Han Eats @ Leamington Spa Food Festival

“Rain rain, go away, come again another day.”

Definitely the motto for this weekend and the annual Leamington Food Festival.

It’s definitely become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for my family and I, so much so that we didn’t even sway from our usual Saturday visit, despite 100% rain forecast, with 97% sunshine on Sunday. So off we trotted, walking boots and all.

After a quick shelter in the Pump Rooms, we headed on out to sample some food fest delights (and offer the vendors hope of scoring more than one soggy dish despite the weather).

I won’t boast I’m some food festival veteran know-it-all – Leam’s is in its 9th year, I’ve probably now been to 4. However, I would say that the initial stroll around is an obligatory stage in the food festival experience anywhere you go. Seriously, walk around the WHOLE thing. It’s the only way to come close to a) making a decision and b) ensuring you have enough room for EVERYTHING you want to eat.

With stage 1 done, we then deliberated and made tardy decisions on our chosen dishes, before finally tucking into the following delights:

Chicken Chaat @ The Indian Rasoi
Vegetable Samosas + chutney @ The Indian Rasoi
BBQ Smoked Chicken with mango & ginger glaze with mango chutney and a sensational limo mayo 👌🏻 @ 63 Islands
(When your slice is that good…) Salted Caramel Ginger Cake with walnuts @ Fanny’s Fancies

[Choices gobbled too quickly for photos: slow-cooked lamb with salsa verde on ciabatta roll, Thai noodles & fried chicken and the obligatory food festival pork batch – always a winner]

Despite the rain, the people of Leamington and Warwickshire turned out in surprising numbers and come 3pm, the atmosphere was buzzing – just the right amount of busy without the sun-soaked crowds of last year.

It must also be said that the band did a great job of keeping spirits high and the atmosphere flying.

Now, to head off on what may be read as a mini-rant… It’s no secret that the street food trend is accelerating at a tremendous pace in the UK. From London’s world-famous markets and #streetfood pop-ups, including venues such as Dinerama that I visited recently, and of course not forgetting Brum’s mighty Digbeth Dining Club and the arrival of Brum Yum Yum’s Hawker Yard, Leamington Food Festival stands up well and still allows me to create a neat top 5 list.

Leamington Food Fest 2016 – the top 5:

1. The Indian Rasoi – I’ll definitely seek this lot out again

2. Fanny’s Fancies – how I ever made a decision out of these beauties I don’t know. No wonder Coffee Architects is packed out every weekend.

3. 63 Islands – another one I’ll be seeking out – gimme those spicy prawns

4. Carluccios – no pic, but should have gone back for that mushroom arancini…

5. Sweet As – probably too sweet for me, but damn, look at those CAKE JARS – heart attack in a glass.

However, while some of the vendors at the fest are now definitely becoming firm festival favourites,  others are sadly absent. Dad mourned the absence of his favourite gourmet sausage roll vendor (although Warwick Street Kitchen did partially fill this gap) and his other favourite Polish station. Other absentees were the South-American street food, a man with an irresistibly large big paella dish and somewhere, anywhere serving Pad Thai.

Although the choice was large and generally diverse, I do feel other street food festivals and events have now completely raised the gourmet, exotic bar. For example, aside from the usual Thai/Indian offerings, the Asian representation was low.

Elsewhere, Korean/Vietnamese/Phillipino food (sampled at the recent Digbeth Dining Club @ Coventry Cathedral) are all rising in popularity at these events and at pop-ups around the country. Perhaps with the exception of The Indian Rasoi at Leam Food Fest, there was no-one making me go “well I HAVE to TRY that…”

Maybe my critique and expectation level is increasing at an alarming rate. Sure, there was plenty, PLENTY of cake and vendor after vendor of slow-pulled something. There was Caribbean and South-African teams cooking up a storm. I was just missing a few stalls to tempt me into trying a little  bit (or a lot) of something different.

Caaaaaaake @ The Cakery


All this said, of course I will be visiting Leamington Food Festival next year, it now appears to be family tradition. It’s a great event and always delivers something delicious. However, maybe Han Eats needs to call out to the street food / festivals heavyweights and get them in line for Leamington Food Festival plots 2017…


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