It has been a while since I have been to Abergavenny Food Festival, even taking into account its cancellation last year due to Covid.
With life very, very slowly (hopefully no backsliding will occur) getting back to normal a trip up from Cardiff on the Saturday to this year’s Festival seemed in order and tickets were duly bought.
With the event still subject to Covid concerns, tickets were limited and only sold on line (rather than also on the day). Numbers were much more limited as a result. There also seemed to be fewer vendors on the much more clearly delineated Festival sites (with limited, if any, spill over onto the streets) within the town.
I actually preferred this as it made for a much more relaxing experience than the last (rather crowded) festival I attended a number of years ago where it was a constant jostle, with a need for sharp elbows, to get through the crowds to access the wares of the many stalls/vendors.
The train (despite us having to go on an earlier one as the 10.53 we were booked on was cancelled) wasn’t heaving either, which all made for a rather relaxed affair.
Inevitably queues for some venders were longer than others, but it was all manageable and I never felt I was wasting the day away queuing
After getting our bearings with the aid of a site map, a marshall saving me from getting punched by J who said she would lamp me one if I said we need a map one more time after I said it for the umpteenth time as we walked from the station, the food and booze festivities kicked off with seafood and wine.
First up was a medley of seafood from the Mighty Soft Shell Crab Company
Nice and juicy and not overcooked king prawns and soft shell crab (the latter always a favourite of mine), came with a very good (combining sweet, sour and heat) chilli sauce and a nice (could have been crisper), light, tempura batter. Whilst both J and I thought the salad and wrap they came with were superfluous to requirements, we did really enjoy this.
Not too expensive for a decent pour at £8 each,
oddly in order to get the wines we ordered I firstly had to lend them a corkscrew (I always come prepared) and then actually open the bottle of the chardonnay for them. I think the generous pour may have reflected the assistance I provided.
Both nice enough drops, I preferred the chardonnay which had a dry, flinty, chablis quality to it.
Continuing with the seafood theme, we next had 3 rather fine oysters each from Oyster Meister.
Very nice they were too with that briny essence of the sea and a pleasing sweetness to the (quite dinky) oysters. We washed them down with a glass of fizz (£12 for 3 oysters with the fizz, which I though was great value) each.
I watch approvingly as a grandfather introduced his (clearly sceptical) grandson to the joys of raw oysters. Although in this case it was with limited success (he didn’t spit it out, but did somewhat grimace), stuff like that is surely what the festival is all about!
We move on from our intial start point to the Castle, but only after my impeccable map reading skills took us in entirely the wrong direction. Before we arrived in Crickhowell, we did a u-turn
Up by the castle, meat was mostly the order of the day, with the likes of the Beefy Boys, Murray May’s (clear winner of the longest queue of the day as far as I could tell) and the Queen Pepiada doing a very brisk trade.
After much deliberation we decided on the wares of the Bearded Taco
Whilst we queued we debated the relative merits of the stuff on the menu and after much toing and froing decided on a mix of meat and veggies, with the “Pork-a- cola” tacos (£7 for 2 very well filled tacos), the “Let’s Avo a cwtch” tacos (£7 for 2, again very well filled, tacos) and the quesadilla (cheese and jalapenos – £5)
Bit of a queue, but well worth the wait.
All very nice, with lots of gooey cheeseness and a pleasing level of chilli heat in the quasedillas from the abundant jalapenos.
The Let’s Avo Cwtch bested (to my mind and J’s) its more illustrious pork partner (still very good), with the combo of crisp “gin and tonic” batter (I really did get the botanics), creamy avocado, sharp lemony slaw and a touch of heat in the chipotle mayo making for a very moreish treat.
We washed these down with a bottle of a rather good rioja called Inedito from Bodegas Lacus (£15) we had purchased (on the way in from the Station) at Chesters, a rather fine wine shop/wine bar (more on them later) on Cross Street in Abergavenny.
I had planned in advance (as every wine bore does) and bought with me both glasses and a corkscrew.
Not too oaky or tannic, this had rich dark fruits and a touch of violets on the nose and palate. It held its own against the moderate heat in the food we drank it with quite nicely.
After our sojourn in the castle grounds, we wandered back down to the Brewery Yard and Market Hall for shopping (J) and more food (me).
We thought something sweet was in order and I had had a taste of an ice-cream (Lebanese coffee) from Hay -on-Wye based Shepherds at my mother’s in the summer and liked it very much. As a result when I saw their stall I made a beeline for it.
We went for a combo of a scoop each of the plum ripple and the toffee and honeycomb (£4.50).
The former was the clear winner for both me and J, with the tart plum working really well as against the sweet creaminess of the base ice cream.
A bit of shopping then ensued,
before we quenched our thirst with a pint as we planned our next move.
J and I were in agreement that our next stop would be Chesters where you can buy a bottle in the wine shop and pay corkage (£10) to drink in, with the place having a very nice courtyard. The added allure of Franks Hotdogs being in residence that day very much sealed the deal.
The place was packed, but getting served was not a problem at all. All very convivial and dog friendly and with good wine on offer exactly my kind of place.
Tempting as the courtyard was, we managed to snag a seat inside and J was in the chair wine wise. I was rather proud that she chose a menica from the abundantly filled shelves (my influence clearly rubbing off on her wine choices).
Nice drop this, with black and red fruits and floral notes.
I rather enjoyed it,
with me quite jolly (and red) at that point of the day.
We couldn’t not have a Franks hotdog
and kept it simple.
Lovely as always, a Franks’ dog is just such a good dog!
For those not wanting to buy an off the shelf bottle and pay the corkage there was also a festival menu.
We did try the Bojo and if I am honest neither of us liked it – was a far cry from the stuff tasted a while back with the Mystere Wine Club. You win some you lose some it seems!
Chesters is a cracking little place (food festival or otherwise). The people of Abergavenny are very lucky to have such a place.
We had a rather jolly day at the festival, with it really feeling like normality has almost returned with events like this going ahead (despite the dampener of troubling rumours of a return to Covid level 1 status or even a firebreak here in Wales – please God no more, I really am done on that front).
I quite liked the slightly pared back nature of this year’s festival, which made for a much more relaxing day than my last visit a few years back.
I know there is more to the Abergavenny Food Festival than just eating and drinking (shopping in J’s case), with lots to tax the brain with debates, demos and talks, but if I am honest J and I were just there for the eating and drinking (and shopping – J) bit and that was all we did. I am sure that we would have benefited from attending some of talks/debates etc. but this year we just wanted to have fun eating and drinking and we succeeded admirably in that aim.
Perhaps we are just philistines, but if so – so what? The important thing is having a good time with whatever floats your particular boat. For J and I that tends to involve stuffing our faces.
See you next year Abergavenny Food Festival 😀.