Food was scoffed and drinks were quaffed as thousands of visitors poured into Stratford for the 2016 Town Centre Food Festival at the weekend.
More than 80,000 people descended on the town for the free three-day festival, which started on Friday and finished on Sunday.
The festival, organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) in association with market operator Groupe Geraud, showcases Stratford as one of the region’s premier food and leisure destinations.
On the final day, celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli entertained audiences at three packed sessions at the Waterside Cookery School, as well as meeting traders from some of the 100-plus stalls that lined Waterside, Bridge Street and Henley Street.
He said the day was “a beautiful experience”,
adding: “You can see clearly why this festival is successful
and lasts three days because there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot to see.
“It’s very family-orientated which I like and there are all different types of cuisine. I’ve got to say, well done.”
Chef Novelli was just one of the highlights at the cookery theatre, which also saw demonstrations from Stratford’s own food fraternity across the three days, including: a ‘luscious lamb’ dish from Phil Bailey, head chef at The Falcon Hotel; sushi from Bamboodle’s head chef Elio Alonso; and a butchery masterclass from Barry the Butcher’s Adam Lucock.
Elsewhere, workshops on Rother Street market on Sunday included hands-on classes for children, fudge-making with Roly’s Fudge Pantry and a gin-tasting adventure with Vin Neuf, while a new local producers’ area on Waterside gave visitors the chance to take home some of the best the area has to offer.
The festival’s popular Taste and Ale Trails were another hit this year, with 760 tickets snapped up by visitors keen to take opportunity of the chance to try tasty treats from more than 30 restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs across the town.
And with the weather smiling on Stratford for most of the weekend, crowds enjoyed al fresco dining, live music and the chance to look around many of the town’s historic sights.
Stratforward Events Manager Ruth Wood said: “The town centre food festival is a huge event for Stratford and this year certainly didn’t disappoint, with more visitors than ever from near and far across the three days.
“Hopefully all those visitors got a real taste of what Stratford has to offer and will be back over the year for a return visit.”
The weekend culminated with a charity dinner on Sunday night at festival sponsor Loxleys Restaurant, attended by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, in aid of local charity the Shakespeare Hospice.