Lucky me … I got a VIP ticket to the Evening Standard London Restaurant Awards and got to preview Taste of London.
Bubbles were courtesy of Laurent Perrier and it was being poured by the gallon, so too was Tio Pepe sherry.
Tapas was courtesy of Jose Pizarro and included wonderful bellota ham from Cinco Jotas, alongside triangles of manchego cheese topped off with quince paste.
Stanley Tucci was handing out the gongs and the judging panel consisted of BBC London’s Nigel Barden, Clerkenwell Boy, Grace Dent, Bob Granleese, Tracey MacLeod, Lisa Markwell, Fay Maschler, Dan Saladino, The Skinny Bib and Richard Vines.
So who got what in the Awards?
Best Breakfast: Parlour, Kensal Rise.
Restaurateur of the Year: Robin and Sarah Gill, who run The Dairy and The Manor in Clapham and Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.
Worth the Queue: Padella, Borough Market
Good Drinking: Andrew Edmunds
Best New Restaurant: Hoppers
Restaurant of the Year – voted for by Evening Standard readers (from a shortlist): The Woodford
If you’ve been to Taste before you’ll know that London restaurants take a stand, make a series of dishes and have one icon that can cost anything from £8.00 to £15.00. This year you can pay using crowns which are paper tickets (£1 each) purchased on the day, or your debit or credit card. Make sure you grab a menu card to see who’s here and what food is on offer.
He’s a Taste Stalwart and wins a lot so it was no surprise that Club Gascon’s chef, Pascal Aussignac picked up Best Dressed Stand. He always has an interesting Icon dish but the queues were so long I didn’t get to try it.
The Action Against Hunger stand is always popular. Five different burgers by five different chefs meant it was a huge attraction. At one point there was a twenty-minute wait on burgers and I have to say I gave up.
Vegetarian or otherwise, Vanilla Black’s stand is well worth a visit. You may not be familiar with their name or food but they hold their own in the food stakes. Their icon dish is raw and chargrilled asparagus, truffled asparagus juice. High cross and pickled Jersey Royals (£8).
The Goats’ milk and tomato shortbread, broccoli, gem lettuce and egg yolk fudge was simply amazing (£6).
Over to Aqua Nueva where the lines were a little shorter and their Icon Dish Pork Belly with King Prawn and Chimichurri was small but stunning (£8).
Roux at Parliament Square served us well for dessert. The elderflower, gin, cucumber and mint sorbet was a delightful palate cleanser (£5).
I really fancied the Shotgun BBQ custard filled doughnuts but by the look of the line, so did everyone else. I walked on (£3).
For an alcoholic pitstop, you can’t beat Sipsmith, they’ve even got these lovely deckchairs to chill out on.
Ember Yard’s dessert of vanilla and goat’s cheese cheesecake was a super combination. Macerated strawberries and Greek Basil (£4).
There are lots of stands handing out their products, including a new product made with chick peas ‘Hippeas’,
which were very good indeed, and the berries. Oh, the berries.
There’s also a new alcoholic drink being handed out too, Twisted Halo, coconut water, ginger and vodka.
We bought a loaf of bread from The Bread Shop, strange what you buy when there’s one of the high street, but nonetheless I was lured to spend 4 crowns (£4) on a protein loaf.
The Taste of Turkey tent had a selection of chefs from Gaziantep, recently added to the gastronomy category of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. They’d cooked up all number of Turkish dishes, doing their bit to promote the country.
There are plenty of masterclasses put on by the sponsors and by-invitation classes organised on Twitter at the event, follow @TasteofLondon and specifically the hashtag #SecretService to get a chance to cook with some of the celebrity chefs on site. The Balvenie whisky has a special tasting masterclass and a Lounge you can access for an extra £15.
You can catch live music in the Taste of London Bandstand and for a list of those providing the coffee house sessions, grab a Menu Card. It’s also in this booklet you’ll find information about special demonstrations and events taking place throughout the week.
To get a head start, take a look at the Taste of London website. If you don’t like to plan your day out with military precision then just take it in your stride. You’ll never know what you’ll catch, Pierre Koffman talking about how running a kitchen is like managing a rugby team. Guess who’s the captain?
Taste is on until Sunday 19th June.