Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Taste of London 2011...

"The liquorice and chilli crumbs resembled bits of burnt toast that had been dropped onto the plate by a passing seagull, and didn’t really taste much better..."

So the question after Friday evening’s trip to Taste was whether the quality of the food could make up for the fact that it was absolutely pissing it down with rain for the whole evening? Cats and dogs don’t do justice to the monsoon like conditions that unleashed themselves on Regent’s Park on Friday night. With the punters scurrying from one covered area to another and wellies being the footwear of choice for those with a bit of foresight and common sense, there was the danger of the whole thing dissolving into a soggy mess.

However, despite the weather, the festival did what it said on the tin and showcased a wealth of tasty grub from some of London's gastronomic hotspots. So I’m going to give a quick review of each of the dishes I decided to spend my hard earned crowns (the Taste currency) on.  Firstly though, I will say that with many people being forced to watch their outgoings considerably more than they were a couple of years ago, there was a bit of a disparity in the kind of value that the restaurants were offering, and some of the pricing seemed ambitious at best (especially if the idea is to sample as many different dishes as you can, which, if you are greedy and poor like me, becomes a problem).

But enough of the complaining, as there was some excellent food on offer…

1.       Sustainable British fish ‘frito misto’ with devilled butter – Launceston Place

This was a nice opening; the mix of squid and miscellaneous bits of fish were freshly cooked, and the devilled butter, which was like a spicy beurre blanc, went very well with the fried fish. Not sure whether it could compete with the jumbo haddock from the Wetherby Whaler, but a good effort all the same.


2.     Crispy black pudding and Jersey black butter – Corrigan’s Mayfair.

I found this a tad disappointing actually; the black pudding was nicely textured, but, in terms of taste, I found it a little bit too civilised, and it could have packed more of a punch.


3.       Coca nib and sesame crusted beef tataki, miso dressing and liquorice chilli crumbs – The Modern Pantry.

This took longer to order than it did to eat, and I thought five quid for four small slices of beef was slightly steep. Furthermore, in terms of the quality of the cooking, I found it lacking in some respects. The problem with an ambitious dish like this is that it can be difficult the live up to expectations. I very much enjoyed the extreme savouriness of the miso dressing with the beef, but the liquorice and chilli crumbs resembled bits of burnt toast that had been dropped onto the plate by a passing seagull, and didn’t really taste much better. Could try harder.


4.       Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco sauce – Fino

This simple little dish was probably the best thing I ate at Taste. I especially like this type of cooking: simple ingredients, treated intelligently. And in that sense it made a real contrast with the previous dish. The romesco sauce was the finest example of this particular Spanish invention I have tasted, and I had to fight the girlfriend over every last morsel.


5.       Grilled rib of beef with triple cooked chips and Béarnaise sauce – Quo Vadis

This was decent enough, but I’m not sure whether you could call three smallish and slightly overcooked slices of beef, four or five chips and a slick of Bearnaise for £7 good value. However, on a wet and windy summer’s evening, a hot chip dunked in Bearnaise sauce and some of the beefy juices did one the world of good.


6.       Suffolk Stew - mutton with lentils, barley and anchovy – The Gilbert Scott (Action for Hunger Stand)

This rivals the spring onions and romesco for dish of the day. Ordinarily, a rich and hearty stew at a summer event like this might have seemed somewhat incongruous, but it fitted in perfectly with the soggy surroundings. The mutton had a real depth of flavour and none of the greasiness that can be characteristic of it. The only bum note was the vinegary anchovy served as a garnish, and I found its fishy sharpness a little off putting.


7.       Strawberries with lemonade cream – The Gilbert Scott (Action for Hunger Stand)

This was a bit of an Eton mess, with meringue, strawberries and a lemon flavoured cream.  It was nice enough as a sweet ending to the evening, but nowt special.

Stew and strawberries
All in all then, an enjoyable evening, and I will certainly make it my mission to head to Fino for dinner sooner rather than later. But despite all the good food, my highlight actually came at the BA stand, where they were offering punters the chance to taste two different coloured liquids and identify the flavours therein. Being the anorak that I am, I managed to recognise both the lychee and the apple and elderflower flavours, which gave the ego a bit of a boost and confirmed my credentials as a bona fide gastronaut.

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