Christchurch Food Festival
The Christchurch Food Festival (held near Bournemouth) gets bigger every year, but luckily it still very much a community event. You may be surprised to learn that it’s not the only food festival in Christchurch either. Seemingly due to popular demand, it has now been joined by the Highcliffe Food Festival and Mudeford Seafood Festival events too. Read on to find out more about why they make Christchurch such a foodie destination…
Christchurch Food Festival
Let’s begin with the big one. We’ve been going to Christchurch food festival ever since we moved to Dorset, back in 2003. It’s now one of a growing number of food festivals in Dorset, yet is still a lovely, local food festival. Every year it gets bigger, but that’s not a bad thing. Christchurch is a small town, and there simply isn’t enough space for it to spread out to an unmanageable size. Instead, it is set up in bite-sized chunks, at various locations across the town. There are food demos and the popular Kids’ Kitchen too. This is one of the largest events in Christchurch, Dorset. If you’re searching for a Bournemouth food festival, you’re in just the right place.
The food market
Right at the centre, is the pulsing heart of the whole festival – the street market, which takes over the High Street for one weekend a year. The road is closed to traffic, and by about 11am it’s packed with people, faces eager to peer at the next stall along and peruse the elevenses options. Offerings include Churros, those deep-fried, long, twisty doughnuts, which are dipped in sugar and served with chocolate sauce. We always start with those, the half-dozen per portion plenty to keep the three of us fed until our next nibble comes along. No need for a takeaway home delivery on festival day.
We sip at samples of Pothecary gin, Conker spirit and Thunder toffee vodka. We coo over pretty displays of Turkish delight in every imaginable flavour, and try, in vain, to get a bit closer to the yummy looking fudge. You can burn your tongue on extra-hot chilli sauce or other condiments. They’re made by other folk with suitable fiery names emblazoned across their stalls. Fire Foods, indeed.
A local food hero
Wandering down to Christchurch Quay, we revel in the more relaxed vibe, and at last, ample green grass for the kids run around on. There’s a play park, too. We spot the Jimmy’s Iced Coffee van, and recall meeting the bearded one, a decade or so past, when he and his sister and business partner Sooz were selling White Russians from a table outside one of the high street cafes. The very one, in fact, where the blend was perfected. Jimmy’s is now a major brand, stocked in almost all the big supermarkets and a whole bunch of other places, too. It’s a favourite of mine. Not least because, like Jimmy himself, I acquired a taste for it when travelling Australia, where the stuff is ubiquitous. G’day sport.
From Dorset to Down Under
We spot Alana, previous winner of The Apprentice, manning her own stall, the backdrop a huge banner of Lord Sugar and she. There’s plenty of local businesses, too, judging by the names – Dorset Artisan Cheeses, Dorset Coffee, Dorset Market Kitchen and Dorset Shellfish, to name but a few. Thai Smile are there, restauranteurs in nearby Boscombe, where we always eat when we shop in the area. There’s olive oil from Greece, scampi from Whitby and cider from Somerset. Despite their names, suppliers like Giggi Gelateria and La Patisserie Macaron make their wares locally, in Bournemouth and the New Forest respectively. There’s even a nod to Christchurch, New Zealand, in the form of a pop-up NZ wine bar.
Forno, our favourite pizza makers, are present; sadly, we’re a bit early for lunch yet and our four-year-old is straining at the leash. Never mind, hopefully in a few weeks they’ll be at our even more local food festival and Christchurch FF’s younger sister, the Highcliffe Food Festival. That’s what happens when the small town festival threatens to become overgrown. Instead, it spawns a new, smaller, younger version of itself.
Having our cake
Miss Nattie, sadly, is no longer at the food festival in Highcliffe due to attending Lymington market, so we make sure to stop by and stock up on enough cupcakes to maintain our blood sugar levels for the next few days. Hers are unsurpassed, mainly because the icing to sponge ratio is just so. Spot on. Choosing is tricky – in the end we plump for chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and chocolate and peanut butter. 3 days on, however, I’m still sad about passing over the Jaffa flavour. Until Mudeford Arts or Seafood Festivals, we’ll have to make do. Unless we happen to be in Lymington for market day soon. Now there’s an idea…
Highcliffe Food Festival
The best thing about having Highcliffe Food Festival to enjoy, these days, is that it isn’t all over for another year once the big one is over. Not just yet, not for us, thanks to an enterprising group of locals who set this one up. The younger, smaller (but only slightly, these days) sibling is held June. This means we get to do it all over again. This time, it’s within walking distance (even for young legs), so there are no holds barred when it comes to boozy free samples. Cheers to that!
Time to shine
During the first weekend in June it was Highcliffe-on-Sea’s time to shine, as the village by the beach staged the annual food festival. Highcliffe’s foodie feast began as an offshoot of the Christchurch Food Festival, which we have been attending for many years. We live in the Highcliffe area, and were delighted when the village first hosted its very own version.
Highcliffe Food and Arts Festival
In just a few short years, Highcliffe Food Festival has grown very quickly indeed. In fact, it has now been renamed the Highcliffe Food and Arts Festival. A whole field is now dedicated to the performance plus creative and pictorial arts.
An early start
Having learned my lesson from previous years, I now get there early. In fact I did a dedicated photo run last time, before coming back later with Mister and Missy to grab some lunch. Such is the life of a blogger. And someone (me) who uses any excuse to hop onto my two wheels. I passed numerous people who were already en route, though. Unlike one memorable year when the weather was most inclement, bright sunshine and blue skies blessed our coastal village when these pics were taken.
The neighbourhood food fest
What makes Highcliffe’s food festival stand out is the lovely, local feel. The local butcher has a stall. The resident cafes join in by offering specials to celebrate. The Paddle was serving up its very own version of the breakfast McMuffin, which I am certain would have outshone the bog standard fast food offering by a country mile.
The stall holders are by and large super friendly, and generous in their giving out of free samples. We finally bought some fudge from my new friends at the Ministry of Fudge, sampling Nutella, toffee vodka, clotted cream, rum and raisin, dark chocolate and sea salt and gin varieties. All were utterly delicious, and were obviously made with lashings of their flavoured ingredients.
We usually can’t resist a delicious Pad Thai for lunch, before ambling over to the recreation ground and park for a peek at the arts area. Snippets from local performers and productions take place on the sizeable stage, and there’s a kids’ play park too.
A great day out
Highcliffe Food Festival makes a great day out, with both the sandy beach and castle within strolling distance if you feel the need to explore more – or escape. In fact the local area makes a great base for a long weekend or holiday. I may just be slightly biased, however, as we chose to relocate here some years ago.
There are some lovely, friendly and squeaky clean little B&Bs in Highcliffe, run by others who love the area as much as I do! Beechcroft Place is straight along from the high street, and makes a great base for a stay in this area.
To be closer to the sea, try Island View – the island being the Isle of Wight. This property is just 200 metres from the beach.
Windy Willums is also very handy for the local caravan park, where you can buy a day pass to use the pools and other facilities.
Mudeford Seafood Festival
There’s something of a foodie revolution going on in our part of Dorset, and it’s fast gathering pace with the latest addition – the Mudeford Seafood Festival. It’s increasingly big news – locally and beyond.
The Foodie revolution
I had spied a couple of mentions of the new Mudeford Seafood Festival on social media – then promptly forgot all about it. Until I went to chat to the lovely owners of Ministry of Fudge when visiting Christchurch Food Fest. It was added to my diary accordingly. The bank holiday weekend in May was mercifully rain-free, so on the Sunday we rolled on down to take a peek. As well as pick up some lunch, of course.
Lively Mudeford Quay
The place was buzzing – so busy. We overheard a couple of people saying it was clearly even more popular than the previous day. Word of mouth perhaps? Folk back for more fabulous food, perchance? There was a vast array of food stalls to delight the most discerning of palates and enough in the way of crowd-pleasing platters to satisfy the fussiest of eaters. I should know – I have a young child.
Flamin’ Great, Amigos
To keep Missy happy, we chomped on slices of piping-hot pizza that we’d seen prepared before or very eyes just moments before. For ourselves, we added freshly-prepared fries smothered in nacho cheese sauce & crispy fried onions.
If that wasn’t enough, we followed our carb and fat fest with churros dipped in Belgian chocolate sauce. Hey, we all know calories don’t count on bank holiday weekends or in school holidays, right? (There were healthier options, I hasten to add, we just didn’t choose to partake of them.)
Thank you Los Churros Amigos for the best-ever chocolate sauce, and as for the pizza it was Flamin’ Great. Local legend Jimmy of Iced Coffee was of course represented, as were Purbeck Ice Cream. A fair few seafood suppliers were also there – but of course.
Mudeford Quay is a fantastic location for sampling food in Christchurch. If you should tire of the stalls, funfair rides or beer tent, there’s always the Haven House Inn plus its attached cafe and shop. You can buy crabbing buckets at the latter, to partake of this very popular pastime. Once the kids tire of that, there’s a play park too.
Wander along a little and there’s Avon Beach, which boasts The Noisy Lobster restaurant, plus fish, coffee and ice cream stalls and another shop. There are picnic tables here, at which to enjoy the fruits of your shopping. If you manage to grab one, that is.
Beach huts also abound here, but if you want to see some real wood-based property porn, you can always catch the ferry from Mudeford Quay to Hengistbury Head, where the overnight beach huts change hands for eye-watering sums of money.
Christchurch Food Festivals
Looking for the Christchurch, Dorset food festival? As you can see, it’s not just one that Christchurch is famous for. Making a stay in May or June a very good idea indeed for any foodie. Quite apart from the fact that this area has some of the best beaches close to London.
A day isn’t long enough to enjoy this beautiful area – but then I am biased. As well as incredibly lucky to live here. Why not book a sumptuous stay at the nearby Christchurch Harbour Hotel and stay a little longer? (They give you free gin in your room, and it’s near Mudeford Quay).
If you prefer a smaller place, then Avon Beach Bed and Breakfast could not be much closer to the beach, and offers guests a warm and friendly welcome as well as bright, clean rooms.
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