By our Isle of Wight Festival reporter, Wendy Varley
Phew! Isle of Wight Festival 2013 got off to a calm, orderly start, with none of the mud and traffic problems that afflicted it last year. I’ve even got a little bit sunburnt. The site was nicely busy by Friday, but there’s plenty of elbow room: maybe the memory of last year has suppressed numbers. Organisers told OntheWight.com they’re expecting “up to 50,000” over the weekend, but “up to” could mean a little or a lot short of that.
A few observations about the food on offer this year, compared to last:
- Once again, there’s no Farmers’ Market promoting and selling local food from our garden isle. In fact, Isle of Wight Festival hasn’t featured a Farmers’ Market since 2009 (unlike Bestival, which always includes it, along with the WI tea tent). Shame.
- I’ve only spotted two local food concessions: Crab On Chips (main arena) run by Ventnor Haven Fishery, sells fresh and delicious Isle of Wight crab and/or lobster meat on chips (the clue is in the name). And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, watch out for St Valentine’s Liquorice Company‘s mobile cart. If I’ve missed any out, please do comment.
- The lovely Solace tent (free tea and cake, supplied by island church groups) is between the Cabaret venue and the exit to the camp site, next to the Syria tent. A great place to rest your weary legs.
- Exotic meats are heavily featured: ostrich, kangaroo, bison. Presumably it makes it easier to charge more for meat in a bun.
- The words “posh” and “organic”, so prevalent a few years ago, have gone out of fashion: a lasting effect of the credit crunch?
- The Octopus’s Garden food area (main arena, surrounded by a white picket fence), has been improved. There are plenty of picnic tables to sit at, some under cover. It’s better situated this year, near to the main stage, so you can still hear the music while you eat. Thumbs up!
- While there are plenty of drinks sponsors highly visible, with their own stages or areas to hang out in, the only “famous” food concession I’ve spied is Jamie Oliver’s. No Wagamama this year.
- The prize for the most “in your face” brand name goes to The Kick-Ass Fajitas Co: “So good, it should be illegal“. No, I haven’t tried one yet to see if it lives up to the hype.
So what have I eaten? Well, not much yet! By the time I’d seen Carol Decker of T’Pau on its 25th anniversary tour get the packed Big Top singing along to China In Your Hand on Friday, I was ravenous. It would have been easy to revert to my old favourite, PieMinister (main arena) for a Heidi pie with mash, peas and gravy. And I know from previous festivals that Pizza to the People (Octopus’s Garden) do lovely wood-fired pizzas. But I wanted to try something new, and The Peckish Peacock‘s special took my fancy: chickpea and spinach curry, with cumin rice, pakoras and chutney, with mini popadoms (£8; curry and rice without the extras is £6).
It was a good choice. As usual with festival food, it’s not especially photogenic once it’s ladled into a box, but the flavours were excellent. It’s the best curry I’ve had at a festival. It was only afterwards that I realised The Peckish Peacock is essentially a vegan stall. What a change from dry falafels! Ian ended up sharing the curry and nicely crunchy pakoras, as the portion was generous, and rated it equally highly (a real compliment from a committed carnivore). A hit!
I also enjoyed a mixed-berry smoothie from the stall by the Big Top: £3.50, but they give you a loyalty stamp so you can get 50p off the next one if you return.
Later, Ian had “delicious” crab on “fairly ordinary” chips from the Crab On Chips stall (£7.50).
But what about the rest of you? If you’re at the Festival, what have you enjoyed (or not) so far, food-wise? And if you aren’t there, how are island eateries faring this week? Does the Festival boost or dampen local business?
Feel free to comment below, or if you’re on Twitter, you can tweet feedback direct to Matt and Cat: @MattandCat