Devon is a place of rolling green hills, two coastlines, and one incredible capital city, that of Exeter. Inhabited since time immemorial and brimming with plenty of history, the region is also well-known for its amazing local produce in the form of food and drink. To celebrate the wide range of food that’s made in the Southwest, an annual Exeter Food Festival is held each year during the month of May.
Taste of the Southwest: Exeter Food Festival
For the past fifteen years, the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink has been held every first Bank Holiday weekend in the Northernhay Gardens of Exeter. Centred around the popular park and nearby Exeter Castle Courtyard, which has been in situ in some form or another since perhaps Roman times, the food festival was first founded by iconic chef Michael Caines.
Other top chefs who regularly perform cooking demonstrations in the main Festival Cookery Theatre include Mitch Tonks, Josh Eggleton, Emily Scott, and Dez Turland. In total, up to twenty thousand people visit the food festival over the course of the three days. Unlike many other food trade shows, the Exeter festival is truly about local produce; food and drink, rather than kitchen utensils for sale or larger companies.
The Northernhay Gardens are home to two expansive pavilions, hosting over a hundred local food and drink producers. Elsewhere on site, there are dozens of coffee shop vans, local beers to purchase, as well as the chance to hear some live music near Exeter Castle.
Exeter Beats Music Festival: Music of the South West
Throughout the day and well into the night, local artists and bands perform live music in the Castle Courtyard. Exeter Beats Music Festival is new for 2018 and the fun starts at 6:30 pm every night of the Bank Holiday Weekend. Sponsored by Otter Brewery, there’s the chance to listen to dozens of local acts while sipping on a local beer (or soft drink).
Highlights of the 2018 Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink
Chefs Table: Throughout the weekend, free live demonstrations (you pay once to enter the festival and then get to visit the exhibitions with the original ticket) are available in the Festival Cookery Theatre.
Cornish Gouda Co.: The award-winning Cornish cheese is hand produced in the heart of Cornwall by a family-run operation. The cows who produce the milk for the cheese are fed on crops which are also produced on the farm, meaning that the company is striving for zero food miles when it comes to cheese production.
Salcombe Gin: In the past few years, the UK law surrounding distilleries has changed, leading to an explosion of smaller boutique gin and vodka producers. While I’m not usually a big fan of spirits the artisanal Salcombe Gin is made with 13 carefully selected botanicals and tastes delicious!
Vicky’s Bread: We purchase Vicky’s Bread regularly at home and so it was a real treat to finally meet the people who make it! From focaccia to specialty loaves, there are oodles of options on offer, and all are freshly baked. Delicious!
Luscombe Drinks: Head to any coffee shop or restaurant in the South West, and they’ll likely stock at least a Luscombe product or two. Based in Buckfastleigh and first founded in 1975, the Luscombe Estate has been producing food on the farm since 1087! Today, there are plenty of award-winning drinks within the collections; including ciders, juices, tonics, and fruit crushes.
I was invited to visit the Exeter Food Festival in the early morning prior to its public opening, together with several other bloggers. However, all photos, opinions and cheese obsession remain my own!