What are you looking for?
22 June 2015

london | taste of london, regent's park

for the last couple of years now, i have been lucky enough to have been invited down to attend the taste of london festival as a guest of the event's primary sponsor; this year, aeg uk stepped up to the plate and made the foodie festival happen, and in none other than london's iconic regent's park. it's not the first time the event has popped up in the royal park, and usually we're even guaranteed some sun by the time the summer event comes around - this year, as i peered out the windows at work that  morning that overlook the park, i wasn't so sure it was going to quite work out that way.

nevertheless, i met up with bex just before six and we headed into the park. we wound our way through the maze of ticket sellers and collection points, stocked up on the ever-essential 'taste crowns' for our dinner and drinking needs, and wandered in... instantly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stalls and traders that we were met with, despite knowing ~exactly what to expect.

we'd planned to have a cooking session with school of wok owner and head chef jeremy pang at 7, so we had just under an hour to scope out all the food we wanted to go back for after. i'd heard good things were coming out of the roka and barbecoa kicthens, and so were keen to see what was on the menus there. plus, we were basically ~forced to have a cocktail in a coconut at the mahiki cocktail van, because "when in rome", and "it would be rude not to", and all other clichés you can think of to explain the need for a £7 cocktail in a coconut.

as we made our way to the aeg let's taste live cooking kitchen, we stopped in for a couple of cheeky samples along the way - namely, some sensational fruity iced tea at australia's well-renowned but newly-launched in the uk tea brand T2, and also at the móvenipick stand to line our bellies with dessert before the great asian cook-off, with strawberry sorbet, white chocolate ice cream, lemon rind and chilli flakes to top it all off. it was absolutely bloody delicious, and the perfect starter to what was next.

in the 'let's taste live cooking kitchen' we were met by chef jeremy pang. we nibbled on some pre-made (as we'd arrived, not like.. from iceland) hoisin and cola ribs while he talked us through the newest aeg steam oven he'd be using to cook part of our meals in while we whipped up the rest on the fancy induction hobs at our stations. with a plate of prepped-but-definitely-raw ingredients in front of us, we tried to work out what was coming next, but failed miserable to even figure out what we were looking at - bar the wonderfully-marinated chicken at our station, there was another - very grey mixture, that was sat in front of us, and we were keen to find out what we'd be cooking.

once it was revealed that we'd be making ~fricken dumplings (!), and the weird grey mixture was in fact a seafood and wild mushroom combination, with scallops for the top, we were giddy with excitement, i mean... who doesn't love a dumpling! well, i had much trouble making mine, as it required two functioning hands, but i did have the help of the wonderful sous chef hannah to help me sculpt the perfect dunpling, while bex took control of the chicken stirfry we were charged with making for our mains. all in all, i think we (they) did a cracking job; both dishes were very tasty (all them) and cooked through (all bex), and i was one satisfied - if not still bloody hungry, customer.

rumours were rife that the aeg hospitality tent was well-stocked with unlimited bottles of perriér and tasty baked treats coming out of the demo kitchen, so we headed there next to see what that was all about . i mean, tasty treats after tasty treats is kinda the point of taste of london, isn't it?

the rumours about the perriér were very much true; in the hospitality tent we dined on many, many glasses of bubbly as we downed beef burger sliders with onion marmalade, and garlic prawns in butter, before fiiiinally moving on to bigger and better things. namely the havana mojito shack, seph and joe's popcorn stand (two new flavours under my belt now; caramel and peanut butter and salted caramel, om nom!) and finally, settling in with some real food. 

at roka we started with black cod, crab and crayfish dunplings (what did i say about dumplings?), before moving on to barbecoa to feast on their smoked and fried wings in a white barbecue sauce (aca-scuse me? white barbecue? get in my belly) with a garnish of cashew nuts, and a hunk of slow-roasted pit beef served with a side of new york slaw and beef-dripple crumble. the meat literally was falling apart on the fork - so tender and well cooked, and the dripping crumble?! crisp and salty, and the perfect accompaniment to the delicious beef. 

at five and six quid a piece, yeaaaah they're pretty costy. ~but, the idea of taste of london is for regular joe's like me and you to be able to "get in" to these sometimes-pretentious restaurants, and eat how the other half eat. when the meat falls apart the way it did on that tiny wooden fork, and i am in good company and in a deliciously green park on a wonderful summer's night, and it's after nine o'clock and it's still sunny, well... that's a time i don't mind paying a little bit more for delicious food.

once again i cannot fault the festival. i'm disappointed my stir-fry-sauce man didn't seem to be in attendance this year, which is a shame because i can't buy my fave flavour in any of the shops (i am holding out for a miracle that he's back at tobacco docks at christmas time, so i can stock up for the long winter), but other than his sudden now-show, the event was so well run. again. a massive thanks to the girls in the aeg press office for having me down again this summer, and maybe if i'm good, i'll be back for taste of christmas.

did you go? what did you love, what did you eat?