UK food festivals 2011

Taste of London - taste_image.jpgSummer is not far away and food festivals will prove a big draw with families and gastronomes across the country. Whether you want to see how the big-name chefs cook your favourite dishes, or taste the best produce your area has to offer, there are plenty of events to choose from – both inside and outside the capital. Find your nearest festival and book tickets before the rush.

Exeter Festival of South-West Food & Drink (29 April-1 May)

Festival-goers can watch the Royal Wedding on big screens while they tuck into a picnic of fresh regional produce. Then it’s on to the cookery theatre (where celebrity chefs such as Lesley Waters, Mark Hix and Peter Gordon will lead demonstrations), and artisan food stalls. From 6pm on Friday and Saturday night, enjoy live music and real ales, along with more tasting opportunities, at Festival After Dark. Tickets cost from £7

The Real Street Food Festival, London (29 April-2 May)

Part-street party, part-food festival, this event, held at London’s Southbank Centre, will showcase fresh, good-value dishes from popular street vendors, such as the Eat Street Collective and Meatwagon (MeatEasy’s original incarnation). Well-known chefs such as Jun Tanaka will also be setting up stalls selling restaurant-quality food; meanwhile, a huge screen will broadcast the Royal Wedding action.

Taste of London (16-19 June)

Taste of London - Taste Festival – The Best Table in Town Taste22.gifTaste of London is the UK’s largest open-air food and drink festival, held in Regent’s Park. More than 40 establishments, including Corrigan’s Mayfair, Le Caprice, Gauthier Soho, Pétrus and Ora are confirmed. Chefs including Gary Rhodes, Michel Roux Jr and Silvena Rowe will hold cookery demonstrations. Tickets cost from £22 when booked in advance.

EAT! NewcastleGateshead (17-26 June)

Expect 10 days of free events that champion the north-east’s local food producers, restaurants and culinary talent. From 18-19 June, wander through street-food markets, or dip into the mini festivals dotted around the city, such as the Chocolate Festival and the Chilli Festival. Help create a giant edible map of north England from cake at Cakebook, on 26 June, or participate in food-themed parties at The Artisan House Party.

Taste of Edinburgh (1-3 July)

This popular festival of food is now in its fifth year. Enjoy dishes from top restaurants, including Restaurant Martin Wishart, Plumed Horse, and Ondine; watch cooking demonstrations from some of Scotland’s best-known chefs, such as Nick Nairn; and sample produce from all over the country – all for free.

The Henley Festival (6-10 July)

Get involved in this black-tie event on the banks of the Thames. Father-and-son team Albert and Michel Roux Jr will be cooking three courses for £110 from their ‘Riverside Restaurant’ tent, such as snails and steak tartare, while Heston Blumenthal will bring his Hinds Head pub to Henley, serving its venison burgers and chips. Tom Jones, Jools Holland, and Alexandra Burke will also perform from a floating stage on the river. Tickets start from £35.

Harvest, Ipswich (9-12 September)

The brainchild of ex-Blur-bassist-turned-cheesemaker Alex James and farmer-and-TV-presenter Jimmy Doherty, Harvest boasts performances by singer Eliza Doolittle and DJ Jo Whiley as well as cookery demos by cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Viajante’s Nuno Mendes. Browse the farmers’ market, or indulge yourself at Mark Hix’s Champagne and seafood bar. Luxury yurts with butler service are available for those who want to see out the summer in style.

Feast of Dorset (17-18 September)

The third annual Feast of Dorset, an event that promotes sustainability in rural communities, promises a weekend of food and entertainment with more than 100 exhibits and displays. Indulge in some of the West Country’s finest produce, from cheese and chocolate to wines and teas, watch cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs, or taste meat from the barbecue ‘pit roast’. Tickets are on sale from 1 May.

strawberries.jpgPlus, don’t miss…

Foodies Festival (nationwide, 30 April to 29 August)

The Foodies Festival will tour the country this summer, starting in Brighton and taking in Hampton Court, Manchester, Bristol, London and Edinburgh, before winding up in Oxford. The three-day event promises a pop-up cooks’ school with live demonstrations, a dedicated whisky lounge showcasing samples from around the world, and free tasters at the fine food market. Kids’ activities will include cooking sessions with expert tutors. Tickets cost £10–£15.