Monday, 20 June 2011

Not quite so Tasty

My last piece on the Taste of London festival extolled many of its virtues. My visit, though enjoyable, sadly, didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

 Not quite the weather we experienced

Previous visits to this annual food festival were fantastic and I could not fault them. The weather was always good, which certainly helped as this is an outdoor event, but I came across fantastic restaurants serving great food and independent producers who made the finest food and drinks. I especially remember sitting at the Orient Express stand enjoying champagne in the sunshine with friends old and new and the Boxwood Café’s brilliant tasting menu by Stuart Gillies.

Taste this year featured, as ever, an array of exceptionally good restaurants. I cannot fault the organisers on that front. I particularly enjoyed the shrimp and scallop burger from Scott’s, the Churrasco de Lomo and corn temoles from Gaucho and the braised pork cheeks with creamed potatoes and clove sauce from Petrus.

On the downside it was sad to see that there weren’t as many independent retailers at the show. Gone were the saucisson producers and cheesemakers, replaced by large brands such as Whole Foods and tourist organisations like Jamaica. Yes, there is place for all but I did feel that this year’s festival lacked what had previously gave it credibility – independent, local retailers.

Making stands so expensive has plainly put off many and though the Producers Market contained the odd gem like Nils Oscar God Lager, The Garlic Farm and Sipsmith, the overall feel was far too corporate.

We quaffed several glasses of champagne with Mike and Fi of Lovely Bubbly on their stand. It was a pleasure to see them at the show but when we wanted to sit and enjoy a glass of wine, there was nowhere to go. With champagne and beer bars aplenty, one would have thought the organisers could have made more effort to find space for a decent wine bar of some form.

The show also felt far too overcrowded this year. Even with a VIP ticket, it was a fight to get in and then once inside the restaurants were crowded and the walkways jammed. In previous years, it was much easier to move around the site. This year felt more like a cattle market than an event where tickets cost up to £95 each.

Torrential downpours had plainly not been anticipated but with a lack of boardwalks it was impossible to get to some stands. Could the organisers not have put down a little more mulch?

I hope the organisers take up my points and that next year’s Taste of London regains what made it so classy.

For more information see


trininista said...

More mulch - something so simple yet so underutilised. It would have gone a long way. The crowds also hindered one from getting a full experience of the festival. There were many booths which were simply inaccessible to us - so many people. Still, I had a good time. The food was excellent. I agree that maybe there can be another festival for tourist boards, though a couple of them did put on a good show.

Anonymous said...

You make some valid points, and I agree with 'trininista' regarding the point about having another festival for tourist boards. With that said, as aforementioned, some did put on a good show, namely Trinidad and especially Jamaica. Clearly Jamaican cuisine was in demand as I noticed that despite the rain, patrons flocked all their stands and remarked how great their foods were. I personally had to sample a few dishes to see what the excitement was about, and though it was crowded the wait was well worth it. They had loads to offer not just 'whole foods' and their tourist board as you solely focused on, but they had demos by world class chefs Martin Blunos, Gary Rhodes and Collin Brown (the only Caribbean restaurateur to receive AA Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence). Thus it is rather unfair for you to single them out as it was their first time at the event and earned their place there. What about Brazil who only had 'saucy samba dancers' on their 'menu',and a few other islands who were merely there for tourism purposes? Clearly you must have been hindered by the crowds to experience the festival in its totality; or maybe you came with a selective mindset, expecting cheese-makers etc. As a patron who explored all the booths, it is safe to say that overall the festival was great, despite the horrid weather and crowds. Be realistic, where a festival of this nature has become increasingly popular, there will be crowds. Therefore what are you suggesting... a bigger venue/ less tickets/ less booths/ target only a 'certain' crowd?

Anonymous said...

On 20 Jun 2011, at 01:02, Lupe Prada wrote:

Hi james,

Thanks for your email. Not 100% sure what you are expecting compensation for?
Is it the weather (which sadly I cannot control and did effect over 50,000 visitors over the 4 days of the event) or the £10 worth of crowns that you would have surely spent at one of the restaurants the show (I say this because the restaurants only accept crowns and not sterling).

I apologise if the weather put a dampner on your day, but like most outdoor events (including Glastonbury) - this is a risk we all take and a fustration we the team share with you.

Many thanks,
Lupe Prada
Head of Marketing UK - Taste Festivals

Hello Lupe,

I attended the 2011 Taste of London festival on Saturday, June 18, between 18.30 and 21.30. My friend and I had travelled into the city from Hertfordshire for the primary purpose of spending the evening at Regent's Park, blissfully unaware that we were in for a very disappointing experience indeed.

When we arrived at the venue, we went straight to the ticket office and paid the entry fee of £26. Then, as now, I had absolutely no idea what we were supposed to get in return for our hard-earned money, but this sense of uncertainty was only to be the start of my frustrations.

In addition to the entry fee, the ticket officer eventually persuaded me to purchase £10 worth of "Crowns" up-front, claiming that she couldn't guarantee their availability inside and adding that we would definitely need them in order to purchase both food and drink. I was made to feel quite uncomfortable during this hard sell, especially as I'd stated on numerous occasions that I would prefer to wait and see before making a non-refundable commitment, but she ignored my evident displeasure and I eventually capitulated.

True to my expectations, there proved to be an abundance of people selling Crowns on every corner inside the event. Moreover, I didn't see a single queue for them during the entire night and I felt quite cheated that I had been persuaded to buy in advance, a tactic which only served to deny me the opportunity of seeing what was on offer before making a decision. Adding to my frustrations, I soon found out that you could pay in Sterling at every single stall, a fact which rendered the Crowns completely unnecessary; in my view, the whole concept represented nothing more than another way of fleecing customers and preying upon their naiveté.

Last, but by no means least, the weather on Saturday was very poor indeed. Although I understand that you can't do much about the inclement conditions, there are things you could have done to prepare for them, and one only needed to glimpse at a five-day forecast in order to ascertain that it was going to rain heavily that day. As a result, the venue was a total mud-bath. After speaking to a gentleman who owned one of the stalls, I found out that the organisers had only laid down wooden boarding late in the afternoon, thereby adversely affecting his trade. Layering insult upon injury, some of your staff members (dressed in reflective 'safety gear') were tasked with standing on the boards and guiding the public off the solid ground, around several large cameras and back into the mud!

Unfortunately, I feel very much ripped-off as a result of the above and have been left both frustrated and disappointed by the entire ordeal. I'd like to know what you are prepared to do to ease my disappointment.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,