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There’s something remarkably indomitable about the British attitude towards summer. In any other country, the steady drizzle and distant rumblings of thunder would be enough to put most people off an open-air food festival. Here, it wasn’t even enough to get them to consider wearing complimentary waterproof ponchos. Far too much fuss: the show must go on after all, and what a show it is.
The highlight of Taste of London is, as always, its strong showing from some of the capital’s best loved restaurants. There are plenty of appealing entries in its star-studded lineup this year, but a few jump out at us. Theo Randall’s Simple Italian is living up to its name by offering an uncomplicated Taglierini con Gamberetti e Carciofi, whose bold flavours have seen it judged one of the best dishes at this event. Ember Yard’s Foie Gras and Iberico Pork Burger goes for a similar approach; it’s as delightfully rich as it sounds, a succulent patty sandwiched between two light slices of brioche that somehow soak up all those juices without turning to mush. Roka’s Lamb Cutlets are a well loved one-two combination of crisp crust and beautifully tender meat, topped off with a touch of Korean spice. They could do with an extra pinch of seasoning though.
Duck and Waffle are a staple at this event, and are once again wheeling out their eponymous dish, much to the delight of any reveller chasing away the rain with a stiff drink. A tangle of fat and carbs, it’s the ultimate drunk food, the upmarket equivalent of a late night bag of chips and packet of jam doughnuts – which is rather fortunate because there’s plenty of alcohol on offer here, with gin continuing its glorious reign as London’s spirit of choice. From a beautiful little Sipsmith bar selling their critically acclaimed drinks, to a Fever Tree van mixing solid cocktails (our English Mule could have done with a bit more muddling), to a pop-up Mr Fogg’s Tavern, London’s favourite drink is out in full force. The latter establishment, incidentally, runs a truly excellent “gin safari” in Covent Garden that’s well worth a visit.
Beyond the range of outstanding restaurants on offer, there’s a fine selection of stalls selling everything from artisanal popcorn to handcrafted chocolates. The first thing that catches our eye is the gleam of copperware at Chaleureuse, whose tables groan under a stunning selection of timeless pans. Next up, the wax-sealed wheels of Black Bomber from the Snowdonia Cheese company are well worth a try for any fans of seriously mature cheddar; wash it down with raspberry-infused Pinkster gin, which will no doubt enjoy another summer as a key ingredient in many a lazy cocktail.
The one stick-in-the-mud is the much-maligned system of credit employed at Taste: the “crowns”, which are available only in multiples of ten and completely non refundable. Even the staff onside seem reluctant to acknowledge their existence, reminding us repeatedly that we can pay by card instead. The fact that cards are now accepted across the board is something of an improvement, though it does lead to some awfully long queues. Both remain a baffling solution to the relatively simple problem of change.
Not that anyone really minds. If the weather won’t stop them, slightly awkward payment methods certainly won’t. The message is clear: come rain or shine, they’ll be out there, enjoying a jug of Pimms in the great British summer time. We thoroughly recommend that you join them.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Taste of London is on at Regent’s Park from 15th until 19th June, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch our interview with chef Theo Randall here: