Foodies Festival at Marble Hill House warms a wet weekend
As the rain poured down on another wet bank holiday Monday, things did not look promising for the staff and stall-holders of the Foodies Festival. At the open event held in the grounds of Marble Hill House, the constant deluge of water had created a scene that was more Glastonbury than Richmond. The few members of the public that were there for the 11am opening seemed tentative and it was beginning to look like this event, which had seen so much success in the past few days, would end as a washout.
The fact that it didn’t is testament to the quality of the produce on display. The crowds may have been a little cautious about coming in, but once they did they were hooked. In the light drizzle of early afternoon, the fields became a sensory feast that was all too beguiling. Huge racks of beef ribs sizzled over a charcoal grill, while fried potatoes, laden with condiments and lashings of comte cheese, were handed out in abundance. Afghan tikka wraps – thick, pillowy naan bread filled with raita, marinated chicken and fresh salad – proved popular, as did the creamy chai lattes clutched in many a damp hand.
Fine goods and compelling narratives proved, as they have so often in the past few years, to be an ever popular pairing. Every stall had its own story to tell, a narrative of artisan production that justified their expense. The food they were selling had soul: it had been sourced, grown and cooked with the kind of loving care that no mass-produced product could ever hope to mimic. Pinkster gin was a particularly striking example. As the founder explained to us, it was initially created for his close friends but has since drawn considerable interest for its beautifully simplistic spectrum of flavours. Years of hard work and passion have led to this final blend, a delightfully smooth mixture of six botanicals with heavy juniper notes and a refreshing hint of raspberry
For those wanting a slightly more educational experience, the event tents provided a wide range of classes and shows throughout the day. Here the Foodies Festival faltered a tad, obviously caught in a struggle between accessibility and detail. Demonstrations like the Burlesque Baking certainly contained some helpful hints but felt decidedly basic. The excellent Charlotte White, known for her work with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, could have been talking about the colour contrasts that made her Strawberry Siren cake so visually striking but instead she was forced to explain the ratios of a decent cream cheese frosting. The Botanical Chocolate section followed suit, opening the audience’s mind to the possibility of creating ganaches but barely touching on fascinating topics such as flavour pairings, cocoa percentages and chocolate tempering.
In the end, the event was more of a food market with a few extra elements than a real festival of culinary enthusiasm. In its attempts to cater to even the most casual of interests, the Foodies Festival sadly failed to utilise the talented staff that it had amassed. Whilst it was certainly enjoyable, there was a lingering sense of unfulfilled potential that left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.
For further information about the Foodies Festival, including Clapham Common and Kenwood House, visit here.