Friday, 24 June 2011

Taste Festival, London

I have never been to Glastonbury. I am not mad for sweating in a tent and plodding my way through mud. The latter, however, I did gladly at the Taste Festival in Regent Park last weekend. No dodgy burgers here, either – instead a delightful array of restaurants selling taster portions of their wares and a massive range of food market stalls.

So despite not bringing wellies to London, thereby ruining a lovely pair of shoes, A and I set off promptly at 5.30pm to the Festival. There were no queues, so we got straight in and despite the rain, were determined to have a great foodie experience.

A had his first Jamaican food experience at the Foodies Festival in Roundhay Park last year, so we were happy to see a Jamaican themed village, and A immediately got his beef pattie fix. Walking around the festival, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer choice of food on offer. Lots of the market stalls offered tastes of cheese, wine, olive oils – and I bought some garlic mayonnaise made with rapeseed oil.

The restaurants represented at the festival included Gary Rhodes’ place, some Gordon Ramsay restaurants (Maze, York & Albany, Petrus), and quite a few Michelin stars. The restaurants were offering taster portions of starters, mains and puddings and you paid for them with festival Crowns – the currency that you either order in advance, or buy at the various “banks” around the festival.

From Petrus, I tried the Pea and mint mousse with goat’s curd and pancetta.

I also got a portion of Beef rendang from Awana, my first real taste of Malaysian food (it was very good!).

For pudding, I returned to another Gordon Ramsay restaurant, York & Albany, to try the Spiced cherry compote, lemon mascarpone, honeycomb and granola. An excellent, light pudding – I especially liked the honeycomb and granola topping for that added crunch.

We tried a range of other dishes including a Fried Dim Sum Platter from Yauatcha; Soft shell crab from The Modern Pantry and a Shrimp and scallop burger from Scott’s, all excellent. I just wish I had room to try even more!

As well as the food, we attended a wine tasting session with Grossi Wines, where we were given the opportunity to try four different Italian whites. One was the obligatory Pinot, so I was happy, although trying other grape varieties was interesting (except for the Sauvignon – hate the stuff!)

And the added bonus to the Taste Festival was the fact there was no tent involved, just a lovely hotel room in the Holiday Inn.

I will end this report with a gratuitous shot of a hot dog (actually a Top Dog Deluxe from Gauthier Soho).... Enjoy!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Browns, Leeds city centre

Sunday brunch or breakfast is something I always like the idea of, but by the time I have got myself in gear on a Sunday morning, it is usually time for a roast lunch rather than a fry-up. But today we got organised and got ourselves into town before the shops had even opened! So we decided to give the breakfast a try in Browns.

I have been to Browns for dinner in the past and always had a nice time there. When we arrived about half ten, we were the first customers and were promptly seated. A ordered a latte and I had a white coffee. Both of us ordered the full English breakfast.

The breakfast is definitely “full” – bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, tomato, mushroom, beans and eggs. Eggs can be fried, scrambled or poached – we both chose poached. The yolks were on the slightly over done side, with not much runny yolk to mop up with bread. The bread is sliced ciabatta, possibly to give it that "posh" feel, but I think I prefer traditional white sliced toast. The bacon and sausage, however, were lovely and the presentation was excellent. (A Leeds Food Leads pet peeve is food being crammed onto a too-small plate so that it all gets mushed together - not a problem here, the square plate was a good size for all the different elements of the breakfast!)

Browns has an art deco feel, with a bit of Parisian bistro thrown in. It is a large restaurant which has always been busy when I have gone in the evening. Although it was quiet when we were there, it was early and I imagine it gets busier as the shoppers start piling in for lunch. Cost for two breakfasts and coffees was around £20. Reasonable value for a decent breakfast.