Review: Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival. Cardiff Bay.

Words by Katie Duffin

As I sat on the steps of the Street Food Piazza, it was clear summer had arrived, and with it one of Cardiff’s most unique and delicious festivals — the International Food and Drink Festival. Music trumpeted out of the speakers as one of the many eccentric bands that day carried the crowd along with an electric set of up-tempo jazz and blues. I watched and cheered along with the crowd as an elderly couple stole the show, swing-dancing along to the music with an energy and precision I could only envy. With a Pimms in one hand and a belly full of food, I was quite content (although I still had a little room for dessert).

Cardiff’s International Food and Drink festival is a celebration of the tastiest local, national and international food and drink, and in its 20th year it has really outdone itself. The festival is a haven for the self-professed foodie like myself — anything you name, they’ve got it, from the traditional welshcakes served up by Hot Welshcakes by Mum and Me, to the not-so-traditional garlic flavoured beer by The Garlic Farm (yes, you read that right). In keeping with the ever-growing population of veggies and vegans, there was plenty to eat for meat eaters and herbivores alike.

To prepare for the festival I decided to skip lunch and so I was ravenous by the time I got there. First up on the tasting menu was a cone of crispy sweet chilli squid with pickled veg, served up nice and hot by The Pod. It’s safe to say I wolfed this down, before wandering around the other street food stalls. My senses went into overdrive as the different aromas hit me one by one — Meat and Greek’s souvlaki, soft shell tempura crab from the Mighty Soft-shell Crab stall, Korean veggie curry, pizza, hog roasts; the lot. It was a tough decision but the next stall of choice was The Purple Poppadom; one of Cardiff’s favourite Indian restaurants. I devoured a portion of Bombay fries whilst sipping on a Doom Bar from one of the many bars dotted around, drinking in the view of sunshine hitting bay-water as I ate.

Before I got too full, I decided to have a little wander around the Producers Fayre and the Farmer’s Market. Since the festival is free, you could easily fill up without spending a penny with all the free samples being passed around. One thing that caught my eye was Retro Rum’s toffee liquor — I’m usually not too great with spirits, but this lovely little shot had a sweet kick to it (I didn’t even need to add any Coke). Next up was cheese — my favourite part — at the Snowdonia Cheese Company stall. You may have noticed this busy little stall late last year at Cardiff’s Christmas Market, serving up their famous Black Bomber cheddar along with some more adventurous flavours like their Red Devil or Green Thunder. I felt like a kid in a sweetshop by this time, eyeing up the gooey brownies over at The Pudding Wagon along with the colourful cannoli’s on show at Cafe Cannoli. After buying way too much food, I decided to go with a good old-fashioned Joe’s ice cream for dessert — everything else is just ice cream, of course.

Although this festival has food and drink at its heart, there were also plenty of arts, crafts and jewellery stalls to draw you in. The likes of Garth Mountain Silver were out in the sunshine all weekend, flaunting their silver and gold jewellery, individually handmade in Wales. For the art-lovers, there were plenty of ceramics ready to be snapped up at the Sian Davies Ceramics stall, and plenty of other art stalls to wander around. It’s fair to say the festival catered for everyone — it had a family-friendly vibe, with screams of delight coming from the ferris wheel perched at the seafront. Meanwhile, the grown-ups were enjoying a boogie as the sun went down, thanks to the bars which had been fully stocked all evening. The only critique I had were the prices — £12 for a Pimms seemed a bit steep to a student like myself, but there were plenty of other bars and drinks to choose from; so all-in-all it was a great day out. Here’s to hoping next year’s will be just as good.