Taste of London – Christmas 2015 

Here’s a super quick post on my trip to the Christmas edition of Taste of London at Tobacco Docks. In my post about the Summer festival I mentioned that we had bought tickets to this winter version to get us in the Christmas mood. But did it? Reader, it did!

Taste Christmas is held at Tobacco Dock, a short walk from Shadwell tube and overground stations. Approaching on a cold, dark November evening I thought this would be a brilliant location for something terrifyingly spooky. There’s a pirate ship and everything!

Although it was pretty quiet when we first stepped through, it soon started to fill up. I’m not a fan of large crowds but without a throng of people, the venue lacked a certain something. The huge rooms seemed to be too big for the smaller stalls and it felt a little disjointed, but pack in a few thousand hungry Londoners and it somehow works – go figure.

I thought it would be the best time to head over to Taste of HBO, a dedicated pop-up for the TV network that produces some of my absolute favourite TV shows of all time and had a major focus on Game of Thrones.  

There was a gingerbread Winterfell!

  

For I am Khaleesi, Mother of Cats…

I couldn’t resist a go in the Iron Throne – I am very comfortable in positions of power! – and had to contain myself from eating the beautiful gingerbread Winterfell. 

We had arrived with a huge rumble in our tummies and thought it was probably best to get our food first then wander about when our friends came along later. Crowns bought and menu perused, I decided I needed to head to Kurobuta STAT! 

Kurobuta’s steamed pork belly buns

Just six crowns bought me BBQ pork belly in a steamed bun and spicy peanut soy, with a sticky sauce that was determined to run down my chin and induce furious licking of fingers. Utterly delicious.

I needed something sweet to top it off and had espied a trio of doughnuts from Maze Grill. Four crowns later I was inhaling the delicious cinnamon covered doughnuts and dipping them in the tangily sweet clementine curd. I was so busy stuffing them in my face I nearly forgot to photograph them – a mark of a great bite!! 

Hot fried doughnuts with clementine curd

  

Wandering around, surrounded by Christmas trees and mulled everything, I felt quite bah-humbuggy because I felt like I was being force fed Christmas. When I heard the beautiful carol singers in the main atrium something slowly switched. There’s something about music soothing my savage and beastly side and voices in unison are so powerful. I was the Grinch no more!

Carol singers by the tree

 

 It was time to do some purchasing and sampling, and oh boy did I sample. Whiskies and vodkas and gins, oh my! And proseccos and more whiskies and ciders and I’m surprised I wasn’t squiffy.  

My shopping horde

I started off small and chose some delicious and fiery mini choriço from Somerset Charcuterie. £5 got us 5 little choriço, perfect for chopping into pasta sauces, soups or omelettes.

Salami and choriço galore from Somerset Charcuterie

  

We picked up some spicy choriço

  I’ll be protected from vampires forevermore with the pungent aroma coming from my pantry cupboard! I couldn’t help but notice The Garlic Farm at the show, my nose alerted me instantly. 3 huge heads of garlic for £5 and they’re not just your average garlic, oh no.

Amazing garlicky goodness from the Isle of Wight

  

Vampires be gone! Black, oak smoked and regular garlic.

  
Delicious and ginormous puffy marshmallows of joy from Campbell & Love – just £5 and worth every penny. Like Christmas in a sweet treat.

Deliciously huge mulled spice marshmallows

  
Another addition to our drinks shelf is this amazingly smooth vodka from 55 Above. Just £14 for the smaller size, which is a good thing because it really packs a strong kick. As I prefer to drink my spirits neat I’ll be v e r y careful with my measures!

56% proof vodka has a smooth but powerful kick

  
I’d sampled this at the Mokhado stand at the summer Taste festival and loved it but forgot to head back to purchase – I couldn’t make the same mistake and made sure I left with a bottle for £7. I personally love the taste of almonds and marzipan and this is it in an oil. I’ll happily mop it up with some great bread on its own. 

Tastes like marzipan which makes it a winner in my book


I also picked up some of these awesome jus from Just Jus. £10 for 4 super flavoursome jus (basically a gravy, right?!?) and perfect for meat dishes… Which brings me to my final purchase from the show: a meat box from Field & Flower who offer a delivery service for their grass fed meat. I’ll review them in a separate post as we don’t receive it until December, ready for Christmas. 

Just Jus are just delicious!

 
  All in all, I really enjoyed myself and would definitely recommend attending either the summer or Christmas shows. See you at the next one!

Chef Tom Kerridge cooks in front of an enraptured crowd

Taste of London Food Festival 2015

Apologies for the lack of posts recently! It’s been a busy few weeks with lots of things happening, I just wanted to switch off and totally relax and encouraged hubby to do the same.

One of the fun things I was looking forward to was Taste of London. I had first visited two years ago when hubby was extremely lucky and won an Evening Standard competition that not only gave us VIP tickets to Taste, but also a meal out every month at some of the finest restaurants in London, truly an absolutely amazing experience!

Last year Taste fell when hubby was away for work, so I took one of my best friends along with me and we had such a blast. She was the perfect person to go with. I’m usually a reticent attendee and rarely go for samples, but my marvellous friend ensured we tried EVERYTHING! We left with ginormous bellies filled with delights from around the world!

Taste of London 2015 ran from 17th – 21st June and we visited on a Thursday after my friend, her boyfriend and hubby finished work, arriving just after 6 pm. You buy your tickets for either a lunch/afternoon or dinner/evening session. Luckily the sun was shining and we were treated to one of those balmy, warm London evenings. We walked right through, there were no queues and decided where we should start, but not before grabbing our crowns. 👑👑👑 No, not that kind. Crowns are the alternative currency at Taste. We purchased £20 worth, which meant we had 20 crowns. Not everyone accepts crowns, most will accept cash and some will accept card. Crowns are non refundable, so ensure you use them all up; with most dishes priced around 3 – 6 crowns that should be easy.

The sun sets on Taste of London

 We proceeded forth and started sampling some delicious wines. This was a terrible idea of course as I seem to have no tolerance to alcohol, having only really started drinking in the past two years. For the most part I still prefer to drink water and being someone who likes control I dislike the woozy, delayed-time feeling of being inebriated. I know my limits and have never drunk more than three alcoholic drinks in a sitting, EVER. This didn’t stop me paying a quick visit to the Sipsmith bar. They’re gin gurus, based relatively locally and have a beautiful distillery in Chiswick that you can book to visit. It’s definitely something I want to do. A word to the wise: if you like a Pimm’s you’ll LOVE Sipsmith’s Summer Cup. I tried a sample of it with lemonade and it tasted so much more flavorful than Pimm’s. Really fruity and refreshing. Definitely one to go on the shopping list. I’m gutted I didn’t get any there and then but didn’t want to walk around all evening with a bottle!

Thankfully the nibbles and samples were setting me to right within minutes and we continued our quest through the little corner of Regents Park. Now, I don’t know if it’s just me being weird, but it felt much smaller than in the previous two years. I’m sure some restaurants were missing, and some areas on the fringes felt sparse. The usual huge Thailand area was compressed into a small gathering of stalls and in it’s place were areas for food and wine theatres. Personally I felt this was a real shame as a lot of the suppliers that made our trip last year so delicious had disappeared.

The great draw to Taste, apart from all the samples, is that for a fraction of the price, you can eat food from Michelin starred restaurants and chefs for a fraction of the cost. Big names such as Roux at Parliament Square, Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, SushiSamba, Duck & Waffle and Roka all feature with mini versions of their famous dishes. I’d recommend braving the waiting lines for the big names if you’re a first time visitor.

There’s plenty of new wave burger options should you choose, but I reckon why use your limited time here for something you can get everyday? I’ve not been one of the people to embrace the burger trend, personally I think it’s bordering on ridiculous having so many layers to a burger than you can barely fit it in your mouth and have spill all over your plate. Plus I dislike most sauces and detest the smell of fried onions, so the plainer the better for me! As it was my third visit and I was craving seafood, we ended up getting two main dishes, both featuring octopus – I think I was getting in the holiday mood!

First dish from Jose Pizarro – Grilled octopus, creamy potato, pimentón and egg caviar for 5 crowns. Delicious and I’d never had egg caviar before. It’s basically the egg white boiled/poached, but I’d love to know how they actually make it. It added a lovely lightness to the dish to balance the warmth of the pimentón.

Grilled octopus, creamy potato, pimentón and egg caviar

Carving the Iberico ham

Second dish from Artusi – Octopus, potatoes, parsley for 6 crowns. This was special. It was homely and comforting and tasted like my mum’s best stew. Super simple, but nourishing, it took me to a happy place. I loved it, I really, seriously loved it.

Octopus, potatoes, parsley

I’d thought coconut water was pretty well established in London, but you would’ve thought it was brand new to the health drink market; it was EVERYWHERE! It became a running joke with our little group. There were also loads of weird tea drinks (which I’m not a great fan of) and quite honestly you can pour your foul matcha/soy/kombucha/not-worth-the-water-to-boil-it disgustingness down the drain. Give me a decent cuppa and I’ll be a happy bunny.

Thankfully I stumbled across the brilliant London Tea Company who had a refreshing pot of Peach & Rhubarb on the go – a lovely alternative to a juice drink on a summer’s day if left to brew overnight and kept in the fridge. They were ever so generous with their samples and I can’t wait to try the rest, especially the lemongrass!

selection of teas from The London Tea Company

I’d heard good things about beef jerky, but my interest was piqued when I saw a coconut meat alternative from Mighty Bee. I know, sounds really weird, but was absolutely delicious. Available in teriyaki and barbecue flavour, I picked up a teriyaki bag which made a perfect beach time snack. They also had some lovely coconut protein balls that were tasty rather than cloying like others available. Wish we had bought some of those too! I don’t like stepping on the health food bandwagon but when I finally tried some Chia and mango, I fell in love! It’s such a weird gelatinous consistency, but rather moreish. There were some brilliant offers at the Chia stand, and I’m truly sold.

Of course, it’s not all healthy stuff at Taste. Stopping by the Green & Blacks tent meant sampling a chocolate. OK, two chocolates. OK, totally honest, four chocolates. I mean five. Whoops. We observed someone making saltwater truffles, basically a glorious mess of melted chocolate and salinated water. The guy describing it made it sound super easy and complicated at the same time, but I’m sure there’s an easy way to do it. They were delicious, so I hope they’ll be worth it when I try!

making saltwater truffles

 Will we visit again? Most likely. It’s a fun evening out with friends and food and if the weather’s good then it’s great to sit by the bandstand and listen to the music as the sun sets over Regent’s Park. I’ve taken up the early bird ticket offer and looking forward to visiting the Winter version – info available here – which should help get me in the Christmas mood! (Oh god I said the C-word!!)

Sam Brookes performing at sunset

Just a small word of warning – if someone offers you beer ice cream JUST SAY NO. 😖