London Street Foodie On Tour: the best festival food highlights at Wilderness Festival
It’s a tricky thing blending fine dining with street food, art, dance, comedy, partying, philosophy, crafts, parents, kids games, and more. But I’d say that at Wilderness they got it bang on last weekend.
I went for the first time this year, thinking it was just going to be a load of people having banquets in tents, and getting up for the occasional boogie (which would be no bad thing, really, except that I require a higher-than-average percentage of dancing at festivals). I wasn’t expecting to see some of the best dance performances I’ve ever seen (that extraordinary piece choregraphed by James Cousins for Rambert, for example); to have practically every variety of this country’s best street food options available to choose from; to boogie to Shura, Parov Stellar and Glass Animals in the setting sun; to watch naked wheelbarrow racing at the Clubhouse; to stroll along a river; to party in The Valley until the wee hours; to spend an hour doing Philosophical Speed Dating with Sunday Assembly; and to sit down to a boozy bbq feast (see below) on Sunday.
All in all, it felt like an eccentric, brilliant combination of Latitude and Edinburgh Festivals with its focus and appreciation for arts, a series of top London supperclubs, and Secret Garden Party for its outlandishness, all rolled into one. I very much hope, now that its umbrella group Mama has been bought by LN-Gaity Holdings Ltd (Live Nation+Gaity Investments), that this doesn’t change.
Street food-wise, the programmers really excelled, and there was food from LSF favourites and more: Anna Mae’s; Bill or Beak (those truffle chips!); BBQ Dreamz; Cafe Mor; Ginger’s Comfort Emporium; Breddos Tacos…
And since the festival is all based around people having fun together, I thought I’d share the top festival food picks from some of my friends, both from the food industry and outside it, who were all there too.
**TOP WILDERNESS FESTIVAL FOOD PICKS – as decided by those who were there**
Why? It put all my home barbecues to shame, even though Pitt Cue’s Tom Adams couldn’t be there himself (he’d chopped part of his thumb off, apparently, poor guy). We walked in past the grills, taking in the smell of slow cooked lamb, and took a seat on wooden palates. And then the feast began: the Mangalitza ham was luscious, with a strip of silky, forgiving fat along the top; I very much liked the combination of cured monkfish with peas, sorrel, mint and cobnuts; there were intensely meaty Polish-style Kielbasa sausages with kraut; there was a super lamb shoulder for four of us to share, with meat that fell straight off (see this post’s main image taken by Clerkenwell Boy); there was a pile of supreme green chilli slaw made with salted white cabbage, soy, and green chilli; and a delicious side dish (pictured above) of caramelised shallots with breadcrumbs, mint oil and cow’s curd that we could have eaten for breakfast. And then, a liquid berry cheesecake aka a cup of cream cheese custard and berries. Top grub.
My top street food: Budda Bowl from Wholefood Heaven (pictured above)
Why? I’ve had this before, and I ate it twice this weekend. You could say this was an unoriginal decision given the humungous amount of choice at Wilderness, but the thing is that there is a certain point in the evening when sometimes you need to stoke up on something nutritious before you spend the rest of the night on your feet. And given that what comes out of this van is so delicious, it was worth it. A Buddha Bowl is a brown box filled with grilled salty halloumi, grilled kale, brown rice, nutty sprinkles, homemade kimchi pickle, and Massaman curry with new potatoes and soya chunks. This bit was slightly let down by the pineapple chunks but otherwise it was a banging, flavoursome dinner.
CLERKENWELL BOY, Instagram photographer
Top pick: Fried chicken tacos with spicy mayo from Breddos Tacos (pictured above)
Why? They’re the best fried chicken tacos in town – washed down with frozen tequila slashes.
Top pick: Double cheeseburger and sesame bun from Bleecker Burger (pictured above)
Why? Just what we needed after a swim in the lake!
Top pick: Bacon & egg bap with *those* confit potatoes (pictured below) from The Quality Chop House
Why? The best cure for any hangover.
LUCY FRANCIS, director of Domino Communications
Top pick: Salmon sashimi salad with truffles from Kurobuta (pictured above).
Why? It had a fresh, zingy dressing and great quality fish (especially for a festival) – lovely as it was a scorching day and I didn’t really fancy heavy burger action.
Top pick: Double cheeseburger at Le Bun
Why? This (pictured at the top of the article) was my lifeline as it was pretty much all I ate on Saturday… it was a delicious brioche bun that mopped up the juices from the beef patty – these guys must have a great supplier – topped off with loads of truffle mayo.
Top pick: Bavette steak from the Quality Chop House
Why? Incredible piece of perfectly seared meat, lovely and pink on the inside and served with a Caesar dressing drizzled over a pair of Cos lettuces. Simple and the ultimate protein hit. Amazing value too at only £10 (the sashimi salad was £12).
ROSIE LLEWELLYN, founder of A Little Lusciousness supperclub
Top pick: veggie burger from Patty & Bun
Why? It was a field mushroom fritter with garlic butter, cheese sauce coleslaw, tarragon mayo in a brioche bun. It melted in the mouth and had crunch from the fried mushroom. Perfect size. Best veggie burger I’ve tried and so nice having the fried mushroom instead of a bean patty.
Top pick: Cheesy chips from The Cheese Truck
Why? These were sweet potato fat cut chips topped with Montgomery cheese and spicy sauce. I’m not sure if it was the 2am pit stop, the delicious melty cheese or the perfectly sized and cooked sweet potatoes but as the last thing we ate at the festival it was definitely a good choice…
DAISY PERKINS, cousin, festival pal, artist
Why? An eclectic looking van advertising burgers, tangine and wraps, I wasn’t expecting anything in particular, but I was deliciously surprised with a box of sumptuous Middle Eastern salads full of pomegranates, herbs, whole grains, chickpeas and other goodies topped off with a selection of sauces. Available with lamb too. Perhaps the unexpected delight from a slightly unpromising looking van made this dish even better, but it was a beautiful foodie treat and a perfect way to sign off from a fabulous festival.
ANDY HUGHES-ONSLOW, festival pal
Top pick: Dumplings from Dorshi
Why? Because of their simplicity which makes them work well as festival food – this combined with the good snacking portion, and the variety of fillings and flavours. Unlike some of the other stalls they were fresh and had more choice than a new car: crispy shallots, Japanese mayo and hot sauce to name but a few. Very scrumptious. Now put that in your mouth and smoke it.
JAMES ELLIOT, co-founder of Pizza Pilgrims
Why? Because it had a double yolker fried egg on top and IT.WAS.AWESOME.
GIGI BARKER, cousin, festival pal, artist
Why? Both mouthwatering. The QCH is just down the road from me and one of my favourite restaurants in London, so initially I thought I’d give it a miss. But then I heard these other two girls talking about the bacon butty so had to try it. There were so many other bacon butties at the festival, but none of them treacle cured with slow roasted tomato on a brioche bun. I essentially just tried to eat as much food as possible during my Wilderness experience. Some people use the programme to see what events they should attend. I saw it as one big menu. These were the definite highlights for me.
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