I doubt it’s escaped your notice that I like to eat, a lot. I mean there are just a few restaurant reviews on this blog which are probably a fair indicator that this gal likes her food. And my new favourite past-time on instagram, when I’m not stalking fitness pages and pretending I’m going to attempt any of the exercise routines, is to follow every restaurant, food stall and pop up in London and drool over their tasty looking images.
As such, I’m sure you can imagine my excitement at the thought of going to Taste of London – Winter, where I could droll over some of these dishes for reals and maybe even eat a few of them too!
For those of you not caught up in the foodie hype, Taste of London is a festival that brings together all the hottest restaurants, bars, street food stalls and chefs in London as well as a massive range of exciting ingredients and cool food & drink brands all under one roof.
Amazingly my dish of a boyfriend had managed to get us a couple of freebie tickets through Hailo as he is a badass black cab driver – perks of the job. This meant we both saved ourselves the £25 entrance fee which, after attending, I feel is a bit overpriced. (I just felt that you’re spending so much money once you’re in there anyway, spending £50 between you before you’ve even arrived seems a bit steep.) But anyway…
Being happily hangover free (we’d steered away from Saturday night partying in favour of a dinner date at the fabulous Bourne & Hollingsworth Building the night before – read about that HERE) we decided to head over to Tobacco Dock, where the event was being held, super early on Sunday morning.
This was the last day of the event and also when the rain hammered down in biblical proportions. We huddled under an umbrella as we collected our tickets from the box office and upon entering the venue were pleased to find the majority of the event was under cover. Phew.
Once inside, I couldn’t wait to explore. The venue had a great feel to it, it’s a really historic and interesting place – as well as being massive! In addition, for this event, it had been given a wonderful wintery, festive feel, with fairy lights and Christmas trees dotted about the place. At the entrance there was a pop up bar with ping-pong tables on our left and a live demonstration room to our right, ready and waiting for a top chef to show off their skills and cook up a storm.
Firstly though we needed to top up our Taste cards with some ‘Crowns’ – in order to be able to pay for the food we wanted to try. We headed to one of the many booths and put £30 worth on each card in anticipation of eating and buying a fair bit throughout the day.
Turns out though, that although the restaurants and bars only take crowns as payment not many of stalls accept the taste card, so do make sure you have a bit of cash on you if you’re interested in buying some bits to take home…and maybe keep topping up your card throughout the day rather than doing it all in one whack, like we did, so that if you don’t spend it all you don’t have to do the ball-ache on-line refund and wait 40 days for your money back, like we do!
Armed with our loaded Taste cards we decided to do as much of a lap of the place as we could before our grumbling stomachs lead us to our first feast of the day.
I let my boyfriend make the first decision and he started strong with Michelin starred, Indian restaurant Benares normally found in the heart of Mayfair. Without hesitation he ordered the Keema Paratha and I have to say it was a ten out of ten from both of us.
Absolutely delicious and full of flavour it left me desperate for more! We definitely set the bar high for the day and the remaining restaurateurs.
We wandered around a bit more and soon found ourselves downstairs and in the queue for the Ember Yard – a relatively new Soho haunt from those clever guys at The Salt Yard group. A colleague of mine had been here for dinner and raved about it so I was keen to try something from the menu.
Pressure mounting I ummed and ahhed for ages before my boyfriend told me “just to get the Truffled Mac & Cheese” knowing how much a fan I am of all things cheese.
And normally this would be my dream dish but I found the truffle a bit overpowering and it didn’t compare to the portion I had at Swingers London, from When Mac met Cheese, it just didn’t have the comfort food factor that I feel Mac & Cheese is meant for. It was nice, just not amazing.
Instead I sort of wish I’d had the Ibérico Pork Ribs with Quince Glaze and Squash Purée, ahh well next time?
We dusted ourselves off and headed off in search of our next little taster, albeit after a pit stop at the mulled wine bar for some liquid refreshment.
In my eagerness to attend the event, I’d of course, spent a
bit lot of time on instagram browsing the hashtag #tasteofwinter where I’d happened upon a picture of the short beef rib from Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa. This was our obvious next choice…and handily it was right next to the mulled wine bar.
Barbecoa use traditional fire-based cooking which my boyfriend is always championing. The meat fell off the bone and was amazingly tender. The only complaint was that the mash it came on was cold. Still we chalked Barbecoa up as a restaurant we’d like to go to in the future.
Three dishes down, we decided to take a break from eating to see if we could catch one of the amazing chefs in action. Luckily we timed it well as Scott Hallsworth of Nobu and now Kurobuta fame was just stepping up to the firepit to cook.
We grabbed a front row seat as the Ozzie Chef barbecued a load of quail under branches from a Christmas tree while intermittently drinking from a Pontoon cocktail that hung round his neck.
Sounds slightly mad! And it was but the resulting dish (topped with a Japanese sauce) was impressive…luckily we got to sample a bit.
After that it only made sense for us to head straight over to the Kurobuta stand (which had the biggest queue of the day) and see what they had to offer.
We went big and opted for the £10 Tea Smoked Lamb with Smokey Nasu and Spicy Korean Miso (and not the, ahem, £100 blowjob – I didn’t even want to ask!). I thought it was good if very spicy and a bit small for the cost but checking the Kurobuta website this dish is actually £15.50 in the restaurant so maybe it was a bargain after all.
Still a bit of a novice when it comes to Japanese eating (I always just think Sushi and therefore raw fish – umm, no thanks!) I’m really keen to go and try more of what Kurobuta has to offer at either the Marble Arch or Chelsea restaurants.
Next it was time for another food break and a walk around the markets instead. There is SO much on offer here it is a foodies dream. From the most amazing GIANT cupcakes to insanely spicy chilli sauces to flavoured balsamic oils to toffee flavoured vodka, to arancini bites to pork pies, to cheese and breads and boxes of wines disguised as handbags (umm amazing).
You could spend a small fortune in here and it’s a great place for stocking up on Christmas presents too. My mum would have an absolute field day buying all manner of mad and wonderful things.
I, myself, bought a lump of black bomber cheddar cheese from the Snowdonia Cheese Company. It’s been my absolute favourite cheddar ever since I discovered it aged 15 when I worked in a cafe/deli in Dorset. And I don’t know how but there is even some still left in the fridge now?
*stops writing to go and cut off a chuck and eat*
It’s really strong and creamy in taste and basically bloody delicious.
As well as doing the standard black bomber flavour the Snowdonia Cheese Company also do a selection of flavoured ones; Pickle Power, Amber Mist, Ginger Spice – all great additions to the Christmas cheese board!
Along with the cheese we also bought a couple of those aforementioned giant cupcakes as a treat to eat when we got home with a cup of tea (oh god we’re old!). They were just looked too to pass up.
Shopping done, we popped into Bodo Schloss and their Austrian, alpine pop up for another mulled wine. I could have easily whiled away a couple of hours in the comfort of the faux fur draped lodge, drinking mulled wine and pretending I was in Val d’Isère…
…there was still plenty more food to be tried and the scent of some lured us out of the Alps and over to India for some street food courtesy of Roti Chai.
We ordered, and my boyfriend enjoyed the Five Spice Pulled Pork with Parathas. I did liked it but I’m feeling more and more that I’m not actually a fan of pulled pork or rather, I feel it’s been a bit overdone. So for me this dish was a bit forgettable. So much so, I almost forgot to take a picture of it! Which explains the half eaten snap below…
Next door to Roti Chai was the Shake Shack which you might remember my boyfriend and I went to and LOVED way back in the summer – read about it here (oh summer, I miss thee!). With some crowns to spare we got a mini Shack Burger to share and it went down a treat, as expected. Although I may have accidentally eaten most of it.
By now the venue was heaving and the stalls were crowded with people and things were getting a bit hectic. We’d been at Taste of London for around two and a bit hours by now and felt we’d seen all we wanted to, so, with full bellies and a few treats in hand, we decided to head home.
Once in the dry warmth of our flat and with a huge cup of tea in my favourite Marauders Map mug from the Harry Potter tour…
(The footsteps appear when you put hot water in it!)
…we could finally crack into those incredible cakes we’d bought – just LOOK at the size of them!!!
White chocolate and raspberry
And Chocolate Orange…
Tempted to lick the screen aren’t you?
You can get your own from the Little Round Cake Company.
We had a lovely morning at Taste of London – Winter. As I said at the beginning, I do think the entrance fee is a little high, considering how much money you can spend inside but then there are free demos to watch with some very exciting chefs that probably balance out this cost.
I think the range of restaurants who exhibit at Taste of London are amazing and it’s a great chance to try food from high-end and Michelin-star places that you might not normally be able to (along with the ones we went to there was also Gaucho, Brindisa, Hixster, Assado and more). We went with the thought that we could try food from lots of places and then visit the actual restaurant safe in the knowledge it would be well worth the money. There’d be nothing worse than paying £100-£150 for a posh dinner out and not enjoying it so Taste of London is a really great place to go and discover new restaurants.
We enjoyed all of the places we ate at but I think Beneras was our favourite and we’ll definitely be booking a table there for our next special occasion. Or rather I’m hoping my boyfriend decides to treat/surprise me for being an amazing girlfriend, I mean I sure do deserve it.
I’d definitely be keen to go to the Summer version of the Taste of London festival when it happens, because FOOD. What about you guys?
Thanks for reading!