The introduction to this book claims that is offers a gastronome’s mystery tour of Britain’s tastiest places, with an emphasis on artisan producers, independent shops and local and regional food. Like the Real Ale Guide, which lives in the glove box of our van, this is probably a book to dip into when you are in a particular area and see what’s available.
Inevitably, there are huge gaps â€“ everyone I know who has looked at the book so far has said, ‘But they’ve missed out such and such…” On the other hand, they have included places that I didn’t know about in my local area. So it’s all a bit random. Some producers get half a page of editorial, while others get a listing with their web site.
The publisher assured me that no one paid to be included.Â “The lead author told me that they simply couldnâ€™t put absolutely everyone in so they wanted to put in the people who they personally felt absolutely could not have been left out.Â These are the authorsâ€™ personal selections for their region.Â They couldnâ€™t have put all the great food producers in one book otherwise it would have looked like a telephone directory and they wanted to produce a book that was beautiful too.”
The book certainly has been designed, with lots of nice photographs (although cream print on a pale green background is rather hard to read) and is divided into regions. Scotland is one region and and has been allocated just 35 pages, so you can imagine that there are gaps.
I don’t know what I expected from this book. If it were designed to be a coffee table read, I’d be looking for a bit more introductory information about each region, such as the traditional food industries. But it is too good looking (and expensive) to be treated as little more than a telephone directory. I’d be surprised if anyone made a special journey from one side of the country to another on the strength of a recommendation here. There are simply too many other foody books out there, mostly written by celebrity chefs, backing up the places they have visited on their travels and giving a lot more interesting information.
Were you to use Taste Britain to plan a gastronomic tour of an area, you would certainly enjoy looking at the book but you would miss a great deal. That said, should anyone present you with one as a gift, it is a delight to wander through and dip into. It’s place will be, like the Real Ale Guide, in the glove box of the car, to ensure that you don’t miss out on somewhere rather special on your travels, which is a pity for such an attractive looking book.