It was an overcast November day with a chill in the air as winter approached Tobacco Dock. The crowd gathered to eat, drink and be merry inside the warm, inviting event space as the holiday merriment had already overtaken the city of London on the buildup to Christmas. With my press pass in hand, I entered to explore all of the glorious and tasty food (and drink) options that a Taste of London at Tobacco Dock (Winter Edition) had to offer. My first stall was the champagne lounge by Laurent-Perrier (can we all say yummy starting point!).
Wandering further into the very cool venue (listen up meeting planners, Tobacco Dock is a fantastic event space) dotted with various rooms over two floors, I was happily surprised by the variety of the options. Every room held a new discovery and a new story – organic food vendors, upstart liquor vendors, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs and authors and a multitude of small businesses sharing their passion for food & drink. It’s a busy festival with so much on offer.
The music in the air was courtesy of live acoustic performances by up and coming artists as well as special guest DJ’s spinning which provided a posh private party feel curated by Coffee House Sessions. As for the holiday gingerbread house? Well, if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you might recognize it as King’s Landing situated next to the Iron Throne itself if you fancy a photo in the HBO room.
I Want To Buy This and Taste That!
The Taste of London event operates using only paper crowns that you buy in £1 increments from the event staff. You exchange the crown paper notes for food and drink. Vendors only accept the paper crowns – they do not accept cash or credit. You can order direct from most vendors and ship in the U.K. (sadly no shipping to the U.S.).
The restaurant pop up stands would serve three dishes and their iconic dish which should make any foodie happy. A few items included the Duck “Reuben” Sandwich from Club Gascon and from Tom’s Kitchen the signature Seven Hour Confit Lamb with mashed potato. A great way to sample a few of London’s hottest restaurants for less than £10 each.
The Taste of London occurs twice a year – in summer at Regent’s Park and once in winter. Tickets start at £15 and there are multiple sessions to attend. I had samples of cured meats, homemade salsas, bespoke liquors, handmade peanut butter, cupcakes, biscuits, apple juice, tasty au jus and so much more. A sample here, a sample there. Who will be the next big food find? For me, the vendors below were food highlights of my visit.
Artistic Sari Cakes
Sari Cakes are just gorgeous! Each cake, large and small is individually decorated by hand which makes the Christmas cakes (fruit cakes) just too pretty to eat in my opinion. Each cake is a work of art. I’d feel bad cutting into the work of art only for a moment though because it’s cake after all.
Don’t Call This Gravy! It’s Just Jus
The chefs of Just Jus created their own variety of au jus packets to add robust flavors to your meal. I was sad that I was traveling and not able to bring any of these tasty liquids home with me. I had taste tested each flavor and loved them all. It was right before lunch so the opportunity for bread samples to dip was too good to pass by.
This being the U.K., I love the marketing materials and in Just Jus case they are “…100% Nasty Free” which means no additives, no gluten, no thickeners or artificial colourings. Their flavours include Peppercorn, Cocoa, Rosemary, Cider, Moo and one of my favorites, Gobble Jus (it was close to Thanksgiving so the Turkey Jus was lovely).
The Ice Cream Show by Pan-n-Ice
The guys at Pan-n-Ice offered to make us ice cream when my friend Susan and I arrived. At that time, their booth was empty and it was too early morning for ice cream so we said we’d return later. When we did, the booth was full of people excited to see the poured liquid instantly turn into ice cream with a few expert turns of the ingredients on the cold plate. Rolling the ice cream sheet strips into the cups proved a winner for all.
It’s Pic’s Kiwi Peanut Butter
The peanut butter girls at Pic’s Peanut Butter, told me that the peanuts are from Australia and “lovingly squashed in sunny Nelson, New Zealand” so they are better. Who am I to argue with that logic? The peanut butter samples were very creamy and without sugar all natural – so that I bought a few packets (slugs) for my travels. Portable peanut butter is a great protein snack on the road. I love the story of how Pic’s came to be and if you are in New Zealand you can visit the factory for your own samples. No worries, U.S. folks, you can order online at Amazon – 2.2 lb. jar for $22.
Make Your Own – This is Your Cookbook
This is Your Cookbook – What a great idea for kids, foodies, your home chef or someone like me who could use a whole lot of help! You can personalize a cookbook with your own creations, share time honored and handed down recipes with family or browse the internet catalog of more than a thousand recipes to create your own hardbound cookbook with 46 recipes. Have a seafood lover? Create a whole book of seafood meals. Love desserts? Focus on chocolate or biscuits or puddings. Great idea, fun for all for just £25.
Hip Luxury Flasks by SWIG
I love a good artisan craft and stopped at the SWIG stand to look at the luxury “exceptional hip flasks”. Being from the U.S., this was one gift that I thought was great for my whiskey loving U.K. friend. They can customized the gifts for corporate and consumers. They had a great backstory/origin, gorgeous hand crafted flasks and seem like a fun, unique, luxury gift for the whiskey (or flask) lover in your life.
Mom’s Biscuits from Sawley Kitchen
The owner of Sawley Kitchen wasn’t able to attend the show but her son was there to represent her wonderful world of SK biscuits and treats. Make in Yorkshire, I had to buy the shortbread cookies (biscuits). For me, if the basic offering tastes good, the rest will too. The shortbread was divine and a few days later when I offered my friend half, he said “Is that the last one you are splitting with me?” I couldn’t lie, I said “no, I didn’t want to give you a whole one”. They were that good that I didn’t really want to share.
Lunch at Pont St Pop Up Stand
We wandered around the scope out our lunch options and settled on Pont St stand. My friend said that it is a restaurant located in Belgravia at the Thompson Hotel with the youngest female executive chef. I need to add it to my next visit. They offered four options – I chose the Belgraves Bespoke Truffle Burger (slider) for 8 crowns and my friend the Mezcal and Lime Cured Salmon with Whipped Avocado, Coriander and Chili for 5 crowns.
A Taste of London at Home in the U.K.
For the following vendors, I would be a customer if I didn’t live in the U.S.
- Field & Flower – a mail order box of free-range and grass-fed West Country meat. You choose your contents and boxes start at £30 for the Hungry Student
- Pirate Grog Rum – a couple leaves the U.K. for paradise and creates Rum. I love the name am inspired by the story and happily did a shot at 11 a.m. They are available for private events and who doesn’t want their own rum bar?
- Somerset Charcuterie – Using “traditional artisan methods with a West Country twist” these two guys conceived their business over a pint of cider at the local lawn mower races according to their website. Love the story, loved the meats, a great find! The chorizo was fantastic. They offer classes too!
Final Thoughts – The Taste of London
I didn’t have a plan of attack for the Taste of London event, despite downloading the app in advance, but I will next time. I wandered about eating this, that and the other after having had a big breakfast (my mistake). I discovered so many great products, vendors and flavors which gave me a bit more insight into the evolving and exciting food scene in London. Little does my friend know but on my next visit to London, he’s going to get a bunch of boxes of food delivered for us to enjoy more of the Taste of London at home.
Have you discovered a favorite food, drink or signature dish in London at the many food events and farmer’s markets? Let me know if I should add other vendors to my list.