Taste of London 2019: A guide with pictures to a world-class lineup serving up a sumptuous and scrumptious spread
Given the capital’s recent culinary foray into veganism, a forced but not untimely migration sparked by the eco-revolution, one might have expected this year’s Taste of London to resemble a mouthful of (well-seasoned) tofu. In Regent’s Park, however, sits a haven for carnivores, herbivores and omnivores alike, where the city’s best restaurants and world-renowned chefs flock to give foodies from all across the dietary spectrum a chance to sample high-end cuisine. From rare meat to raw fish to vegetable-infused caked and cocktails, the festival has found a unique balance, pairing environmentally friendly – but infuriatingly blunt – cutlery and urban farming with butchery and bbq masterclasses.
The Fire Pit
If you’re looking to wise up, you can head over to the fire pit, where there are demonstrations from the likes of The Great British Menu‘s Tom Anglesea and food writer Genevieve Taylor, or the cookery school, hosting free demonstrations from big names such as Yotam Ottolenghi and vegan cook and influencer Rachel Ama.
The Residence is the Taste’s prime event and this year’s edition is run by chef Kobus van de Merwe of African sensation Wolfgat, winner of The World Restaurant Awards’ Restaurant of the Year 2019.
Our lunch began with a very refreshing oyster served with ice plant and litchi. Van de Merwe, who usually cooks with indigenous ingredients, adapted his cuisine using local produce, including some for which he personally foraged in Kent. The highlight of the meal was Piekelvis, a South African dish of turbot covered with masala and paried with sambal, served on a taco-like shell made of cabbage.
Bokkom – a typical salt-dried fish dish from South Africa, adapted using British mackerel – was another very interesting exotic delicacy, served with Strandveld bread. The chef’s graceful touch hit a high note with mussels served with nectarine and nasturtium. Finally, a plate of seared venison and seaweed sealed a unique meal.
Our journey through the restaurants started with three prawn dumplings from Chinatown’s classic Dumplings’ Legend. You can stop by their stand with Lan Kwai Fong and savour wonderful Chinese courses including the Famous Imperial Peking Duck and the special cubed beef ribeye.
If you’re lucky, you might spot renowned chef patron Francesco Mezzei, who has been lending a hand over at Sartoria, dishing out portions of sumptuous fettuccine with grated truffle to enthusiastic cheers. We tried those and they were simply delicious.
Grill specialist Sagardi provide further proof that the Spanish know how to cook their meat with the exquisite “Txulexon” Basque-Style Matured Beef with Roasted Piquillo Peppers on Sourdough Bread. The dish lets its star sing, seasoned with a pinch of crunchy salt, the classic illustrating the power of simplicity. Sri-Lankan restaurant Hoppers also provide a treat for the meat-lover with their 42-hour Roast Elumas, the tender lamb served up on a hearty roti and garnished with pleasing pops of pink, orange and green.
Club Gascon serves the more sophisticated and entertaining of all menus. Chef Pascal Assuignac’s flair erupts with the Duck Foie Gras Catalane, topped with a tipsy cherry. Their Crab Doughnuts Cornetto – with shrimp mayonnaise – is easy and fun, but it’s the 72-hour Barbecued Short-rib Beef with Seaweed Pearls that shines as the best deal for only £7.
Moving to the Middle East, Delamina’s Land heaps sumptuous hand-pulled chicken shawarma with dates and pinenuts, intense tahini and tart pickles. Bala Baya provided what was perhaps the grill of the day with the Laffa Couture, an Iraqi flatbread cooked till crisp over the open fire of the Taburi, topped with beautifully juicy lamb belly perfectly offset by a smoked sticky plum sauce. Another highlight from the Persian group was their Taste exclusive Prawn Baklava, the more experimental plate finding the perfect balance of savoury seafood with sweet marmalade, crunchy pistachio and hints of floral rose.
Indeed, shellfish seem to be a speciality this year, with great offerings across the board. While the Lobster Mac’n’Cheese from Burger and Lobster is a creamy, moreish and fittingly decadent delight, the shrimp course from Chinese chain Bao is a lighter eastern alternative, encased in their trademark soft and sticky bun.
The spicy Telicherry Shrimps from Trishna and jewel red Prawns Masala from Kutir are equally delicious reminders that though India remains a champion of London’s fashionable food scene, it is transcending associations with the traditional curry house. The latter’s Aloo Tiki is a vegetable highlight, a crispy potato cake on a bed of chickpeas and tangy chutney with a powerful kick.
Another great offer comes from Portuguese restaurant Bar Douro, inspired by the cervejarias and tascas of Porto and Lisbon. We loved their Sandes De Leitao suckling pig sandwich, as well as the Pastel de Nata with cinnamon ice cream. We enjoyed them with a glass of Pet Nat sparking wine from their wine stand.
Finally, you might spot an unusually long queue by a stand called Eggslut. The Californian street-food sensation bring their signature dish – obviously egg based – served inside a fragrant brioche bun. This is a preview of what they will soon be selling at their Notting Hill shop.
There are also many avenues down to satisfy a sweeter tooth. Low-calorie ice-cream seems to be on trend this year, with brands such as Halo Top gaining a lot of interest from health-conscious millennials. If you’re not on a diet and a fan of The Great British Bakeoff, you may have caught onto the pasteis de natas trend. Even if you haven’t, it’s worth picking up one of the previously mentioned Portuguese delicacies from Bar Douro, where they serve it with cinnamon ice-cream, the perfect cold accompaniment to the warm, buttery pastry and silky custard.
Another fresh treat not to be missed comes from the Smoke and Salt team. The Miso Banana Sundae presents itself with a simple pulpy base of fruit, with spoonfuls of miso caramel and chocolate ganache, ready to be finished with all the toppings – from granola, to peanuts, to dried bananas and on – at your leisure.
The blazing look of the cocoa trees from a distance is the inspiration behind the name of new brand Firetree, launching at Taste. Responsibly sourced from the territories of the Pacific Ring of Fire and Madagascar, the beans are characterised by a unique full-bodied taste. The crop from these estates constitutes one per cent of the global chocolate crop. “And we take ten per cent out of this one, which means the category we are aiming for is high premium,” confided David Zulman, founder and managing director. The soil in these lands is incredibly rich in minerals, which give the beans an exquisite depth of flavour. The recipes to create the different varieties available are very similar, but they return very different tastes, depending on the region and slower roast. The percentage of cocoa doesn’t really affect the final flavour in this case: the fruity notes of the Guadacanal (69%) variety, for example, add to the complexity of the mixture. These refined products were matched during our tasting with champagne and single malt whisky, as well as coffee.
Thirst-quenchers come in many forms, including the House of Tanqueray at No. Ten, providing gin tasting with a twist, and a Johnny Walker Discovery Bar for whiskey aficionados. If you simply want the perfect accompaniment to your meal, throughout the weekend Champagne giant Laurent Perrier are pairing their iconic rosé, somewhat unexpectedly, with a series of street food restaurant experiences. Participants will be guided through these matchings in bespoke sessions, as part of the unique summer masterclasses that are now a distinguished fixed presence at Taste, which can be booked in advance through the festival’s passes.
For the drink adventurers, the Binary Botanical is the place to spot a new entry in the market. Infusing organic hop leaves in the beer-making process adds a prosecco-like flavour, which makes it particularly light and refreshing. A beer for wine lovers. For cocktails, head straight to the World Class tent, where some of world’s best bartenders will serve you top-notch drinks.
Taste of London was bound to be multicultural given the metropolis it is representing, but more than that, the event welcomes all manner of palates with its open-minded and forward-thinking approach to the food cycle, from fresh, sustainable produce to conscientious cooking and consumption. Whether you are hungry for an embarrassment of culinary riches or simply want a more accessible route into fine dining – class without the pretension – head over to Regent’s Park this weekend.
Rosamund Kelby, Cristiana Ferrauti and Filippo L’Astorina
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti, Maria Barrios, Francesco Taglini and Filippo L’Astorina
Taste of London is at Regent’s Park from 19th until 23rd June 2019. For more information or to book visit their website here.