Just before I left for France, the nice people at Google gave me a couple of tickets for Taste of London, the Regent’s Park-based self-consciously ‘foodie’ festival that invites London’s more upmarket eateries to put their wares onto some paper plates for posh people.
Looking at the ticket price – £28 for a session – you might have assumed some street food prices once inside, but I was probably a little overly optimistic. My friend – with whom I once ate a grand total of five lunches in one go at Borough Market – and I split each plate, which cost the equivalent of £5/6 each. This would have been great had they extended to more than a couple of mouthfuls each, but we couldn’t really complain too much when we were larking about amongst the hoi polloi for gratis.
Taste of London has a silly thing called ‘crowns’ – your books of tokens that you need to buy and then exchange for food. Of course, you end up with more than you need and in a desperate scrabble to use them up when everything starts to close at the ungodly hour of 9.30 – we resorted to spending the rest of bags of espresso grounds (although money well-spent).
To what we ate:
– Steak from Gaucho – the best thing we had in the evening
– Chicken tikka pie from Benares – my parents had waxed lyrical about this and so I found myself slightly over-hyping it. In the end it was, after all, just chicken tikka with mashed potato on top.
– Salad from Patara
– Chicken curry from Tamarind
– Chicken karaage from Sake no Hana
Yes, all of it was perfectly nice but none of it blew my mind. You go to Taste of London for one of two reasons – to pose or to get a nibbly taster of restaurants that you wouldn’t be able to afford to go to otherwise. If you fall into the first group, you deserve the mud on your slacks – if you fall into the second, you might be disappointed. Part of what you pay for when you splash the cash on an expensive meal is the service and atmosphere – when Pollen Street Social serves up on a paper plate for you to crouch by a bin to eat, it loses its sheen slightly and you might be better off with a greasy burger that was born to be eaten this way.
In any case, a fun evening and an interesting experience – chock full of branding (‘HELLO WE ARE BRITISH AIRWAYS WOULD YOU LIKE TO COME AND EAT PLANE FOOD WHEN YOU ARE NOT ENCLOSED IN A STEEL TUBE AND HAVE OTHER OPTIONS?’ No.) and lots of people called Ollie. But something tells me I belong slightly more in places where the food doesn’t look incongruous on a formica table.