Feasting at Wilderness Part 1: St John Breakfasts, Moro Afternoons & Polpo’s Venetian Banquet
Many years ago, pre blog, when I was just a normal mildly obsessive individual idling on the streets, I had three passions: food, travel & music. Other stuff too, of course but the core directions I would find myself moving in centred around those. I read more music blogs than food blogs when I first started (which seems bizarre I would agree) but I always loved live music, finding great new music to listen to, and this was the best place to do this. Even as my life became increasingly centred on food, I still went to music festivals and gigs and always, almost without fail, despaired at the food there.
Bring on Wilderness, one of a new breed of festivals that takes food very seriously. Not just by inviting some of London’s best restaurants but also enabling them them to create sumptuous feasts. In the centre of the festival site, there is a large restaurant area with a banquet tent which hosted lunches and dinners from Ottolenghi, Polpo & Hix. Surrounding this was St John & Moro in their own tents providing feasts of their own, but also lifesaving take away food. J Sheekey had a van serving great fish and chips (and also randomly serving red bull). There was many more trucks including some of London’s favourites, but this is what I focussed on, so this is what I will describe here.
You probably know, but I really hate camping. The late nights and waking up with the dawn light results in a lack of sleep that I can barely cope with, never mind with a hangover. (Next time: glamping with a sleep mask). On this occasion I had a hastily purchased and tiny loathsome tent which I bounded out of promptly every morning and went to feed.
The best breakfast in that situation was a St John life giving bacon and egg roll in a slightly sweet brioche style bun. The bacon was cooked over a BBQ outside and there was coffee. There was also a ridiculous but fantastic welsh rarebit, so huge it wouldn’t fit on the plate. It is one of my favourite things on the St John menu, so it was only right that I should have it at Wilderness too. Wine too, if you were brave enough to have that with breakfast (I wasn’t). In fact, one of my top tips for Wilderness is to avoid the main bar and get your wine in the restaurant area. St John had a great list from the affordable & quaffable to more sublime.
Saturday afternoon was spent joyfully idling and soaking it all in with a mid afternoon snack of terrific Moro lamb chops, I only wish that I could have fitted in more there.
Roll on Saturday night and the decadent Polpo Venetian feast. The banquet hall was enormous and beautifully decorated. We were all given masks on arrival and everyone sat, chatted and laughed on long tables. There was live music from a small stage in the centre and the atmopshere was electric.
Starting with an aperol spritz, platters of baccala mantecato crostino, fennel salami & pickled radicchio grissini and carta di musica & sage oil with olives, we were still only at the appetisers. One of the meal highlights followed, the sharp and rich mackerel and horseradish tartare, served with arancini, fennel almond and curly endive salad and an excellent selection of salami and prosciutto.
We are still not even half way through, Rise e Bise came next, served tableside in bowls and the prelude to the main courses, of which there were several. Grilled lamb with salsa verde, spot on heritage tomato panzanella, runner beans with red onion and pecorino salad and one of my favourite parts of the meal, the whole grilled sea bream which was fresh and succulent and fresh off the BBQ from out the back (130 sea bream were grilled for the banquet that night).
For dessert we had a tiramisu, which was light as it was rich and strawberries with clotted cream and aged balsamic. A near perfect meal, the only criticism I would have is that there was too much of it, and how can that be a criticism at all?! It can’t be.
Music festivals, pay attention: this is how you do food at a festival. Part 2 soon which will be all about the Hix Sunday Lunch Banquet and a life saving bloody mary.