Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
By our Isle of Wight Festival reporter, Wendy Varley   Phew! Isle of Wight Festival 2013 got off to a calm, orderly start, with...

By our Isle of Wight Festival reporter, Wendy Varley


Isle of Wight Festival Food 2013

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 they’re expecting “up to 50,000” over the weekend, but “up to” could mean a little or a lot short of that.

Peckish Peacock chickpea and spinach curry, with cumin rice, pakoras and chutney

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

  • Jonathon says:

    Bargain of the weekend – corn on the cob dripping with butter with roasted vegetables including aubergine red onion, all for £3 from Life’s a Beach. This venue also had a burger vender which I didn’t try but I noticed that the the burger came with a rocket salad and cherry toms. Allegedly all ‘local’ produce but Life’s a Beach venue is set up by Wave 105 which is Hampshire. Highly recommend.Excellent cocktails too! including pina colada slush puppy.Knockout!

  • Helen Cunningham says:

    The Peckish Peacock curry was so good we went back twice! Best cuppa (non-alcoholic … I was driving ….) was at The Intoxicated Tearoom.

  • Wendy Varley says:

    Thanks for commenting, Si. Sounds great. I wonder whether the backstage offerings were locally-sourced? I know that has been the case some years. I’d be interested to know.

  • Si says:

    Just to say the ( Free ) crew catering was flippin awesome,
    I did tell a couple of the servers how good we all thought it was , Biggest range of fresh foods i have ever seen backstage anywhere .
    Kudos to all involved..

  • Wendy Varley says:

    I agree with Pau (Paul?) that Jamie’s looked from a distance to be offering standard fare (sausages, burgers etc). The full menu and pricing was hidden away under the awnings, only visible once you get right up to the counter, which is a cardinal sin at a festival. But sausage with couscous does sound a bit different from the norm, James!

    Thanks for your comments.

  • Sean says:

    Thanks Wendy, great report, found GF Rissotto next to Peckish Peacock which I was told tasted fantastic and thought was good at £6. I was on my own at Jamies – fantastic burgers and sausage stew with cous cous. Agree it needs more local vendors.

  • Pau; says:

    Ok i have delved in to the food at several places so far , In the octopus garden i had the ostrych burger and i have to say it was a let down , Big flowered bap with a small burger in the middle of it that had been cooked for far too long and only slightly revived by the Jack Daniels onions £7.00 a go , Saturday i dived in to what i think has to be one of the best places i have eaten at the festival ever and thats the Smoke Shack in the middle arena , Fantastic Ribs followed later by pulled Pork both of which were to die for and i shall return this afternoon for one last blast and try something else for lunch then off to the main arena to try Old Elpaso mexican cantina.

    Poor old jamie olivers stand looks like its been left standing this year all on its own with no cue of people , looks impressive but i think people want something different.
    Would have been nice if 90% of the food stalls were from the Island giving something back to our local economy but hey what do we as islanders know (money talks)

  • Wendy Varley says:

    I noticed that Sean had asked via M&C’s “Suggest A Venue” thread about gluten-free food at the Festival. Some vendors ARE listing GF items on their menus this year. There were several in the Octopus’s Garden area, including The Peckish Peacock (which I’ve already recommended).

    On Saturday, I played safe with a PieMinister “mothership” of wild mushroom and asparagus pie, with mash, peas, gravy and shallots for £8.50. It wasn’t served as hot as I’d have liked, but it fuelled me for the rest of a chilly, windy day, right through to The Killers’ euphoric headline set.

    In terms of local presence, I spotted the St Catherine’s School Tuck Shop by the exit to the camping area. Eat sweets for a charitable cause, people!

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