Taste of Christmas
2-4 December 2011
Reviewed by David Savage
The Taste of Christmas event at the ExCel London is a large festival of Christmas food, drinks and gifts. It covers a very large area in the centre and runs for 3 days. It is attended by world class chefs, has cookery classes and demonstrations. It is open from 10am – 6pm from 2 -4 December 2011.
Once you enter the exhibition you are given a free event guide which is very useful. Only with articles to read it contains information about the shows and exhibitions so you can plan what you want to do, a list of all stands and a map of where to find them all so you can easily find your way back to your favourites. Make sure that you buy some Crowns (the official dining currency) as these will let you pay for gifts around the exhibition and in the dining areas. These seem to be accepted my most, if not all, but you can still use cash or cards in need be. For £1 you get 2 crowns but make sure whatever you buy you spend before you leave as these or non-refundable. The crowns can be purchased from the crowns desk (on-site bank) or there are roaming crown sellers that you can purchase from.
The exhibition was opened by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and there are plenty of other celebrity chefs throughout the weekend including Gary Rhodes who seemed at home behind the counter of his Rhodes W1 restaurant and was happy to chat to the customers there.
I decided to walk around the exhibition first just to have a look what was there are going on. As well as plenty of stalls they are cooking demonstrations around including the Taste Theatre where you see the chefs cooking, this gets very busy so you may not get a seat but they do also have it displayed on large screens so you shouldn’t miss out. There are Perfekt Cooking Classes with Angela Malik and the occasional Guest Chef (check event guide for times and guests) so you can pick up cooking tips from the professionals.
Also there is Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival Pop-Restaurant where you can upgrade your ticket for £55 for a 2 hour dining experience. You will need to book a table and it is reserved seating and full waiter service. You even get a Jamie Oliver Cookbook to take home. There are 3 sittings 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
As you walk around the stalls you get the chance to sample alcohol (wines, spirits, champagne etc…), cheeses, meat, chocolate and lots of other tasty things. There are also book signings by the celebrity chefs at the Foyles stand. There were even exotic meats like kangaroo, ostrich and buffalo to sample.
There is also a Shop and Drop service where any shopping you buy you can leave there until the end of the day and even have it delivered to your home if required. There is a cloakroom to leave your coats if required for a cost of £1 per item but all the proceeds go to charity: The Jamie Oliver Foundation. There are also live buskers collecting donations for charity and the singers are very good.
If you love your food and/or cooking then this is the place to be. They is plenty of food and drink to sample, some excellent cooking demonstrations and advice on cooking and all in a very friendly atmosphere.