London always has something on, whether you fancy watching snippets from the capital's best shows at West End Live, joining the Anti-Austerity protest or sliding down a massive inflatable waterslide outside Kings Cross. I was over in Regent's Park, stuffing my face. Jude's Gin and Tonic ice cream in one hand and in the other a Beauty & Go bioactive beauty drink. Detoxing and indulging at the same time... that works, right? Anyway, come rain or shine it was taste time.
Taste has always been my top day trip. A food festival, staged twice a year in summer and winter, serving the finest dishes from critically acclaimed chefs and restaurants. Not only can you grab a bite to eat, but you can also take part in a live cooking class, beer tasting or bust some moves at the silent disco.
Before we go any further, you need to be aware that money is pretty much a no go at this festival. The currency is ‘crowns’. £1 = 1 crown, pretty poor exchange rate if you ask me, but there you go. If (unlike myself) you happen to have a snazzy contactless card, most stalls do take this. I must admit, I was disappointed to see prices have rocketed this year, with some dishes being 12-14 crowns for a few bites. Ridonculous. Previously eight crowns would have been the most you would have paid. This being said it was a smashing year for freebies and testers.
Enough about that, Let's talk food please.
MY TOP 3 PICKS
I'm a chicken kinda gal, and at ROKA, boy can they cook chicken. At six crowns the hinadori no miso yaki - translation, baby chicken, lemon, miso and garlic soy - is an absolute dream dish for all you fellow chick lovers. Don't be disheartened though, veggies, as ROKA has four different restaurants across London, with many a meat-free option.
It is an award-winning restaurant focusing on robatayaki cuisine with the robata grill positioned amid diners. This allows feasters to get nosy and have a sneaky peek at the chefs in action. Nice one. Alongside the robata the restaurant also does a mean selection of sushi, sashimi and tempura. Prices are a tad steep, so if not up for the splurge, I'd recommend a stop off at Shochu Lounge for a cheeky cocktail instead.
The House of Ho for me is the surprise package. Its perfectly presented Vietnamese scotch egg priced at a very reasonable four crowns steals the show. Created by Bobby Chin, his restaurant stands in the centre of Soho, showcasing a variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes with an added Bobby edge. Not only handsome food, it also serves some sassy cocktails. On my bucket list has to be the Ho'rny Devil containing Eristsff Vodka infused with Lemongrass, Devil's chilli and coconut water (£8.50) followed by The Rum Tum Dragon made up of Barcadi Gold, oolong tea, lemon juice, orgeat, Grenadine, strawberry and passionfruit (£9.50). A sophisticated boozy dinner I'd say. Who's joining me?
In first place It has to be the Duck & Waffle for its iconic dish: Crispy leg confit, fried hen’s egg and mustard maple syrup served on a waffle at 12 crowns. Having heard so much about this dish - which is sold at £17 in their restaurant - it was a marvellous treat to see them at the festival. The combination of meat and sweet was scrumptious! Usually based in The Heron Tower in London, with a dress code of 'casual elegance' and opening hours seven days a week 24 hours day, this sounds like a dining experience like no other. So let's get saving, ladies and gents!
It's a dog eat dog world out there, so not everyone can win. Be proud at how far you've come and remember it's not all about the winning (but it kind of is). I know some of you may be devastated at not making my high profile top three (I would be) - I jest... ish. Fear not, for I do have a few bonus points on offer.
Quick shout out to all the wonderful staff working at Taste, but a particular mention goes to Miss Kate Eaves working for Nescafe Milano, who really went the extra mile. Thanking you.
'Til next year,