Friday, June 20, 2008

Taste of London 2008

I spent an absolutely wonderful day on Thursday at the 2008 Taste of London in Regents Park. It was an excellent event, with some excellent restaurants, plenty of eager exhibitors, and tutorials on wine and food. I had some fantastic dishes as far as my £20 (crowns) could get me.

Most notably was a melt-in-your-mouth teriyaki scallop dish from Sumosan. This giant and perfectly cooked scallop came hand delivered from the chef on its shell, coated with a balanced and not-too-sweet teriyaki sauce with some shitake and enoki mushrooms, and fried leek. Washed down with a free shot of Sake, it was delicious and worth the entire trip to the festival. It is also hard to believe that they were so perfectly cooked when serving in such bulk. Their salmon and avocado roll covered in roe was also delectable. Does Sumosan mean heaven in Japanese?

The parmesan custard with anchovy toasts from the new Le Café Anglais in Whiteleys Shopping Centre in Bayswater was zing zing delicious! Salty, cheesy, salty, cheesy, salty, cheesy. Excellent! Just too small, I WANTED MORE!

Also delicious were the grilled lamb cutlets from Tamarind that were flavoured with chili, lime, and garlic. The two bite-sized lamb cutlets were very good and well spiced. The cubes of kingfish in a tomato curry (Meen Kozhambu) was good, but just a regular curry dish in the end.

The pork sandwich (pretentiously titled on the menu “roast middle white pig sandwich”), from Antony Worrall Thompson’s Notting Grill, was good, but small, a little sweet (with the apple chili jelly), and nothing special. The brownie was also good, but about the same caliber as a Starbucks brownie. I was hoping for a bit more from the celebrity chef I watched religiously on Saturday Kitchen a few years ago as he whipped up classic British comfort food.

And the braised brisket dish from Kai Mayfair (Chinese) was too sweet. It is really strange to have braised brisket (the hearty image of barbeque brisket lured me in) in such a sweet Chinese sauce. Kind of gross really, especially on top of that spongy bun(???).

On exhibitors, the Gaymers Cider booth was much appreciated, and the Bordeaux Tourist Board booth with about 20 free wines to taste is a must.

Though we had a great time and an excellent day out, we were a bit disappointed actually by the Taste of London. My idea of a “Taste of” festival is a city street event, open to the public (free of charge) with all the city’s restaurants and eateries selling their best dishes at promotional prices. This was a far far cry from that. The tickets were expensive and the food from the restaurants was way overpriced. My miniature pork sandwich from Notting Grill was £8, which is probably as much or more than the full sized version goes for in the actual restaurant. The cheapest menu items at any restaurant were £6. I was, and am, actually flabbergasted by the prices. With the amount of sponsors that the event attracted, you would think admission would be free. And the restaurants, they should be trying to attract customers by giving them samples at reasonable prices. I don’t know who made out like a bandit in this equation, but someone is laughing all the way to the bank.

It was also frustrating that we walked around Regents Park for an hour before finding the festival, as there were absolutely no signs in the park hinting at its location (and I am not a novice to this park). And another thing, while I am on the negatives, the Spanish Wine Tutorial is a waste as they just walk you through the 6 worst tasting Spanish wines available at the supermarket. If choosing between this and the BBC Good Food Show, I take the Good Food Show any day.

Enjoy the Taste of London, but next time I will be writing about the Taste of CINCINNATI!!! Cincy here we come!

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