For some years now, I've heard fellow food lovers proclaim Abergavenny as the most enjoyable food festival in the UK. And for almost as long as I've been hearing that, I've intended to find out for myself.
This year I finally did.
And they were right!
I absolutely loved the festival and can completely understand how it captivates my friends.
- Entry pricing is reasonable; one doesn't feel that one is being fleeced just to gain access, given that one is spending again at the various classes and stands inside.
- There are fantastic talks, demonstrations and master classes throughout the festival and these are all very reasonably priced. The calendar is packed and the quality and variety of the schedule is amazing. I enjoyed every single event I attended and would happily have attended a third day of festival if it had given me the chance to squeeze in a few more.
- The quality of the exhibitors is excellent; virtually every stand was of interest to me. That's the complete opposite of many large food shows I've attended in recent years. Stalls aren't given to any old business that has scant connection with food, just to sell the requisite number of stalls. There is a focus on a quality experience for exhibitors and visitors alike.
- The stands are spread out across the town centre, giving exhibitors and visitors plenty of space. Even on Saturday, it never felt like the normal food show conveyor belt, shuffling slowly through the crowds from stand to stand, eventually reaching another only to be faced with a stall holder so busy that he or she is unable to spend any time interacting with customers or explaining much about the products.
- I had some enthusiastic, eye-opening and delightful conversations with many exhibitors; they had a readiness not only to sell but to interact with visitors (and fellow exhibitors) and share a joint passion for great food and drink.
- It was such a pleasure meeting up with friends over the weekend. I hadn't realised quite how many wonderful friends I've made in the food industry, and it was wonderful to see so many of them at the festival whether they were exhibitors, speakers or fellow visitors. It made an already welcoming festival feel even more so.
- I did a Rudehealth rant! I was hugely nervous to stand up and rant in front of so many people, especially following Rufus Carter, who's a superb speaker and really engaged with the crowd. I sped through my rant, and cut it short a little here and there, convinced I was boring the audience. But in the end it went OK and I'm glad to have done it!
Of course, we also visited many other stalls that I failed to photograph and had wonderful conversations with so many exhibitors.
Master Classes and Tutored Tastings
Again, we also attended a number of other events including a cookery demonstration and interview with Angela Hartnett and a surreal beer chat by Paul Ewen, Ian Marchant and Pete Brown.
Ranting for Rude Health
And, lastly, despite the fact it makes me grimace with embarrassment at my strange voice and odd mannerisms, here's the rant I did for Rude Health on why supplements on fixed price menus attract my ire.