FOOD-LOVERS followed their nose to Stratford at the weekend.
Some 44,000 people attended the annual Stratford Town Centre Food Festival organised by Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) and sponsored by Loxleys Restaurant and Wine Bar.
Tastebuds were tingling throughout a weekend of two halves weather-wise, with sunshine on Saturday and cooler temperatures on Sunday.
The festival programme was packed with free demonstrations by chefs from local restaurants, the popular taste and ale trails, a 120 stall market showcasing local and regional producers, free hands-on workshops and live music.
Loxleys’ general manager Jonathan Lea said: “Saturday was incredible, we sold out of everything. The layout was much better this year, particularly the placement of the demo tent. The music was great and the whole weekend had a really good festival feel. Really pleased to have both sponsored the event and to have raised for Molly Olly’s Wishes with the raffle.”
First-time stall holder Cosy Chic Pet Boutique, based in Bell Court, proved a hit with four-legged festival-goers.
Owner Courtney Gilbert said: “Before we’d even finished setting up, dogs were dragging their owners to our stall because of the smell.”
There was again a healthy appetite for the ever-popular taste trails, with almost 800 people sampling Stratford’s local food and drink.
Many taste trailers come back year after year to look for new places to go and revisit old favourites. Newcomers included The Corner House, Miller & Carter, Arden House, and Zizzis.
Resident Becky Steed said: “The taste trails give you the chance to try things on the menu that you might be too nervous to go for on a night out. There’s definitely some new meals I’ll order now.”
Wildwood Kitchen was among the restaurants on the taste trail.
Assistant manager Edina Palmay said: “It’s great to welcome so many locals. We’ve been enjoying the tourist trade over the summer and now it’s a quieter time of the year so it’s a good time to remind the local people we’re here.”
Ale Trails offered a tour around Stratford drinking establishments including favourites like Stratford Alehouse, The Old Thatch Tavern, The Townhouse, The Dirty Duck, The Golden Bee, The Lamplighter, Swan Theatre Bar, The Bear Freehouse, The Garrick and for the first time No.44 at the Arden Hotel.
Demos in the Cookery Theatre on Bridge Street were also hugely popular, which even included a game of gin bingo.