income demographic, and is certainly not a cheap day out. On top of the £26 standard ticket for admission you will need several books of crowns if you want to eat anything decent. Freebies can scarcely be found, and even when they are, the portions are meagre! One book of 20 crowns costs £10 (so 1 crown = 50p) and most of the restaurant dishes cost 10-16 crowns, so you can imagine that a single book doesn’t last long. Though the food itself is of high quality, the whole experience was dampened for me not only by the weather but also by the extortionate cost. I couldn’t help feeling that Taste of London is really a glorified farmer’s market, but without marketplace prices.

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