No plans for today? Then get yourself to Taste of London. It goes until 5 p.m. this afternoon, Sunday, June 21st 2009.
Thanks to The Guardian Word of Mouth Blog, myself and a few other London food bloggers and tweeters were able to get a behind the scenes look at the festival and taste a number of amazing dishes. What impressed me most was the seasonality of so many of the offerings. I found myself saying over and over again, "This is a really summery dish." Second most impressive thing was the number of Chefs in attendance. That's Giorgio Locatelli himself at the Refettorio stand above. We also saw Gary Rhodes over at Rhodes 24, Tristan Welch at Launceston Place, and Shane Osborn at Pied a Terre. (Pied a Terre gave us a great overview of the type of fish they use and how to prepare it.)
I'm going to try to pick some of my favorite dishes–please rest assured that I didn't actually eat ALL of these–but I did share quite a few dishes with fellow London restaurant reviewers Chris from Cheese & Biscuits and Oliver from Thring for Your Supper. And I shared the rest with Jen, Leigh, Justine, and Leigh's parents.
#5. Cupcakes at Beas of Bloomsbury. We had a chocolate one with raspberry icing. Gorgeous chocolate cake. Really just gorgeous. And the raspberry icing managed to be more like a soft, light, foam. Again, summery.
#4. Arroz negro at Fino. Sorry for the slightly blurry photo. Chris or Oliver probably have better shots. This wasn't short on seafood–it was jam packed with it–and just had a lovely texture and aroma. This was also the absolute first thing I tried, so there's that…
#3. Fassone beef carpaccio with rocket salad from Ristorante Semplice. Earlier, I said that a lot of the dishes made me think summer, and this was really one of them. I'm not much of a beef eater, but the coolness and lightness of this dish had me converted. It also rocketed Semplice to the top of my to-do list. Manager Giovanni Baldino himself walked us through all of the dishes we tried, which was great. (We also sampled the Tagliatelli with Caporicci's summer truffle and broad beans, as well as the dessert of liquorice foam with bitter almond gelatine and salted almonds–which was really one of the most interesting dishes I've tried as of late, although maybe not entirely to my taste. Or at least, not to my taste when I'm standing around in a park. Might have been better at a table!)
Giovanni also took us behind the scenes at Semplice where I was able to snap these photos. (Honestly, I didn't really ask them to pose. They just did!) We were impressed by how spacious the prep area and cooking areas were.
#2. Roast aberdeen Angus beef fillet, tarragon mousse at Launceston Place. So I've already told you I'm not much of a beef eater, but here I am eating beef twice in one day. This was some of the best beef I've ever had. Really flavorful and rich, but sliced so perfectly and cooked to just about medium rare as to make it a very light dish, particularly when paired with the tarragon mousse. Leigh got to have a nice long chat with Tristan Welch here, while Jen, Justine and I stole some ice cream from Chicago-born sommelier Mickey.
#1. Tiger prawns with a spicy mayonnaise alongside little cubes of mango and Thai basil at Kai. Kai is one of those restaurants that wasn't anywhere on my radar, but now it's a "must visit." I thought this was one of the more inventive dishes I tried at Taste of London. Awesome textures–crunchy prawn, soft mango, sharp basil. And again, super summery and light. (Photo came out quite nicely, didn't it? This is the only photo I didn't take with my phone.)
I have to send a huge thanks to Chris from Cheese & Biscuits who passed The Guardian's Word of Mouth invite on to me. And to Suse, the editor of Word of Mouth, for organizing everything. My only regret was not getting there sooner so I could meet everyone–by the time I got to the park, it was 3 p.m. (I had a brunch to go to in Blackheath beforehadn.) And I was also a bit sad that I didn't have an iPhone because it was really difficult, if not imposible, to follow the #tastefringe hash tag throughout the day, so I missed out on some of the communal fun.
In short, if you're around today, get yourself to Taste of London, and follow #tastefringe on Twitter.