“It’s a food festival Jim, but bigger than I thought it would be!”
I’ve been to a few of these, but never the Chester one. I managed to twist The Flames arm to troop round a racecourse. I tempted her with coffee, light shopping and a slap up feed. It worked. We ventured to the delightful city of Chester on this delightful sunny day by train. A fine idea.
On landing we sought our first brew. A fine specimen was imbibed at The Baristas. An independent coffee house set in an ancient rampart. Further down Watergate we bumped into celebrity chef and pub owner Dave Mooney on his way to his Chester haunt Mockingbird taproom. This before he hotfooted across to the racecourse for his 1pm cooking demonstration.
Having stumped our £8 each to enter we set out on the regimented route around the site. They reckon around 150 exhibitors were on hand. At times it felt a bit like going round a dreaded IKEA store, but with nicer things to look at! Unlike some festivals I’ve been to, you were shackled to a fairly narrow, roped off path. So whilst you avoided trudging through muddy fields (a feature of some I’ve been to) progress at times was determined by others and did on occasions grind to a significant halt, such was the volume of crowd.
Still undeterred we were rewarded by some fine stalls, selling and (let’s be honest here) free tasting some fine artisan wares. Beer, wine, cheese, hams, chutneys, game, pies, desserts and much more. Highlights including some fine ‘smelly apeth’ cheese by The Saddleworth Cheese Co. If you toiled through the entire route you were rewarded with a seat in the cooking demonstration tent. An optical illusion stage set was hosting a session by Simon Rimmer as we arrived. We watched him finish off a super meringue cake and sign a load of books. We then watched the aforementioned Dave Mooney and sidekick Richard, knock up a gumbo and reveal how to make and cook a proper burger. It was a tough crowd for all I think. Both Simon and David had to work hard by keeping the quips, stories and jokes flowing to keep the far away crowd engaged. They both did manfully though. There sets both heartily received.
We meandered back through the crowds with an impressive haul. The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse, Oliver’s Kitchen, Powell’s pies, Zingh Foods and a few others providing a few bits for tea.
We didn’t get too much for tea though as we then tootled up the hill to The Mockingbird Taproom. A couple of pints of Chester Gold ensued, followed by deep fried oysters, a mockingbird burger and a blueberry almond tart.
Suitably satiated and now some eight hours later, it was a slightly weary twosome who ambled back to the station for the train ride home. All in all a cracking day. These festivals are a foodies heaven and in fairness the Chester one seemed as good as any. The season has started now. I’m sure we’ll get to some more before the summers out.