So the weekend of the 15th and 16th of September I was lucky enough to visit Abergavenny Food Festival for the first time. I’ve been meaning to go for years. Even getting the opportunity to go with a press pass last year but not being able to go due to work commitments. Finally getting to go was very exciting. I couldn’t wait to try as much food as possible and see some fantastic demos by some top chefs/cooks. Obviously I was most excited about the outdoor cooking elements and BBQ but there was loads more to see and taste. In this blog I’ll go through all of the food I tried with you and describing it the best I can. I’ll also tell you all you need to know about the demos I visited. Here goes!
First thing I did when arriving at the festival was have a good look around. The festival was spread over a large part of Abergavenny town centre so there was loads to see. Most of the street food was divided between three sections. The upper & lower Brewery Yard, Castle Street and The Castle. Most of the street food was situated at the Brewery Yard. Those that I tried include Hangfire Kitchen, Dusty Knuckle Pizza, Crab Shack, The Pod and more. The Castle had The Beefy Boys, Cafe Spice Namaste and Murray May’s. I’ll go through each one in turn. There’s a lot to go through so I’ll try keep it brief.
The Beefy Boys
The very first thing I ate was the American Boy Beef burger by The Beefy Boys. For those of you that don’t know – The Beefy Boys started as a street food vendor and competition burger team. They went on to win Grillstocks Best Burger Award in 2014 and then coming 2nd overall in The World Food Championships with their Butty Bach Burger winning best burger in the final. The team returned to the UK using their winnings to open their first restaurant in Hereford which is one of the top places in the UK to get a really fantastic burger. I have been to their restaurant once before. The burgers were absolutely incredible so I already knew that the burger I would have at the festival would be every bit as good.
I am one of those people who likes their burger cooked all of the way through. Having beef burgers cooked medium has become very popular but I personally don’t like the texture. Luckily The Beefy Boys will give you the option to have your burger cooked just the way you like. The burger itself is incredibly juicy despite being ‘well done’. They use the best quality 21 day aged Hereford beef with a good percentage of fat to ensure that they never dry out. They then place the cheese and bun on the burger before covering with a cloche to make sure the cheese melts and the bun is soft. This is then placed onto the bottom part of the bun to complete your burger masterpiece. The flavour was fantastic. The burger is beefy. The cheese is creamy. The bacon was… bacony. The gherkins and mustard gave the all important kick every burger needs. This was everything you want in a beef burger. If you love burgers you will fall head over heels for The Beefy Boys. I would 100% recommend these to anybody.
Murray May’s, Kebabs
These Kebabs do look very attractive. I opted for the Lamb Shawarma. Served with hummus, burnt chilli sauce, tzatziki, salad, pickled cabbage and dukkah. The Kebab was very nice but the lamb itself didn’t seem like what I would normally call Shawarma. The lamb seemed as though it was pulled. Nevertheless the food was packed full of flavour and definitely enjoyable.
I did have a chance to watch them cooking whilst I waited for my kebab to be prepared. I would have liked to have tried the chicken kebab because the flames seemed to get a bit high on their BBQ at times. Is that a nice char or slightly burned? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was just the marinade? If I do see these guys selling food at another festival in the future I think I’ll probably give them another go.
This food was fantastic. There were two options to choose from. The Sticky Spicy Beef or Pulled Jackfruit & Shitakes. I thought I would be cheeky and ask for a bit of both. After all, the beef sounds tasty but I’ve always wanted to try pulled jackfruit and see what the fuss is about. They were kind enough to let me try both.
The food was served in a flaky paratha wrap which was really fantastic. Very buttery, flakey and really delicious. The sauces and extras really pulled the whole thing together and I just wish I had more. The beef was fantastic but pulled jackfruit was also really good. I would be very happy to eat that on a regular basis. Brother Thai seem to be at a lot of the festivals in South Wales so I would definitely recommend that you give them a try if you see them around.
Hangfire’s Sam and Shauna were serving pure meaty goodness. Nothing overly complicated but just fantastic ingredients. In the roll you got some beautiful Picanha, Caerphilly cheese, onions and green peppers. Everything was cooked perfectly and full of flavour.
I’ve recently visited their restaurant which was absolutely fantastic. This meal was definitely up to their usual standards. If you haven’t been to Hanfire Smokehouse I would suggest that you go as soon as possible. If you do like what you see I would also recommend that you watch their TV show. Sam & Shaunas Big Cookout series 1 can be found on BBC iPlayer with a new series coming soon. Sam also gave a demo at the festival which I will discuss later in the post.
The Crab Shack, Cornell Catering
This soft shell crab was supposed to be served in a bun. The purist in me says I should have got the meal as it was intended to be served but after the amount of food I had eaten I really couldn’t face it. I asked if I could just get the start of the show. The guys on The Crab Shack kindly obliged and served me this. The accompanying salad was nice. Fresh and a good pairing with seafood like this. The deep-fried soft shell crab itself was delicious. I’ve never had one before. I have always been sceptical about the fact you are eating the entire crab. My apprehension soon subsided when I tasted it. Definitely something to try again.
Dusty Knuckle Pizza
These guys were very friendly. Probably the most talkative and engaging vendors at the entire event. They just looked as though they were having fun! The love these guys obviously have for pizza definitely shows in the finished product.
I ordered the simple margherita but it was really good. Some might say a little too uch sauce but I like a saucy pizza. The crust was crispy. The toppings were delicious. Nothing more than you can really ask for. Definitely one to look for.
Cafe Spice Namaste
This was one of the only dishes I found slightly underwhelming. Perhaps that’s because I had very high expectations considering the food was prepared by TV Chef Cyrus Todiwala. It was also by far the most expensive meal I had at the festival. £13 if my memory serves me correctly. I believe the main dish was a Lamb Bhuna of some sort. I don’t remember the full title. It was pleasant but not the explosion of spice and flavour I was expecting. All of the meals were prepared or at least served from slow cookers. I normally find this makes a more watery curry. I feel as though I have produced similar results from curries I have made at home.
For an additional £3 I ordered some peshwari naan breads. The flavour was ok but again I felt underwhelmed. The naans were already cooked and simply warmed on a griddle. That in itself isn’t a problem but the resulting product was a little tough. The peshwari naan I get from the local indian takeaway is better. I would like to reiterate that nothing I had from the Cade Spice Namaste food stand was bad. Just not as good as I had hoped.
The last thing I ordered on the way out was the Crispy Squid with Sea Salt from The Pod, Newport. These were a real treat. Tender, flavourful popcorn sized pieces of battered squid. Simply tasty and left me wanting more when I had already eaten so much. I would definitely like this again.
There were a number of live demos scattered across the festival but my interest stayed firmly with the Live Fire Cooking on Kadai fire bowls. A number of chefs/cooks prepared some fantastic food over the weekend. Those include James Whetlor’s ‘Goat Three Ways’, Matt Tebutt and Freddy Birds ‘Seafood and Booze’ and ‘Wood Fired Mezze’ and Genevieve Taylors ‘Cooking With Wood’. I made sure that I was present for two in particular. Sam and Shauna’s Hang Fire BBQ and DJ BBQs ‘Smack My Steak Up’ both of whom are great personalities and big influences for me personally in terms of BBQ.
Hang Fire BBQ
Hang Fire BBQs demonstration was fantastic. Unfortunately Shauna was unable to make it. She was busy serving fantastic food from the street food stall. However, Sam was extremely entertaining with Martha Roberts filling Shaunas boots. Martha Roberts is a fantastic producer of top quality pork. Martha was only expecting to deliver the meat but certainly stepped up to the place when Sam asked her to put on a mic.
Sam cooked a pork loin joint and a rack of pork chops aka tomaporks, with a fantastic cider sauce and apple, cabbage slaw. I managed to have a taste and was not disappointed. The pork was fantastically tender and flavoursome. All in all Sam was very entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed the demo. If you would like to see Sam in action you can watch them on their TV show, Sam & Shaunas Big Cookout. On BBC 2 at the time of posting but still available on BBC iPlayer. Series two has already been filmed and due on our screens next year. Hangfire also have a restaurant in Barry, Hangfire Kitchen, you should definitely visit. They have also released a cookbook, ‘The Hang Fire Cookbook’, if you would like to try this type of cooking for yourself.
DJ BBQ , Smack My Steak Up’
DJ BBQ aka Christian Stevenson is one of the big personalities in the BBQ world. He has been featured on a few of Jamie Olivers TV shows and has also released two cookbooks. The latest being ‘Fire Food’. Definitely a great book and 100% recommended. The demonstration was absolutely great. Very entertaining and loads of fun.
Christian cooked chicken in Alabama White Sauce and ‘Smacked’ Steak. The techniques displayed were definitely ones to remember. Never would have thought to bash a steak with a heavy frying pan. I didn’t get to try any of this food by the crowd of people that did seemed thoroughly satisfied.
I think it’s safe to say that I had a fantastic time at Abergavenny food festival. The food on offer was fantastic. Loads to choose from. I just wish there was more time to try them. The demonstrations were thoroughly entertaining. I couldn’t have really asked for a better weekend. Perhaps next year I would like to see more American style barbecue but I know that’s just for me. I just can’t wait to go back next year.
Did you go? Would love to hear from you.
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Written by Tomos Newland-Jones @MrNewland66