The Great British Food Festival, Hardwick Hall

The season of food festivals is upon us! Up and down the country masses of marquees are popping up alongside rows of hay bales and street food vendors.

Food festivals are one of my 'things' and for me the season starts with a Great British Food Festival. Touring stately homes up and down the country it celebrates local producers and the cottage industry.

The festival arrives in Derbyshire over the May Day bank holiday weekend and camps out at Hardwick Hall. Which is perfect timing for kick starting the festival season - even if it is a little on the damp side.

As usual the event arrived last weekend and - with Mr M in tow - I was there just in time for it to open on Saturday morning.  My top tip for food festival-ing is always do a preliminary sweep. Take a while to have a look at all the stalls before buying anything, festivals often have more than one stall selling similar things so it's good to find the best before you spend all your money because they can be quite costly as well.

We started where everyone should start: pies. 

Artisan pork pies from The Cumbrian Pork Pie Company to be precise. We walked away with a Pork and Chilli Jam one for Mr M and judging by his approving nods it was a good pie: 

We then came across the nicest Jalapeño chilli jam I have ever tasted from Mike's Gourmet. May have walked away with a jar which may or may not now be hidden away in my chutney cupboard - oh, you don't have a chutney cupboard? You should get one:

Edinburgh Gin is a regular at these festivals and that's more than ok by me. Their Raspberry gin goes incredibly well with prosecco, but it's their Elderflower gin that is the real showstopper, add a little tonic water and you have yourself the perfect summer afternoon drink:

After having a nosey around all the stalls we went back and bought our chosen bits before heading over to the "Other Bits" tent dedicated to art, photography and crafts.

At the very front of the tent was a stall full of wildlife art painted by an artist called Don Styler. The artist himself sat amongst the chaos of the festival painting away. It was captivating to watch and we ended up chatting to Don for a while about his techniques. 

Before long we were pulled away by the rumbles of our empty stomachs.

The festival always has a fantastic choice of street food style stalls, and this year it seems that the display game has moved up a whole new level.

We grabbed lunch and snuck away from the crowds to tuck in.

The jalapeño burger from Burger Meister is a must try for anyone who likes a bit of heat on their burger. Mr M went for an off the menu option at Dawgs of Dirty fries (fries, chili and cheese) with a hot dog nestled in for good measure. 

Bellies full and money spent we wandered through the festival, past the circus skills tent full to the brim of kids trying out their best circus skills, and made for the exit with one stop before we left:

By far the best pudding there is: pure chocolate. I'm not even slightly sorry! With a long journey ahead of us for a last minute break we made our way out, and not a minute too soon as the Great British weather came into it's own and delivered us rain (the picture above and the picture belwo was taken a matter of moments apart - got to love the way it keeps us on our toes!). A bit of rain never hurt anybody but a mud bath was not part of the bargain. 

The Great British Food Festival has six more dates on the calendar with their next stop at Harewood House in Yorkshire. I'd definitely recommend a visit if you haven't already. You can check dates here

Oh, and wear your best stretchy trousers - you'll need them. 


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