I’m feeling slightly aggrieved at this weekend’s Taste of London. Whilst I think the idea is a good one; many of the city’s best restaurants pitching up in Regents Parks and serving up 3 dishes which us poor huddled masses can then buy for a few quid, it does feel like a victim of its own success. For one thing it was really, really, really expensive, I mean eye wateringly wallet shatteringly expensive. OK, I might be overstating the expense but I did feel seriously ripped off by the end of the day. 25 quid to get in and then you had to buy paper tokens, “charmingly" named crowns to exchange for food at 50p a shot. The average dish was about 8 crowns. OK, only 4 quid, but given I paid to get in, the entire event was sponsored by British Airways and the place was littered with exhibitors touting muesli and fruit juice (who’d I’d assumed paid to be there) I did get the distinct sense I was getting mugged.
There’s a middle class Glastonbury feel to the proceedings, an actually very pleasant mix of ages; a sort of country fair crossed with a music festival sort of vibe, which once you get over the shock of the place being absolutely rammed was actually pretty chilled out. Having said that I did almost get into a fight queuing up at L’Atelier de Joel Rubuchon.
Despite the fact that they were serving hamburgers (admittedly beef and foie gras burgers with caramelised bell peppers) they hadn’t quite grasped the logistics of fast food production. They had some very smart waiters basically having to throw burgers at rabid self confessed foodies and then had to halt production every hour or so to smooth their perfectly coiffed hair and fry up some more. So, whilst waiting patiently in line for my burgers, I ended up in an altercation with a very nice Frenchman. To give him his due I was the one who told him to fuck off first. Luckily, we ended up the best of mates, extolling the virtues of the various Rubuchon outposts we had both tried and sharing a slightly gangster handshake as he pottered off with his langoustine fritters with basil pistou (typically obtuse Frenchman!).
So, despite all this we did eat some pretty special food. I’m told the burgers were good (irony was I don’t eat foie gras anymore , nothing ethical, it just makes me ill) and the massive Chocolate Sensation (Creamy Araguani chocolate, bitter chocolate sorbet and Oreo cookie cruimbs) that the L’Atelier were knocking out were probably the best thing I ate all day. The guys at Nahm, David Thompson’s Thai place were making some pretty special treats, Pomelo dressed with caramel and roasted coconut served on betel leaves and probably the best green curry I’ve eaten. The Gavroche and Artubus were too rammed to consider going anywhere near despite the promise of a smoked chicken and foie gras terrine with lentils and truffle vinaigrette and braised pigs head respectively, fearing another fight I opted for the rather simple zucchini fritti at Theo Randall and the naverin of summer lamb and cous cous at Skylon both which had survived the vicissitudes of mass production to be pretty damn good.
Other bit and pieces worthy of note were the pork belly at the Le Café Anglais , though the lentils were a bit worse for wear by the time I got them. One disappointment were the Cripsy puffed poories and the Spring roll stuffed with masala omelette at Café Spice Namaste, which like a friend of mine said you’d think were really good if they came from your local Indian but not at a restaurant you’d gone out of your way to eat in. Before I knew it I’d blown my stash of crowns and we left, not before jeering at Jamie Cullum who was playing in one of British Airways executive tents and regretting having missed out on some of the good stuff at Rhodes Twenty Four, Launceston Place and Canteen.
All in all it was quite fun, my gripes aside, though I have to say if we hadn’t been to the Royal China Club before hand for some of the best dim sum you’ll get in this city – steamed pork buns to cry into, I’d have been heading to Burger King on Baker Street straight afterwards.