Taste of London 2022 at Regent’s Park: Creativity in gastronomy is alive and kicking
So many of the things that make people smile were in full bloom at Taste of London this year. Lucky for Londoners, the sun was shining on Regent’s Park, resulting in a higher octave of joyful feasting. The medley of aromas as we strolled past the food stalls was striking (especially if you’ve starved yourself all day in preparation). Once armed with a glass of champagne, we powered our way through the cheery spaces of the food festival, on a focused hunt for the tried-and-tested and the up-and-coming.
The Fire Pit
Taste of London wouldn’t be the same without the Fire Pit. It’s the epicentre of the festival, where chefs demonstrate their prowess on the coals. We were lucky enough to catch Fallow chefs Will Murray and Jack Croft doing their thing, showcasing the incredible potential of creativity and sustainability in food and fine dining.
Our foodie adventure began at Around the Cluck, the latest venture by James Cochran (Great British Menu-winner and head chef/co-founder at 12:51). Here he has zoomed in on his signature fried chicken, offering a selection of burgers with varying accoutrements. One had Indian spices with tandoori-spiced chicken, mango chutney and Bombay mix, another leaned fully into chicken flavours with gravy and gravy mayo to boot. There was another that boasted blue cheese mousse and Scotch bonnet jam, but we went for the Prawn Star, a divine mingling of Asian flavours, including seaweed mayo, dried shrimp, turagashi and cucumber pickle – a crunchy, flavourful and utterly delicious burger that smeared all over our faces.
Next, it was Sartoria, an old favourite of ours. We couldn’t help but go back because who in their right mind can resist beautiful pasta swirled in a cheese wheel and sprinkled with truffle shavings – and swirled by chef patron Francesco Mazzei, no less? Lucky us. Despite being generously coated in Grana Padano, the Fettucine with Black Truffle was beautifully light and the black truffle, like black truffle always is, was umami-rich for a perfect balance.
We also had to stop by and see our friends at Manthan to see how they’ve been getting on since their launch in Mayfair – pretty well, apparently, as their Pyaz Ki Kachori won Best Dish this year at Taste. A Rajasthani snack, pyaz ki kachori is a fried pastry filled with spiced onions. This one was packed with flavour, uplifted with punchy pomegranate seeds and earthy sprouts. We also tried their Prawns Masala, a glorious and colourful dish of fiery orange prawns in crispy batter, red chilli, lime, coriander leaves, chopped red onions and grated coconut: so, so good. Last, but certainly not least, their Lamb Tawa Pulao was a beautifully balanced dish with basmati rice, soft lamb, saffron, a mint cucumber raita and crispy onions on top.
What’s good for the stomach should also please the eyes, and Haché hit the spot with their Truffle Croissant Burger, winner of Taste’s Most Instagrammable Dish: a soft croissant bun enveloping a lean steak patty with comté. Talking of sandwiches, there’s a moreish Croque Monsieur Arancini on the menu, as well as an Ice Cream Sandwich with marshmallows for a sweet ending. Moving to another Instagram-worthy spot, Rainbo provided a splash of colour in the shape of gyoza, in batches of six per tray. We also tried their Prawn Bao Buns, which were tender and moist to just the right degree.
Burger & Lobster have been a recent regular presence at Taste – and what can beat the luxurious feeling that only their Lobster Roll Slider can give? Not to mention the chic moment eating Lobster Bloody Mary Oysters in the park.
On a surprisingly balmy evening at the festival, a short trip via Foodways to the Iberian peninsula is more than fitting. We first visited Andalucian specialist Bibo to enjoy their delicious Oxtail Brioche, as well as their Chorizo Brioche, the latter finished with spicy chipotle mayo. We follow then with a stopover at Brindisa, where we have a small Spanish feast: Arroz Negro (deep black cuttlefish rice, prepared with confit monkfish), Piquillo con Bacalao, deep-fried Chistorra Pincho and the unmissable Croquetas de Jamón Ibérico.
A new entry in town, Steak and Company can be found in central locations around London. The restaurant has a real passion for the best cuts of meat, specialising in particular, as the name suggests, in American-style, thick and perfectly medium-rare steaks. We tried a juicy Wagyu Sirloin accompanied by chunky, non-greasy chips.
We weren’t sure what to expect at our next stop: Technique by Louis Ashok. It was less busy than the other stalls, but the menu was beyond intriguing, with charred chicken gizzards and a gungo peas-based dish called Mum’s Signature Kikomondo. We went for the Taste Exclusive: the Nyama Choma with smoked lamb, spiced garlic aioli, puffed rice and kachumbari. The blend of African and Asian flavours was incredible, not to mention the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the spiced strips of lamb on top of that creamy garlic sauce. This was up there with our favourite dishes of the day, proving that queues are nothing but hype.
Our visit to Italian spot Cin Cin was rewarding. Not only did we get to try two delicious dishes, we were also served a little 50ml cup of Terre di Vita organic rosé to go with them. The Truffle Rigatoni Carbonara with smoked pancetta and summer truffle was in perfect contrast to our earlier pasta dish, opting for boldness in lieu of simplicity. The richness and smokiness of the truffle flooded the mouth with flavour, while the creaminess of the carbonara added to the indulgent effect – not an easily forgotten experience. Our dish of the day was the Calabrese Chicken Wings, though. Peppered with gratings of Parmesan cheese and covered in garlic mayo and a bright red chilli sauce, these deep-fried wings were so moreish that we finished them and licked our fingers, despite having eaten everything we’ve mentioned above.
The last stop of the day was Neat Burger, a plant-based joint. As meat eaters, we were genuinely impressed at the consistency of the Neat Burger with cheese and the satisfying crisp of the Chick’n burger. It’s truly amazing and impressive how they’ve managed to replicate the taste and texture of real meat. Plus, the branding is very pink and fun. For anyone new to veggie life and missing meat, this should be the first stop.
It’s worth mentioning that the drinks this year were top-notch. We stopped by the the Schweppes bar, where mixology masterclasses were taking place all day. The bartender whipped us up a Bitter Chilli cocktail, a bit like a negroni but with three different chillies in it. We also grabbed an ice-cold glass of champagne from the Laurent Perrier tent and witnessed (enviously) a woman buying a magnum of rosé champagne. Over at Beefsteak Wine Club, we got a mini wine tasting and a straw hat after buying a glass of rosé and, finally (and perhaps most deliciously), we had a Tommy’s Chilli Margarita at the very lively Pimentae shack.
What a day! We could have spent hours – nay days – whiling away the time at Taste. There’s nothing like a big bunch of happy, well-fed people sipping drinks in the sunshine. These chefs and their ventures bring a sense of hopefulness to any foodie’s soul. Despite what we’ve gone through in the last few years, creativity in gastronomy is alive and kicking, and there are so many flavours that are yet to be experienced and appreciated.
Ashiana Pradhan and Cristiana Ferrauti
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti, Avrelian, Filippo L’Astorina
Taste of London 2022 is at Regent’s Park from 15th until 19th June 2022. For further information or to book visit the festival’s website here.