Everything We Ate At Taste of London This Winter
While now we’re into the New Year everything that happened before Christmas seems like it happened a lifetime ago, I still wanted to take the time to share my usual snapshot from the winter edition of Taste of London as I always find it is a great place to find delicious new places to eat in the city. Usually only attending the summer edition in Regents Park, we loved the cosy atmosphere out at Tobacco Dock, clutching warm mulled cocktails, watching food being cooked over flames and all herding into the warmth for wine at the Bordeaux bar.
After getting something to drink we started our culinary journey at Farzi Cafe, a ‘modern Indian bistro’ on Haymarket where a couple of dishes had caught our attention. I love bao and butter chicken, so I first made a beeline for the Butter Chicken Bao – okay so it was more than a flaky bun than a bao, but the curry was rich and tender, there were just enough aromatics stuffed in to cut through, and it was built properly so the whole thing did not fall apart as you approached the final few bites – this was J’s favourite dish of the evening, and one that he went back for a second helping of at the very end while I was still working my way through my edible wish list!
The second dish we had from Farzi Cafe was their Taste of London exclusive, a lamb shoulder rogan josh, something that really set them apart as people who do good, modern Indian food. Tender, more-ish meat in a delicious sauce, it was a somewhat addictive plateful.
Next we both went for different fried chicken dishes of an Asian persuasion. As you know I adore Korean food so sampling the Korean Fried Chicken (served with a white radish pickle no less, I’m also a big pickle person) from Anju was a no brainer. As it’s in Harringay, it is so far out in the wrong direction for me it is somewhere I’d not usually have the chance to try. The chicken was bloody good; crisp, tender, tangy and spicy. North London, get over there sharpish for your K(orean)FC fix!
J loves Thai food almost as much as I love Korean so he went for Mikey’s Fried Chicken from Wild Rice, a Thai restaurant in the Chinatown bit of Soho. It came a little differently to how we’d expected (we thought it would be more like typical fried chicken, like the Korean one) but the crisp griddled thighs were still tender, with a nice aromatic coating. Pitting the dishes against each other we each preferred our own, so I conclude that they were both great – bookmark whichever of these places to eat depending on what takes your fancy, or both!
Our Taste of London tickets this winter came courtesy of Pirates Grog, a great rum company I’d discovered during the last summer edition. After we’d had our fill of fried chicken we headed over to their bar to see what they had on offer by way of a winter menu – is it just me, but don’t you always associate rum more with summer drinks?
We both had something a little different. J went down the full on cocktail route trying their minty, rum based coffee martini (served with a matchmaker garnish!) which was a great pudding cocktail, the rum really working with the mint to mix things up a bit. I made a beeline for the rum-spiked mulled cider (obviously) which was beautiful, warmed my hands and really hit the spot! I usually make my hot toddy with cinnamon vodka, but I think perhaps I need to be doing them with a slug of rum next year instead?
Next, we went for two fantastic dishes that came about as part of the Lan Kwai Fong (a Chinese restaurant in Camden) and Dumplings’ Legend collaboration kitchen. Oh god those dumplings were good. We had the mixed plate and they were toothsome, tender and beautiful with perfect fillings, and a generous amount of chilli oil and Chinese vinegar on hand to season to taste. They were one of the best things I had all evening.
While the dumplings were mostly mine (I take competitive eating to a whole new level at these things and I’m not at all sorry about it!) we shared the Char Siu (Cantonese honey roast black pig) made with Iberico pork. It was rich, melt in the mouth tender and in a sweet, but well balanced sauce. Next time people ask me where to eat in Camden (it is not really an area I know at all) just off the back of this dish I’m going to recommend they go check Lan Kwai Fong out (I’m certainly going the next time I’m out that way!)
Next up, we went to the Moose bar. Moose is an alpine spirit made in Austria with lots of different alpine botanicals with hints of mint, maple and mountain pine, with no added sugar. It’s complex and a bit unusual on it’s own (perhaps a little too in your face?) but in cocktails it really comes to life. I loved my Moose Mojito, made with Moose rather than white rum (obviously!) and a dash of maple syrup instead of sugar. Not only was it delicious, but the little changes turned it into much more of a ski lodge as opposed to summer party drink.
I think for so many of us Burger & Lobster are an old favourite – hell, they were even one of my first food reviews way back in 2014! I’ve been back a few times – always for the lobster – and because I know what is on offer while they’re a Taste of London favourite I usually move on past their kitchen seeking out something new and untried. However, how could I say no to the exclusive Taste of London dish they did this winter, a butter-poached lobster and butternut squash risotto? As the most expensive dish at this edition of Taste (£14!) it had to be good, and I can say it honestly did not disappoint. Compared to the offerings from other kitchens it was a generous portion that took me a while to get through, and they really did not skimp on the lobster pieces, which is what you’d expect. It was rich, luxurious and up there with the dumplings one of the best things I had all night.
I had to queue for quite a long time for my final dish of the evening, Bao’s crab bao, done in a fried hot dog bao, flavoured like a lobster roll and topped with caviar and chives. Now, while Bao in Fitzrovia are responsible for one of the best meals I have ever eaten, they have a bit of a hit and miss reputation when it comes to street food events like this. Their dishes can either be sublime or just a bit off – I found this with some incredible fatty and disappointing sweet potato fries with plum ketchup at my first ever Taste. J overheard a lot of people saying this about this signature bao, greasy and a real let down after you had to queue so long to get it. However, for me it was my best bite of the evening – it also won best in Taste at the show. It was like eating the very best rich, melt in the mouth crab doughnut – I was in more than a little bit of edible ecstasy as I stood savouring it in a shadowy corner behind the Bao kitchen. The bao was impossibly light and the who thing was rich, fresh and bright.
We stayed until closing time, most of the time spent with a carafe of Bordeaux (our favourite French wine to drink at home) to share from the Bordeaux bar. On the whole I think I actually preferred doing the winter edition of Taste of London to our usual summer session; it just has such a different atmosphere. So, next year even if you’ve done the summer one before and written it off as somewhere to get great food but not really your scene do look into attending at the end of 2020! Thanks so much again to Pirates Grog for having us as your guests!