“ Address: Exeter Castle / Exeter / Devon / England / EX4 3PU „
Exeter Food and Drink festival has been running just off the centre of the city over the last few years, growing in scope with each event. It typically takes place during the weekend after Easter from Friday to Sunday. It is set in the grounds of Exeter Castle, extending via a footpath to Northernhay Gardens . There are three enterances to the festival, all just a short walk from the high street.
The function of the event is for members of the public to taste and buy foods from producers from all over the southwest of England. It is figureheaded by local chef Michael Caines who headsup the Abode chain of hotels and has a Michellin Star for his work at nearby Gidleigh Park. The website for the festival can be found here: http://www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/
Ticket prices as of the event which took place in 2010 are as follows: £6 per day per adult, free for anyone under 16, or £5 for the 'after dark' events.
Typically the part of the festival which takes place in the castle has most of the ready-to-eat stalls including hog roasts, pie stalls and burgers and an oyster bar. There is also a pretty substantial cooking theatre, where demonstrations take place throughout the day from local chefs including Caines himself. There is also a quite large tent which sells a range of local real ales. This is the section that is kept open for the 'after dark' festival which essentially involves entertainment including live music being performed in the square on the Saturday and Sunday.
Northernhay Gardens holds the vast majority of the 'take away' and 'browsing stalls'. That said, they do also have a hog roast and other hot food stalls as well as some smaller local ale producers. For the first time this year there was also a large barbeque food section which was undercover.
There are generally two large tents for producers. However,this year there was a smaller additional one which specialised in bakery goods such as cakes and breads. Each tent is set out in the expected way with stalls from all kinds of producers round the sides and down the middle with exits at various points. Just to give you a taste of what type of producers attend, here is an example list: a lot of cheese and cider producers (this is the westcountry after all), local chocolate producers, smokehouses, cupcake makers,
In the last couple of years local food emporium Darts Farm (which has a largestore on the outskirts of the city,and which I have written a review on in the last few months) has had its own tepee as well. In here there are a number of activities for children surrounding food, a woodburning stove which is cooked from throughout in order to provide samples of fresh bread and meat and a seated area for cooking demonstrations (many of which are family orientated).
This is a really great event in the regional calendar. Year on year it has grown both in size and in popularity, the only downside of which is that it can make walking around the stands quite crowded! It is a really grat opportunity to meet local producers and find products that you would not normally get to see. I had no idea that there were quite so many cottage industries in the local area. Many have promotional materials that you can take away with you so that you do not forget them and many of whom I have sought out and visited or looked on their website after the even.
Some people locally do complain about the price, but I really do not see it as that much at all as I think that you get your money's worth with the demonstration, samples and just the sheer pleasure of just looking at all the food. There is a really great atmosphere there and it is something that I would love to see in Exeter for years to come.