And, as much fun as it is bimbling around a field welly-wanging, examining artificial insemination charts and enjoying a good old fashioned sing-song, everyone needs to refuel. However, festi-nosh can be extremely varied; from the delights of a of a Secret Supper Club pop-up restaurant all the way down to some rip-off burger you’ll hate yourself (and its purveyor) for eating.
Matt and Cat have chuntered on about the rise of street food on this blog before. In the days prior to the ubiquity of the hipster food wagon, for decades we on the Island spearheaded the trend with Minghellas ice cream van and the Jolly Fryer mobile chippy. And now the Isle of Wight’s peripatetic catering facility club has a new member in the playful form of Ronnie and the Taco Bandits.
Having missed the eatery’s debut, Matt and Cat first encountered Ronnie and the Taco Bandits at the Chic Living event at Calbourne. After a comprehensive rummage through the chi-chi merchandise – driftwood housewares, artisan pottery, twiddly boudoir furniture, etc – sustenance was required. The gossip in the marquee was all about the tacos, so Cat headed in the direction of the mariachi music to check out the Mexican sandwiches for herself.
Conceived in time for the Rhythm Tree Festival, the taco stall is the perfect fusion of freshly-prepared food and pleasingly rustic presentation. The venue has a fabulous hand-wrought charm; the counter is a patchwork of distressed corrugated iron and its day-of-the-dead-style signage is executed in a naive and colourful manner. You can even borrow a bandit moustache to channel your inner Zapata!
Ronnies had a limited menu – which was to be expected from a pop-up shanty in a rural location – but it was certainly not restricted in taste. For a mere fiver, punters could purchase a little wooden vessel containing three tacos of their choice from pork, chicken and beans. Cat decided to have one of each.
For such a simple concept, the tacos were astonishingly tasty. The freshest of ingredients were used; Cat watched as her avocado was sliced to order to ensure minimum exposure to the oxidising air. The aromatic coriander was perky, and the pineapple deliciously sweet. The combo of flavours was a riot; sweet countered with spicy; citrus tempered with meaty.
Cat grabbed the first of her soft-shelled tacos: chipotle pork, with pink onions and pineapple. The vinegar-marinated onions jostled favourably with the pineapple on Cats tongue and the pulled pork was soft and lean. The earthy tinga chicken was similarly tender; topped with radish slaw and avocado. The vegetarian taco was filled with smoky black beans, fresh tomato salsa and given a taste pop with sour feta cheese. A range of sauces was on hand for a bonus chilli kick. This was finger food of the gods!
The trio of tacos was perfect for a light lunch, but hey, while at Ronnies it would be rude not to have the churros. This predominantly Spanish dish is usually served as breakfast with coffee. Happy to break with tradition, Cat enjoyed her tray of piping hot extruded doughnuts, seasoned with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon and served with a liquid chocolate dip.
The team behind Ronnie and the Taco Bandits has an awesome pedigree in the business, with prior involvement in a number of venues that Matt and Cat have rated highly. This seems likely to be an indication that they are destined for success. Like other street food businesses, Ronnie and the Taco Bandits doesnt have a permanent home but, if youre at an agricultural show, food fayre or music festival you might be lucky enough to get the chance to sample the delicious food from this new venture.