They came, they saw, they savoured… last weekend a huge number of visitors descended upon Tunbridge Wells’ historic Pantiles for its popular gourmet Food Festival, which is getting bigger and better every year. Eileen Leahy went to get a taste of the event.
Fifty stalls selling all manner of seasonal produce, local specialist fare and deliciously exotic offerings had an extra special visitor this weekend: The fantastic weather.
The sun shone pretty much throughout the duration of The Pantiles Food Festival and it certainly helped to attract plenty of hungry customers.
According to the event’s spokesperson Tara Fuller, approximately 5,000 people thronged to the famous promenade in order to enjoy a taste of the area’s most popular three-day food and drink extravaganza. They indulged in a variety of gastronomic delights and enjoyed the numerous cooking demonstrations and live music also on offer.
But whether you were browsing around in the late Friday afternoon sunshine or battling the teeming crowds on Sunday lunchtime, if you were on The Pantiles at any point last weekend then you’ll know just how popular this foodie affair has become – especially when the weather plays ball.
Special celebrity guests doing a culinary turn over the weekend included Rosemary Shrager, who launched the cookery school and much loved patisserie in the vicinity. She was on fine form on Saturday chatting to the crowds, while on Sunday fireman-turned-baking star Mat Riley, a runner-up in last year’s Great British Bake Off, took to the podium to display his biscotti prowess and answer questions from an enthusiastic audience. Wine expert Jilly Goolden also had a spot on the famous Bandstand on Sunday.
Then of course there was the staggering number of producers selling their unique selection of tempting food and drink. Tunbridge Wells can certainly give London’s Borough Market a run for its money given the amount of impressive regional artisan producers we have.
Clustered along The Pantiles and spilling out on to the lower Pantiles opposite the Corn Exchange, there was everything from French fromage and decadent condiments to fresh seafood, gooey marshmallows and craft beers to sip and savour.
Specialist sausages by Debbie & Andrew were sold from a pop-up barn while potent cocktails were poured from the inside of a vintage camper van courtesy of the Beetle Juice Company.
If these epicurean delights didn’t hit the spot then food fans could treat their tastebuds to huge pans of paella, aromatic truffle oil, new season asparagus, spicy chilli jams, locally produced wines and even vegan burgers from a range of fine food purveyors.
In short, there was pretty much something for everyone to enjoy at last week’s Pantiles Food Festival and the other good news is its restaurants, bars and cafes all did pretty well out of the event too if the busy terrace tables were anything to go by.
“It was an amazing day with beautiful weather,” said Tara Fuller. “We had really positive feedback from all our traders as well and have started taking bookings for the next food festival in September already.”