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Taste of London 2016 Review

Never one to shy away from a food market and/or a freebie, I happily obliged when my fellow foodie friend Annie offered me a free ticket to the Taste of London food festival, out of the blue.

It was a balmy, sunny Friday afternoon (sunny = a rare occurrence in British summer), which made it all the more inviting. So, we happily made our way to Regent’s Park to explore Taste’s gastronomic playground. Of course, upon experiencing the inviting smells and flavours our “quick pit stop before hitting the pub” easily turned into a few hours of proper foodie escapade.

What makes Taste of London special is its mix of some of the city’s hottest restaurants – revving up reduced versions of their menus – sitting alongside big retailers (Whole Foods and Leffe) and smaller, independent food and drink brands (Propercorn, Pip & Nut etc). With over 40 restaurant stands serving around 170 dishes, there was something for everyone.

The best thing? You can do Taste of London on the cheap as there are SO many freebies for the taking. If you’re a gourmand like me and love to try a bit of everything, it can’t get much better than that! I spent about £20 and was fully satisfied. So if you love your food and are looking for a different day out with friends or family – get down there! For those who are looking to expand on their cooking skills, it’s worth keeping an eye out on their cooking masterclasses too.

What did I get up to? Below is a visual diary of my Taste of London experience…

Taste of London 2016 menus
Our menus and Taste Currency
Taste of London 2016 LM Ramble On
Woman on a mission
Taste of London 2016 Equinox Kombucha
Annie found her fave spot at Equinox Kombucha
Taste 2016 Liz and Annie LM Ramble On
Ready to tackle Taste
Taste of London 2016 Duck and Waffle
Duck & Waffle’s eponymous icon dish was the most expensive at £12 – but worth it
Taste of London 2016 Duck & Waffle Polenta Croquettes
Duck & Waffle’s Crispy Polenta (Parmesan & polenta croquettes with black truffle)
LM Ramble On Taste of London 2016
Enjoying Duck & Waffle’s Offering
Kurobuta Tuna Sashimi Pizza at Taste of London 2016
Kurobuta’s Tuna Sashimi Pizza with Truffle Ponzu, Red Onions and Green Chillies. GET IN.

Kurobuta Tuna Sashimi Pizza at Taste of London Festival 2016

Costancia at Taste of London 2016 Bodega Argento
We tried some delicious Argentinian Malbec here, but not the meat sadly.
Olive tapas and cava at Taste of London 2016
£3 for a glass of Cava and a tapas of choice at Eatapas.
Roka at Taste of London 2016
The Roka team busy grilling away.
Roka Pork Belly at Taste of London 2016
Kobuta No Miso Yaki – Slow cooked pork belly, lemon, miso and garlic soy. Bursting with flavours!
Fishers London Dry Gin at Taste of London 2016
One shot of this new gin and I was hooked (and a little tipsy, no lie). Beautiful botanical and strong gin.

All the food I tried was brilliant. I am a huge fan of Roka and enjoyed Kurobuta for the first time – but I think that Duck & Waffle in Heron Tower is worth a visit as the whole experience in itself – food and views – is unique and worth the higher price point.

Planning to go to Taste of London next year? Below are my top 5 tips for making the most of it:

1. Pay in coupons aka Taste Currency – especially if you’re on a budget: The first time I visited Taste of Edinburgh in 2010, you could only pay with coupons. So as soon as I arrived at Taste of London, I spent £20 worth  – only to realise that you can now pay by card. Sure, that makes sense as it’s 2016 and people freak out when contactless isn’t an option – but the little old lady in me was a teensy bit disappointed about technological advancement. In my opinion, coupons add another dimension to the proceedings. In fact, Annie and I solemnly put together a hit list of the stands to visit – and stuck to it. We also did a quick math test to figure out what we could afford (answer: 2 – 3 dishes, 1 drink each) and decided to join forces where needed. We rationed the coupons with intention and savoured each dish, which was a major part of the fun! Plus, if you’re on a budget, paying in coupons will curb any impulses to over-spend too.

2. Go for a quick tour before settling on what you want: Referring to the above especially – if you are using coupons, you’ll want choose your food wisely. I suggest you walk around the festival and take a look around at everything, soaking up the atmosphere before committing. You may already have decided what restaurant stand you want to visit – but trust me, a whiff of barbecue here and a sip of prosecco there and you can easily change your mind. In this case, too much of a plan may not be such a good thing.

3. Go easy on the sampling: Of course, one does not need a specific strategy and I am sure as hell not advocating one. Explore and try a bit of everything. It’s the best part! BUT don’t be afraid to say no, for glutton’s sake. From personal experience, my advice would be: go easy. My sampling experience went something like this: fizzy drink, beer, cheese and cured meats, green tea, peanut butter, chocolate fudge, pop corn, Malbec, kombucha, gluten free pasta, chocolate. Are you feeling a bit sick just reading this? I sure was, but I didn’t realise it ’til I got home and my foodie haze had disappeared, leaving me nauseous. Please don’t make the same mistakes. Sample in small doses and don’t be afraid to turn down things that aren’t worth it (mayo potato salad? can do without) for better things (double servings of smooth almond and peanut popcorn? Yes please).  I enjoyed trying Pic’s Nut Butter – sooooo smooth, creamy and delicious – and Pots & Co – better versions of GU with more flavour variety – I happily spent £1 each on the Salted Caramel & 70% Chocolate (my fave).

4. For a foodie bargain, stick around until the end: Tasted and enjoyed a certain product, and want to take home? Go for it – all the brands usually do great offers (2 for 1 etc) and sell at wholesale prices, so you can’t get it anywhere else much better than that. But if you can, wait until the end of trading day to buy (unless it’s selling like hot cakes, literally or figuratively). In the last few hours before the festival shuts down, most of the brands will slash their prices and you can find some really great deals. I once took home a whole range of bread sticks and crackers in a wicker basket for less than a fiver – which gave me a very profound sense of satisfaction. Haggling optional.

5. Avoid wearing white – and girls, stiletto heels: Let’s talk wardrobe. Yes, there are walking ramps but it’s still a park and if you want to take a shortcut, grass is the best way to move around. My Superga trainers were pretty muddy, so I wouldn’t consider it the best attire either – I would say, embrace the “festival”ness and go for boots or booties, to be on the safe side. Also, it’s outdoor and there’s a lot of outdoor sitting, perching, leaning on dirty surfaces – and it gets very busy, so you might have people stepping on your feet by accident, you know – that kinda thing. Maybe it’s just common sense, but avoid white.

Did you go to Taste of London this year? What did you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

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