Festival goers are hailing the 2022 Abergavenny Food Festival as one of the best ever after the well-marshalled and multi-location event celebrated all the best in Welsh cuisine as well as hosting food events from across the globe.
The event is now established as probably the UK’s finest celebration of food and cookery, attracting over a hundred and fifty exhibitors across six venues and speakers ranging from household names to local rising stars of the culinary world.
The problems of overcrowding which plagued earlier events seems to have been successfully addressed by the policy of selling tickets only online and in advance so that numbers can be regulated, offering, as one official stated, ‘A much better experience for both visitors and exhibitors.’
Even the weather was onside for once with an abundance of sunshine comfortably turned down from the excesses of July and August and, for the first time since 2019, there were no restriction in place in the aftermath of successive pandemic waves.
Mayor of Abergavenny, Tony Konieczny told the Chronicle: “Visitor numbers measured tens of thousands over the festival weekend, boosting the local economy and promoting Abergavenny as a great place to visit and stay. Our town has a good selection of successful restaurants and cafes, many independent shops offering great service and the street scene is attractive and welcoming, defining Abergavenny as the best food destination in Wales.”
Festival chief executive, Kim Waters, stated, “One of the things people take away from Abergavenny is a sense of the community effort that has gone into the making of the event. They comment on the amazing atmosphere, the feeling of conviviality, and the character and diversity that our much-loved town has to offer. Long may that continue - even in challenging times.”
Venues offered a wealth of culinary delights
THE 2022 Abergavenny Food Festival took place in several venues throughout the town, each with their own special attractions.
The Market Hall held live cooking demonstrations and featured traders offering smoked fish, Wales’ oldest Caerphilly cheese, craft gin, preserves, cured meats, garden seeds and much more. This year’s decorations were by artist Bettina Reeves and team and had the theme of Agroforestry – the practice of mixing various types of crops, flora, and fauna in order to increase yields and sustainability.
The Market Hall also hosted The Robert Price Kitchens Stage, which played host to Masterchef The Professionals ‘People’s Champion’ Santosh Shah; Thomasina Miers, founder of the Wahaca chain of restaurants; Michelle Evans-Fecci, one of the stars of Great British Bake Off; Felicity Cloake, author of The Guardian’s ‘How to Make The Perfect’ columns; BBC TV’s Saturday Kitchen presenter, Matt Tebbutt; and rising vegetarian star, Joe Woodhouse. Most guests demonstrated recipes from their latest books.
The Upper and Lower Brewery Yard hosted wine, beer, spices, all things garlic and Welsh homewares as well as the Street Food Market with hot food to go ranging from Venezuelan arepas, Spanish paella, waffles and ice cream plus small-batch craft beers and free live entertainment.
Tiverton Market, the largest market ran into Horsingtons Yard, Tiverton Place and represented a hub for gifts and gourmet ingredients including Sicilian cannoli, loose leaf teas, ferments, and craft hot chocolate. It was also the new home of the Cheese and Drinks area.
The Priory Courtyard Fish ’n Fizz Market offered a hub for all things maritime, including freshly shucked oysters, sustainably caught seafood, and soft-shell crab rolls. The Priory Souk New & Small Producers Market hosted small-scale food producers offering doughnuts, artisan baking kits, cold brew coffee and beautiful handmade chefs’ knives.
The Castle area featured the well-attended Blorenge Bar and family-friendly areas for play and picnics. It also hosted the popular evening session on Saturday. Visitors could choose from modern Indian, charcoal-grilled kebab and pizza.
The Castle was also home to live fire cooking, performers included Chris Roberts; Cyrus Todiwala, proprietor of Cafe Spice Namaste, and food writer Melissa Thompson who demonstrated recipes from her book, ‘Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook’. Genevieve Taylor of Bristol Fire School – with plenty of geeky science chat about the physics of fire; and Jeremy Pang (Jeremy Pang’s Asian Kitchen, ITV) promises to cook up a Vietnamese feast.
The Ogi Dome hosted the Festival’s debate strand. Experts in various fields came together to discuss topical issues. Topics include ‘Meat – should we be eating it? ‘The Price of Food – is it too expensive or too cheap?’ Rivers at Risk–what can we do to protect them?’ Talks and discussions include ‘Back to the Future? – Welsh food history and lessons for today’; and ‘The Post Empire Kitchen – Britain’s hospitality industry in the post-colonial era’.
The Local & Vocal tent offered the chance to meet and hear from people growing, producing, and selling food in Abergavenny and the surrounding area. Sessions included ‘Tackling Food Insecurity’, ‘Can Local Producers ever compete with supermarkets? and ‘Heritage Seeds & Cultural Roots–every story has a tale to tell’ with ‘The Seed Detective’ Adam Alexander.
The Festival’s hugely popular Drinks Theatre also returned to the Angel Hotel’s Ballroom, with the chance to ‘Discover the joys of White Bordeaux Wine’ with Mike Turner (an accredited Bordeaux tutor); or the best ciders of South Wales and Herefordshire with cider expert, James Crowden. Also proving popular was ‘Greatest Hits of Welsh Craft Beer’ with drinks writer Pete Brown.
Organisers are already looking forward to the 2023 Food Festival which will also be an all-ticket affair with no ‘walk-ups’ on the day.