London’s festival scene is currently booming with events such as Field Day, Ben and Jerrys, Lovebox, 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch just around the corner. They’re a great excuse for Londoners to experience the festival scene without the tents, mud and backpacks full of loo-roll and baby wipes. All you need to do is don your festival fashion, pack some cans of cider and hop on the tube.
The Big Feastival combines two of my very favourite things, food and music. We had a lovely time, thanks to Margaret London who invited me on behalf of Kopparberg Cider. Though, having just come back from the all-encompassing Glastonbury festival (read my write up of glasto food here) , I was more interested in sampling the interesting food than watching even more outdoors music, but I did enjoy bopping along to Trophy Wife and Mystery Jets.
The bunting clad site for the big Feastival was situated in the middle of Clapham Common. When we got there it was buzzing with people drinking cocktails out of pineapples and eating individual dishes from beautiful little wooden bowls. It had the feeling of a vast civilised picnic, and was filled with plenty of families, children, groups of friends and couples alike.The first thing we did was to check out ‘The Big Kitchen’, a cooking demonstration area which was also surrounded by stalls such as the ‘People’s Supermarket‘, Fairtrade, the Youth Food Network and an artisan food market, which included ‘The Bath Pig‘ who, by the way, make some amazingly delicious British Chorizo. In ‘The Big Kitchen’ we missed Jamie Oliver’s food demo but managed to catch Gizzi Erskine make some simple but fun millionaire shortbread coupled with rosemary and salted caramel.
Next came the main event, the eating! A vast selection of restaurants from around the UK had set up a pop-up high-street of tented eateries. Each mini-restaurant served one dish either a starter, a main course or a pud. Present were a whole host of well known names like Fifteen, The Albanach, Trinity and Wahaca all set up in miniature form.
The food ran on a token system, 1 token cost £5 and for it you got 1 meal. The photos on the websites homepage were a little misleading, portion sizes were small tapas sized. Small enough so that even though we bought four meals between two of us we still went home and cooked dinner. I didn’t mind too much, the food was all very high-quality and it was a real treat to experience so many different cuisines and flavours in one place, but I would have preferred a price tag of £3-4 per dish, especially with an entrance fee of £35 per person.
The first dish we had was Corn-fed Chicken Satay with Roti from Malaysian restaurant, Awana (located in Chelsea). The chicken was a little dry, but the satay sauce was heavenly, all sweet, sour and nutty, and the roti was light, crispy and tasted divine smoothered under the rich satay. Were two small chicken skewers worth a fiver? Not really, but it was enjoyable.
Second came Pit Smoked Barbecue Pulled Pork Shoulder and Slaw from Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver and Adam Berrys’ new BBQ restaurant near St.Pauls that celebrates the relationship between ‘fire and food’. And this was a true celebration. The pork was delicious, absolutely falling apart and it melted in the mouth. The smokey sauce was bought to life with coriander and spring onions and freshened up with the crunchy sweet slaw. Worth a fiver? Oh Yes.
Third came the very strange experience of Chicken Tikka Pie courtesy of Atul Kochhar’s Michelin starred Benares. Being the only Michelin starred restaurant represented we thought we ought to give it a go. Weirdly the stall had one of the smallest queues, which should have started alarm bells ringing. The pie came as a generic pastry case filled with chicken tikka, topped with potato mash, and dolloped with a spiced berry compote, together it confused the hell out of my taste buds, and not in a good way. The chutney and the tikka were delicious, but the mash and the pastry just did not match. It might have been a delicious curry but the novelty pasty casing was bland and distracting. Worth a fiver? Definitely not.
The most delicious dish of the day came from Redhook, unsurprisingly this one of the stalls with the largest queues. The ten minutes wait for their Popcorn Shrimp was totally worth it. The shrimp were amazingly sweet, meaty and juicy and they had a thin yet superbly crunchy herby chilli crust. The little crispy bites went perfectly with the deep mayo-like orange ponzu, a citrus based Japanese sauce. Was it worth a fiver? Yes and more – I could have eaten twenty quids worth of this and still wanted more.
Kopparberg was my drink of choice to wash it all down and we had a fair few of the summery peardrop tasting ciders as we lounged on the grass next to the giant inflatable Kopparberg tent. I would have been tempted by a pina colada in a pineapple or a glass of Pimms, but for £15 and £7.50, they were out of the question.
Overall, we had a great day. I enjoyed my time in the Kitchen Garden listening to Cultivate London and Incredible Edible Lambeth talk about green initiatives in the capital and I spent a bit gawping over the beautiful dresses by Lucy In Disguise in the WI tent. But the biggest disappointment was that despite having so many talented chefs in one area, every single bit of food prep occurred backstage away from prying eyes. Some stalls such as Wahacas at least let you watch them plate up, but for a festival that prided itself on food it was bizarre that you couldn’t see chefs in action unless they were at the designated “Big Kitchen” cooking demo tent. Regardless if there’s a second Feastival next year I’ll be there to sample even more dishes.
Photographs of The Feastival site & Mike and I were taken by photographer Katie Palmer, for more info check out her blog.