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Preview: Taste of London 2010 Food Festival

Published 30 May 2010

Taste of London has well and truly cemented itself as one of the biggest dates in London’s foodie calendar. This June, Taste of London will be back with what is being billed as the biggest and best show yet.

Over 35 top restaurants will be gathering in Regent’s Park from 17th – 20th June to cook some of their signature dishes. Having visited the show last year and thoroughly enjoyed it (bar an inconvenient but unavoidable bomb scare…) I was excited to be given the chance for a sneak preview of 2010’s show and try some of the dishes which will be available. I met with a group of Taste of London insiders, journalists and bloggers at no less glamorous a location than Bentley’s Oyster Bar on Swallow Street to hear some of the plans and (most importantly) sample some of the food.

As we slurp down a good few oysters and some Nyetimber English Sparkling Wine, we hear of one of this year’s Taste of London highlights, a Taste of Malaysia event featuring Satay House, Tudkin Flavours of Malaysia, and Awana, whose menu will include roti canai, their famed flat-bread which was extremely popular at last year’s show.

We don’t hold back on devouring a fair bit of smoked salmon at Bentley’s as we hear the exciting news that soon-to-be London chef Heston Blumenthal will also be appearing at Taste (though no confirmation as to exactly what he’ll be doing) and we hear from wine buff Neil Phillips who will be running an extended series of wine tastings and food & wine pairings at this year’s Taste of London following their success last year and at Taste of Christmas.

We move on to the third dish that Bentley’s will be offering to Taste of London visitors – fish & chips. Of course, this is Bentley’s and not the local chippie so it’s considerably poshed up. It comes with béarnaise sauce served in a cone making it suitably easy to eat on the go. This could be handy as we have no time to linger before we move on to the next restaurant, Yauatcha – brainchild of Alan Yau of Wagamama fame – to taste what they’ll be serving at the show.

At one Michelin-starred Yauatcha, it was dim sum all round with spicy chicken wonton dumplings, a vegetable dim sum platter and their signature dish, Yauatcha shumai. A melon dumpling from the vegetarian selection was notable for its topping of fox nuts amongst a plethora of exotic mushrooms. The shumai plate was seafood themed with prawn, crab and scallop dumplings, all perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour and juice in the mouth – though sometimes a struggle to fit in whole! Neil chipped in with wine matches for these Asian flavours which are notoriously hard to match. His recommendations included a palate-cleansing own label Champagne from Waitrose and an American Riesling – the kind of matches which hint at what’s in store at his Taste of London food pairing masterclasses.

We move on to the final restaurant, Dehesa on nearby Ganton Street.Confusingly, Dehesa isn’t actually at Taste of London at all. Sister restaurant Salt Yard on Goodge Street is and it is their recipes we are trying. But with a private dining area inside and a location closer to Yauatcha, the Dehesa tapas bar was clearly a better suited venue. First up is a Salt Yard classic which has been on the menu since the restaurant first opened. Courgette flowers are served stuffed with goats cheese, lightly battered and deep-fried and then drizzled with honey. The combination of crisp batter, tangy and salty cheese, and sweet honey is a winning combination that hits every taste bud. A subtly smoked octopus dish (smoked in the restaurant) with a peppery olive oil dressing follows and then there’s the only meat dish of the day – chargrilled beef bavette with salsa verde. The beef is meltingly tender, seared on the outside but pink in the middle and, as is the nature of bavette, absolutely bursting with flavour. It’s easy for the beef to take centre-stage (and it does) but honourable mention must go to the punchy salsa verde made more simply than it often is with just parsley, mint, basil, capers and olive oil.

Having just eaten at three of the top restaurants in London, it’s an interesting contrast to hear that Taste of London are also partnering with Top Table to try and find London’s best “hidden gems”. I’m sure everyone must have a place that doesn’t get any of the big name attention but serves consistently good food and brings you back time and time again. Well, finally there’s the chance to vote for these places and get them some much-deserved coverage and recognition for their food.

So, if you’re not too afraid that your local favourite will hike up the prices if they win, vote for them now by following this link http://hiddengem.toptable.com. Voting is open now and runs until 10th June.

Tickets for Taste of London are available from £22 for a standard entry ticket to £75 for premium VIP tickets. There are numerous competitions around to win free tickets to Taste of London. In addition, get two standard entry tickets for £38 by using the special promotional discount code TOLSQM when making your booking online.

When: 17 – 20 June 2010
Where: Regent’s Park
Top celebrity chefs & restaurants attending: Richard Kirkwood (J Sheekey Oyster Bar), Gary Lee (The Ivy), Jun Tanaka (Pearl), Alfred Prasad (Tamarind), Tom Aikens (Tom’s Kitchen), Ben Tish (Salt Yard), Antony Worrall Thompson, Lee Bennett (Le Pont de la Tour), Jacob Kennedy (Bocca di Lupo), James Durrant (Maze), Gary Rhodes (Rhodes Twenty Four), Angela Hartnett and Colin Buchan (York & Albany), Tristan Welch (Launceston Place), Michel Roux Sr, and Theo Randall.

  • Tom Volpe

    This sounds like a good excuse for a trip to London! Those photos are making my mouth water!