The Festival Food Revolution

12 April 2019
Mickey Luke

You could argue that nothing has had a more profound effect on the rise of the festival scene in Britain, than the evolution of festival food. Greasy burger vans and polystyrene cups of tea are relics of the past. Think matcha latte or Korean Mexican bowls alongside today’s boutique bell tents, luxury yurts or glamping accommodation.

But it’s not just the partygoer at the glade at Glastonbury that gets to revel in the cutting-edge culinary melting pot. Festival food has reached its tasty tentacles into some of the UK’s finest dining establishments.

Festival food

Just like glamping has upped the camping game, festival food has set the benchmark for new cuisine. Street food is characteristically the cultural vein that taps into the personality, appetite and climate of a country. Chai wallahs in India, ceviche in Peru, lamacun in Turkey or waffles in Belgium, they are the culinary zeitgeist, the perfect combination of heat and acidity, sweetness or spice created by locals for locals.

With that comes no supermarkets, suppliers or distribution chains. What you buy is often grown, made, cooked and sold directly to you by the very market trader handing you your sambal bowl. Fresh, fast food produced out of tiny carts, the back of a bike or tiny market stands. These small businesses specialise in one thing and do it brilliantly. Whether it’s making murtabak in a Singaporean hawker house since 1908 or chilli fish on a beach in Indonesia from the fresh catch each morning. Street food is the authentic voice of a nation.

Singaporean hawker house

Yet what did the UK’s street offerings used to say about our food culture? For too long it was a paltry offering of the cheapest meat sandwiched between white bread. Hot dogs and burgers, burgers and hot dogs. But luckily as with the rise of glamping punters in the UK have really driven a seismic shift in our expectations and what is now expected festival fare.

The UK started the trend for locally sourced, sustainable, adventurous passionate food

The UK started the trend for locally sourced, sustainable, adventurous passionate food. We wanted comfortable, luxurious boutique camping to go with our new culinary adventures. And now have we got it. Poke Bowls and Sri Lankan Hoppers, Soft Shell Crab Burgers and Masala Dosa. Yurts, Ensuite Huts, and Safari Tents. Kerbsides and glampsites are now the incubators for the rich influences that make the UK cultural scene and its festivals some of the best in the world.

Kerbsides and glampsites

But what does that have to do with your fine dining, Michelin establishments that have ruled the roost for so long? How do they compare to the 700 new street food businesses that signed up in 2018 or the £12m worth of street food sold across KERB markets alone. Well not wanting to be left behind, some of the most exciting restaurant openings in recent years have either been food carts going indoors or Michelin chefs bringing the outside in. They recognise we want genuinely accessible, interesting food, done simply and done well.

Innovative culinary adventures

If you want first-hand experience of the innovative culinary adventures to be found at a Festival you need go no further than Yurtel. Our collaboration with Jasmine Hemsley at Glastonbury this year uses ancient Ayurvedic philosophy to create a delicious menu that will help detox before you tuck into a sundowner to retox. Comforting, nourishing and invigorating, you’ll get it all at Yurtel, on the plate, in the bell tent and at the bar.

Jasmine Hemsley