So last weekend I was a busy girl. After making the, I’m sure you’ll all agree, magnificent steak cake, attending the 21st birthday party and then overseeing the ensuing carnage, I went to Oxford to attend the Foodies Festival.
As ever when you decide to rely on public transport in this marvellous city of ours, I was at its mercy. I was initially feeling so pleased with myself having booked train tickets from Paddington to Oxford in advance and then things quickly began to unravel. Now I live in Parsons Green which is pretty handy if you want to get to Paddington. District Line to Edgware Road and job done.
In the week, when I don’t want an Edgware Road train there is no shortage of supply but as soon as I actually need can you get one? No, all of a sudden they are all going to Upminster. So anyway, waiting patiently on the platform at Parsons Green, noting that Upminster train and then just as the doors are about to close… Announcement. The control room at Parsons Green regrets to inform me that owing to a signal problem, there are no trains running between High Street Kensington and Edgware Road. Disaster. And I didn’t detect a hint of regret in the announcers voice. Why announce it when the train on the platform is just closing its doors so that you couldn’t possibly ‘seek an alternative route‘? Although we had left more than enough time to get to Paddington using the traditional route, there was not going to be enough time for us to seek an alternative route and make our train. As you know, advanced tickets are only valid on the one train. In order to use the return train tickets, we would also have to get to Paddington because they were of course, in the machine and couldn’t possibly be collected from an alternative station.
This, not appealing to us very much, and the prospect of having to buy new outward journey tickets, (presumably at vast expense and I am assuming that TFL are not interested in compensating me for those tickets that I was unable to use), the most sensible alternative route for us to take was the Oxford Tube. Apart from the fact that you have to pay in cash, this was a reasonable alternative to the train and actually meant that when we arrived in Oxford we were a mere 5 minute walk from where the Foodies Festival was being held. Had we got the train we would have been on the wrong side of the city of entirely.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. The Foodies Festival. What did I make of it? In truth not a lot and I left feeling not only disappointed but wondering what on earth my £10 entrance fee had been for. It’s not that there weren’t some nice producers there but that I had expected much more from it. To call it a festival was, to my mind, something of a leap. I would have described it as a farmers’ market that has a few alcohol tents and a couple of other demo tents shoved in for good measure. I guess in some ways, although it lacked the hustle and the bustle, it reminded me of Broadway Market, although one that you have to pay for the privilege of going to.
The site was small and I think that my brother and I spent about an hour there in total and we hardly rushed around. We initially took the time to wander around the whole site, taking it in, deciding where we thought we might grab something to eat from (given that we were there at lunch time, the site was exceptionally quiet) and what stalls might deserve closer inspection. There were some really lovely producers present offering samples, (some of which it has to be said were rather on the mean side – a crumb of fudge for example), and we did make quite a few purchases, the usual suspects, sausages, cheese etc but there was nothing exciting and for me, the event lacked any kind of wow factor. I was surprised as I had expected a festival called Foodies Festival, and presumably targeted at people who are used to sampling great produce and eating out, to be displaying, in addition to normal great produce that there would be exciting items and unusual flavour combinations on offer. Oysters, crab, tagine, paella, ostrich and spring bok burgers – all nice but all rather old hat.
The standard of the food on offer was pretty high however and there was a pretty good variety of hot food available to purchase on site: paella, tagine, jerk chicken, Thai food, sausages, burgers, lamb wraps, a hog roast and possibly a few other things I have probably forgotten. I paid £5.50 for a hot pork roll. Although the staff were rather surly, the pork roll was delicious and I did get the biggest piece of crackling ever so that was all good. We also had some gelato which was lovely.
The site itself felt a bit unloved and seemed as if it had been put together in rather a rush. There was virtually no signage, very few toilets (although given the attendance figures I can’t imagine that this was a major problem) and there just seemed to be a lack of attention to detail. Back of house areas were clearly visible and as a visitor, I want it look as if the event just sprang into being. The event also seemed to lack a specific identity; there was so little in the way of Foodies branding that you would be forgiven for not knowing that it was the Foodies Festival. In amongst the real producers there was a man selling junk from America – Lucky Charms cereal, Nerds, Hershy’s chocolate etc, it just didn’t make any sense. I thought that the tickets that looked like they had been torn from a magazine were a particularly nice touch.
All in all we spent about an hour at the Foodies Festival, and no, it wasn’t really worth the journey from London but as we had missed the festival when it was held in Battersea Park… Undoubtedly the coolest thing about the event was the Bus Bar but owing to some people’s recent excesses in the alcohol area, we did not stop for a drink.