Yet another wonder-filled Wilderness Festival is now behind us; Season Nine perfectly reflects the mainstream rise in veganism via it’s behemoth array of food vendors offering plant-based delights.
From Asian fusion to classic Italian to new-age millennialism’s, there was certainly enough choice for everyone. Then of course, there was fine dining.
With an array of banquet tents offering something exclusively Wildernessy -wine in a real glass and meals on porcelain, this was so far from your ordinary festival experience.
Petersham Nurseries 3/5
Fine dining came in many forms this year, with Michelin star chef Tom Aikens concluding the Banquet dining on Sunday evening. Offering his diners champagne on arrival and presenting a clear presence in the restaurant area, Aikens demonstrated strong foresight for the needs and desires of his Wilderness guests.
Working with seasonal produce, Italian flavours and grandiose floral displays, Petersham Nurseries returned for its fifth consecutive year. Continuing the banquet theme, Petersham invited its guests to experience a menu designed for sharing; the initial concept was impressive and presented a whole new festival experience.
On Friday evening, were invited to sample their vegan menu, which unfortunately fell a little flat by providing an exclusion-style selection of dishes. Essentially, Petersham removed all meat, fish and dairy from the original dishes to leave the plant-based diner with the remaining ingredients; for dessert, this meant a small plate of berries compared to a glorious tower of honey-soaked tiramisu. Counterintuitive to the concept, this excluded those diners from the experience; considering the drastic rise of veganism in the recent years, one might expect a little more for an experience starting at £80 per guest with the advertisement of a ‘vegan menu’.
Happy Maki 4/5
We are anything far from shy when it comes to this particular vendor. First crossing our path at Shambala Festival 2017, we named them our food highlight of the festival. Check it out here.
Whether you need a meal to dance with or a snack to savour, Happy Maki have got you covered. It is almost autonomous, how we here at VLL UK join the queue any time we see these guys – and for a very good reason. They present 100% plant-based deliciousness, in a convenient form. The ‘duck hoisin’ with wasabi and pickled ginger is by far the Happy Maki king for us!
Eat Chay 3/5
If you’ve never had a bao bun before, you can do a lot worse than to start with an Eat Chay Vegan Bao.
When it comes to bao buns, the balance of textures is key. We tried both bao buns EC had to offer and we found they were crammed with fresh shredded vegetables, one with a lemongrass mock chicken and another bbq jackfruit. They both hit the spot with incredible accuracy; unfortunately, the fries were dry, and somewhat dampened the entire eating experience.
Attention to detail is crucial in this competitive age and it was the lack of attention here which cast this vendor out of contention for us this year. We will certainly be back to give them a second shot at the crown.
‘Whole food heaven’ Buddha bowls 4/5
Those familiar with the festival circuit, will certainly recognise this vendor. We have a long loving relationship with Buddha Bowls, whether you are pulling your life out of a festival hangover or feeling the cleaner eating vibe, BB has got your back.
With only one option on the menu, this confident food van provides no second choice. Simply put, it doesn’t need to.
New potatoes, pineapple and soya chunks in a massaman curry with steamed kale, shredded carrot and short grain brown rice – topped with an omega seed sprinkle. Cheek-to-cheek smiles, the staff certainly reflect the perfected dish of the mighty Buddha bowl. Be aware, they do offer real halloumi as an add on, making this a vegetarian vendor.
A hydroponic wheat grass growing horse-box offering cold-pressed juices, raw sweet treats and hand roasted coffee. The immunity shot will definitely become your best friend after Friday night at a festival!
The juices were pre-made and served from a small counter-top fridge, in a takeaway plastic bottle. It sounded as though they were making these juices each day, but it has to be said, for the price tag one might expect fresh-pressed juice. Other vendors on-site offered much more for less, made in front of you.
Coffee beans appeared to be of high quality and had a great aroma whilst in the queue. Unfortunately, after review from our professional barista, he has informed us that this vendor did not deliver on consistent quality. Decanting shots from paper cups means you lose so much of the crema from your espresso. The coffee was served in a ‘vegware’ style takeaway cup, which unfortunately had passed it’s recommended age for use by over 4 months. As these products are bio-degradable in under 12 weeks, it’s important that these dates are closely monitored.
We had high hopes for this vendor, as featured on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces, but unfortunately it fell short of it’s potential. A few small tweaks and this could be incredible!
The vegan burger is everywhere in 2019 – for this reason, we decided to opt for Greenbox’s vegan philly cheeze steak with pulled oyster mushrooms instead.
Much to our surprise it contained no cheeze at all, simply lettuce, undressed red cabbage and marinated pulled mushroom. For us, this did not meet the expectation one might have for Philly cheeze steak, and became an entirely different sandwich in itself.
Simple and very vegetarian/vegan branding styles, with pallet wood fascia and bright green text. The service was somewhat chaotic with a team of three coming across a little flustered – that being said, they were incredibly friendly and rather accommodating. We will be back to sample to the burger!
Naania by Frankie goes to Bollywood 4.5/5
Indian cuisine as you’ve never seen it before.
Their menu consisted of three strong contenders – each consisting of flavoursome filling combos wrapped in a fluffy, warm and crisp naan bread. The perfect Indian-spiced junk food sandwich; think souvlaki made Indian.
We just couldn’t fault this menu. Our favourite had to be their ‘Juicy Lucy’ – a chickn kebab strip with siracha mayonnaise, crunchy slaw and jalapeños.
Service was on-point, very warm and friendly, well-informed and down-to-earth. Owned by the creators of Popdogs vegan hotdogs, this is their next level end-game and our festival favourite of Wilderness 2019!
As seen at last years The Big Feastival, Popdogs seitan hotdogs are exactly what they say on the tin. With a chunky seitan dog and three topping options this vendor would be a reasonable transitioning option for meat eaters and flexitarians. However, when removing the spicy bbq sauce, there is little flavour left in the hotdog itself, unlike other seiten sausages available on the market today.
It has to be said, compared to their sister food truck as mentioned above, service here was night and day. We found it to be cold, uninterested and lacking human interaction, three extremely negative points for a food vendor in 2019.
We tried our best to strike conversation with the team, perhaps they were having a bad day? We went back to give them a second chance, but were equally disappointed by the cold reception of the team. Our reccomendation would be full team training, perhaps with the Naania team, to learn how to make your customers feel welcomed.
Arancini Brothers 2/5
When we talk about the vast choice at Wilderness this year, Arancini Brothers is a clear example that vendors can veganise anything.
This being said, we were a little disappointed at the lack of flavour packed into their risotto balls, even with their caramelised onion chutney and tomato salsa.
Their team was super-friendly, informing us of their several permanent locations in London. However, we feel their recipes didn’t live up to this classic Sicilian staple, crying out for a punchier flavour profile to live up to its name.
Coconut lovers’ heaven, coconut ice cream served in a coconut.
This awesome little dairy free ice cream truck offered three flavours: vanilla, chocolate or raspberry. With a topping selection of strawberry cheesecake, crunchy or snickers. This was by far, some of the best plant-based ice cream we have ever sampled!
With the August sun beaming down this weekend, Froconut was the ideal plant-based sweet treat to chill down with. Big up to the chocolate ice cream with strawberry cheesecake topping.
Bad brownies 3/5
‘Bad brownies’ was a big hit for us at The Big Feastival 2018, where their salted caramel vegan brownie was to die for. Check it out here.
This year they have ditched the edible gold glitter for freeze fried raspberries. The texture was chewy and dense, with a scattering of raspberry; we were happy, but felt somewhat unfulfilled. Bring back the salted caramel, this was a revelation!
Guilt-free, organic, fair-trade.
With the bold tagline of “no fads, no nonsense, no lies” these pots only contain avocado, cashew, dates, cocoa powder and natural flavourings.
Teamed with a charity, Panis, each sale of these cheeky chocolate pots provides a healthy breakfast for a child. In fact, this business is doing so well, they have currently reached a goal of providing an entire school breakfast for an entire year!
As with a lot of raw vegan desserts, the onist pot is quite rich, but would be great on porridge, ice cream or with fruit. Topping selections include raspberries, strawberry, granola, peanut butter.
‘ONIST operates directly on a buy one, give one basis whereby for every pot you buy you are buying a healthy Breakfast for a child in need at our partner school. We are working with a charity called Pandis in the Gambia and are just about to launch with our second charity in Uganda. So thank you. You are pretty great!’
Mary Lynch, creator of Onist, and festival staff were very warm and friendly.
Cosy Rosies 3/5
While we didn’t think much of their savoury vegan crepes with raw mushrooms, Cosy Rosie redeemed themselves with a personalised vegan crepe. Their ‘Apple Pie’ sweet crepe which contained apple sauce, cinnamon, demerara sugar and mascarpone was kindly veganised by swapping out the mascarpone for strawberries. While this became drenched in strawberry juice and was kind difficult to eat, it was nice to have a vegan hot sweet dessert.
Violife grated cheese (coconut oil based) and vegan batter were available upon request.
Forest Alchemy Natural Botanicals 4/5
It’s a welcome sight, all-natural beauty products at festivals.
Whether you need some after sun care for your British sun-kissed skin or a quick festival freshen up. Forrest Alchemy provides an extensive range of balms, lotions and potions, who are hoping to go fully vegan (their wonder healing balm currently contains beeswax). With wild ingredients such as white fir, scotch pine and nettle, these little green cosmetics are any vegan’s dream come true.
Certainly a stall with a creative passion for display; a humidifier was used to show off their woodland essence, and moss and tree cross sections to house their products. Price range ££-£££
Buck Wild Grooming 4/5
All-vegan beard balms and pomades.
These bearded business men claim to be cruelty free, using only sustainable ingredients. Using fresh vibrant essential oils including lemon, rose and lavender, their products would undoubtebly make great presents.
Unfortunately these products were a tad pricey for a natural beard balm and after some short research, can be found cheaper on their website. This is a strange outcome for us, most vendors offer festival discounts.
Price range ££-£££
Wilderness Environmental Policy
We were very happy to see that Wilderness had devoted a page in their jam packed program about their environmental policy, from recycling to cycling!
Please check out their policy for 2019 here
Review by Daniel Nixon and Katie Field