The Stratford Town Centre Food Festival was the toast of the town as businesses taking part in the popular event gathered to raise a glass ahead of its return this weekend.

The festival returns this weekend (Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23rd), tempting tens of thousands of people to Stratford-upon-Avon for two days of food-filled fun. One of several events organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) throughout the year to promote Stratford to visitors, the festival sprawls through the town’s historic streets, showcasing it as a food and drink destination from people from across the region.

The two-day event - which was recently included in the Top 10 UK Events for September 2018 on the Holiday Lettings from TripAdvisor blog - includes an array of free demonstrations, popular Taste and Ale Trails featuring Stratford’s food and drink businesses and a bustling market showcasing local producers.

It is sponsored by local restaurant Loxleys, which hosted a champagne breakfast on Monday (September 17th) to celebrate its fourth year supporting the event. The Sheep Street restaurant served up breakfast for guests including winners of a competition organised with Touch FM, whose presenters Ollie Gallant and Si Alexander helped serve up food under the watchful eye of Loxleys’ chefs.

Among the guests were BID businesses who are involved in the Taste and Ale Trail including cheesemongers Paxton and Whitfield, which will be teaching visitors about the history of British cheese in a demonstration at the Waterside Cookery Theatre on Saturday, and Sabai Sabai, which will be running a demonstration on Sunday as well as a Thai Fruit Carving workshop in Bell Court on Sunday.

Staff from the Golden Bee, which is taking part in the Ale Trail as well as running a ‘Gintastic’ demonstration on Saturday, were also at the breakfast, while Adam Lucock from Barry the Butcher, which will be offering punters a taste of three new varieties of sausage on its stall at the festival, also joined the special occasion. 

“It was great to have our fellow businesses turn out to raise a glass with us ahead of the festival,” said Loxleys General Manager Jonathan Lea. “We’re delighted to be back as sponsor of this event, which shows everyone exactly what great food and drink Stratford has to offer. And as well as our stall, our sous chef Chris Butler is back showing off his skills with a demonstration on Sunday afternoon.”

Torquil Chidwick, managing director of Wood Street restaurant Sabai Sabai, said: “Thai food transfers really well to street food so it’s great to have a stall at the festival to show people what we do. We’re always trying to attract more people to the restaurant throughout the year and the festival is a great way to get exposure for the business so people are tempted to come back.”

Jasmine Reeves, manager at Paxton and Whitfield, also on Wood Street, added: “The festival brings people to the town. There are foodie people around and it’s foodie people who are interested in local produce.”

Adam Lucock, from Chapel Street-based Barry the Butcher, said: “The festival’s great for the town, it’s good because it’s in the middle of the town, it brings people from far and wide. People come for the festival, but they might stay over at one of the hotels, have dinner in one of the restaurants, and buy from us or other local businesses while they’re at the festival.”

The festival’s producers market organised by Cotswold Market will feature more than 100 stalls with a focus on local and regional food and drink producers. In Bell Court, visitors will be able to enjoy free hands-on workshops on the Sunday as well as live music on both days from 11am to 5pm. Running on both Saturday and Sunday, the Food and Ale Trails give visitors the chance to taste sample treats from a selection from around 30 bars, restaurants and cafes in Stratford.

The packed programme of demonstrations runs from 11am on Saturday to 5.30pm and 11am on Sunday until 4.30pm. It will showcase local culinary talent with cooking demos from chefs including Paul Foster from Salt, Townhouse chefs Matthew Hiscoe and Ben Draper and Phil Hase, head chef at Hotel du Vin, while other demonstrations will include baking, fudge-making, and gin and wine tastings.

Ruth Wood, Events Manager at Stratforward, said: “We’ve kicked off this year’s event with a pre-festival pop thanks to the Loxleys champagne breakfast. The festival is all about getting as many of our town centre businesses involved and showing visitors what’s right here in Stratford so they’ll come back time and time again.”