2018 marks this festival’s seventh iteration for Alex James; previously marked with Jamie Olivers involvement, this year saw no mention of the ‘naked chef’.
The Big Feastival, as the playful name suggests, is heavily endorsed by the foodies of this world – we had to take our bellies along to sample in this years delights.
So, what is The Big Feastival and where does it take place?
A UK festival, based on Alex James’ Farm just outside of Oxford in a little ole’ place called Kingham. The festival is heavily focused on the food aspects of the whole experience, including appearances from world-famed chefs – this year’s headliners Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc (more on this to follow).
Feastival is not your standard UK festival; it has to be the most brand-heavy festival I have ever been to! NEFF clearly plays a large part in this, with multiple stages and a lot of branding plastered around the site. Not enough to be considered distasteful, but enough to make you realise this is not a festival built for the independents.
The heavy corporate feel wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – you could get your hands on a great level of quality products, including a Joules ‘pop-up’ festival store, Alpro ‘Planquet Tent’, Brancott Estates Wine Barn and Warner Edwards Gin Tent.. It is evidently designed to shout high-end – think more fancy glamper than happy camper kind of feel. This was clear from the moment you drive into the car park, with the majority of vehicles sporting the Range Rover, Jaguar or Audi name tag.
There were a few early stage hiccups when we couldn’t find a single steward or member of the festival team who knew how the camping worked. Having worked with a number of festival organisers in areas such as steward training and site planning, I was rather concerned that none of these stewards were briefed on how the site operated.
Now, the food..
This is truly where the Big Feastival separates itself from other UK based festivals. If you are a ‘standard’, carnivorous human being, then you will undoubtedly gorge yourself silly on the copious amounts of cheese, BBQ’d meats and charcuterie boards on offer.
This is not a vegan festival, not by any stretch, but that does not mean it is unaccommodating for vegans in general. Our experience was entirely vegan – big up to Hippeas for handing out endless bags of their puffed chickpea flour treats – and at no point were we left with empty stomachs or parched thirsts.
We acknowledged a whole list of vegan options on offer, our favourite had to be Happy Maki! Whenever we see them at a festival, we know our money is going to end up in their cash register. In fact, we should probably negotiate setting up a direct debit with the amount of Vegan Sushi they have provided our team over the years.
Our top pick from their menu has to be the Hoisin ‘Duck’, it’s just so damnn good! There is just something utterly perfect about sushi wraps at a festival – they fulfil so many of your wants and basic needs, they’re handheld and most of all they are super delicious!
The next long-term, festival-food love affair would have to be Buddha Bowls. An extremely close second to Happy Maki, Buddha Bowls offer boast some incredible vegan offerings!
During our Feastival experience, we must have devoured at least three of four of their awesome buddha bowls, they have a remarkable ability to leave you feeling healthier post-consumption. The steamed brown rice with the kale and seed mix really play their part in fulfilling any potential festival diner!
Now, for the big brand: Introducing Alpro’s Planquet Tent.
We were unable to sample what Alpro had to offer; due to the wet and windy weather, this large sheltered tent seemed to be permanently full of families – we found it a little unclear on what exactly they were offering. We shortly figured out that Alpro were promoting mocktails (alcohol-free cocktails) and a few dishes such as smashed avacado and a sweet potato curry. It has to be said, there were a lot of contented faces in that tent and it was easy to see why. Alpro also pre-sold spaces for their apply named ‘Planquet’ which involved a three-course meal for around £25pp. We would have loved to have been involved in this, but found the menu to be a little uninspired – for the experience, we would liked something a little more interesting and different.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to try their offerings – but we were given a small ‘festival survival pack’ which consisted of a rain mack, an iced coffee, a face mask, some energy balls and a reusable water thermos. We were smitten with our new found gifts, but must note that the attention to detail was rather sloppy. Our coffees were unfortunately out of date which made us question the energy balls – we still went for it and can say that were most grateful for the overall energy boost needed to conquer the muddy passages across the festival site.
How about something for the sweet-tooth?
Don’t worry – the big feastival had a number of options to cover those sugary cravings – our favourite, without a doubt, had to be Bad Brownie!
Their vegan and gluten-free, salted caramel brownie was without a doubt the BEST BROWNIE I HAVE EVER EATEN! You may think the capitals a little overkill, but I just had to amplify how I feel about their brownies. It had the perfect brownie consistency with a rich vein of delicious salted caramel and a gold dust topping. The next time someone says “I don’t think I could go vegan” you need to order yourselves some of these amazing brownies!! Their website is above, they deliver.
If brownies aren’t your deal you must be crazy; but, if you want something different, we found Doughnut Time had you covered!
We really just had to sample their doughnuts – they looked amazing. We went for their red velvet doughnut and their biscoff glazed doughnut. Our only criticism, if you can call it that, would be in the ratios used here. Both doughnuts were extremely sweet, even for the most veteran of sweet treat eaters. The ratio between buttercream to doughnut was off, you needed less buttercream with each mouthful then you were getting – again, we don’t mark this as a bad thing because you can always take some away, but you can’t add it.
First off, Marco Pierre White
As far as the big-name chefs go, Marco Pierre White really is up there amongst the greats. He has so often been referred to as the first celebrity chef. His stage presence was immediate – he was so calm, so comfortable and so confident. It is clear to see why he was marked with this tag.
Marco pulled up a stranger from the crowd, his name was ‘Larry’. I say this loosely as his real name was in fact Barry, something which he mentioned every now and again throughout the ‘performance’.
He kept Larry on stage with him for the entire 45 minutes whilst teaching the crowd how to make that perfect risotto and recounting stories from his past. It was clear to see that he truly is a master of his craft! From the first 90 seconds, the audience were in the palm of this three-michellin starred chef (the youngest ever to receive three stars). One of the greatest showman in cooking!
It was one of our highlights of the festival, no explanation needed – truly amazing!
The headliner from the NEFF stage, Raymond Blanc
One of Britains most respected chefs, bringing a French passion for food, Raymond Blanc demonstrated true down-to-earth qualities, inviting children from the crowd to join him guiding the audience through some of his recipes.
It was genuinely humbling to see a man as high in his field as Blanc, creating an atmosphere where the crowd were like his friends and family. Blanc recounted stories from his past and spoke directly to the heart of the children on stage, amplifying idylls of family and cooking in the home.
Marco and Raymond made us fall in love with the celebrity chef even more – they were passionate, down-to-earth masters of food and cooking. They took the time to show how they are no different to you and I, sharing stories of struggle and explaining how hard work truly can pay off!
Would we recommend The Big Feastival?
In short, yes, but I depends on what you are looking for. To the average festival goer, our answer would most likely be no.
Day Tickets will set you back £84.50, the full weekend with camping will cost you a whopping £189.50. As a brief comparison, you can get the whole Glastonbury experience for an extra £50! So, is The Big Featsival really worth the high-end price tag? It really depends on what a festival means to you. If it’s all about the music and the late night experiences, stories and crazy costumes.. then hell no, this is not the festival for you.
If you are someone who loves the brands, loves chart music, high-end cheese, fine wines, beers and cooking – then yes, this is the festival you have been waiting for. It also seemed like a great family-friendly festival, with respectful people and quiet camping areas.
Would we go again?
Such a tough decision, it would really depend on the chefs line-up. This for us was the most attractive part of this festival. The food was also delicious, but you have to keep festivals like Shambala and Glastonbury in mind for food and music – not to mention antics galore.
Will this festival experience change your life?
No. Unless you LOVE celebrity chefs.
Some more photos from the weekend..
Thanks Big Feastival, maybe see you in 2019!