Over the course of a cold November weekend, Taste of London brought together some of the UK's most exciting restaurants and producers at Tobacco Dock in London for a celebration of food and drink. The winter edition of the twice-yearly event had a festive feel with (fake) snow and glittery Christmas trees to welcome guests- but despite the brisk temperatures, barbecue food was still firmly on the menu.
Meat still on the menu
There were vegetarian options at each stall, but meat cooked low and slow was gathering most of the public's attention. Cuts like brisket and shoulder featured in dishes often advertising a lengthy cooking process with words like braised, marinated or in one case '42 Hour Roast' tempting punters. Amongst the artisanal traders one of the most popular stalls was South African biltong, a processed dried beef snack that has gained popularity for its protein content, amongst other things, in recent times.
Meat of good provenance was a definite theme within both the artisan traders and food vendors too, with Iberico pork appearing on two Chinese restaurant menus and a number of stands selling meat products from free range or organic sources.
Fusions of different cuisines remains popular, with tacos and bao buns featuring heavily on menus that combined ingredients and techniques from opposite sides of the world. Smoke and coal-cooking also had a presence at many food stalls and these flavour profiles also appeared amongst the drinks too, with smoky oaked tequila cocktails on offer from various sources. Coca-Cola have launched a new range of signature mixers with tropical fruit and smoke appearing and they were pairing these new drinks with different spirits.
The most influential cuisines remain Asian and Middle Eastern, although Latin American ingredients are beginning to have an impact outside of the ever-popular Tex Mex style food. Chocolate as an addition to savoury dishes and Amazonian products such as guayusa tea could well be the next big things.
Environmentally friendly packaging and stations to refill water bottles showcased a renewed focus on the impact of the food industry on the planet, and this is certain to be a hot topic over the coming years. Single use plastics were still visible but where possible had been replaced by glass, card or paper.
Healthy eating was unsurprisingly also a heavily promoted virtue amongst both producers and restaurants. This generally took the form of foods with minimal amounts of ingredients and processing as well as small scale production methods and organic produce.
A healthy future?
With the recent bad news stories from the casual dining sector, and difficult trading conditions for all food businesses due to the high level of competition, the success of events like Taste of London and growth of food markets countrywide demonstrate the appetite for food experiences still present within the UK.
The final word
Against the backdrop of growing poverty and inequality across the globe, Action Against Hunger were raising money and awareness with celebrity-chef designed dishes that were proving popular. Aviko were one of a number of suppliers who donated food to the project and our sweet potato fries sold well served alongside a smoked tomato ketchup.