People travel for lots of reasons — to experience culture, to see a different way of life, to broaden their horizons. My family? We move our bodies far and wide for the sole purpose of eating. The museums, the must-sees, the shopping — that’s all filler for the time while our previous meal is digesting. If that sounds anything like you, then boy, do I have an event to add to your food tourism bucket list — the Taste of London. Read on to find out four reasons why the Taste of London is your next food trip.
Reason #1: There’s SO. MUCH. FOOD.
Taste of London is a food festival that happens twice a year here in London — once in the June at Regent’s Park, and again in November at Tobacco Dock. Over the course of the five-day festival spanning from Wednesday-Sunday, 38 tents served up dishes from notable British chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi (who designed a dish for the charity tent hosted by Action Against Hunger), Rick Stein, and Theo Randall. Each tent had at least three dishes to choose from, plus a signature “Icon Dish” which highlighted that particular restaurant’s best dish. Our group loved the fall-apart, sweet-sticky angus beef shortrib from Roka and a bunch of vibrant radishes over whipped cod’s roe
Each tent seemed to be preparing most of its dishes onsite for the most part, such as the gigantic grill at Yosma (a Turkish restaurant on Baker Street) where a chef turned skewers of giant tiger prawns and slow-roasted bulging heads of garlic over a charcoal fire pit.
One word of caution, though: the dishes at Taste of London are small tasting portions. In theory, this is a really incredible opportunity to try lots of different dishes, with so many of London’s most popular restaurants represented. The prices, however, were a less appetizing than the food itself. If you go to the festival, be prepared to spend a hefty amount of money on top of the entrance fee (which starts at a reasonable £12) in order to sample the dishes, which start at £4. A single tiger prawn at the stall for Yosma, a Turkish restaurant, for example, while sizeable, would have set you back £9, which is pricey even for a starter with substantially more on the plate. With drinks and approximately 3-4 dishes per person, expect that your total spend at Taste of London (including the entrance fee) to cost upwards of £50-60 per person.
Reason #2: You can learn something.
In addition to restaurant stalls selling signature dishes, Taste of London is packed with “masterclasses” highlighting specialty food and drink, like this class that I attended hosted by Francesco Mazzei (acclaimed Italian chef and Chef Patron at Sartoria) and Oz Clarke (wine expert and television presenter) featuring Grana Padano PDO and Prosecco DOC. Like food with protected designated of origin marks to prove their authenticity and preserve its regional purity, Prosecco is also protected with a “Denominazione di Origine Controllata” designation. (For a great breakdown of the different designations of Italian wine, click here).
Chef Mazzei demonstrated the versatility of Grana Padano by flavoring a creamy saffron risotto with sauteed wild mushrooms, a poached egg and shaved truffles. Although it looks very similar as Parmigiana-Reggiano and hails from the same region (Emilia-Romagna), Grana Padano is made entirely with partially-skimmed milk (whereas Parmigiana is made with a mix of both whole and skim). Grana Padano is also slightly sweeter, which makes it ideal for pairing with a crisp, dry Prosecco.
Chef Mazzei’s risotto dish was briny and decadent. The Grana Padano brought unity to the dish, and the runny yolk of the poached egg became a luxurious sauce when mixed with shavings of Grana Padano. Freshly-shaved truffle complemented the salty earthiness of the wine-soaked mushroom saute.
Reason #3: It’s beautiful to look at.
Of course, masterclass aren’t the only attraction at Taste of London. Most of the tents are thoughtfully presented, and the layout of the festival is spacious and well-organized. The decor ranged simple and clean to downright decadent, like this floral wall made by Peroni. The festival organizers control how many ticket holders are permitted in each “session” (afternoon or evening), so the festival feels lively but not overcrowded.
Plus, there’s a gorgeous black taxi serving gin. Gin!
Every time of day should be Pimm’s O’Clock, no?
Reason #4: It’s a family-friendly festival.
Food festivals aren’t always made for little ones, and it’s easy to see why. For one, toddlers are probably the world’s worst food critics. I’m sure that no celebrity chef likes to see a toddler hurl a freshly-fried arancini (risotto ball) angrily across an open field. Secondly, food festivals are also often wine (and beer and liquor) festivals, so the age restriction and the accompanying headache that is involved with verifying age makes it easier to just limit the age of all festival goers for liability reasons. Well, at least that’s the case in the U.S. for some food-focused festivals.
Happily, that’s not the case at Taste of London. Taste of London offers free admission to under-5s, and children 6 and over pay an entry fee starting at £8. In addition, you can bring a babysitter for your children free of charge with the purchase of a standard ticket, which means that not only can the whole family attend, but you can bring a sitter for free for when the going gets tough.