The Abingdon Food Festival has a great deal to recommend it. This was its fourth year, and yet I’d never been before: James and I made the journey down to Abingdon to see what we could see, and came away very full and happy, occasionally turning to each other and saying things like ‘That was really very good, wasn’t it?’
The festival’s location couldn’t be better. They make use of a beautiful riverside meadow, which is not only convenient – providing plenty of space and lots of parking – but picturesque, with boats moored all along the side of the festival site and green space all around. The setting contributes to the laid back, friendly atmosphere of the event. There were dogs and children everywhere, and plenty of seating provided and space to wander without feeling crowded. The volunteers on the gate and giving out information all seemed lovely, and I was very happy that the low £3 suggested entry price went to charity, having recently attended a food festival that cost more than £20 per person to enter – and that’s before you’ve even bought any food…
My general approached to these events is to come early to avoid queues and to make sure I am very hungry, thereby enabling myself to eat enough to cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Being obsessive, I like to do a lap of the whole site and see what’s on offer before committing to buying anything, wary of missing out on something for fear of not seeing it before I’ve already stuffed my face.
At the Abingdon Food Festival, James derailed this sensible system by dragging me over to Dick’s Smokehouse immediately and demanding the pulled pork in a charcoal brioche bun with apple and fennel relish. It transpired that we were the stall’s first customers at their first ever event so, feeling very honoured, we tucked into our, er, breakfast. It was a delicious twist on the classic pork and apple combination, the meat flavourful and succulent, the charcoal brioche adding a bit of interest and texture, and the fennel present but not overpowering. The stallholders were lovely and their branding is bold and on-point, as proven by the fact that James immediately made a beeline for them – I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them in the future.
My next pick was Polentista, who I’d never seen before and whose menu sounded delicious – I am, at heart, a carb lover. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to approach them and hear that they weren’t ready to serve food yet, despite it being 11am and the festival having opened at 10am. I don’t know if they’d had problems in the morning, but I was sad not to be able to try their gnocchi and polenta chips – next time! Instead we ended up with a satisfying pile of nachos from Hillbilly’s, which hit the spot. Maybe not the most original dish, but hey, they were well-made and delicious. James then grabbed a marshmallow lolly from the very friendly woman at Cottage Sweets, and consumed it in about forty-five seconds before proceeding to chew the stick, which I will take as a positive review.
Being somewhat of a brownie connoisseur (read: greedy brownie obsessive), I was keen to try the crème brûlée brownie from Ridiculously Rich. It’s pretty rare for me to come across a twist on brownies I haven’t seen before, so thanks Abingdon Food Festival. The brownie was a little thinner than I’d usually go for, but the topping was creamy and well-made, and the brownie itself was decadently chocolatey and more-ish. I am willing to concede that most people have a lower brownie tolerance than I do and would have found anything thicker too rich. The peanut butter fudge cake was a delight because, well, peanut butter fudge cake.
There was a great selection of alcohol at the festival, and I was happy to see stalls selling an impressive variety of good wines, as well as the beer and cider vendors that you’d expect to see at these events. Sadly, one of us had to drive home, so I didn’t get to sample the wines, but James very much enjoyed an unusually dry and flavoursome pint of Hitchcox Cider (I may have had a sneaky sip, just to test it) that was sold to us by the owner, a lovely guy. They also had a impressive range of drinks on offer, including loads of varieties of cider ranging from dry to sweet, as well as cider cocktails. Finally, before heading home, we grabbed a classic beef and Stilton pie from Brockleby’s, which was very much enjoyed for dinner later that evening.
Would we return?
Obviously we couldn’t sample everything we wanted to at the festival, and I was also sorely tempted by Caribbean and South African stalls in particular, but we very much enjoyed all we ate and had a great time chatting to the friendly vendors. With live music and cookery demonstrations as well as an impressive collection of all sorts of food from around the world, Abingdon Food Festival was the perfect place to while away a few hours, and we will certainly return next year.