Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
By our festival correspondent, Wendy Varley Sunday The wildlife fancy dress theme for Saturday meant Bestival was teeming with bright-eyed and – literally –...

By our festival correspondent, Wendy Varley

Bestival Food 2012

The wildlife fancy dress theme for Saturday meant Bestival was teeming with bright-eyed and – literally – bushy-tailed party-goers. Bugs, sharks, and exotic winged-things joined the throng of foxes, badgers and squirrels, plus the odd hunter pretending to take pot-shots. My daughter Becky spotted a jellyfish cuddling a ladybird: “They were both semi-circular! So cute!”
I was a hungry spider, and was with my 10-year old son (a roadrunner) for the afternoon. Our food highlights were:
The Farmers’ Market for delicious mozarella, pesto and Isle of Wight tomato quiche (£2.50), washed down with a good-value (£1.50) pint of freshly-made elderflower and raspberry cordial.
The Hurly Burly Café (in the Magic Meadow). While my son yomped down a large slab of chocolate cake (£2.50), I tried the more modestly-portioned ‘boozy carrot cake’, which was zingy with orange, and a bit Christmas-puddingy in flavour and texture. Lovely.
Calbourne Classics’ Vintage Tea Tent is in the Ballroom Field (below the toboggan run) serving cream teas, high teas, cakes and ice-cream. My son had a very generous three scoops of forest fruits frozen yoghurt with berries on top for £3. (Excellent value when compared with the small pot of chocolate ice-cream my daughter bought from the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream van for £3.50.)

Hurly Burly Café

And a couple more recommendations from the rest of the family (once their sandwiches ran out!):
Raclette (£5, near the toboggan run) is the kind of filler-upper Alpine skiers turn to on the slopes, and Olivia found the potatoes with melted Swiss cheese, topped with peppers and gherkins equally good to sustain an evening of stomping around Bestival.

Calbourne Classics' Vintage Tea Tent

Wood-fired pizza (same area) got the thumbs up from Alex and her boyfriend. £7 for a whole Margherita pizza; £8 with extra toppings.
If you’ve been at Bestival, tell us what you thought about the food by commenting below. Any particular hits (or misses) this year?

Had some truly foul latte from one of the big brown Smoothies stands. Nasty nasty
Crab on chips

The sun is shining and 55,000 happy revellers have descended on Bestival at Robin Hill for a long weekend. They come not just for the up-and coming bands and established world-class acts (Stevie Wonder headlines on Sunday this year), but for all kinds of fun. Dancing, roller disco, arty-crafty stuff, comedy, poetry, motorbikes scaling the vertical Wall of Death… The small city that appears pretty-much overnight at Robin Hill Country Park – spilling out into the farmland beyond – caters for all sorts, and is quite magical and beautiful to behold.

There’s masses of variety food-wise, too. The sad news is that I haven’t sampled much myself yet, having been laid low on Friday with – ironically – a tummy bug.

But it’s great to see that once again island vendors are well-represented. The Farmers’ Market up by the bandstand offers local sweetcorn, seafood, Isle of Wight tomato and cheese foccacia and lots of other goodies. The ever-popular WI tent is also nearby. And further up the hill is the Solace tent serving FREE tea and cake; one of my favourite spots, with its spectacular view of the valley.

There’s everything here, including a funky dining room for those who want to splash out on a convivial three-course meal. Kerstin Rodgers (aka MsMarmitelover), whose Underground Restaurant debuted last year, is back (in the Wishing Tree Field), serving brunch, lunch and dinner throughout Bestival. Check in person for last-minute availability. I sampled it last year and it was a really memorable occasion.

So far this year, these are the food recommendations from my family:
Byron burgers by the Big Top. Ian’s checked these out and deems them excellent. Proper big meaty burgers with great relishes. Sadly, they’re not serving their vegeburger this year.

The Tapas bar by the lake. My daughter Becky tried the veggie version, which included falafel, pasta and couscous, while Olivia had the meat version (with added chorizo). Both were impressed with the good big plateful and quality of the food.

Paella, near the big top. Always popular, this is the stall run by Harbour Seafoods of Yarmouth.

Crab On Chips near the Bandstand, serving Ventnor-sourced seafood including, as you’d expect, Crab on Chips. Ian comments: “£7.50 is on the medium-high side for chips-plus-a-thing, but they serve up a pretty mighty dollop of super-fresh crab and nicely crunchy chips, so a genuine local sea-taste. For the more ambitious, they do lobster and crab on chips for a tenner.

Pie Minister: Alex went for her favourite pie, mash and mushy peas combo: “Always reliably tasty and filling.”

– Ian was on the lookout for good coffee and said, “Had some truly foul latte from one of the big brown Smoothies stands. Nasty nasty. But had a couple of great, deliciously creamy-frothy coffees from the red double-decker bus just beyond the Psychedelic Worm stage. £2 a cup plus a couple of their tasty buttery crumpets for a quid kept me energised for another three hours.”

I will be back at Bestival myself today, appetite restored, but please add your own comments below. There’s so much to sample, and we’d love to know what tickled your taste buds.

Finally, a quick plea on behalf of island businesses: I’ve read a couple of plaintive tweets from Briddlesford Farm Shop – probably the nearest shop to the Bestival site – reminding people that the roads are now quiet and they’re open for business as usual throughout the Bestival weekend. Shop locally, people!

  • Fay Woodford says:

    I lived on “pure pies” lamb & mint pie at Besty, Matt (not of & Cat fame) was hooked on their chicken balti ones. Decent filling & lovely flavour for £5.
    I too ate at crab on chips. Too much brown meat for my liking, but I had a crab & prawn helping so it wasn’t too overpowering. Chips were bloody lovely but no option to add any salt & vinegar (or extra mayo) left them a bit bland once the topping had all gone.
    Another Bestival staple for us is the sweetcorn stand by the bandstand, the lady serving at the time was answering questions of “where can I buy my own?” with “go to Farmer Jacks” to everyone in front of me.
    Waking up in a tent each morning & feeling grotty as anything, I lived on the “Jungle Juice” flavour smoothies (£4 – mango, pineapple, banana & passion fruit I think) from the smoothie stalls with the big black signs, absolutely lovely & a brilliant breakfast or healthy pick-me-up.
    While we don’t have the most exotic of tastes, the Bestival always offers up something for everyone and it was MUCH more reasonably priced than the IW Festival.

  • Wendy Varley says:

    I didn’t get to Kerstin Rodger’s Underground Restaurant at Bestival this year, unfortunately, but she’s published gorgeous photos of it on her blog.

  • Gayna Ryan says:

    Battersea Pie and Mash stall..serves Proper London Pie mash and Liqour (parsley gravey) It was the most mouth watering food in a box..with lashings of vinegar..yummy 🙂

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