Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Special daily report by our roving festival reporter, Wendy. Older updates are at the bottom of the page. What a mighty relief it is...

Special daily report by our roving festival reporter, Wendy. Older updates are at the bottom of the page.

What a mighty relief it is to see the sun shining on Bestival 2009 at Robin Hill. Last year’s quagmire when most meals were scoffed huddling under awnings seems worlds away. The site this year looks stunning.


Final update, Sunday evening:
Arrived mid-afternoon today, and Ian and I decided on the most civilised option available for supper: a sit-down meal with table service at Puschka for £8.90 each. I chose grilled haloumi marinated in wild flower honey and mint, served with potatoes, apple and tarragon ‘slaw, and green bean, roast tomato and red onion salad; Ian had free range pork chop with sauce vierge (which apparently is a French sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, and chopped basil), and the same accompaniments. Very prompt and friendly service, and an absolutely delicious meal. The only minus points were that they’d run out of sugar for Ian’s coffee, and my meal should have had red peppers with it, but they offered me extra salad instead which I was quite happy with. Puschka is a Liverpudlian restaurant and festival catering is apparently a relatively new enterprise for them. I wish them well. I love to see this sort of quality food on offer at a festival.

Fancying a chocolate fix later, we headed to the Hurly Burly for chocolate sponge pudding with chocolate sauce and cream (£3.50). Maybe they wanted to shift everything before the close of Bestival, I don’t know, but the portions were so enormous I couldn’t finish mine. Slightly surprised to find them using squirty cream rather than proper cream.

Also noticeable, unfortunately, was the Hurly Burly’s downwind proximity to the “Comfy Crappers” (ultra well-serviced composting loos that you have to pay to use). Why food outlets are sited near to loos at festivals I do not know. If I was a food vendor I’d have words with the organisers about that. Very offputting.

Peeking into the farmers’ market on Sunday evening it was fantastic to see that lots of stalls had pretty much sold out. I heard one burly guy enthusiastically telling his mate about the dressed crabs and lobsters that had been on sale there earlier.

Catching up with my daughters at the end of the day, they seemed to have survived Sunday mainly on adrenaline, though Becky had a not-so-wonderful salad from Hurly Burly that she thought was too vinegary.

It’s just struck me that I went the entire weekend without visiting the wonderful Pie Minister, or returning to The Furnace, which served me well last year. Nor did I try the Pizza Express. I really was spoilt for choice.

Bestival 09 has been a good ‘un for the weather, the music and for the food. It went out with a bang, literally, with spectacular fireworks and a raging bonfire in the Fire Field, and is apparently concluding with an old-style rave into the early hours. But I’ll be tucked up in bed by then. Roll on 2010.

Bestival fireworks

Sunday morning update:
Aliens everywhere yesterday (dressing up day, and the theme was space). The hilly site’s far harder to negotiate in silver go-go boots (I was Lieutenant Gay Ellis from the old TV series UFO), and I worked up a real hunger by lunchtime.

Bestival 2009

I was not impressed by the portion size at Souper Stew, where the £6 lamb tagine with couscous for Ian came in a little round dish and was half the size of the curry I had yesterday for the same price. My Italian tomato and bean soup (£4) was also meagre, and came with a tiny piece of buttered baguette. Flavoursome, but not nearly substantial enough for festival food. Plus, the apple and pear juice we shared to accompany our meal was over-diluted. I won’t be going back there.

It meant that by dinner time we were ravenous. We were at the pyrotechnic, clubby end of the site, where flames intermittently gush skyward from a large arena (is Bestival being carbon-offset, I wonder?). Someone was due to be launched into space – these circussy things go on at Bestival, it’s great fun.

Bestival 2009

Spotting The Mash Shack, and having heard good things of it from my daughters, I chose cheesy mash with a pair of vegebangers, onions and gravy for £6. Not the most colourful of meals, but a large portion really welcome, tasty, filling fodder (though I don’t rate it as highly as the equivalent meal at the Hurly Burly where the red wine gravy is gorgeous). We even found a comfy outdoor sofa to sit on while we ate and rested our feet before heading back to the main stage for Kraftwerk.

Bestival 2009

One daughter reported that she had indeed tried sushi on Friday, not realising until too late how pricey it was (£10.50 for salmon teryaki), and found it too salty for her taste. She recommended the baked potato with two toppings for £4 from Godshill Organics, and the local corn on the cob. The local food areas looked like they were doing really good trade in their new more prominent positions. Briddlesford Farm Shop isn’t there this year, but they told me the other day that they are supplying several of the on-site cafés, so the milk is doing food metres, not miles.

The sun’s still shining and I’ll be back at Bestival today for Sunday action and a final supper. (In flat heels.)

Bestival 2009

First impressions of the food Friday:
– There is more choice than ever, from more vendors (and with more people on site – I think it’s over 40,000 this year – that has to be a good thing). And it all looks rather nice.
– There’s more local food than in previous years. There are two farmers’ markets: one in The Village (the hill where the falconry displays usually take place); the other in the Bollywood field (bottom of the hill, opposite the toboggan run). Loads of good-value treats to choose from. And common sense has prevailed: Godshill Organics is allowed to serve hot pies, baked potatoes and soup! (At Isle of Wight Festival this year I was surprised to learn that the farmers’ market could only serve cold fare, and I think the same was true of Bestival last year, so thumbs up to Bestival for sorting that one out.)

– Best bargain is free tea, cake and a sit-down at Solace tent (now at the bottom of the hill in Magic Meadows). And the WI tent in The Village for tea, coffee, cake and bottled Isle of Wight water, all at 60p.
– Spotted three local ice cream outlets: Calbourne Classics, the Plaza ice cream van, and Minghella. Tried Minghella’s honeycomb ice cream and got two generous scoops in a cornet for £2. Yummy, but prefer the nuggety chewy bits in Calbourne Classics’ version. So that one wins my personal very subjective competition!
– What’s this? A Pizza Express? Never seen them at a festival before. Seems a tad corporate. But then again, I do like Pizza Express pizzas…
– Pleased to spot cafés I’ve loved at other festivals turning up at Bestival 09. Based on previous experience I recommend the Hurly Burly Vegetarian Café (for vegetarians, obviously, but my carnivore friend also rates it). And for a “proper” sit-down dinner, Puschka, which has taken over the café by the toboggan (main meals £8.95, and they also serve wine). They also have another outlet nearer to the camping areas.

What’s this? A Pizza Express? Never seen them at a festival before. Seems a tad corporate

– After checking everything out, and feeling spoiled for choice, what I actually had for dinner on Friday night was Goan fish curry from the Thali Café in the Bollywood field (near the giant slides). I was impressed by this place at Camp Bestival in Dorset in July. A nicely filling, well-balanced and tasty meal of rice, curry with substantial fish pieces, chutney, salad and sauces for £6. My daughter was also well-pleased with her chickpea curry. (Popadums 50p extra.)

Goan fish curry from the Thali Café

– I got separated from the rest of the family, but Ian texted me to say he was drinking Moroccan mint tea at Strumpets With Crumpets near the Big Top. I think they win the competition for most memorable name!
– My daughters are eating on a shoestring (not literally) and loaded up their tent with non-perishables such as energy bars, apples and malt loaf, but I did get a text saying they were in the sushi tent at one point, so maybe they will have something to report when we catch up!

If you’re at Bestival yourself this weekend and, like me, coming home to a comfy bed and broadband internet each night, do tell us what you’re eating at Bestival and how it was. I’ll be back with more food findings later.

Oh, and just before I go, and kind of related I suppose: composting toilets, yay! So much better in every way than the chemical ones. Much much nicer to use. There’s a bank of them behind the main stage.
That’s all for now!
Bestival food 2009

  • John Burnetski says:

    Went to Bestival for the first time this year. Being an American sceptic, I was afraid that the food would be bland, uninspired and expensive. Wrong I was. The selection of food outlets was beyond my expectations. I particularly enjoyed Thali for their Boxed Mumbai lunch. If I like something, I may try it again, if I totally enjoy something as I did with this particular delight, I returned each day for more. Tastey portions, friendly service at a reasonable price I was fueled and well satisfied.

  • Wendy says:

    I did take a look at the strumpets and their crumpets later, and it was entirely innocuous, James. If he’d been at Time for Tease on his own I might have been more worried.

  • James P says:

    Terrific review Wendy. It almost sounds worth going just for the food (although possibly a rather expensive way of doing it). We can hear most of the music from Arreton, so we get that anyway…

    Good to know that the prices were sensible, too. I guess the amount of choice would help keep them honest. Agree with you about Calbourne Classics’ ice-cream, too – I’ve never been knocked out by Minghella’s. It’s good, just not that good (IMHO).

    Glad you managed to retrieve Ian from the Strumpets. That must have been a relief.. 🙂

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