s another summer rolls in, the food festival season is slowly beginning to wake; you can all but hear the sound of two-stroke engines in old Citroen trucks cough as the fields call.
this year looks to be something of a bumper year; perhaps it’s just be so long since a season went by uninterrupted. There are some old favorites — most of the “blockbusters”, below — alongside little known numbers trying their thing. There’s also plenty of booze, which doesn’t feel entirely coincidental.
Some of these are events touring the country, others are just here for a day or two — either way, they’re what might be called moveable feasts. Below are our favourites.
Pub in the Park
Tom Kerridge’s behemoth rolls on into its fifth year. The star chef is back touring the country with his festival that does what it says on the tin: celebrating the best of the Great British boozer. Hosted with the help of his cheffy mates — Michel Roux Jr, Andi Oliver and Ravneet Gill among them — the family-friendly fest promises pints, finely done pub grub, chef demos and music from the likes of Craig David, Sister Sledge and Faithless.
May 27-29 (Wimbledon Park, SW19), June 24-26 (Dulwich Park, SE21), September 2-4 (Chiswick House & Gardens, W4), pubintheparkuk.com
London Restaurant Festival
Co-founded by this paper’s then restaurant critic, Fay Maschler, this month-long festival has for the past 13 years championed spots across the capital. Spread city-wide, expect chef-led sittings (Nieves Barragán, Matt Tebbutt and Sally Abé and Theo Randall are all involved), restaurant-hopping tours and even a rosé masterclass or two. October is arguably the main event, but so far, the summer one looks more fun.
June (special summer edition) and October, across London, londonrestaurantfestival.com
Taste of London
They call it “the world’s greatest food festival” which is a tad strong, but for almost two decades, Taste has been offering tens of thousands of Londoners — some 55,000 this year — a chance to tuck into food stalls from some of the capital’s best -known spots. Where else could you eat Andalusian from Bibo, only to turn around for a bite of west African from Chishuru? There are bars throughout, live cooking demos and even a speed-dating session. Never cheap, but a chance to explore.
June 15-19, Regent’s Park, NW1, london.tastefestivals.com
The Great British Beer Festival
Pumps at your local not cutting it? Pint lovers are met with something of an impossible challenge at the huge Olympia — where to start? The Campain for Real Ale (CAMRA) have pulled together hundreds of brewers pouring their best beer and ciders. Live music and classic pub games are on too, to stop it all getting a bit nerdy, while those dragged along who don’t fancy, say, a double-hopped sour IPA, will find gin, wine and coffee at the various bars don ‘t around.
August 2-6, Olympia London, W14, gbbf.org.uk
London Craft Beer Festival
Similar in principle to the Great British Beer Festival, but with more of a party atmosphere, this one has some top restaurants serving plates alongside the endless parade of pints — think the likes of Fallow, Farang and 10 Greek Street. Tickets at around £60 are pricey but include all the beer, and there’s live music to boot. Wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages are on tap too.
August 12-13, Tobacco Dock, E1W, londoncraftbeerfestival.co.uk
Hampton Court Food Festival
Though in part about the venue — a summer’s day in the grounds here is glorious — this one is for the family, with a mix of street food stalls (look out for Camden’s creole spot, Bayou New Orleans Kitchen, or cult fried-chicken specialists , Cluck Farmyard), bars, a bandstand and entertainment for the little ones, including Shire Horse rides. Ahead of the main event is the Artisan Fayre on May 13-15, promising stalls of independent bites, a chance to nosy around Henry VIII’s gaff and fête games to boot.
August 27-29, Hampton Court Palace, KT8, hrpfestivals.com
If a festival had a beard, it would be this one: on its black, blokey website, it describes itself as dedicated to “food, drink, fire and music.” Still, it has modernized somewhat, and despite the name, is these days more about (very en vogue) live fire cooking, including fish and veg. Gusts of smoke carrying the scent of sizzling fat billow as 60 of the world’s top live-chef chefs stir the flames to the sound of roaming brass bands and live soul singers.
September 2-4, Tobacco Dock, E1W, meatopia.co.uk
Brews & booze
Rose Garden Party
This bash was such a hit last year they’ve brought it back for round two. Six pop-up bars and drinks trucks are pouring out pink wine in all its forms, fizzy, flat, stirred into cocktails and cooled till its frozen. Plenty of the piazza’s restaurants are getting involved too, with Ave Mario vying for this summer’s most Instagrammable terrace, presently pouring Italian rosé on a terrace blooming with pink spring florals.
Until May 15, Covent Garden, coventgarden.london
Another craft beer get-together, this one is less about ferments and yeasts and hops and all that — though it’s there for those who want it — and more geared towards having a good time. With 99 stands and more than 150 drinks exhibitors pouring, the huge Printworks is likely to feel cozy. DJs play throughout and there’s drinking food on hand — think pizzas, chicken nuggets, burgers and pies.
May 6-7, Printworks, SE16, brewldn.com
A weekend celebration of Cinco de Mayo, this one is all-Mexican-everything, with a heavy lean into the mind-numbing joys of tequila and mezcal. Twenty producers will be on hand, said to each be carrying a dozen or so expressions of the stuff, and there’ll be explanations of what goes into both spirits — both are complex beasts, really — with tastings galore. It’s not all just for drinking neat, though, with Margarita’s, Paloma’s and Michelada’s poured at the bar. Street food is on hand for soaking-up duty, too.
May 7, Tobacco Dock, E1W, spiritsociety.com
Hosted by the same gang as La Piñata, above, this one does a similar thing but for gin — only, it’s rather bigger. A whopping 60 distillers, who between them have more than 300 gins, will be on hand handing out free samples (all included in the £30 ticket price), with masterclasses on hand a chance to mingle with some of the industry’s biggest names. This year, for the first time, there will be street food from Feast It, alongside with a lounge area and live music.
June 11-12, Tobacco Dock, E1W, spiritsociety.com
Gin & Rum Festival
No surprise this local one is always a bit of a laugh: £6 spirit-and-mixers, DJs playing right into the night and dancing definitely encouraged. There’s plenty of gin and rum at the bars across the church, but this year tequila too, and Prosecco and beer for those who need a little break from the hard stuff. Look out for the talks and “meet the maker” sessions happening across the weekend, too.
July 8-9, St Mary’s Marylebone, W1, ginandrumfestival.com
Know your niche
East Meets East
Staking a claim as perhaps the longest festival of all time, this is a six-month affair advocating for the food and drink of Korea. It’s not a huge shindig — Three Sheets is a cozy kind of bar — but it will offer monthly cocktails and paired plates, all making the most of the east Asian country’s top flavours. Think lots of sisho, plenty of fried chicken and jinro everywhere.
May 10-October 11, Three Sheets bar, E8, threesheets-bar.com
Urban Village Fete
They’re calling it the “party of the year”, which may be a first for a village fête of any kind. While it’s not quite cabbage-of-the-year competitions and Morris dancers, there’s enough in that vein: collage club, paper hat making, a coaster marbling workshops. But come too for local street food traders doing their thing, free talks and music from the likes of Bradley Zero and Cosmo Murphy
May 15, Central Park, SE10, greenwichpeninsula.co.uk
Vegan Life Live
This straightforwardly-named session does exactly as might be expected: vegan food in all its forms. Think meat-free pizza, kebabs, ice creams, pasta, curry and soul food, alongside talks and demonstrations from some of the scene’s biggest names, including @pengveganmunch’s Jacob, Nourishing Amy and Omari McQueen.
June 11-12, Alexandra Palace, N22, london.veganlifelive.com
Taste of the Caribbean
The biggest festival dedicated to Caribbean food in Europe, not just the UK, for one day only the Croydon Road Recreation Ground will be home to almost 30 street food stalls, traders and producers serving everything from hot snacks to creamy desserts, alongside non-edible Caribbean goods. A celebration of the region as a whole, there’ll also be live music, cooking demonstrations and a decently kitted-out children’s area.
July 2, Croydon Road Recreation Ground, BR3, tasteofcaribbeanuk.com
London Halal Food Festival
Now in its seventh year and going strong, the London Halal Food Festival is a riot of Halal cooking in all its guises, across a multitude of cuisines, alongside smoothie and mocktail bars, a pudding-only zone and what’s being dubbed a “Cookery Theater ”. Competitive types should get into the Halal eat offs, too.
July 9-10, London Stadium, E20, londonhalalfoodfestival.com
The humble chicken wing is treated as a king here, with an entire festival dedicated to it. A touring jobbie — wing mania is apparently a UK-wide thing — the London edition is the largest chicken wing festival in the world, which is perhaps a title that rarely goes uncontested. Nevertheless, it looks enormous fun: wings every which way, lots of live music, and chicken-scoffing competitions for those who think they’re the cock of the walk.
July 16-17, London Stadium, E20, wingfest.co.uk