Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > U.K./Ireland >
Apr 24, 2008 10:50 AM

London Real Food Festival

I'm thinking of going tomorrow or Saturday. It opened today at Earl's Court, and was wondering if anyone went and could let me know if it is worth it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I haven't been to Real Food before but I've heard it's more like a huge farmer's market, with the focus on the produce and the producers.

    If I were you, I'd save your money and go to one of the Taste festivals and the BBC Summer Good Food Show, if you've not been before.

    I'll probably be working at Taste this year and, if the weather is good, it looks set to be a wonderful foodie day out. You end up spending a fair bit of money, but in my experience it's totally worth it. (Last year I treated my beloved to a beautiful Japanese knife and came away with my first bulb of elephant garlic - delicious!)

    Have a look at the sites and see which one you might enjoy more. If you do go to Real Food, do report back!

    3 Replies
    1. re: DollyDagger

      I am SO excited to learn about the Taste events! We just moved here 6 months ago, so this will be our first summer in London. We definitely want to attend, and would love some tips. Is it better to go on a weekday or weekend? If we buy a ticket for the afternoon session, do we have to leave before the evening session? Do you pay to get in, and then pay for "tastes" of things?

      Thanks for the links to these events. And if I do go to Real Food, I will definitely report back.

      1. re: Just One Bite

        I think I went on a Friday last year, but I don't think it really matters. It gets pretty busy but tickets are limited so it's not uncomfortably crowded. There are two time slots in a day - something like noon til 4pm and then 5pm to 9pm (approx) - we went in the evening and it was perfect.

        It works out quite expensive - you pay for your ticket and then you buy 'crowns' to spend inside. (This is a cunning trick as you easily lose track of what you're spending).

        There is a huge selection of food and drink producers, food-related gadgets and gifts, and some good demonstrations by celebrity chefs. Then there are stands for some of the best restaurants in London, each offering small portions of food from their menus. This is great because you can sample food you might not afford to otherwise! We went for an amazing lamb dish from Zaika and then pudding from somewhere else - it's great because you can choose as many dishes as you like from any stand that interests you.

        There's obviously sponsored stands selling drinks etc - BA did champagne last year - and there's usually a cocktail stage, a rum bar, hundreds of wine stands, etc.

        Plenty of freebies too - lots of the stands hand out free tastings. (These will be easy to spot, as they'll have the biggest crowds!)

        It's not a cheap day out by any means - because you probably will end up splashing out on some goodies - but for me, it's worth it. Sipping cocktails and throwing back oysters while the sun set over Regents Park is a great memory.

        I'll stop rambling on, but as you can tell, I can't recommend it highly enough.

        (Oh and the BBC Good Food Show is great too, but I prefer Taste because it is al fresco!)

      2. re: DollyDagger

        Oh, fab links! I am working on organizing a similar food festival in Berlin in the summer of next year, and have found some valuable information here!!!

      3. I've got a ticket, but am not going not until Sunday. I think it's probably not unlike other food shows - there are workshops and cookery demonstrations I think. I wasn't that impressed with the BBC Xmas Good Food Show to be honest.

        I'm hoping that lots of producers will be offering bargains on the Sunday afternoon!

        1. We went to the Real Food Festival today and enjoyed it a lot. Lots of producers, mainly British and also some French and Italian. Didn't do any of the workshops. The meat producers were particularly interesting and we will eat salt marsh lamb chops (they also had mutton) tonight and a Dexter steak tomorrow.
          It costs £18 to get in, and we spent wildly when we were there but it was fun.

          1. Okay, I decided to go today and I loved it! I haven't been to a UK food festival before so I can't compare it to how others might be. Being from Los Angeles, there were some things that really stood out. Such as, there were live animals there! You would never see live animals where there is food, much less sheep shearing! It was cool. And giving away tastes of all kinds of things, including alcohol.

            I thought it was going to be lots of produce, since that's what I think of as a farmer's market. There were a few tomato stands and Jersey potatoes too, but not much else as far as produce that I saw. There were lots and lots of dairy (cheeses mostly, but also ice cream & yogurts.) Lots of baked goods, meats, sausages, pickles & chutneys. I tasted so many things, and spent a fortune but it was great.

            Another thing that was great for me was that I got to ask a lot of questions I've had about food here! For instance, what is an Eccles cake? What is elderflower? I got to taste lots of different types of sausages that I've seen on menus, including this one that was sort of like a meatloaf and starts with an H, but isn't haggis. (can't remember what it was, but I've seen it on menus and would recognize the name if I saw it!) Tasted so many pickles & relishes & chutneys. I tried everything, basically. LOL!

            Didn't do any of the classes or lectures, but I did see one that was going on about baking bread. There were little stations set up that people were at, following along.

            There were lots and lots of wine, beer, cider, olive oils, etc. producers there too. Talked to lots of exhibitors about their products, their companies, the regions they are from, etc. I also learned about areas of the UK and their different products so all in all it was a wonderful learning experience for me! It wasn't that crowded either, so people had time to talk & people were really helpful & informative.

            I'm really glad I went.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Just One Bite

              Thanks so much for your report. Am really looking forward to it now! I bought tickets in advance, which were only £12.50, and we're taking a blind friend so the three of us get in for the price of two (because a "carer" gets in free!). So a bargain really.

              1. re: greedygirl

                the last 2 years of the taste festival have been a bit of a let down. most of the food is little better than average and i can hardly remember most of the dishes

                rowley leighs kensington place scallop was the highlight of last year. low lights include john torode pork, aldo zilli full stop (the worst cook on britain ?) and me stupdily burning my mouth on a boiling ROKA scallop.

                the year before michel roux made a fine pigeon pie and david thompson that was a total let down

                if the sun shines regents park is lovely but its a bit like celeb chef slobbering and paper plastic plates. better to hit a decent market (i know bourough is rammed but there are others) or high street (such as marylebone), have a proper lunch at a good restaurant. go home have a snooze, and then cook something with the ingredients you purchased, crack open the vino and get some friends over. thats a festival of taste.

                1. re: pecandanish

                  I know its all over now, but i spent 2 days working the show and for someone whoe attends 6-8 shows each year i felt that this was a really good one, plenty of new producers with some great products, it could develop into an event similar to how Salone Del Gusto in Turin used to be before the big boys got involved.
                  Next year could be a real stonker if it gets bigger and everyone supports it.

                  1. re: Cookie Boy

                    I agree - I was there this afternoon and thought it was great. We tasted lots of great products, and returned laden down with stuff. It only cost us about £8 each to get in, and I thought that was a bargain. It's really worth going on the last afternoon too - Young's were selling their bottled beer for a pound a pop (and they threw in an extra one and a funky bag to carry them in) and lots of other producers were doing deals. I had the best parmesan I've ever had, some fabulous aged gouda, and lots of very tasty chutneys. Mr GG bought a case of wine from a small vineyard in France, a bottle of organic rum, plus a ton of sausages (not literally), which were very good value. We also liked the mustards produced by a lovely Scottish couple, the Indian aubergine pickle, and a delicious duck liver pate.

                    The sheep made me laugh - they were stood on podiums like wooly beauty queens! I especially liked the rasta sheep.