The weather gods may have been playing a cruel trick on us a couple of weeks ago with some unseasonably warm weather but those days are well and truly over; winter has arrived in London. There is a distinct chill in the air, and we can’t ignore the fact that darkness rolls in around 4pm but it’s also the time when things start getting festive. I don’t think there’s any point trying to hibernate and wishing for warmer weather, so just slap on a few extra layers and embrace it!
With my newfound enthusiasm for winter, we braved the cold last Thursday and headed to the opening night of Taste of London Winter 2014 (20-23 November) to eat ourselves silly once again. Held at Tobacco Dock, this has a much cosier and compact atmosphere than the sprawling summer edition at Regent’s Park but there’s still plenty to explore and I was surprised to find how easily we whittled away all four hours. Once through the gates, we stopped off for a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne in the VIP lounge then set out to spend some crowns! With the menu being half that at the summer edition, it was a lot easier narrowing down our must-have dishes and getting to them, so there was no excuse to go home with regrets.
Our first taste was the De Beauvoir smoked salmon with fennel and pickled cucumber from Hixter which was both generous is size and flavour, a refreshing start to wake up the taste buds. From there we moved onto the warming five-spice pulled pork and paratha from Roti Chai, before really getting into the festive spirit with The Truscott Arms’ partridge in a pear tree. All satisfyingly tasty but frankly we were yet to be really impressed, until we tasted the squirrel terrine from Club Gascon. I’m already quite fond of the furry little critters but I had no idea they could also taste good- the terrine was light, smooth, and literally melted in my mouth.
We were momentarily disappointed by a bland ostrich bhuna from Assado and the miserly portion of grilled octopus from Ember Yard, but all was forgotten when we sunk our teeth into Kurobuta’s perfectly grilled tea smoked lamb chops with smokey nasu and spicy Korean miso. That kept my inner carnivore happy while the raging pescatarian in me was feeling perfectly sated with Andina’s classic sea bass ceviche.
Between dishes we checked out some of the 200 exhibitors showing off anything from decadent brownies, to explosively hot sauces, to French personal chef services. We got some cooking tips from Masterchef winner Ping in Malaysia Kitchen, tasted some wine and cheese with Alex James in the Asda Extra Special Festive Kitchen, and got smokey by the fire pit. Meanwhile there were also opportunities to test out your culinary skills in the Electrolux Chef’s Secrets cooking classes or to get your bartender shake on in the Cocktails At Home classes.
And just when we thought we couldn’t take in any more food, wine, and cocktails we just had to finish off the night with a couple of sweet treats. We took a quick stroll through the Gu Garden of Temptation, before grabbing a rich dulce de leche cheesecake from Gaucho and a sickly sweet Gascon mess- the cherry on the top of a truly decadent evening.
Taste of London Winter captured just what I imagined this season is all about on this side of the world- food, drink, and merriment all wrapped up in one cosy package!
Connie attended as a guest of Taste of London Winter 2014, but all opinions are her own.