Last week I was lucky to be invited by the lovely San Miguel to attend the annual ‘Taste of London’ food festival that takes place in Regents Park, London each summer. Having missed the festival last year due to working out in Nicaragua for the summer I jumped at the chance to attend this year!
San Miguel's terrace bar was a fantastic set up and had the chilled out feel of a bar by the beach in Ibiza.Unlike many of the other bars at this years event, it was not a complete wash out due to the weather as they had a great gazebo over the main bar area and fantastic wooden decking down which meant you didn't sink into what quickly turned into a bit of a bog around the rest of the park! Sadly the weather wasn't ideal for the Friday night of the festival...a night that I'm sure usually stays busier later into the night and is more lively, none-the-less, those there enjoyed the experience hopping from tent to tent to escape the weather!
The event is described as 'the most serious, indulgent and exciting food festival in the country' and it certainly was a great set up with food and drinks from a huge range of restaurants and brands with something to suit all tastes. From breads and jams, to scallops and veal and chocolate and donuts it wouldn't have been possible to eat your way around every stall there! One thing I would say as a 'globe troffer' is that it would have been nice if a more diverse range of world foods were on offer to try at the event or even if some of the food was presented in more 'street vendor' style to showcase the fantastic food accomplishments in simpler ways. However the quality of what was there was fantastic, along with great service and enthusiastic staff who made the best of the terrible weather by having as much fun as possible (particularly the guys at the Bread stand!)
Amongst my favourite stops in the evening were Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill, Gordon Ramsey's Maze, Barbados and Quo Vadis with my top dish being the Veal from Gordon Ramsey. All presented their dishes beautifully and cooked the seafood and meat to perfection. Mmmmmm, in fact thinking about it again now is making my mouth water! I think the festival is a great way for people to try out a few michelin restaurants they might have considered or wished to visit but haven't afforded to! By getting to sample a few smaller samples of dishes you can work out if you think a visit is really worth it and save your pennies!
It was nice to have a mix of restaurants and independent retailers, however if some of the independent retailers had sold their produce in places other than Harrods and WholeFoods they might have been more inviting to a wider audience. The cooking lessons at Waitrose were executed really well - they had a great set up with plenty of space and cooking stations for the public to get involved with great presenters and a clear, style. I believe though that it was difficult to get into these and the other masterclasses due to the masses of crowds.
I'm sure the weather again played a part in making the festival feel much more crowded than it should have been as people simply dived under any cover that was around to get out of the bitter wind and rain which meant that queues at some of the stalls were very long and it was difficult to enjoy the food easily as you were crammed in elbow to elbow with others! Some stalls simply closed up as they were washed out and had no cover to offer to people. This was a real shame and something the planners overlooked? I guess a festival like this relies on great weather to make it a huge success as it has a massive impact on the use of the outdoor space and people's moods...for those women tip toeing around in their stiletto heals...I'm not sure how much fun they had (but then I question why one would wear stilettos to a festival in a park anyway?!)
The festival is definitely not a cheap day/evening out at £26 entry before you have purchased any food tokens - however given the opportunity you have to sample so many different foods from top restaurants that many of us simply can't afford to go to then it can be seen as a good deal.
Overall I had a great evening at Taste of London which would have been made better with sunny, dry weather and the time to get to more of the stalls without waiting around so much. The access to so many top restaurants and being around so many food enthusiasts makes a fun night out and I certainly would love to go back next year and sample more delights!