I am something of a fan of the Real Food Markets that take place on London’s South Bank every week, but until now had never been to the annual Real Food Festival. The last food festival I went to was such a disappointment that it put me off the whole food festival concept (Foodies in Battersea Park). Today was different. Foodies for example cost £15 a ticket and all the Chef Theatre events had to be pre booked. The Real Food Festival in contrast is free and the Theatre events are on a first come basis. I actually got a front seat in the Theatre, something I have rarely managed to do at other festivals – it’s so nice to get pictures that don’t involve zooming in, not to mention being in a good postion to sample the food post demonstration before the swarm (see picture).
There were plenty of stands lining the river taking over a fair bit of the outdoor space around the Southbank centre. All nicely laid out, so you could actually see what was on offer. Lots of food festival regulars like The Little Round Cake Company and Outsider Tart were there. Cono Sur had free wine tasting, Thunder Vodka were providing samples of their award winning Toffee Vodka, and I was spoilt for choice on the savory front. I eventually decided to try some Takoyaki (Japanese dumplings) – Octopus, spring onion, Japanese red ginger, tempura topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori seaweed and katsuobushi, they were piping hot and very tasty.
The first event in the Chefs Theatre I attended was advertised as Ben Tish from the Salt Yard restaurant but he could not make it, so his Sous Chef was there to fill the breach. The next chef scheduled was Jun Tanaka, but the timings were a bit off, so instead chocolatier Fiona Sciolti stepped in at literally the last minute to plug the gap with amusing stories of her foraging to get the natural ingredients for her rather special chocolates. She came armed with lots of samples, so we had the chance to try her new Sea Buckthorn chocolates. I had been told that Sea Buckthorn was an acquired taste, and boy did I acquire it – the chocolates are great. The filling has a sharp flavour that is reminiscent of passion fruit and it works very well indeed when mixed with white chocolate ganache. Other chocolates we tried were spiced masala chai, elderberry & sambuca and garden mint thins (a really good palette cleanser). She also mentioned the new range of ice cream her company have launched this year. Fiona hit a few problems with the sound system during her session so poor Jun Tanaka ended up going low tech with a hand mic, which he quite rightly pointed out was not designed with a chef in mind, but he took it as a challenge and received a round of applause for his one handed egg breaking skills. He demonstrated how to cook a rather appetizing dish of salt crusted beef, served with potatoes where he added “a little butter” much to the audiences amusement – it was the whole 1/2 lb pack. I had to leave just as he was handing over to Cyrus Todiwala of Cafe Spice Namasti. Which was a shame as Mr Todiwala is always entertaining.
So much to my surprise I have found a food festival I actually would recommend.