My annual visit to Christchurch Food Festival always begins early, as I try to arrive before it opens. I get the chance to find out where everything is, and what might be good to draw; as well as observing those interesting ‘behind the scenes’ moments of traders putting the finishing touches on their stalls. There’s a lovely feeling of anticipation; you imagine all the people thinking, will the weather improve? Will people like what I’m selling? What else looks good here, and what am I going to have for lunch? A lot of them know each other from doing the same festivals, in previous years or in different locations, so it’s a supportive atmosphere.
On both days this weekend, long bus journeys scuppered my chances of getting to Christchurch for 10am; but I still managed to arrive before most of the crowds. Saturday had begun rainy, but I climbed the stairs of the underpass into bright spring sunshine, and a hint of barbecue smoke.
Noticeable improvements to the festival for 2015 included the addition of the ‘Festival Village’, another batch of food stalls by Christchurch Quay (an area known as the ‘Quomps’, for reasons I am unfamiliar with). This was a really vibrant space, with lively musical entertainment on the bandstand, local and ‘celebrity’ chefs in the cooking demonstration tent, and plenty of grass and seating where festival-goers could enjoy their food. It was a welcome respite from the high street market, which can get very busy – though here there were also improvements, with more open spaces, particularly in front of key food businesses like cafés. On Sunday there was also the welcome return of family entertainment and more food traders on the Kings Arms bowling green.
What did I draw?
The Riverford Organic vegetable box stall (see top image), which displays some lovely fresh produce which you aren’t allowed to eat! I also drew a basket of garlic at The Garlic Farm‘s stall, and lamented that they don’t seem to make banana chutney anymore (although Riverford – by coincidence – apparently do).
Conker Spirit Dry Dorset Gin have beautiful branding, and hosted a tented bar area by the river. On display was a magnificent vast copper globe, with a tube coming out of the top, which I couldn’t help but draw (lower image). I suspect this was a copper still, of the kind that would be used to make the gin; surrounding it were jars of botanicals, and happy festival-goers sipping gin-based cocktails.
What did I eat?
Here are my recommendations from this year’s festival:
- Bread of Devon apricot and almond brioche swirl – this was a bit denser and less sweet than the brioche I’m used to, but made for a pretty perfect breakfast, alongside a latte from Dorset Coffee.
- Wild boar and apple sausage in a baguette – I remembered having one of these last year at the Bournemouth Food Festival, and that it was perfect. This one was similarly satisfying.
- Chillicious frozen yoghurt, peanut butter and banana milkshake – it’s got fruit so it’s healthy? Probably? But anyway it was delicious, so I don’t care.
- The Posh Kebab Company – Aberdeen Angus kebab with home-made tzatziki sauce and other interesting condiments – at £7, these were a little more expensive than some of the other options at the festival, but really worth the price. Even the bread was delicious. They also sell a lamb version which I’d love to try.
- Banoffee crêpe from the crêpe stand by the quay – banana, toffee sauce, and layers of pancake, alternately crispy and squishy; tasty, but more importantly, hot – Sunday’s weather wasn’t as nice as Saturday’s!
- Strawberry Fields Foods – lemon tea marmalade – I had to get some more of this after demolishing a previous jar. A very fragrant marmalade with lots of peel, and a hint of bergamot. Their pear and vanilla jam is also glorious.
I would also highly recommend The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Company – lovely people, high-quality bread and cheese and some creative combinations (they did a special edition spiced cauliflower cheese toastie at a Bournemouth street food event last year and it was AMAZING). And churros from Churtopia (or churros from anywhere, really).