A subjective guide to the food deemed worthy of a struggling uni student’s money at the Taste of London 2017. Voice of London reports…
Before even entering the festival, my friend and I are devising the first step to our attack plan:
“Okay, we get in. Hit the nearest bathrooms, and then find drinks, right?”
On the partly cloudy afternoon of November 19th, my main concern is warmth. Two cures for that? Hot chocolate and alcohol. Searching for a stand serving mulled anything, frankly, we stumble across the Winter Warm Bar. They have me at “spiced rum hot chocolate” – organic hot chocolate, spiced rum, and whipped cream? I am finding it hard to find something to complain about. Small, but mighty I am not feeling gypped on the alcohol content either.
Spiced Rum Hot Chocolate £6
Step two? The real execution plan. With debit card in hand and the hopes of spending no more than £40 today (already £6 down), I scan the extensive menu. Usually looking for the words “pork belly” or “fried chicken.”
Having successfully mapped out my path based on my top picks, Bubbledogs is my first stop. Living life on a budget, food festivals are the allotted time of the year for caring not of how much the £9 mini hotdog I will eat costs, but how good that small expensive hotdog tastes.
Bubbledogs’ Taste Exclusive Dish: Ding Dong Dog £9
Described on their menu as a “beef frankfurter wrapped in streaky bacon, brussel sprout slaw, brown butter breadcrumb, [and] cranberry ketchup paired with Bubbledogs label Collin Guillaume Rose Champagne.”
The flavour pairing of the brussel sprout slaw, cranberry ketchup, and brown butter breadcrumb has me reminiscing of Christmas dinners past. I have to say that the hotdog was not as warm as I would have liked, but considering how long their line was most of the night I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Nonetheless, I have yet to have a hotdog from Bubbledogs that I would fork my money up for again. The pairing of the champagne is an admirable choice. It drives home the idea that their hotdogs are more than just a hotdog, and it does undoubtedly pair well with unique flavours in the dish.
Chang’s Bar Taste Exclusive Dish: Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt, “Schloss Marienlay” Riesling Trocken, Mosel Germany 2014
Paired with roasted Char Siu Pork Belly with Soy Pickled Cucumbers £11
I found my pork belly! However, this was a disappointing choice. It may have been my naivety in not noticing that the Riesling was listed first, giving me the impression that the food is to compliment the wine rather than the other way around. The pork belly, which I usually enjoy with a nice crisp outside and succulent center, was neither of these. Though the flavour was nice, the texture of the pork belly was soft, almost too soft. Mushy, even? The pickles were fine. But, just that – fine. The real star of the show was the wine, but that is not what I am here for.
Bao’s Fried Chicken Bao: £6
*Voted Taste of London’s Best Taste Dish*
Soy milk marinated chicken, Sichuan mayo, kimchi coriander
By far my favourite dish of the evening. There is nothing worse than bland food, and not a single component of this fried chicken bao is bland. Even the soft bun is slightly sweet with a light glaze, perfectly completing the spices in the batter on the friend chicken, the slight heat of the Sichuan mayo and herby coriander. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I feel more than compelled to visit on of their London locations and get a better taste of their menu.
Action Against Hunger Hunger 5* Doughnuts:
Alyn Williams, Christmas Dinner £5
Following the best dish of my night is the most disappointing. Firstly, it is not the doughnut I wanted. What I wanted was Peter Gordon’s doughnut (a pear and ginger compote stuffed doughnut, crunchy maple corn flakes, and pandan basil icing) which sounds so inventive and interesting. However, it is unsurprisingly sold out by the time I reach the booth. Considering my friend seems a bit itchy to leave, I settle for this Christmas dinner doughnut. Maybe it was because it is close to the end of the last day of the festival or the effect of Bao’s chicken, but the turkey was borderline dry. Beyond that, the amount of cranberry sauce was overwhelming, the doughnut itself forgettable, and there was a bitter taste coming from, I can only assume, the stuffing. Overall, I was underwhelmed and could have done without it.
Grand total of the night? £37. So, not including the £20 ticket, I was successful. My second year at the Taste of London (this year a Festive Edition) I must admit was not as impressive as my first go. This does not defer me though. I have yet to be introduced to a better place to titillate my taste buds, so I will be there again next year to do it all over again. Maybe I will just have to start a savings account for the special occasion.
Words: Tristan Prawl | Subbing: Tooba Haq