Taste of London: A look at 2017’s festive edition
Prison to the usurper Cromwell and treasury to the royal’s jewels, the Tower of London has long represented the crown’s unrelenting authority and permanence. Yet just a stone’s throw away in Tobacco dock, the Crown finally falls.
There will be no state funerals, no flags at half mast, and no grieving nation for the loss of Taste’s longstanding in-house currency. The pain of changing money into vouchers has been a thorn in the festive side for too long but its time is finally over. It might have just be the placebo effect, but this year’s Taste of London Festive Edition feels more relaxed than ever. The thronging crowds are still here, the lines for some of the city’s best restaurants just as long, but there is a little extra sprinkling of magic in the air.
Too often this event can feel like an overly expensive affair, with decent “artisan” produce marked up considerably beyond its normal value to make the most of the crowds. Here the season of goodwill seems to have rubbed off on both stallholders and restaurants. Plates are more generously priced and proportioned than in previous years, the number of double-digit offerings dialled back considerably. Slabs of exceptional fudge sold for values you’d expect to see in a last minute effort to move stock, kilos of truly exceptional cheese from this year’s awards.
The highlights of the event had to be the ever brilliant Bao, who continued their streak of flawless dishes. Sweet potato fries were jammy, crunchy affairs that perfectly paired with the tart complexity of a spiced plum sauce. A tiny fried chicken bao, pretty as a picture on a white bun, is one of the restaurant’s classic dishes. One bite is enough to show you why people will line up around the corner for over an hour on most lunch breaks, just for a chance to sample it. The contrast of perfectly tender chicken with seriously crispy batter hooks you, but it’s that perfectly balanced hit of sour kimchi that reels you in.
Elsewhere, the Botanist let customers explore the botanicals of their gin and pick their own garnish with their foraging table, which displayed a selection of botanicals. They offered a chance to meet a host of special guests including brand ambassador Abigail Clephane, chef Craig Grozier and forager John Rensten. A unique chance to learn the story behind the gin and how it came, these series of masterclasses included foraging and food pairing.
If anything, there were too many highlights to mention: too many excellent products and dishes offering up some of the best that the city can offer. One of the exceptional things about Taste, the thing that makes it so emblematic of this city, is that year on year there’s always something new.
Photos: Daniel Masters
Taste of London: Festive Edition is at Tobacco Dock from 16th until 19th November 2017.