We weren’t sure about the food festival this year. A fiver to get in? A fiver to go shopping? To enter a restaurant? We were a little nonplussed by that to be honest. With the weather being crap yesterday our spirits were suitably dampened and we gave it a miss.

However, a spot of nice weather and some good feedback this morning and we headed along, though for various reasons we didn’t make it until half three. It was still a fiver to get in, which was either a reflection of the food festival launch’s popularity or rather cynical, depending on how you look at it.

Still the sun was shining, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and the launch of this year’s Liverpool food festival promised a culinary treat unrivalled since, well, the last one.

What becomes clear is that the fiver entrance fee has attracted more families, at least proportionally. Events in Sefton Park do have a habit of attracting certain elements who seem unlikely to be seeking a crepe suzette. Queues are, on the whole, down a little though some stalls still seem absurdly over-subscribed. There’s definitely scope for more exhibitors in the future.

We liked the addition of a large market section – new since the last time we attended – that allowed quite a few local farms and foodie entrepreneurs a share of the limelight. It’s a little hard to see vegetable carving or edible spoons faring especially well in these straitened times, but fair play to them for being there; the attendance of this kind of exhibitor raised the festival launch from the ‘£3 meatballs’ fest it’s been in previous years.

Fear not, however. Those seeking immediate sustenance were well catered for with many big-hitting names in Liverpool restauranting in attendance. Look, there Candice Fonseca being interviewed. And there’s Lunya’s Peter Kinsella carving up a joint. We were expecting to see a talk from the Liverpool Organic Brewery but we either missed it or it didn’t take place, but there were regular masterclasses all day at a fiver a pop

Also evident were quite a few big name hands, handing out freebies that delighted kids but we felt detracted a little from this being a celebration of Liverpool food. The sight of a Warburton’s stall handing out sliced bread and butter seemed especially absurd given the surroundings.

We’ve felt that the food festival exhibitors have got it slightly wrong in the past. Small portions for not a lot of cash are what we want from this launch event – that way we can sample lots of different things rather than run out of cash and space in our stomachs before we’ve even got started.

There was some evidence of that this year – we had a decent five-piece sushi plate from Sapporo Tepanyaki for three quid – but a number of places were sticking to the ‘meal for a fiver’ thing. All well and good, but we want space for more.

We managed to get an absurdly generous portion of fall-apart tender beef shin in a rich tasty sauce for £2.50. It was a hefty meal but we didn’t complain as it was so good. What else? Well our companions tried a good pork and black pudding sausage from the same stall and some chicken and lamb curry from another.

A lot of stalls seemed to be offering scouse, something of a bussman’s holiday we’d’ve thought. It’s worth remembering that scouse is basically stew and rarely anything better than filling, but each to their own.

Someone, it may have been Mayur, handed out what we took for mango lassi, but turned out to be the sweetest drink known to man. We headed to the Magners tent for some free tastes of their new flavours, which are three shades of totally forgettable.

In the centre, as usual, was the usual Oirish-orientated music. We heard some duelling banjos at one point, and hopes were raised for the Loose Moose String Band, but we didn’t spot them.

A Mal Maison tent seemed to miss the point of an outdoor tent, but the exhibitors did seem to cater for all comers, so fair’s fair.

All told we left happy. The sun was out; food was cooking; people were happy. They did have an Ainsley Harriot brand bag of cous-cous in their free Liverpool Food Festival bag after all.

Liverpool Food Festival continues all week

  • Richard White

    I’d have happily paid 20 quid if it meant keeping the tracksuit brigade out of this. As it turned out a fiver was enough – what a bargain! The festival was a great success, family friendly, no drunken louts & a great showcase for the growing ranks of quality restaurants, delis & producers in Merseyside.

  • Dean

    The Masterclasses were free not a fiver. The only ones you paid a fiver for were the Simon Rimmer and John Torode chef demos. There were 2 days of free chef demos on both the main demo tent (Stefan Gates, Aiden Byrne, Ian Pengelley) and also the smaller demo tent which was new this year.

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