Bank Holiday Festivalling

I’m shattered! 

August bank holidays used to be spent knee deep in mud in a field just outside Leeds watching bands. This weekend has been spent in various parts of the country sampling various foods and drink at the football and a couple of festivals. 

First up was Saturday morning, leaving the house at 9 am for a three o’clock kick off with every intention of a quick shopping spree in Manchester before hand. Three hours later and not even in the city centre shopping was aborted and we went straight to the match. 

I’m incredibly proud of our stadium, it has the best facilities in the county in my opinion. But at the start of the season the catering is normally pretty bad. Undertrained staff who have no idea what they are serving or how it should be served really doesn’t help. This week I had the delight of having the driest food I think they have ever served.

 

Driest Chicken & Ham pie in the world!
 
This is what was left of my chicken and ham pie, chips and gravy. Yes, at some point this had gravy on it. I think I had been given enough gravy to cover about four chips. And since I only have two hands I couldn’t juggle two pies and chips to get to ketchup during the half time rush. The pastry on the pie was as dry as a board and the pie had been sitting for so long until half time that the filling had also all dried up. All this for £6.50. Bring back Jamie Oliver and his pie, mash and gravy I say!

After the match we were back down the M6 and back to our village for the Cider and Sausage Festival. Nine different ciders and various sausages. What’s not to love?

  
I only managed to try three of the ciders, Rosie Pig, Old Mout Kiwi and Lime and Old Mout Passionfruit and Apple. I’m not normally a fan of traditional cider, I like mine fizzy normally but the Rosie Pig was really nice. Both the Old Mout Ciders were really sweet and tasted more like alchopops than cider but I would definitely have either again. And the sausages were free, plentiful and very tasty!
Up early again on Sunday for a trip to Birmingham for the Gin Festival. We had tickets for the evening session so after a couple of Gins in the bar at Hotel La Tour (7 Masshouse Plaza, Birmingham) we met up with friends and went to Turtle Bay (yes, I think I’m obsessed) for something good to eat before consuming our body weights in gin! 

  

Clockwise from top left Free cocktail someone gave me, BBQ Pineapple and coconut ice cream, Bay Bramble
 

Obviously I had the Jerk wings followed by the Street Burger, which I absolutely love. I even had room for delicious BBQ Pineapple with coconut ice cream. Cocktails were as fabulous as ever, someone on the next table even gave us her free one!

Next up was the Gin Festival. The Birmingham event was held at The Bond Company (180-182 Fazeley Street,  Birmingham). Luckily, it was straight down the street from the hotel as it was raining. Our first Gin Festival experience was in Milton Keynes earlier on this year. The venue then was The Buszy, what looked like a youth club above the bus station. It was split across about 4 rooms, one for the bar, one for the masterclasses and two with seating and a stage for live music. It was all inside and warm which we assumed would be the case in Birmingham. So it was pretty safe to say we hadn’t banked on having to queue up outside in the rain. Three of us hadn’t taken coats. So it’s safe to say we definitely weren’t expecting half of the venue to be outside. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be summer but a bit of warning about the outside seating scenario would have been nice. 

If you’ve never been to Gin Festival I will give you a bit of an idea of what happens. Tickets are around £7. For your money you get a branded balloon glass, a book with descriptions of all the gins available, a pen to mark your preferences, an order form should you wish to take any gins home with you and a badge in case you want to come back into the event later. All of this is yours to keep. Then you buy your gin tokens, cards  are charged at £20 and for that you get four gins. Inside the booklets are all the gins, there were over 100 in Birmingham. The book gives a detailed description of the gins, a bit of history or a fun fact and the recommended garnish. The booklet also tells you which bar the gin is available from. There were four bars, the fourth just had fruit and flavoured gins. You take your glass and voucher to the bar of your choice, they fill the glass with ice, the gin and the garnish. They stamp your card and that’s it. You can then add as much or as little Fever Tree tonic as like. There’s plenty of other stuff to buy, pretty much all of the gins are available to take home by the bottle, there’s gin art, gin candles, gin t-shirts, gin making kits, all things gin. There are also distillers with their own tables who will happily give you a sample of their wares and tell you a bit about their history and how their gins should be served, there was also a rep from Fever Tree who has their full delicious range available to sample.

 

Clockwise from top left Gin guide, free gin glass, Wrap of the Gods wrap (excuse the lipstick)
 
Last night, in Birmingham, we were lucky enough to be within the first 50 people inside. Which also meant that we were lucky enough to get a seat. We had decided to be very methodical with our gins, pick four from the two pages spreads. We tried them all and then gave them a mark out of ten, then divided the score by 4 to give it the ultimate score out of ten. Ultimate gin geeks!

Between us we managed to sample 32 of the gins, we would have had more but we were far too tired and far to cold! 

Our favourites were Sir Robin of Locksley, Sacred and Bobby’s. We bought Bobbys and Sacred, we’ve already got a bottle of Sir Robin at home.

More choice of food than at the last Festival, cheese and onion pasties had been replaced by delicious Wrap of the Gods wraps. Halloumi and Chorizo with homemade coleslaw and salad or Birmingham Samosas. We had Chorizo wraps which were really good and helped soak up some of the gin. Samosas weren’t very practical to eat, served on a plate with salad but with no tables people found it difficult to balance the plate and the gin while standing up! They did forget my order about 3 times so I had to wait a while but everyone else seemed to be served quite quickly.

Great festival again but will definitely take a coat next time, and probably a scarf and gloves!

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Five Guys Burger and Fries

Black Friday. Birmingham. Hectic shops but nowhere seems to be as busy as Five Guys and I am about to find out why!

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I went for a cheese burger. £8 for a plain burger but all the toppings are free. And plentiful! I had Mayo, BBQ sauce, grilled mushrooms, lettuce and grilled onions and we shared a regular fries which was enormous. And there are over 100 different flavours of Coca Cola drinks to try. I was quite boring and went for Cherry Zero, should have had a raspberry Zero instead but maybe next time.

The queuing system is pretty chaotic, everybody waiting for their brown bag of burgers crammed up against people trying to use the two badly positioned drinks dispensers.

Were the burgers worth the wait? Most definitely! Two juicy hand formed beef patties in a sesame bun squashed into foil didn’t look particularly appetising but it was delicious.

I’d probably rank the burgers third in my all-time list, behind Byron and BRGR Soho where you can choose how well done your burgers are. The atmosphere in the restaurant itself was not great and due to being self-service there are constantly people pushing past to find a table and refill drinks but I wouldn’t let that put me off going again. Definitely the best burger in Birmingham!

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So we tried to go to Five Guys just off Leicester Sq, London and a rude member of staff made us queue outside in the freezing cold even though there was no queue inside. Maybe we won’t be back after all!