Food lovers embraced the shifting seasons in Stratford upon Avon this weekend and flocked to town to enjoy Stratford’s vibrant food and drink scene at Stratford Town Centre Food Festival.
Around 44,000 festival goers basked in the sunshine on Saturday and chilled out in the cooler temperatures on Sunday at this weekend’s Food Festival, organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) and sponsored by Loxleys Restaurant and Wine Bar.
The festival programme was packed with free demonstrations by talented chefs from local restaurants, six popular taste and ale trails, 120 stall market showcasing local and regional producers, free hands-on workshops and live music.
The 120 stalls saw a constant stream of visitors throughout the weekend. Festival Sponsor Loxleys’ General Manager Jonathan Lea, said: “Saturday was incredible, we sold out of everything! The layout was much better this year, particularly the placement of the demo tent. The music was great and the whole weekend had a really good festival feel. Really pleased to have both sponsored the event and to have fund raised for Molly Olly’s Wishes with the raffle.”
Jayne Richman-Bolt, owner of Shakespaw Cat Café, said: “This is the first year we’ve had a festival stall and we’ll definitely do it again. Lots of existing customers came over and it was good to connect. And it helps create an awareness about our cat café and the opportunity we give to be with cats here in town.”
Another first-time stall holder was independent Cosy Chic Pet Boutique from Bell Court. Owner Courtney Gilbert said: “We were swamped on Saturday. Before we’d even finished setting up, dogs were dragging their owners to our stall because of the smell! We were popular as we offer food for dogs rather than owners.”
Dave Joynes, Director of Cotswold Markets co-organised the Food Festival, said: “Cotswold Markets is absolutely delighted to have been part of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival 2019. We consider it to be the best one to date and would like to thank the traders, customers and our partners Stratforward BID for helping to deliver such a great event.”
Town Food and Ale Trails
There was a healthy appetite for the popular taste trails, with almost 800 people sampling Stratford’s local cuisine. Many taste trailers come back year after year to look for new places to go and revisit old favourites. Newcomers included The Corner House, Miller & Carter, Arden House, and Zizzis. Local resident Becky Steed said: “The taste trails give you the chance to try things on the menu that you might be too nervous to go for on a night out. There’s definitely some new meals I’ll order now.”
Wildwood Kitchen was just one of the restaurants offering delicious morsels on the taste trails this weekend. Edina Palmay, Wildwood Kitchen assistant manager said: “It’s great to welcome so many locals. We’ve been enjoying the tourist trade over the summer and now it’s a quieter time of the year so it’s a good time to remind the local people we’re here.”
Ale Trails created a tour around Stratford’s finest drinking establishments including favourites like Stratford Alehouse, The Old Thatch Tavern, The Townhouse, The Dirty Duck, The Golden Bee, The Lamplighter, Swan Theatre Bar, The Bear Freehouse, The Garrick and for the first time No.44 at the Arden Hotel.
Demos & Workshops
Demos in the Cookery Theatre on Bridge Street were highly popular, the Farm to Fork demo was a winner with talks from a local lamb farmer, Barry the Butchers and festival sponsor Loxleys. Other impressive shows were by Michelin starred Paul Foster of Salt, venison with the Woodsman’s head chef Jon Coates, steak tartare with Hotel du Vin’s head chef Phil Hase, British fondue with Paxton & Whitfield manager Jazz and of course Shakespeare Distillery proprietor, Peter Monks – who lead a packed audience in a brilliant game of gin bingo!
Free workshops in Bell Court saw many children create pizzas, delicious dips and fudge whilst adults later tasted wine with Stratford’s best independent wine merchant Vin Neuf.
Those hungry for more will be delighted to learn that the food festival’s culinary celebrations will be continuing in October. Restaurants and cafes will be hosting two weeks of special food offers and events from 4 to 20 October as part of Stratford-Upon-Avon Feasts. People can enjoy special menus, tantalising tasting and gastronomic adventures. Details will be released soon!
Stratforward Marketing and Events Manager Tor Wilkes said: “Saturday’s sunshine made for a sizzling festival! Crowds flocked in and got a taste for Stratford. Year on year there has been a 50% increase on people in town! Our new festival layout proved popular, our aim was to minimise traffic, so only two key roads were closed. Another change was the brilliant live music on Bridge Street which contributed to the fantastic atmosphere.
“Thanks to the support and funding by 420 town centre businesses, we organise the festival. It’s been wonderful to have so much positive feedback on the festival with many people planning to return to Stratford soon – there’s always so much going on. It’s a fantastic place to live and work!”