Last week, I went to Taste of London in Regent’s Park with my friend Hanna. I hadn’t been since 2011, and this time, it was nice to be there after work (instead of midday) and when it was warm and sunny! What a different atmosphere!
We walked around for a bit, getting our bearings and trying to figure out what to eat first! We then started off with the fried chicken at The Clove Club (which happens to be on my list of must-try-places). The chicken was amazing, moist and perfectly fried (not too much fritture and a great tasting crust). It was served with a pine salt, but you couldn’t taste the subtlety of the pine needle, just the salt… which didn’t make it any less delicious! Nice presentation, too…
Then, to the Roka stand, where every dish looked good. They had a really good-looking miso-grilled chicken, but as we’d just had the fried chicken, we decided to go for either the seabass dumplings or the teriyaki eel buns. One look at the teriyaki eel buns, and the decision was made. The freshwater eel was glazed with the teriyaki sauce, then served with an avocado mash, a shiso leaf (which gave the whole bite a nice, subtle flavour) and some sushi rice on a chou-type pastry (that they called a sushi pastry). It was delicious. You couldn’t exactly taste the avocado or the rice, really, but the eel/shiso leaf combo in the bun was great. There was a tiny bit too much teriyaki sauce for my liking, but the overall effect was great.
Then, one of my favourite bites ever. The Sushi Samba Sasa Roll, which has shrimp tempura (lightly fried, with very lightly cooked through prawn… still slightly raw in the middle which was really nice), served with black quinoa, shishito, coriander, red onion, and a spicy mayo that was very nicely distributed through the entire hand roll. The quinoa gave a great amount of subtle crunch and the mayo… mmmm. Such a perfect combination of flavours. Towards the end of the night, I almost went back for a second roll, but forced myself to try something different (see the prawn burger below).
After this, we headed to the Chop Shop stand. Neither of us had heard particuarly good (or bad) reviews about this place, but the menu and samples looked very good… so we decided to give it a try. Hanna ordered the braised short rib with the smoked creamed corn. I tried a small bite… the short rib was very soft and had a very subtle, smoky flavour that was really tasty. The creamed corn was more of a puree, nice and thick, and super creamy. There was also some fried corn bits on top that gave a nice crunch to the dish.
My dish was much more simple, but had very clean flavours that also worked really well – hanger steak with a Parmesan and mustard dressing. The steak was PERFECTLY cooked, rare inside, and the quality was very good, making it tender and flavourful. The dressing was a very nice complement, with the sharp Parmesan and mustard flavours evening out the rich taste of the beef. What a dish.
After this, we went by the Modern Pantry, which is my favourite place in Kings Cross, and I went for the prawns coated in ajowan, turmeric and krupuk (a type of deep-fried cracker, like Chinese prawn crackers), with a pineapple ketchup. And you know what? The only good thing I can say about the dish is that the prawns weren’t overcooked. The coating had zero flavouring (turmeric is mild, as it is, but none of the seasoning added anything more… except for a feeling of eating something quite fried). And the pineapple ketchup was a nice idea, but had the consistency of that chili sauce you get for Chinese spring rolls, with much less flavour. This was definitely my least favourite dish.
On the other side of the spectrum, we had a real dinner of a stand, the Club Gascon stand. We got three separate dishes from the stand, and there were all good to great. Extra points for real creativity! Hanna got the sweetbread “popcorn” with the frosted Worchester sauce.
I was feeling pretty fried out after the prawns, but had one piece anyway, as I love sweetbreads and was interested to try the frozen sauce. The sweetbreads were very tasty, but right after the prawns, it was still too much fritture for me. But the Worcester sauce was very good, cutting through some of the fried taste, and such a cool concept in general!
Hanna then tried the Kurobuto pork bun, topped with peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers… This was a decision she made after we walked around to five different stands, deciding whether this bun was better than that one… The Kurobuto bun won. And you know what? The pork was overcooked and a bit dry… how disappointing!
Then, back to Club Gascon: Hanna had the terrine of foie gras with strawberries… in a pop tart. Genius. Foie gras and the muddled strawberries between wafers, with a strawberry sauce and what almost tasted like freeze-dried strawberries on the side. Brilliant.
And for me, the prawn burger. I had been dreaming about it since I saw it at the Club Gascon stand, but took another walk around to see if I was missing out on any other dishes. And finally came back.
The bun was good, a pseudo brioche roll that was huge but not too dense, so didn’t feel like too much. The prawn burger itself… was great in texture, but didn’t have much taste. You couldn’t really tell that it was a prawn burger… I thought it tasted more like a ground chicken patty.. that said, it was nice and moist, not overcooked. Good with the tartar sauce, but a bit odd as it was supposed to be prawn! Huh.