Friday at the Ludlow Food Festival was pretty quiet and I wondered if the festival was falling out of favour with the food lovers of Britain. However, the following day, Saturday, saw huge crowds of people in the castle grounds and tramping around the town on the Sausage and Ale Trails. Plenty of dogs, with a strong emphasis on labradors, and country types whose costume appears to have remained unchanged for the past few years - body warmers, weillington boots and flat caps with a new emphasis, among the younger men at least, of nattily trimmed facial hair. There was a grand mixture of English and Welsh accents - smart, well-heeled upper middle class location non-specific, Shropshire and Herefordshire rural, true Brummie, identifiable Black Country and those originating more distantly.
Throughout the festival, there were some excellent and highly enjoyable talks - cooking demonstrations - to sit in on. My favourites were given by Birmingham's very own Brad Carter of Carter's Of Moseley and the immortal Shaun Hill, once the chef patron of Ludlow's original first Michelin star winning The Merchant House.
Brad Carter's talk centred on some of the Japanese-style dishes he is currently featuring in Moseley and he came over as a modest and very likeable chef despite his rather terrifying beard, who has achieved so much with great distinction though the award of the Michelin star came as a great surprise to him.
Current menus were offered to the audience and certainly made me feel that I wanted to set off for Moseley in this coming week to give his Foraged mushroom dashi and sea spaghetti dish which he featured in his demonstration a try. It certainly looks and sounds marvellous.
But the highlight had to be Shaun Hill's talk which incidentally featured a cooking demonstration but was made up of anecdotes which covered his work over the decades and his encounters with food fashion that cometh and goeth like the wind. The subject of his earliest job at The Gay Hussar was dealt with by reminiscences of how the restaurant was visited by Harold Wilson and other members of his government though conversely the kitchens were staffed by as right wing a crew of workers as could be imagined. He talked about his career which took him through the eras of Nouvelle cuisine and Molecular gastronomy and other fads and how now we had arrived in the era of Forraged food which no doubt will have its day like a poor player strutting and fretting its hour upon the stage and then being lost forever.
What an enjoyable speaker he is to listen to. Prior to his talk a figure went up to the stage and shook his hand and exchanged words with him and then sat just in front of me. Was that Claude Bosi who opened Hibiscus in Ludlow in 2000, won 2 Michelin stars for it and played a part in training Glynn Purnell before moving to London in 2006? (see Blog 7).
I was pleased to buy a signed copy of Shaun Hill's new book "Salt Is Essential" and I am finding it to be very difficult to put down. The book is strongly recommended as a good read.
After Shaun Hill's talk Lucy and I headed off back to Fishmore Hall Hotel so that I could have an excellent Sunday lunch in Forelles restaurant prepared by chef Andrew Birch. Andrew was serving an excellent starter of a generously proportioned scallop with little bonbons of ham and apple sticks and other tasty little elements. I had roast pork main course the cooking of which was absolutely spot on served with just the right amount of sauce, interestingly and deliciously flavoured broccoli and a side dish of exquisite Savoy cabbage with bacon. A little more apple sauce would have been nice but it was a thoroughly enjoyable dish. Finally there was a delicious dessert of cherry sorbet with crunchy chocolate on a perfect pannacota. This had been an excellent weekend and, as Lucy and I departed from the hotel to return home to Birmingham, I reserved us our room at Fishmore Hall for our visit to the 2018 Ludlow Food Festival.