“ Enjoy a variety of food and drink from around the world. „
June 2009 saw Birmingham's first International Food Fair set in Victoria Square and New Street. For one week beginning the 20th June the square and street and came alive with a variety of sights and smells from all over the world including a large amount of British products. I cam across this event by accident as I was wondering through the city so there was not a great amount of advertising (or at least not enough to get me to take note of the event).
As with most of these events it is a pretty costly event if you want to sample the produce and as the stalls were so tempting it was hard to resist! In the centre of the square was a Bavarian beer garden, selling a variety of German beers, international wines, as well as the normal soft drinks. These cost a pretty penny and surprisingly they had no fruit juices, so if you didn't drink alcohol you were basically limited to the regular cokes and lemonades of this world. The way the tent was set up was in traditional beer benches that you would find at the Oktoberfest. This was a lovely idea but was not so great taking into account one couple would take up a whole bench so it was pretty hard to get a seat. We instead sat outside the tent with our drinks but then it started to rain and the beer benches outside the tent became soaking wet. Perhaps more cover should have been provided taking into account the unpredictable English summer.
Some of the stalls I can remember were a German sausage stall, a Spanish paella stall, a French patisserie, English cider and ale brewery, an Austrian strudel stall, Polish stew stall, kebab stall, a traditional English sweet shop, Australian meat stall (crocodile, ostrich, kangaroo etc.), an Indian food stall, a Japanese fusion stall, a Caribbean stall, and other stalls selling French and Dutch cheese, Dutch biscuits, German wine, Spanish sausage, and a number of woks. There was quite a variety but I felt that to call it international was a bit rich as most stalls were European. There was nothing except Poland and Bulgaria representing Eastern Europe, no Scandinavian stalls and South and North America and Africa were completely excluded. It would have been nice to see some cuisine from these continents as well.
On the English side there was mostly local breweries, jams and honey but they were very expensive. I only sampled the Ostrich burger from the Australian stall, which was very nice but also quite small for the £4.00 price. I also tried the wild boar burger, which was delicious and I can vouch that they weren't just selling normal burgers with the same meat for everything, as my pessimistic, vegetarian father suggested! I had a couple of churros (Spanish style doughnut), which was a bit too sugary but the rest of my family enjoyed them.
In addition to the stalls there was also some live entertainment on some nights. We saw a steel drum band, which were very good but my only complaint was that there was too much noise going on because where we were sitting we could hear music from the German beer garden, music from the kebab stall and the steel drum band so it was all a bit of a mish mash of music.
In addition to the market the Birmingham beach was also open, which although was not sponsored by Heart FM for the event, was a pleasant addition. We took our food from the market and then sat on the sandy beach area in the deck chairs provided and watched Zorro on the big screen installed for the beach. The beach is there throughout the summer period.
Overall it was a pleasant few hours and there was lots to see but if you wanted to try everything or buy things it was really quite expensive. Definitely was worth a walk around though. If there is another one next year I will definitely return.