Yawn! We’ve just woken from a post-lunch nap, after returning from a really lovely morning at the Tynemouth Food Festival, running today and tomorrow (7th and 8th May 2016) 10am-6pm at Tynemouth Priory and Castle.
As Mr Mini-Apprentice had a play date booked in after lunch, we decided to go early, and I’m glad we did. We found parking easily in the spaces above King Edward’s Bay and paid £3.60 for a 3 hour stay. Walking round the corner, we reluctantly walked past our stalwart treat venue, Riley’s Fish Shack, and the Priory appeared through the mist.
We were greeted by a very friendly and jolly group of sea cadets, who took our £3.50 entrance fee (free for under 16s) and furnished us with wristbands, which allow us to come and go as we wish all day. As we walked through the gate we were met with the joyful sounds of a brass band, marching round the grounds to rousing and cheerful music.
This year, the festival boasts more than 50 local producer stalls, a huge street food area featuring 20 of the North’s street food vendors and a wide selection of demonstrations and hands on activities
Our first stop was the market hall marquee. We enjoyed the array of “decidedly different dressings and relishes” from Wildon Grange, and we particularly enjoyed that each product is named after different friends or family members. Boulevard Cuisine was also there, with a range of smoked products. Their smoked oils were flavourful and, with their pretty ‘North Shields’ labels, would make a great gift for a foodie Geordie.
The Northumberland Sausage Company’s pork and black pudding version was a big hit with all four of us. We’ll be popping into the Grainger Market for their 2 packs of 6 thick sausages for £5 offer the next time the sun’s out for a BBQ. (Maybe in 2017?!)
I could have stayed at the Dickies Nutz stall all day, picking away at the amazing range of flavours. They are seriously moreish! With flavours such as chili and garlic, Jamaican jerk, tandoori masala and manuka honey and coconut cashews, there is something for everyone. I even took the challenge of the Supahot- it was indeed Supahot and my tongue was on fire for several minutes after, but I was pretty chuffed that I managed to endure it with dignity! The nuts are handmade in small batches in Washington, just down the road from our office. They use all natural ingredients, are gluten free and the savoury range is also suitable for vegans.
I was pleased to meet the family behind No Muu, taste their delicious chocolate, and hear a bit about their story. After becoming frustrated by the lack of “child friendly” dairy free chocolate, they decided to do something about it, and have created a range of hand made dairy free, gluten free, nut free vegan treats themselves. Check their website for stockists and pick up some for a treat. The exciting flavours are suitable for everyone, and come in grown up and child friendly packaging.
We spent about an hour ambling round the market hall, and probably only managed to look at about a third of the stalls – there were loads more I would have loved to check out more closely. We decided, instead, to check out the entertainment tent instead. The children were very excited to find a lady with a snake wrapped round her hand and a man with a rabbit tucked inside his jumper! They enjoyed petting both (the animals!) and finding out about them. They also had a go at making smoothies in a blender powered by a static bike. That was fun- and tasty! There were other things to do and see, like face painting, but as we had purposefully missed second breakfast this morning, the children were starting to get hungry, so we walked round the field, having a look at what street food stalls were on offer. It was only 11.30, so there were hardly any queues at all, though there was a pleasant bustle.
Mr Mini-Apprentice was first to choose his main course, and decidedly approached the Hadrian’s Pizza stall. The lovely staff were very friendly, welcoming and accommodating, and he was excited to watch them prepare his pizza of choice: mushrooms and olives with lots of cheese. By the time I’d placed my order at the next stall, the pizza was pretty much ready- fast food indeed! The pizza, cooked in front of us in a wood fired oven, was possibly the best pizza we’ve ever tasted. The dough was delicious: light, soft and crispy in the right places and the toppings were fresh and tasty. Perfect!
While I’m a big fan of savoury food, Richard has a real sweet tooth, so when I suggested that he take Miss Mini-Apprentice to choose her lunch, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that they wouldn’t come back with something sensible! Even if it wasn’t sensible (as a main course!) the churros she chose from DeliChurros were delicious, as always. Also, the guys at the stall were apparently very encouraging as our little lady tried her recently-acquired Spanish greetings, so it was educational too!
We also learn how to say ‘hello’ in Japanese at the Tokyo Kitchen, where we ordered tasty Chicken Katsu with beautifully sticky rice.
I plumped for the Goan Chicken Curry at the On the Goa stall, as the smells wafting from the grill as I walked past were amazing. The chicken was tasty, the rice was light and delicious and the salad was fresh and full of flavour. Beautiful!
There seemed to be a tent round the corner where you could sit to enjoy your food, but we chose to perch on a little wall instead and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the beautiful location as we ate. After paying the entrance fee for the festival, access to the Castle and Priory is free, so if you’ve never visited these majestic and historic ruins, it’s a great chance to do it.
After that the children were so keen to return to the Ellie’s Cupcake Kitchen stall, which had a stunning display of beautifully decorated puddings. We took up the 4 for £5 offer and chose an Oreo, Reece’s cup, traditional vanilla (covered in sweets) and mint chocolate, which were very tasty and very filling! We also picked up 3 macarons from Le Mini Macaron to enjoy later, as the display was so tempting.
While we were there we picked up a little bag of Biltong, as Richard has always wanted to try it. The biltong from Safari was delicious- not tough like imagined and not overpoweringly salty like jerky, but quite a delicate flavour and pleasant texture. We picked up another bag of the chili version for Richard’s South African uncle, who is looking forward to the taste of his homeland the next time we see him!
If you enjoy good food and drink, you may also be interested in the Berwick Food and Beer Festival running this year 3rd and 4th September. We picked up a flyer from a beer stall, and apparently there will be over 40 food related stalls, a demonstration kitchen children’s cookery and storytelling and live music. Hopefully they’ll also be selling the Farne Island beer we spotted with a picture of a Puffin on the label, as Miss Mini-Apprentice thinks it would be a perfect present for Granny!
There was loads more going on too, like cookery demonstrations and music sessions for kids. As we left at 12.30, the queue at the gate was starting to grow and things were becoming a bit busier- and no wonder, with it being such a wonderful event. Attending the event with young children, I’m pretty glad we aimed for an early lunch, though the bustle as the day progresses would be a great atmosphere too, I’m sure.
We had a really lovely morning, not just because we enjoyed a lot of seriously good, top quality food, but also because of the people we met. At events like this, with small businesses owners and their teams showing up to do what they love, full of pride and invested in what they do, you know you’ll always receive top notch service and a top quality product. Looking forward to next year!
Who did I miss that we need to make sure to try next?