A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be offered free tickets to Taste of London. Having been away for last Summer’s festival, I’d never actually been but I’d heard wonderful things and I couldn’t wait to go!
I absolutely love the concept – being able to try a ton of dishes from all different restaurants and every cuisine you could wish for is a dream come true. It’s not just restaurants though; in and around the park you’ll find stalls with small producers selling everything ranging from kombucha to glorious almond croissants, and ice cream trucks are dotted around the place too (it took us ages to find the Yauatcha ice cream macaroon stand, but it was most definitely worth it!).
As soon as you enter you’re given a map – thankfully, as I wouldn’t even have known where to begin with so many incredible options on offer. Despite there being a whole host of exhibitors, they’ve somehow managed to fit it all into a remarkably small area of the park, without it feeling cramped in the slightest, so if like me you want to do a round of the place before deciding what to start with then it’s not hard to do!
Note that you can’t take any food or alcohol into the venue. Non alcoholic drinks are allowed, but if you plan on picking up treats for the weekend before heading there then be prepared to have them confiscated (though who pays over twenty pounds for an entry ticket to go and eat their own food is beyond me!!).
The restaurants are generally in clusters of three, set up in white marquees with an impressively small cooking area for the food they’re producing. Dotted around are wooden benches and plenty of standing tables so despite the volume of people it was never hard to find somewhere to perch – having to balance several plates plus a drink whilst trying to enjoy my food is the only thing that puts me off the incredible stalls at some of London’s street food markets.
In the centre are tents where small producers or start up companies sell a huge range of products, with plenty of samples too. The Bread Shop had a whole stall to itself, showcasing its wonderful bread, cakes and pastries and we also tried mochi, several types of kombucha, iced coffees, dairy-free drink alternatives, Hippeas and my absolute favourite (unsurprisingly!) – Pip & Nut’s new chocolate orange almond butter, which came in the cutest little pots with ice cream and granola. Joe & Seph’s really outdid themselves, with over 20 jars full to the brim with their different flavours – safe to say we sampled every single one.. and loved them all with the exception of the goat’s cheese (I honestly struggle to believe that anyone can eat anything that strong-tasting.. and I absolutely love goat’s cheese!).
It was hard to know where to start, and with every single restaurant offering at least four options, plus daily specials and a dessert bar it’s pretty difficult for people who struggle to make decisions (me!). I circled the dishes I most wanted to try and made my way round, though admittedly had I had deeper pockets I would’ve happily eaten at them all. Of all the dishes I tried my favourite savoury dish had to be the crackling slow cooked egg with truffle from Club Gascon. A beautifully soft egg sat on a ‘nest’ of some (as of yet) undetermined ingredient – thin, light and delightfully crispy.. and the whole dish was delicately placed on a bed of rich and indulgent truffle cream. We happened to try most of their menu, only avoiding the foie gras ice cream – the BBQ rib of beef was impossibly soft and tender but despite being most excited for the spicy lobster doughnuts they left a lot to be desired. Soft and soggy, they were almost reminiscent of undercooked egg – no light fluffy middle or crispy outside that I’d expect from a doughnut, and sadly no distinguishable amount of lobster inside either.
My favourite sweet dish was the lemon blossom babka from Bala Baya. Served with lemon ricotta, Morello cherries and a Chardonnay & orange blossom custard, I was shockingly the only one in our group who liked it, but I certainly didn’t need telling twice to inhale it!
I was gutted that we missed some of the restaurants that only appeared on certain days (Salmon, Kricket and Motu Indian Kitchen have been restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for ages!) and the Pleese Cakes dessert bar (only there on Saturday and Sunday), as I’d made my own at their Selfridges pop up and they’re incredible, but the wonderful pastries at Popham’s Bakery were hardly a poor substitute!
There are also Taste Residences, where you can dine privately, with exclusive menus and world-renowned chefs offering tasting menus with drinks pairings. As you can imagine these most definitely don’t come cheap, but with so much other great food on offer I wouldn’t personally go for this, especially because you’re shut off from the amazing atmosphere of the festival itself.
It’s pretty hard to take good (or even half decent) photos when each plate is small, most are on paper plates and it’s crowded, but a few attempts below to give you an idea of what’s on offer!
Admittedly, it’s a little pricey – weekend tickets start at £27 and that entry fee gets you absolutely nothing. Nada. Not even a free drink or a token for a taster from a restaurant. The dishes are definitely on the expensive side too – their website says £3-7 per dish but in reality it’s more like £8-11 with some even topping out at £14, which is seriously expensive when you think about the quantity of food you’re getting – delicious as the chilli-rubbed scallops were, it’s hard not to feel slightly ripped off at paying £8 8 two (absolutely tiny) ones. That said, it’s unfair to judge solely on price. What they’ve done to Regent’s Park is truly amazing – it’s literally a giant celebration of food, and where else could you find so many of London’s absolute best restaurants all within a stone’s throw of each other?
Expect to spend a fortune but with an amazing atmosphere, the rare luck of a beautifully balmy evening, tons of food, drink and samples it was a great experience and an absolute must-try for all London foodies! I’m already counting down to the festive one in November..!