If, this weekend, you found yourself bemused by the many sunglasses-and-envy-inducing-food selfies stuffing your social media, you missed something truly special. Leeds Feast began its annual takeover of the Tetley in blazing Bank Holiday style. I headed along Friday night, with a hungry belly and a tired work-head and I didn’t know what to expect. Gates lined the entrance, incurring images of summer festivals and the anxiety of rucksack-checking. Gladly, we floated in with handbags in place of tents, entranced by the big Belgrave-esque typography greeting our excited eyes. ‘GET STUFFED’ hung over picnic benches with patrons drinking cans and tucking in. ‘WELCOME TO LEEDS FEAST’ – we were here. Food trucks lining the grounds, a Ferris wheel standing in the centre in all its technicolour glory, and a marquee housing beer-drinkers and one solo reveler grooving and smiling, starting the party.
As the evening progressed, we wandered around, taking in the sights, the sounds, and the smells. We took place in a particularly long queue to get a taste of the famous Fu-Schnikens’ steamed buns. We couldn’t pick one, so went for both the Glazed Pork Belly and the Sticky Soy Ox Cheek buns, together creating an intricate mesh of Taiwanese flavours and textures. It was an almost-religious experience; there’s a reason they won ‘Best of the Best’ at the 2014 British Street Food Awards. Other food on offer included Hackney-based Rita’s with their glorious fried chicken, Newcastle-based Longhorns BBQ, Dorset-based Dorshi’s dumplings, and Leeds-based Northern Bloc with their eclectic ice cream flavours – perfect under the setting sun.
Throughout the evening, the prideful swell of community continued to sweep the concrete, all the way from the Portaloos to the Photobooth. Parents (and their adorable offspring), dog-owners (and their adorable pooches), younger people, older people, work-clans, and previously-mentioned solo dancers, came together to sit around the metaphorical dining table of Leeds Indie Food Festival’s closing party – eating, bouncing to Norman Jay MBE helming the decks, drinking a Brooklyn from the Brewery van, eating, playing games with bean bags, and, well, eating.
Far too many beers descended down my esophagus over the course of the evening at the Feast and at the Belgrave after party, meaning I sadly and stupidly missed most of Saturday’s festivities from a crippling hangover. Things I missed included The Street Food panel, featuring Andrew Critchett from Fish &, Manjit Kaur from Manjit’s Kitchen, Ben Davy from Belgrave Feast/ Dough Boys/ Fu-Schnikens, and Matt Dix from Leeds Indie Food/ Big Dinner, talking about how to grow a street food business in such a crowded market, among other things. On the hops train, Richard Burhouse from Magic Rock, John Gyngell from the North Bar Group, Mark Husak from The Sparrow/ Bundobust, Edward Mason from Five Points Brewery / Whitelock’s, and Russell Bissett from Northern Monk Brew Co gathered to discuss the present and future of craft beer. There was also the Publishing panel with Andy Gray from Colours May Vary, Miranda York from Toast, Nicolas Dawes and Michael Jenkins from Hop & Barley, and Anthony Hodgson from Face Publications, talking independent prints and magazines, especially food writing. I also missed Laynes Espresso welcoming the launch of the Northern Coffee Guide, and Bundobust hosting a spectacular supper club. BAH, booze.
Saturday night was a little quieter than Friday, but still loaded with full, happy faces and gourmet street food glittering under the glimmering lights of Leeds city-line. This year, we may be saying goodbye to the traditional Beacons Festival, but this Feast-ival more than makes up for it. There are a few things myself and the Twitter-verse would like to see more of next year – namely MORE food (if it’s possible!), more entertainment (obviously still with the food focus), and more local food and drink. Leeds blogger Sophie Cliff says she’d like to see “more local breweries and booze suppliers! It's such a great platform to show off what's great about Leeds and the surrounding area.” One thing’s for certain though – Leeds Feast was a huge success and we’re definitely thoroughly excited to see what the Leeds Indie Food Festival team cook up for next year. If you can’t wait until then, on the August Bank Holiday weekend LIF will be curating the Food and Drink at The Garden Party, complementing the musical tones of Mos Def, Todd Terje, Little Dragon, and more. Tasty.