Travel - Something for the weekend

tomChef Tom Kerridge launches the 2017 festival

Every year in September, our Insta feed fills up with folk that we follow clearly all having a riotous time at Wales's biggest food festival. So this time we thought we'd rather be with them, than back in London viewing it all second-hand. Here's what we discovered...

Where to stay?

We stayed outside town at The Whitebrook (see our Something for the Weekend section on that) which, given how late we booked, we were really lucky to get. Places at the best hotels in town sell out incredibly early. One regular visitor told us she'd booked her stay at The Angel a full eighteen months in advance! So yes, planning ahead is key.

The best thing about staying in town is that you won't have to fight for a taxi back to wherever you're staying. And you can, if you wish, fully embrace the legendary drinking that we saw taking place on the Saturday. But it's not lairy drinking - more appreciative of the local craft beer and wine scene drinking.

There's also the Abergavenny Hotel and The King's Arms - and they'll probably also have a glamping option too.

What's on offer?

The festival takes over the whole of the town. In the heart, you'll find the large covered market which has loads of produce stalls as well as a cooking demonstration theatre. Outside of that there are more stalls in Upper Brewery Yard. Want to buy an amazing cook's knife? Done. Looking for local cheeses? Sorted. Moving on from that you'll also find an area of street food here - we enjoyed a brilliant couple of fried chicken buns from Le Bao at this point.

Overall, there are a LOT of stalls with a huge variety on offer - more than we've ever seen at an event like this. It's quite something. 

baoStreet food in Lowery Brewery Yard

Next door to the covered market is the Borough Theatre. Here is where you'll find everyone from notable Irish chef and food writer Darina Allen to Observer critic Jay Rayner holding court. Tickets for these events go pretty quickly, so you'll need to book before you arrive.

More things you'll probably need to book ahead for are the many demonstrations and masterclasses. You can learn from food stylists how to take better pictures of your food - our class included bloggers as well as local producers wanting to improve the look of their websites and social feeds. Authors like Ed Smith pop up showing you how to cook dishes from their latest publications or you can find out how to pair great beers with great foods from top drinks writer Fiona Beckett. Every facet of the country's food and drink world is represented here.

Dotted all over town are different markets and events. We particularly loved the section at Abergavenny Castle which had great live music, demonstrations on cooking over fire and some excellent street food too - not to mention a most picturesque backdrop.

If you're not the kind of person who likes everything to be set out in advance, it's just as easy to wander around and chat to producers and chef spot as you go.

firepitCooking over fire demonstration

What should I buy to bring home?

The problem, such as it is, is that you'll want to buy EVERYTHING. We stocked up with loads of Trealy Farm charcuterie, Welsh cheese, great bread from the Angel Bakery and we bought a load of brilliant knives from Flint and Flame. But we mainly came home with full bellies and great memories. People are just lovely here - it's impossible not to have a good time.

How do I get there?

We took the train from London to Newport and then hired a car, which you'll really need if you're staying outside the town. If you're lucky enough to have found town lodging, then just take the train here from Paddington, changing at Newport. That way you can enjoy the final day without having to face the trek back to London on the M4.

angelbakeryGoodies from the Angel bakery

Right, you've sold me. How do I book for next year?

The dates for next year's Abergavenny Food Festival will be 15-16 September 2018. Remember - from what we've heard, it's absolutely not too early to be thinking about where you want to stay now - so start planning. While tickets aren't out yet for the main festival, you can book now for their Christmas Fair on Sunday 10 December.

And subscribe to their newsletter to be the first to get details of next year's festival.

 

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