Savour London at this foodie festival
I pop a crispy piece in my mouth. Blue cheese assaults my tastebuds, followed by a note of walnut and celery. I pop in another. It's a strong cheddar. And another - Madras curry.
I am in foodie heaven but it's not what you'd expect. I'm standing at the bustling stall of Joe & Seph's, an award-winning gourmet popcorn company, at the Taste of London food festival.
These moreish morsels of popcorn are handmade and come in delicious flavours, with some of the more unusual ones being toffee apple and cinnamon, strawberry cheesecake, and gin and tonic.
After sampling nearly all of them, I leave with a number of bags under my arms.
That's room service sorted for tonight, I think.
I move through the marquee at Taste of London, held at Regent's Park, just a quick Tube ride from Oxford Street.
Stopping at a multitude of stalls, I taste bite-size melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, shavings of fine cured salami and hot-from-the oven crusty bread.
I dine on large slices of Italian-style pizza, followed by a tub of smooth vanilla ice-cream.
Around me are groups of girlfriends sipping wine, couples sharing lunch in the shade of trees, and single foodies intent on exploring every nook and cranny of the festival. The place is abuzz with food fever.
The festival, which this year runs from June 18 to 22, attracts plenty of big industry names too, always featuring an impressive line-up of UK chefs and emerging talent.
Danish chef Rene Redzepi, whose Noma restaurant has two Michelin stars, is taking part. So is one of the festival's founding fathers, Michel Roux Jr, from London restaurant Le Gavroche, and fellow Le Gavroche chef Monica Galetti.
For the first time, two Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, of gastro-pub fame, will be involved. There's also a great restaurant line-up: Club Gascon, Salt Yard and Spice Market.
If you're a night owl, hone your cocktail-making skills at a masterclass at Mahiki Bar, where you'll also enjoy music from top DJs and partake in limbo dancing.
Bubble afficionados should make time during their London stay to attend the always popular Laurent-Perrier champagne masterclass, which will include a Cuvee Rose reception and blind tasting of white champagnes.
The festival, which is in its 11th year and is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors, has plenty for the average tourist too.
You can watch cooking demonstrations and chef presentations, and sample beautiful British cheese, chocolate, macarons, and handmade marshmallows. And who knows, you may just leave with your arms loaded with bags of gourmet popcorn.
Just don't forget to take your appetite and plenty of pounds to part with.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: London is an easy city to navigate by foot and the Tube is efficient and gives visitors access to all major tourist attractions. For details on transport in the UK, go to visitbritain.com. You can also pre-purchase a London Oyster Card (for use on all public transport in the city) at visitbritainshop.com.
STAYING THERE: For accommodation within walking distance of many of London's main attractions, check out The Nadler Soho. The luxury boutique hotel is at 10 Carlisle Street, W1. For room details and prices, visit thenadler.com.
Pullman London St Pancras is also a good option. It's at 100-110 Euston Road, St Pancras, NW1. Check out, pullmanhotels.com.
PLAYING THERE: Tickets to Taste of London are currently on sale. A standard (entry only) pre-purchased ticket costs £24 (NZ$46.5). The Laurent-Perrier Masterclass (VIP benefits plus entry to one LP Masterclass) costs £80 (NZ$155). For other types of tickets, go to tastefestivals.com/london.
The writer travelled as a guest of VisitBritain, The Nadler, Accor and Princess Cruises.