Food festivals (in general) have become one of my favorite events to visit. My love of food definitely has escalated as I’ve gotten older, along with my buying habits.
I now appreciate quality over quantity much more than I used to and food festivals are the perfect place to discover talented, independent vendors and exciting new products.
Last month, I was invited along to Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2017 for an evening of fine dining with chef Aiden Byrne. If you haven’t heard of Aiden Byrne before, here’s a quick introduction.
Aiden is the owner and head chef of both Manchester House and The Church Green restaurants and can even boast the claim of being the youngest chef ever to be awarded a Michelin star. Impressive, huh?
He brought a pop-up version of his Spinningfields restaurant to the festival in the form of ‘Made in Bolton’ for a three-course fine dining feast and I couldn’t wait to see what was on offer. Our menu arrived a few days prior to the event and Adam and I made our respective food choices – here’s what we decided on:
Shellfish bisque, grilled Sicilian red prawns with saffron mayonnaise
Confit rabbit, young leek and truffle terrine, grilled sour dough and celeriac remoulade
Butter poached chicken breast, onion macaroni and butter head lettuce
Braised beef cheek choucroute, Wagyu fillet tartar, sweet miso hollandaise and beef Secretto ham
Chocolate Mille Feuille, hazelnuts and violets
After being seating in the stunning marquee, we were soon informed that another table would be picking up the drinks tab. Adam seized the opportunity and swiftly made his way through two bottles of red! I was driving but had a sip and the Shiraz was rather moreish. We were surprised to learn that the wine was actually from Aldi and will be visiting our local store soon to stock up.
Now I’m a not fan of seafood, however, I ordered the shellfish bisque for a good reason. You see, when I was growing up, my Mum always encouraged us to try new foods/flavours and this has stuck with me through adulthood. I venomously dislike salmon (too ‘fishy’ for me – yeah I know) but still try it every Christmas, just incase my taste buds have changed (still not successful) and try to regularly revisit foods that I’ve previously written off.
My starter arrived with lovely chunky prawns as the star ingredient and a side of bread with a large dose of saffron mayonnaise. The bisque was subtle and not as overpowering as I thought it may be. Paired with the saffron mayonnaise, I was pleasantly surprised and will be exploring the world of seafood more from now on. The rabbit terrine was succulent and the leek and truffle flavours blended perfectly.
Next up was the main course. My buttered chicken was tender and rich in flavour but I couldn’t quite warm to the onion macaroni – I think the jelly-like texture confused my senses and I’m not sure it was the best choice of side to complement the chicken. The beef was cooked through, with just a hint of pink and the Wagyu fillet tartar gave an element of variety to the dish.
Despite being a ‘non-dessert’ person (I most definitely am) Adam thoroughly enjoyed the modern take on a traditional Manchester Tart and proceeded to tell anyone who’d listen how good it was. He reluctantly let me try a little and I had to agree – it was a treat for the palette as well as the eyes! With toasted coconut, fruity shards of meringue and a rich raspberry coulis, it was a refreshing finish to the savoury courses.
My chocolate Mille Feuille arrived with (what I think was) violet ice cream on a bed of crunchy hazelnuts and chocolate pastry. The bottom half of the dessert was a little dry but the topping managed to offset this. I’ll be honest though, I wish I’d have ordered the Manchester Tart myself!
All of the food was well-presented and served promptly. I’m useless with names so can’t specify exactly who it was but our server was super friendly, informative and professional throughout the course of the evening. Adam and I actually ended up staying for a couple of hours after we’d eaten as I’d quickly bonded with Ms. M from Miss Pond over a mutual love of cats, white goods, and general geekery.
I’m hoping to explore much more of the festival next year and was utterly pained to have to decline an invitation to Slatterys Afternoon Tea with Ainsley Harriott the next day due to prior commitments (my Mama brought us up on Ready Steady Cook so Ainsley is one person that I’d love to meet in ‘real life’).
Have you been to Bolton Food and Drink Festival before?
*Our meal was provided FOC, however, all opinions are my own