Famous for constantly whinging about the weather, but also for never letting a few million rain drops or the rare intoxicating heatwave get in the way of having a good time, Londoners religiously congregate every June in Regents Park to sample a taste of the best of British restaurants and providores at annual pop up festival Taste of London.
When you combine the perfect spectacle of a cooking theatre which literally oozes international A’list celebrity culinary talent, with a smorgasbord of diverse food and wine stalls to explore and experience and then pepper this with food and wine educational tastings as the piece de resistance, its no wonder Taste of London’s three day extravaganza has become as much a tourist attraction as it is the capitol’s most prestigious summer food and wine festival.
From the smart blue uniforms and ever so cute on brand wellington boots of the British Airways hosts who greet you on arrival to the elegantly packed buzzing Laurent Perrier designer champagne bar, this joint starts jumping at 12pm Friday and doesn’t stop popping until Sunday night.
When I arrived ten minutes before Friday afternoon’s session official opening time there was already a horde of foodies congregating in the muddy gardens outside the festival gates. With my media pass pinned firmly to my waterproof jacket I spotted a blue coated BA person moving purposely through the hungry ranks and latched onto her coat tails until we reached the impressive airplane shaped BA tasting lounge bang in the middle of the park. Once here I was immediately invited to sign up for an onboard food and wine menu tasting masterclass.
As an ex-pat who’s been living in Sydney for the past thirteen years, it really warmed the cockles of my heart to see BA waving “the best of british’ flag so effectively at Taste. Executed with typical BA finesse. The “Height Cuisine” masterclass is a fantastic brand activation experience – learn how altitude affects your palate (whilst actually sitting in an aircraft cabin tasting fine food and wine). Did you know that BA serves 35,000 meals a day out of London and the menus are designed six months in advance – but the menu changes monthly in business and first class in order to incorporate seasonal produce. What a fascinating bit of foodie fun to share with customers old and new – whilst showcasing new tasting menus ahead of release in an intimate bespoke setting is also an appropriate and genius reward for frequent flyers. Loved the boarding pass – jolly good show BA!
After disembarking from the BA Height Garden naturally my first port of call was to check-in at Taste London’s official champagne lounge. The luxurious and elegantly appointed Laurent Perrier Champagne bar proposes several different styles of champagne by the glass and for those who’d love to understand more about whats behind the bubbles, a specialist food and wine matching session running several times per day in the tasting theatre behind the plush blue curtains.
Hosted by David Hesketh, Master of Wine, Taste London’s”From Grape to Glass” champagne masterclass features three delicious courses by Stem catering matched to three different styles of champagne by Laurent Perrier, providing attendees with a scrumptious backgrounder on what makes champagne so special and how to match different styles of champagne with food. Laurent Perrier’s bright and fruity Cuvee Rose is the most popular rose champagne style in the world and was a playful match with the raspberry mascarpone panna cotta. It was also interesting to compare the stellar 2002 vintage with its delectable but much softer champagne cousin 2004. All the food pairings tasted delicious and were well presented, but for me the sea bass with the Laurent Perrier 2004 was the best match overall. Whether you’re a novice or a champagne fanatic this Taste VIP experience is a must do for any visiting champagne lover!
Laurent Perrier Vintage 2004
Roasted sea bass fillet with salt baked celeriac and sour cream sauce
Laurent Perrier Vintage 2002
Terrine of confit rabbit with a hazelnut biscuit
Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé
Raspberry mascarpone pannacotta with almond shortbread
NB you need to pre-book your seat at the “From Grape To Glass” masterclass by buying a VIP festival ticket. This costs GBP90 and gets you fast track entry into the festival, GBP20 of tasting ‘crowns’, various foodie publications, a glass of Champagne Laurent Perrier brut on arrival and most importantly guarantees you a prized seat at the Laurent Perrier Champagne & Food Masterclass.
As I exited my champagne masterclass with a big smile on my face the heavens opened, so I dashed undercover just a few doors down at the well appointed British Airways executive lounge club. Here I enjoyed chatting with other BA frequent flyer guests as we feasted on fresh smoked salmon from Wales and various other amazing delicacies from BA’s hand picked providores whilst enjoying yet another glass of champagne, this time by a grand cru pinot noir grower from Ay called Champagne Collet.
Who cares if its raining outside when you’ve got great food, fine fizz and convivial company on hand – which perhaps goes some way to explaining why the British have always been champagne’s biggest fans!
In between downpours I did a quick canter around the Festival grounds discovering a smattering of the artisan produce on offer. The Marshmallowist gooey hand made strawberries in champagne confections hit just the right spot at tea time and the wacky small dishes I spotted opposite the VIP corporate entertainment enclosures still managed to intrigue my palate despite my full tummy. Initially baffled but then totally seduced by the warm duck doughnut with apricot jam from 24 hour dining destination Duck and Waffle – this was in fact my Taste London 2013 showstopper!
As I sprinted from Regent’s Park back to the tube and had to weave my way through crowds heading into the evening session of the festival, I couldn’t help but notice that despite grey skies and long queues forming around the park, there was an upbeat feeling of anticipated pleasure and convivial bonhomie in the air as friends gathered for a fun night out picnicking their way around the capital’s Top 40 foodie hot spots. So if you find yourself in London in mid June, its definitely worth popping into Regents Park to take a tour of Taste. Drink in the official video highlights from Taste of London 2013 below and see you there next year!
Taste of London 2014 will run from 19-22 June 2014 in London’s Regents Park.
For more information and to book tickets visit http://london.tastefestivals.com/london/default.aspx
Learn more about champagne at www.champagnejayne.com