Taste of London: The Festive Edition 2015
Let’s not beat around the bush: Taste of London The Festive Edition, like all of its iterations so far, is a decidedly bourgeois event. A heavy focus on fine dining restaurants, on provinciality and excellence, are all trappings of the more elite events. Not that it’s a bad thing. Many festivals and events are willing to sacrifice space and time in the name of accessibility, padding out their exhibitors with cheaper fare in a bid to seem more accessible. Here, it’s Ibérico de Bellota and craft gins from wall to wall, and we couldn’t be happier.
It means more of the good stuff, the things you really want to see. It makes the entire thing feel more like an actual occasion and less of foodie supermarket. The bi-annual event becomes something to look forward to, something to cherish. It’s clearly having the desired effect; as we arrive excited chatter echoes through the halls, as shoppers compare their latest finds and exchange small talk with vendors.
There’s something for everyone, as long as you have a passion for food. For lovers of the very best, there are restaurant stalls offering miniature versions of their iconic dishes, as well as unique ones. With heavy hitters like Hix and Tom’s Kitchen serving up their delights, there’s no question about the quality on offer. Our favourite offering though, comes the newly opened Truscott Cellar, sister of the much-loved Truscott Arms. Rice Pudding with Apple Compote and Mixed Nuts is the very essence of the season, a wintery treat that isn’t overly reliant on the cliched Christmas flavours.
After all, there’s plenty of those floating around the halls. Yuletide treats are everywhere, from beautiful tart mince pies to shelves piled high with boxes of panettone. The Christmas market on the Southbank is a praised and popular event, but the selection here puts it to shame with seeming ease. The quality and variety of the products on offer is simply incredible, with goods from so many different food cultures. In terms of value, it’s heartening to see a good number of stalls keeping their prices low and not taking the opportunity to bump things up a little, as many exhibitors often do. A solid wedge of lemon cake set us back less than £2, a price you would struggle to find in most London bakeries, yet alone at an event like this.
Top chefs are also on hand to lead workshops and give demonstrations. Vivek Singh, of Cinnamon Club fame, is exceptional in his, keeping the audience entertained and informed in equal measure. The Asda-sponsored kitchen drew in the crowds and generally did a great job in demonstrating techniques and recipes. The product placement was unnecessarily heavy though, and at times it felt like as if we were stuck in a late night TV advert rather than a cooking class, with the presentation’s flow constantly interrupted by the interjection of “extra special” or “Asda extra special”. A quick mention at the start and the end would have more than sufficed.
It’s a small grumble though and everything else is pretty much spot on. As ever, Tobacco Dock proves to be the perfect venue. Spacious yet intimate, it adds an intangible sense of atmosphere to the entire thing, a festive charm that no amount of tinsel or spiced cider can replicate. It’s a subtle thing, but that’s what Taste of London: The Festive Edition excels at. It’s the little touches that truly make this event and, as usual, they’re as excellent as ever.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Taste of London: The Festive Edition 2015 is at Tobacco Dock from 19th to 22nd November 2015, for further information visit here.