Taste of London - Gastro Glasto


Just ahead of this year's Taste of London here's our wrap-up of last summer's festival of all things food and drink. We absolutely love the breadth and scope of this excellently curated event - from 15th to 19th June and we hope this piece will inspire you to get down to Regent's Park and immerse yourselves in what is quite simply the world's greatest Taste festival.

Whether you are a seasoned gastronome or if you've ever been intimidated by Michelin Starred restaurants - this is an event where one can sample some of London's finest food, whilst meeting an array of celebrity chefs wandering freely; this festival is your chance to meet culinary giants and to sample a lineup of high end dishes.

Pascal Aussignac (aka Chef Paski) is the Executive Chef from Michelin starred "Club Gascon" -
hailing from France, his Boyish looks made some of the female foodies somewhat starstruck (some male foodies too...just look at the photo below!) According to Pascal what makes Club Gascon's food even more special is: Love!

hey! aren't you the famous Chef Paski?
We ran into the distinctive Monica Galetti, who is really very approachable and lovely in person - although she may have caused many a MasterChef contestant to turn into a bundle of bumbling blunders and nerves - this time she was judging her own knife set rather than MasterChef - if a chef of Monica's calibre endorses a set of knives, you can be confident that Flint & Flame's "Galetti" range meets even her exacting standards.

looking sharp!

Another Masterchef Judge and wonderful luminary, Marcus Wareing was also at Taste of London - he's equally at home in front of our tv screens as he is in person, he could not have been more charming. Naturally there was a constant feed of people wanting to take a selfie with the great chef and Marcus was extraordinarily gracious, down to earth and friendly with each and every one of them. It's so heartwarming when one's culinary heroes turn out to be incredibly affable in person - that may account for how excellent his food is, if it's any reflection of his personality.

José Pizarro co-founder of the "Brindisa" restaurant group took his team to Taste of London
for the first time, unsurprisingly, they were a hit with the crowds due to their effortless warmth.

Cláudio Cardoso is the enigmatic and energetic Executive Chef of "Sushisamba". The man is so passionate about food; he goes to bed reading books about produce and wakes up thinking about his craft. Sushisamba is one of only a handful of restaurants officially certified by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to sell true, authentic Kobe beef.  £1,000 buys you 1kg of Kobe beef - and the restaurant offers special Kobe tasting menu experiences - but for a fraction of the price visitors can experience a real Kobe burger. More about that later.

Jeremy Pang from the much talked about "The School of Wok" in Covent Garden worked non stop at the AEG "Let's Taste Live Cooking" stage - on the final day of the show he took off his whites and at last had a chance to relax with his mum; he's such a star!

Steve Groves - crowned Masterchef: The Professionals Winner in 2009, is now head chef of Roux Parliament Square - and was on hand offering specialist demonstrations in the AEG Taste Theatre.
Steve is pouring

Even if some chefs weren't famous TV stars, they all got into the festival spirit!

Coconut Water very welcome in the heat courtesy of Innocent

The charismatic and dynamic Hamish Brown of "Roka" was rocking this sushi shirt. Roka's presence at Taste of London was one of the stand-out stands. And there was good reason for their popularity because their dishes were extraordinarily tasty - even among so much outstanding food. In fact we're salivating now just thinking about their lamb chops - so we will come back to Roka's food in detail if you read on below.

Rather than cash, crowns are used as currency at Taste of London - there are also plenty of complimentary samples to enjoy! ... as follows ...

Asda Beef

Asda offered some meat cooking demonstrations, and set-up a grill inside a Tipi, to showcase their extensive beef range, including Extra Special Aberdeen Angus Beef and Extra Special British Wagyu. Their food was on the house, or under a tent this case!

Shana hot breads in cardboard pockets

Get Fruity tasty testers

Somerset Charcuterie

Lindt Chocolate nibbles

Green & Blacks Chocolate samples

even more tasters alongside Croft Pink
Cranes 4% alcohol Free Samples

We loved "T2" Teas super stand for their brightness and the buzz surrounding them! Sample teas were enjoyed in their "chill-out zone" after our exploration of their stand - this Australian brand is now well established in London with a flagship store on Regent Street. We love T2's design aesthetic, and that's matched by the quality of their products - a superb range of tea at it's finest!

We took time to sample and savour their vast collection

Media interest

T2 encourages people to explore and so we did!

There's so much choice that we're going to continue our hunt for T2's latest offerings the next time we're near their stores on Regents Street or Kings Road

makes a fun gift

Taste of London has so much on offer that it's not easy selecting highlights because there are so many - but one was certainly Grana Padano D.O.P and Prosecco DOC pairing of Italian cheese with Italian prosecco - both of which enjoy protected designation of origin (PDO) status. We were given a master class and learned about the wonderful pairings of these best in class Italian products. 

fill them up!

Perhaps we'd had a tad too much to drink, because we also learned that our sparkling expert, Neil Phillips was a horse racing tipster - perfect timing for Ascott!

Still on the subject of drink and colour we were introduced to two vibrant ladies who had met at University and formed "Lovo" - a coconut based sparkling mixer and refreshing thirst quencher.  

Quite rightly Lovo were nominated for Best Dressed Stand of the show

 Lovo may well be our summer of Love Drink

If all of the above puts you in a holiday mood (it certainly put us in one!) how about a "Celebrity Cruises" experience? This has to be booked in advance at the show, where guests are given boarding passes and passports, building our anticipation, we were welcomed to their Lawn Club and taken on a gastro journey and tasting menu curated by Michelin starred Head of Culinary, Cornelius Gallagher and wine aficionado Oz Clarke, where the fine food came with drinks pairings.

For starters we had Spring Rolls paired with "Brew Dog's Punk IPA", a craft beer from Scotland and one of 40 handpicked beers on board.

There were vegetarian options on request but the non veggie meat option included tender (6 hours cooked) BBQ baby pork meat with caramelised onion, coleslaw with vinegar soaked raisins and secret ingredients.

Celebrity Cruises have a style and standard that would be on a par with high end hotels such as the W group - except at sea! What really impressed us was the sheer range and quality of their onboard food and drink offerings - with so many restaurants and such an extensive cellar, this really is first class gastronomic cruising. 

spring rolls in coils of spring

We were in good company as Chef Jeremy Pang was tasting at our session too!
To the left of the picture we see a rather captivating bottle of delicious Punk IPA

Our next taster was Blackened Ahi Tuna with forbidden rice & baby Bok Choy, which is available to "AquaClass" guests (for the health conscious). The tuna was lightly seared and the rice had a gentle nutty flavour from the sesame miso dressing,

Onboard Celebrity Cruises ‘Clean Cuisine’ uses minimal butter and strives for healthy ingredients.

These dishes were paired with Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand; fruity, crisp, light and an ideal pairing with healthy flavoursome food. 

Lamb loin with thyme, spiced merguez Moroccan sausage, peppers, tomatoes and fava beans with tangy yoghurt dressing are just some of the delightful examples of Celebrity Cruise's attention to their guests' culinary experience. It's no wonder a cruise company decided to attend Taste of London. 

This lightly seared tuna was top draw quality and perfectly paired with Chateau d'Esclans "Whispering Angel" from Provence... indeed, angels lightly kissed us fond farewell as we completed our Celebrity Cruises tasting experience...

With an extraordinary selection of  over 500 wines to choose from, we were impressed by Celebrity Cruises approach to modern luxury. If there's ever a chance to jump on board to enjoy a few days of this sort of luxury - count us in!

Leaving our enjoyable sea voyage we were firmly back on terra firma with the sight of this tree - well actually, this particular tree's cousin is usually housed in the air - specifically on the 39th floor of the Heron Tower in London...home of SushiSamba!

These quinoa cones made delectable and filling starters...
incredibly the wrappers were edible too

so filling, a meal in itself
Like foodie Magpies we were attracted to the optimistic colours and upbeat vibe of the super Sushisamba presence - we just had to discover more!

These little tin cans were canned daily and filled with extraordinary delights!

We were intrigued by these little boxes perched next to a mysterious trophy

This may seem to be the daintiest of burger.... but it's not just a burger -
it's Sushisamba's "icon dish" comprised of award winning Kobe beef!
be gentle
lifting the lid to see the Peruvian potatoes...
....and to finish, a box of desserts at an absolute bargain and a fantastic gift - or in our case something to take home to enjoy later!

Roka, the award winning London restaurant, serving contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine also attracted us for different reasons - for one thing it was an idyllic sunny day just perfect for a BBQ - we thought we'd ease our stomachs gently in with some of these black cod, crab and crayfish dumplings ...

vegetarians look away now...baby chicken, lemon, miso and garlic

 Lamb cutlets with korean spices - these were a stand out sensation 

Unleashing our inner caveman! We absolutely positively know why this was Roka's icon dish

Feeling suitably triumphant by this stage we were honoured to be  treated to a preview of Roka's newly launched house brand of Sake. Given Roka's expertise and attention to detail you will not be surprised to learn that it was among the best Sake we've ever tasted.  
behold, the Newest edition

Wood you believe it - the future's bright!
It's ok to look again now vegetarians...we found the most moist mushroomy of mushroom burgers at Shake Shack - their Lil’ Shroom Burger includes a Crisp-fried Portobello mushroom. It's a wonder we managed it because by this point in the proceedings we really didn't have...mushroom! 
(babom, ksh, we're here all week folks - try the veal!)

 Malted Marshmallow Peanut ButterFrozen Custard

Still on the veg hunt, Marcus Wareing offered this sublime aubergine dish

And not to be out aubergined - this eggplant extravaganza was offered by Duck & Waffle

Still on the subject of no meat, Pont Street hot cheese balls were good value at only 4 crowns

From balls to squares; Pont Street bourbon & maple glazed pork belly cost 5 crowns

Somewhat less heavy was L'autre Pied's icon dish - their scallop ceviche, cucumber, balsamic was 10 crowns ...you had to savour it slowly at that price!

Another seafood winner was from Ametsa, their squid salad paella, so good we had it twice!

Jerusalem style polenta with mushroom and truffle oil by Palomar, they've never let us down at their award winning restaurant on Rupert Street, one of our absolute favourites - we can't wait to try their new restaurant The Barbary.

Speaking of oil, this Roast Duck, hoisin sauce in a mantou bun from Chai Wu (usually located on the 5th floor of Harrods) was a little slippery, we wondered if diners at the posh department store are served this, and if so would they be licking their fingers "a la festival" style like we did? Twas Tasty though!

An imaginative offering was the Pandan Macaron with Kaya Jam and Soy Caramel Ice Cream from Spice Market (at 5 Crowns this was one indulgent Macaron!)

Club Gascon always delights us with their scenic displays..
Prawn burger, Tartine of duck foie gras and strawberry "Tagada", Cherry macaroon, lavender and Lillet - almost too pretty to eat... almost!

While we're on the subject of macarons, that reminds us of some of the smaller stalls worthy of a mention,

Nazish Omar's Deelicious - after several years in banking, health management and teaching, Nazish earned a diploma in Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu - she uses only the highest quality ingredients and it really shows, looking and tasting exquisite!

This festival is exactly the place to reach out to a bigger audience - which we hope they will as they thoroughly deserve to be highly successful.  Deelicious also teach baking and related skills at their south west london patisserie should you wish to learn their magical arts.

We love nice people and foodies who truly care about providing their customers with something special, and that's what we found at EATAPAS, a well stocked Spanish artisan provider with great respect for good food and tradition. A family business, EATAPAS is a UK-based start-up that launched around one year ago, providing an array of the very best Spanish artisinal produce: Favourites such as Iberia ham, olive oil, cheese, chorizo and trusted store cupboard ingredients used for home cooking meals are just one click away on their website.
Rare and Award Winning Artzai Gazta Izarraitz cheese

French sourced antique copper pots by Chaleureuse drew plenty of attention, they make fabulous gifts with a rustic feel, as they are reconditioned and retinned by hand. Many of the pans have been refurbished by Sherwood Tinning, which has a royal warrant.

On the subject of copper, Özerlat have been making exceptional Turkish coffee since 1917, when the current owner's great-grandfather started roasting and grinding fresh coffee in Cyprus.
Each batch of Özerlat coffee is crafted in Nicosia, where two unique Turkish coffee blends are made from 100% pure Arabica, with no flavours or preservatives added.
Heritage is a classic Turkish coffee blend with tones of bitter chocolate and rose, whilst Mozaik is for the modern coffee drinker, inspired by a taste for bright Italian espresso, with nutty and red berry aromas.


And now, even more coffee, and tea - because the pot of tomorrow is in fact a pouch!
The Coffeebrewer offers single brew French Press single estate speciality coffees.
Winner of 'best ready to drink coffee' and finalist 'best new beverage concept' at BrauBeviale, these cutting edge products are prepackaged in a variety of different brewing pouches, and include fair trade and certified organic micro roasted coffees. Inside the pouch is a patented filter and brewing system with freshly ground specialty coffee or tea (enough for two cups),
The filter is designed at a height within in the pouch that separates the grounds from the hot liquid underneath. The packaging uses no aluminium and the paper comes from managed and reforested Swedish woods. Put simply - you just need to add hot water for an outstanding brew. 

A deconstructed tea pouch reveals the finest ingredients

Continuing with novel inventions, the Pull Ring was developed by Banpod Klearpuangpit, who spent over five years designing a laser-powered method to cut through the shells of coconuts, so no more machetes needed! Whatever next, bananas with zippers?

From coconuts to almonds, the pinkest stand at the show was "Almondy" celebrating their 10th birthday by giving out scrumptious samples of their cake.

For even more varied colour there was Portlebay Popcorn,
The Lemon Sherbert reminded us of a dayout by the seaside
we enjoyed lots of trying before buying!

Even more colour and bunting to come! At this point it's worth reminding you that the day is divided into 2 sessions to allow all the restaurant teams to clean up and take a break, with the second half of the day starting 5.30pm, perfect for an after work visit.

Not open to the public for trading, we found it interesting to watch people during the "downtime" half time breaks and we continued to document...

this is their chance to stock up..
or you can brush up your image with a Selfie on social media

others wait 

Angels Tears Vodka Debuts at Taste
Angels Tears Vodka was a brand new name that had just launched -
a truly refined and smooth vodka that is destined to become a premium range. 

After a somewhat serene pause it's party time again!

Winner of The Voice 2014, Jermain Jackman got the party started again
at The Coffee House Sessions bandstand, here he is being his charming self

Pilsner Urquell tent featured Tank Beer delivered straight from the Czech city of Plzen
If you don't want to hit the hard stuff then a trip to the ever friendly Voss Stand may have been to your taste, here the resident DJ was shaking up the Still Artesian Water
banging beats out on Voss Water Boxes

If a bit more cheese tickles your musical taste then maybe Mortimer’s Orchard Cider Bar & Silent Disco is more your thing.

After the silent disco it was time to park ourselves but where?
by the AEG bench

By the Lickalix deckchairs of course!
handmade mango & raspberry or orange curry & white chocolate ice lolly
Somewhat more adult - the Laurent Perrier Haven proved popular...
it looks like a calm haven at half time but it was packed as soon as the show re-opened. 

this was more The Ambassadors' sort of seating and get away in style,
until the next Taste of London Foodtopia - tootlepip!

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