Top-drawer festivalling for groups who love food and pampering as much as they do music
Words: Damien Gabet
Photos: Carolina Faruolo, Jenna Foxton, Andy Hughes, Justine Trinckett, Andrew Whitton
I’ve done a few festival banquets in my time and on the whole the results have been, well, varying. Some seriously big names haven’t quite matched giddy expectations. So when we sat down at one of the well-appointed long tables – there were aperitivi waiting for us when we arrived – at the Cafe Murano tent, my excitement at the prospect of Angela Hartnett’s cooking was, shall we say, measured.
That is, right up until the pasta course came out. I was incredulous at first, so had to take a second mouthful. The penne before me was cooked to a millisecond-perfect al dente. Close your eyes (and your ears) and you’re back in the Covent Garden restaurant. I saw Angela walk past shortly after the course was cleared and had to go up to say how good it was. She seemed unsurprised, but pleased.
Elsewhere Ottolenghi, Petersham Nurseries and Thomasina Miers were busy bringing their own feasting menus to life, with, I was told, similar levels of success. The idea that you can visit this festival for the food alone is one that holds more water every year I visit.
Talking about Wilderness’s clement weather is admittedly getting a little boring, but as it’s so pivotal in the success of any comfortable festival experience, I’ll say that yet again it was glorious. A fact that didn’t escape me or my gang when we shared a wood-fired hot tub over a few flutes of Veuve down by the site’s idyllic lake. The team from Bathing under the Sky
do a great job of looking after groups, and the REN haircare products in the showers are a subtle reminder of the experience’s quality.
Well fed and pampered, we headed for the Atrium to Letters Live. A certain Mr Cumberbatch’s missive to his mother was touching and funny, but Tony Robinson (yes, Baldrick!) took gold with his vivacious take on a letter written by Lewis Carroll.
A lazy Sunday spent in and around the lake was finished off in style with a few of Bao's delicious steamed buns (minus a prefixed Lexington Street queue) to the music of the magnificent Grace Jones, who smashed a succession of party-friendly tracks dressed in little more than body paint and a fancy hat.
You can already book tickets for next year here. But first, check out some of our other reviews from the best festivals for hospitality this summer. For jazz there’s Love Supreme, for champagne fanatics there’s Krug Festival, and for rock there’s Download.