Saturday, 22 May 2010

Taste of London - get your tickets soon!

Around this time of year every year, my stomach is rumbling constantly - regardless of how much food I have in it - all in anticipation of one event where I pretty much stuff my face for an entire day with a variety of different food: Taste of London.

I first read about it in Tatler in 2005. They basically described it as 30 of London's best restaurants in Somerset House for a day and they gave a code you could use to upgrade your ticket to VIP so you could also get a glass of champagne on arrival. They had me at hello!

Upon arrival we were given our champagne and crowns - no, not the royal kind, but the 'event currency' kind! How it works is this - with each of the tickets we purchased we were given a book of 40 crowns which we could use to get food from each of the stalls that the restaurants set up. Each of the restaurants charged a different amount of crowns for their meals, depending on ingredients and portion sizes, but each was around 4-8 crowns.

It's all a bit of a blur now but I can recall eating food from pretty much every continent and meat of all kinds. No-one worried about the food 'complimenting' each other. Very generous wine sellers were handing out samples of their wares and everyone was lapping it up. All in all it was a fantastic, hedonistic day in such beautiful surroundings.

Since then, I have only missed one year - it did take wild horses for that to happen.

Of course, over the years small things have changed. Due to the popularity of the event more space was required and the venue was changed to Regent's Park. The number of restaurants has increased to around 40. The wine sellers are not quite so generous with their wares. The average dish is now around 9 crowns. Small changes, some good, some bad.

However, the important stuff is still the same - lots of good food, a huge variety, so many people with the same enthusiasm for food, and lots of free nibbles. What more could we ask for?

Words can only convey so much, so here are a few pics from last year / the year before:

A chef from Nipa Thai, Lancaster Hotel prepares a soft-shell crab salad for the hungry mob


Some of the delights on offer:
Roast Aberdeen angus beef fillet with tarragon mousse,
and rhubarb & custard ice-cream crumble

Fruit Carvings

A variety of English sausages

Come rain or shine, we will still stuff our faces!

Don't forget to get your tickets soon - this year the dates are 17th - 20th June. For anyone reading this who is not in London - do not despair! Other places where they run this event include: Auckland, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Cape Town, Dubai, Dublin, Edinburgh, Jo'burg, Melbourne and Sydney.

*rumble* pucca_love_08

Happy eating,


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea Party

Originally I read about the Mad Hatter themed Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel in March - it was timed to coincide with the release of the Alice In Wonderland 3D movie.

Of course it sounded like a lot of fun and since I haven't actually had 'afternoon tea' having lived in the UK for around 8 years now, I rang up straightaway to book. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else in London reads the same magazine (Stylist - its handed out for free around London on Tuesdays and is pretty good for a freebie) and I was shocked that afternoon tea on the weekends was booked out until May! Sanderson had only planned to run the themed afternoon tea until the end of March but due to demand it is now 'ongoing' and will most likely run throughout summer.

So having waited for almost 2 months for afternoon tea, there were great expectations! We decided to go themed - not quite wearing hats, but we all made the effort to wear fascinators. pucca_love_01

In the hotel lobby the group gathered on a lip shaped sofa and pondered whether the hanging egg chair was for decoration or use. Past the bar filled with chairs with eyes which stared as we walked past, we arrived in the courtyard garden and were seated beside the flowers and fountain.

The Courtyard Gardens in the Sanderson

The pursuasive waitress brought us our bubbly to celebrate nothing in particular. A few of us were particularly ravenous so when they brought out our 3-tiered servers filled with themed baked goodies we were ready to pounce but the waitress paused to explain the recommended order to eat the food - it was pretty much eat from the bottom up.

Following the order, we started with the scones. They were crumbly and delicious with a helping of clotted cream and runny dripping strawberry jam. The rainbow sandwiches had a nice mix of fillings - from salmon and cream cheese in green spinach bread to saffron yellow ham and mustard.

The cakes were every sweet-tooth's dream - cupcakes with a surprise tangy jam layer and crackling candy topping, a hazelnut and passion fruit tart with a pocket-watch clockface chocolate topper, and a Queen of Hearts tea cake with a tart foamy filling that melts in the mouth.

To finish, we had not one but two desserts! Quickly scoffed was the peppermint ice cream covered in chocolate on a stick which melted immediately, and a two sided 'hot & cold' pineapple lollipop. [Note - as some particular members of the group *ahem* found, the blue salt holding the sticks in the teacup are NOT part of the food!]

All in all, as well as being a colourful food adventure this was certainly an exploration of what we Chinese call the 'mouth-feel' of food. Not just the texture of the food - the temperature changes, the crackling, the crumbling, the melting - it was a fairly eccentric meal altogether.

We left the courtyard gardens hyped up on all the sugar and decided to test the strength of the hanging egg chair - it didn't come crashing to the ground as we feared!

Happy eating,