Taste Edinburgh - Season to Taste
Edinburgh’s tented food festival is back, with 14 restaurants, three cooking theatres and over 60 food and drink stallholders gathering in Inverleith Park for three days of meeting and eating. The List takes a look at what’s in this year’s picnic basket
The big names
The Channel 4 Taste Festival can normally be relied upon to roll out some big names to appear at the festival. Big in both length and fame are Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (Friday, both sessions) and Jean-Christophe Novelli (Sunday, both sessions), while Nick Nairn (Saturday) heads up the list of local heroes with Edinburgh’s Michelin glitterati, including Tom Kitchin and Tony Borthwick also banging some pans.
Fourteen local restaurants are the centrepiece of Taste, with top-end venues such as Number One at the Balmoral, The Tower and Abstract setting up camp for the weekend. There’s also the chance to make the acquaintance of some of the newcomers to the city’s dining scene in the last 12 months, with the kitchens from Hotel du Vin and The Rutland making a debut this time around.
Finding a tipple to tickle your fancy shouldn’t be too hard, with dozens of drink specialists coming to the Taste party. There are wine ranges from big beasts such as Penfolds and Wines of Chile to local wine merchants such as Henderson Wines and Lockett Bros; whisky on show includes Bunnahabain as well as boutique brands such as Sheep Dip or Benriach and there’s beer from Edinburgh breweries Caledonian and Stewart as well as Alloa’s Williams Brothers (Fraoch etc). Expect to find some imaginative cocktail making going on at various spots including the restaurants from the Montpeliers and Festival Inns groups.
The holy trinity as far as foodies are concerned is made up of ham, cheese and wine. Scotland’s contribution to the first category has been fairly limited (unless you count the bacon butty), but Chris and Denise Walton of Peelham Farm Produce are starting to change that with Italian-inspired salamis, sausages and hams from rare-breed pigs created in their new on-farm butchery in the Borders. Other places to find good local farm food are Gosforth Farm Bothy (wild boar) and Damhead (organic veg), as well as a group of producers from East Lothian.
If the sun blazes (or even if it doesn’t), hunt out the ice cream from the Stewart Tower Dairy, a small operation based just off the A9 between Perth and Dunkeld. Meanwhile, Angus Soft Fruits should be showcasing some of the season’s first strawberries and raspberries, including those sold under their pesticide-free Good Natured Fruit brand. An alternative burst of sunshine comes in the bottles of Perthshire’s Summer Harvest oil, one of a number of small rapeseed oil producers to have emerged in Scotland in recent years.
Snacks are back
Pizza is one of the world’s great outdoor foods and La Favorita’s wood-fired ovens turn out the best in Edinburgh. Fortunately they’ve got one on wheels for moments just like these. Stand nearby just to get a waft of the delicious aromas. For healthy salads and a range of other local and organic food turn to the ever-reliable Henderson’s with their selection of vegetarian and vegan snacks including bread baked in their city-centre premises. If you prefer something a little meatier, Biggar-based Bernard Alessi will be showing off his remarkable Simple Simon pies, each a complete gourmet meal for one wrapped in pastry.
Heart of Glass
The matching of wine with food is a familiar theme at food events, but Aussie wine outfit Yellow Tail are trying something different this year with a challenge to match wines with music. Their Sample Session suggestions include Rosé with R&B, Shiraz with 90s pop and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc with disco – well, wine and cheese always was a winning combo.
Edinburgh has always enjoyed its continental connections, particularly in the world of food and drink. These are much in evidence throughout the show, with one of the cooking theatres dedicated to French Flair, with locally based chefs such as Michel Bouyer of the Bonham and Pierre Levicky of Chez Pierre sprinkling a bit of elan on proceedings. Meanwhile the Italians are out in force among the restaurants, with Valvona & Crolla’s VinCaffè, Santini, Bella Mbriana and Centotre all showcasing their signature dishes.
Taste of Edinburgh FAQ
How do I get to see the headline names?
The three taste theatres are free once you’re inside the festival and seating is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Timetables will be finalised in the run-up to the event – keep an eye on the website (tastefestivals.com/edinburgh) to see who’s on when, or check out running orders posted around the site.
I have heard you need to pay with special Taste currency. What is it?
and how does it work? To buy food from any of the restaurants at Taste you’ll need to get hold of some of the festival currency – called Crowns – from one of the exchange booths on site. Each crown is worth 50p. Signature dishes sold by restaurants range from 6 Crowns to 10 Crowns. You can’t buy food from the restaurants using normal cash. Crowns are also valid at a number of the exhibitors selling drinks and speciality foods, though you will be able to use cash at these stalls.
Is it expensive?
Compared to a Boots meal deal, yes. Compared to a slap-up meal in town, no.
Can I stay all day?
Each of the three days of the festival is split into two sessions: one running from noon–4pm (11.30am–3.30pm on Sun), the other from 5.30–9.30pm (4.30–8.30pm on Sun). A single entry ticket is valid for one of these sessions only, with visitors having to vacate the site between afternoon and evening sessions.
Tickets on the door cost a bit more than those pre-booked.
It’s in a new location this year. Why the move? Edinburgh City Council were concerned at the damage being done to the Meadows by large-scale events. Inverleith Park, also owned by the council, was offered instead and was accepted by Taste of Edinburgh as a scenic and spacious alternative.