Taste of London Winter: the capital’s food festival is back with festive treats
Can you hear it? The faint ringing of sleigh bells, the soon-to-be-regretted booking of office parties and the smug chatter of those who have already secured their gifts, hampers, cards, wreaths and kitchen sinks months ahead of schedule. Say goodbye to bright autumnal leaves and your unholy addiction to pumpkin spice: the Christmas season is starting again.
With it comes a Taste of London Winter, a chance to celebrate the best and brightest that the capital’s culinary scene has to offer. One of the event’s chief draws is a chance to sample a variety of special little dishes prepared by the likes of Hixter, The Truscott Arms and Andina. Our personal highlight was Club Gascon’s Slow cooked duck’s egg with dry noodles and truffle cream. The joy of a golden egg yolk infused with truffle is something that any food lover can appreciate, but there was nothing traditional about the dish’s presentation; our oozing egg looked especially appetising as it sat cradled in a thick nest of noodles. Ember Yard’s Iberico Pork Ribs were worth a mention too, their sticky tangles contrasting beautifully with a quince glaze.
Of course, there’s much more to a Taste of London than just the restaurants’ offerings. The produce markets aim to gather some of the capital’s best suppliers together, a goal that it largely succeeds at. The majority of the established brands were all there. The Sipsmith stall and its mulled damson gin proved particularly popular, as did Snowdonia Cheese Company, whose Black Bomber cheddar remains as stunning as ever.
It’s in the unknown quantities though, in the up-and-comers, that the true delights of Taste of London lie. It’s the perfect chance to discover new produce and try something different. We particularly enjoyed Global Fusion, the Creole vegan bakery who dished out stunning crumbles and banana breads in helpings so generous that they put everyone else to shame. Just Add, a company selling reduced sauces in tiny jars, were also something of a revelation. Despite their humble appearance, these sauces packed a powerful punch and the crowds seemed particularly delighted with a delicious Jack Daniels and Peppercorn mixture.
The workshops held in the festive kitchen were informative and helpful, although the Extra Special product placement was painful at times. Ideally we’re looking to see a cooking class that happens to use ingredients from a particular brand, not said brand being mentioned as much as humanly possible. Thankfully the Electrolux arena was a little more tasteful with its presentations. Michel Roux Jnr, as charismatic and affable as ever, stole the show there with his masterclass, focused on modern French cuisine.
His inspiring talk sent us in search of fresh garlic and we were delighted to find it available in pure, smoked and even black forms. We were less thrilled when our supplier explained that they were cash only. Upon arrival, we had loaded up on “crowns”, which are essentially a form of currency that is redeemable at the event and delivered via digital top-ups. The theory behind it is relatively sound: in such a busy environment, quickly processing purchases and not having to worry about change is a great idea. The implementation is nothing short of sloppy however – a sizeable number of stalls simply didn’t take them – and frankly it began to turn into something of a consistent bugbear. If there’s one thing that needs real improvement, it’s most definitely this.
A few lost pounds though, won’t have bothered most of those here. This has always been a decidedly bourgeois event; a celebration of middle class culture and fine dining. When it comes to serving up a slice of unadulterated foodie heaven, no one does it better than Taste of London.
Photos: Rosie Yang
Taste of London Winter was at Tobacco Dock from 20th-23rd November 2014, for further information visit here.