As this will be probably be my last post from London for 2013, I thought it would be fitting to write a review of London’s first Halal Food Festival which took place this past weekend!
I was very excited about going, and my friend (SK) had booked us tickets over a month in advance. Overall, we ended up having a great time but the festival was… how can I put this… a bit of an anti-climax?! But let’s start on a positive note:
The whole concept of a Halal Food Festival is such a great idea. Food lovers who only eat halal meat are often limited to restaurants and cuisines originating from Muslim countries (Pakistani, Arab, etc.). Most of the time when dining out, we have to skip things like Jamaican jerk chicken served at street-side joints, the best of haute cuisine such as that featuring veal, Italian desserts that feature alcohol, and the list goes on. The idea of an entire festival at which we could try whatever we want and therefore hopefully get a chance to taste cuisines we otherwise would not was very exciting!
Undoubtedly, Gaucho probably walked away the biggest “winner” out of this festival. The line for their famous Argentinian steaks swerved around about a quarter of the hall, and we stood in it for our burgers for over 40 mins!
Depending on who you talk to, the burger was either amazing or disappointing. I quite liked it, and especially liked the accompanying chimichurri.
Unfortunately, SK really disliked it so she had to fuel herself from the Maison Touareg stand.
There were lots of cake stands, presumably more to showcase young Muslim entrepreneurs rather than the non-existent category of “Halal Cakes.” There was one that stood out for me the most (The Enchanting Cake Co.) that had gulab jaman cupcakes! It was that kind of unique, fusion cuisine I went there to see… Another one that stood out was The Apple Blue Patisserie:
Similarly, there was a crepe stand, waffles and of course, halal sweets (free from pork gelatin).
The Creative Kitchen showcased some beautiful Eid inspired cakes, I was seriously tempted to buy some gourmet fudge from Yum Yum Tree Fudge to take back to Pakistan, but decided not to incase it melts on the way…
I did buy some Bee Mercy honey for my mama.
We also did some light celeb-spotting: Pearl Daisy was there in the flesh, manning her stall. Ali from the Great British Bake-Off was also there, and we caught the end of a baking “competition” he seemed to be running. Finally, Rachel Allen did cooking demonstrations and book signings!
Let’s start with the vouchers debacle; it was made to seem like most (if not all) stands would only accept payment in the form of “Haloodi Vouchers” so we all bought some. Except most stands were not accepting them and only taking cash! As the vouchers were non-refundable, we ended up selling them to other people queuing up to buy them. What a hassle.
Secondly, the prices. I was expecting a lot more “tasters” or smaller portions at small prices, so everyone could try as much as possible. Not so. I paid a whopping £4 for a glass of lemonade! Ok, freshly squeezed. But still… £4?!
Finally, and I think this is what disappointed me the most… the lack of variety. I can eat cake anywhere. But I can’t eat alcohol-free tiramisu everywhere! I wanted to see more variety of cuisines… For example, I know there are halal Brazilian restaurants in London; why weren’t they showcasing at the festival?
Instead, there were too many lifestyle stalls, in my opinion. I spotted a stall selling massage equipment (like chairs) and there was art, jewellery, calligraphy, and book stalls too. As well as that, there were live nasheed artists, so it was much more like a “Muslim Festival” than a “FOOD Festival”, which would’ve been fine if that’s what it had been advertised as…
All in all, I did have a great day with my lovely friends, but the best part of the day was sitting in Costa afterwards OUTSIDE the festival (which says it all really), kindly treated to lattes by NR’s husband :-)
But unless there’s more stalls, more space and lower prices next year, I probably won’t revisit.