Thursday 12 September 2013

Liverpool Food & Drink Festival 2013

Another year has whizzed by and another Liverpool Food & Drink Festival has been and gone.  Always well represented by the local restaurants and seems to get bigger and better every year.  This is what makes the festival one of our favourites as we often see the same traders at other festivals just working different festivals.  With the Liverpool festival there is a high attendance of local favourites such as the Sidedoor, Puschka, London Carraigeworks, Hub amongst others and the explosion of recent openings within the last year including Nolita Cantina, Free State Kitchen and Neon Jamon.  I haven't included Almost Famous in the 'local' list as to me they will always be from Manchester.

We attended both days armed with a plan to tackle the stalls on the Saturday and reserved a table for the Pickled Walnut popup restaurant for the Sunday.  Lucky we picked it in that order as the good old British weather returned rendering most of Sunday a washout so we were quite content to be under cover.  Over the course of the first day we enjoyed numerous dishes from many stalls.  Another thing that struck me was the pricing of the food in the festival, it was much better value for money here than other festivals, just as well as it is a family event after all.  We started out at Neon Jamon and had a chorizo dog with alioli and a grilled sardine, great value at £2 and £1.50 each.

Moving on we enjoyed a tasty pork belly dish at Side Door followed by a brownie sundae later on to please Mrs Nom and her sweet craving.

We have a thing for offal so decided on chicken heart skewers at Bem Brazil at 2 for £2.50.  There was mackerel semen on offer at Lunya but Mrs Nom didn't fancy that and I didn't want to finish it by myself, maybe next time!  

Feeling thirsty at this point we settled down at the Palm Sugar stand and had two cocktails, a French Martini and a Mekhong Sour.  We had to use our umbrella as a makeshift parasol halfway through the drinks but thankfully it was only a passing shower and that was the last of the rain on the Saturday.

Feeling refreshed we joined the queue for mini sized versions of the burgers served at cult brand Almost Famous.  The burgers included small versions of the Triple Nom, Kids in America and the Famous Burger.  Mrs Nom loved the names especially the Baby Nom although this could mean something else in our case!  The brioche buns were slider sized but the burgers were twice as large which made for some messy eating!

After this we wandered around the market stalls which included utensils, chocolates, cakes and sauces to see what we could buy to take home.   Being the cake addict that she is, Mrs Nom had her heart set on cakes so we chose a few from Christines Cakes and had a goat cheese muffin as well.

I'm more of a savoury person so back to the stalls we went, this time in search of seafood.  I've always wanted to try the Boston clam chowder at Free State Kitchen and this was my lucky day.  At £3 this was great value and packed with clam meat.  The dogs looked tempting as well but were too big and we had plenty of other things to try!

Paul Askew of London Carraigeworks and stalwart of the Liverpool dining scene had a seafood emporium at the festival and we went to check out what was on offer.  The chiller had a good range of seafood and we asked if they could prepare and cook some large succulent scallops for us on the spot in the makeshift kitchen.  Of course they could and within a short time we were served the beautifully cooked scallops on a bed of lentils.

We are suckers for Thai food and couldn't resist a pad Thai, although disappointed it was precooked and lacked the freshness of being just cooked from the wok.  I made up for this by adding extra chilli flakes which Mrs Nom was not too happy about! 

There were plenty of other stalls that we couldn't fit in including tacos from Margo & Rita and hot dogs from Piggy Smalls, which is a sister stall of Castro the street food vendors.  One ever popular stall was Brendas sui mais, the queue was constantly massive, not sure why as they were selling frozen sui mais that could be bought from Chinese supermarkets.  Wahaca, a London Mexican brand were promoting their range of sauces.  I noted Lucha Libres absence from this and hope they have a stall next year.

The next day we had a plan to see Gizzi Erskine, lunch at the Pickled Walnut popup and then to finish by watching Aiden Byrne in action.  Being a lover of Asian food, Gizzi demonstrated Korean Fried Chicken.  The lucky few at the front got to taste a piece of this, we were wondering why Hungry Hoss was hovering at the front and we found out why when he was first to the plate!  Armed with this knowledge we quick off the mark for Aiden Byrnes demonstration later on.  

Trying hard to this point to not look at pictures from twitter of the Pickled Walnut food we made our way over to the popup restaurant.  Not sure if because of the rain if everyone tried their luck for a table but it seemed like chaos when we arrived, we had prepaid and were not on the list, but after sorting this out we were soon seated.  The service was slow and the servers seemed rushed off their feet but the food made up for it when it finally arrived.  The amuse was a deep intense mushroom veloute served in eggshells which warmed us up.

The starters was a sight to behold and captured the picnic theme of the popup.  Without naming all of the little treats  (see menu below) our favourites were the pork, blacking pudding and apple scotch eggs and the potted chicken and Guinea fowl.

The starters was a sizeable amount of food and we struggled to finish the mains.  The standout being the pigeon breast, beetroot and kale.

The desserts were a fun medley and my favourite was the panna cotta.

Any feelings of slow service were forgiven by this point and we commend Pickled Walnut on delivering quality food, at 80 covers with three sittings per day over the weekend it was no mean feat.

Feeling stuffed we made our way back to the main tent for Aiden Byrne.  Here he was demonstrating two dishes from the soon to be opened Manchester House menu, turbot with fermented cabbage and the sea and soil oxtail. The power supply cut off during the early stages and was intermittent but Aiden took it in his stride and improvised by shouting so everyone could hear.  it was fascinating to hear the scientific aspects to the dishes including reducing a bottle of rioja to a few drops to intensify the flavour.  Mrs Nom was armed and ready to make a bid for the food in order to try it at the end of the demonstration.  It certainly increased our anticipation of the opening.

All in all the festival was a fantastic weekend and credit goes to SK Events for running such a good festival, well deservedly recognised within the top 10 food festivals in the UK.  As we were leaving we captured a rainbow, typical as the festival was drawing to a close.  We look forward to next year with better weather hopefully!

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