I find that a lack of social interaction extremely debilitates the mind and spirit, so imagine my glee when I was able to alleviate these doldrums by combining two of my passions in one clean swoop on a chilly but gloriously sunshine-filled Sunday afternoon.  Food and good conversation were the stimuli of choice and the setting was an otherwise disused Victorian sorting office, serving as a fine temporary home to the 2nd visitation of the FEAST festival’s motley crew.

It was love at first bite (or bites in my case) since my last stall scavenge back in August, so it was a guaranteed ‘Yes!’ to this next event in December.  My companions were exceptional ticket-holders too, both utter food fanatics and two of the best housemates one could ever ask for.  A huge sigh of contentment escaped me upon witnessing the multitude of food chapels placed side-by-side, providing a said ‘Feast’ for not just mouth but eyes and ears too.  I was giddy with excitement and began bouncing with zeal on the possible tastings that would occur.

The selection of vendors were almost completely different this time, with a couple of 2nd time favourites such as the wonderful Meringue Girls and La Piadina Pronta (a ‘Classic’ piadina was speedily ordered and devoured by Sophie.  I had tried one at the last festival and was deeply familiar with the smile that creeps upon you immediately after consumption).  This time I was privy to some newer flavours; with Peruvian, Indian and a detoxifying dish stealing prime spots on my menu orders.

I was enticed quite easily by the gyoza offered by Rainbo; silky skinned pouches of pure joy, containing treasures of pork and pickled ginger served with a thimbleful of soy dipping sauce.  Free-range meat and perfectly balanced in taste, it was inevitable we all ordered from their stall.  A titillating amuse-bouche.  Next up to catch my eye was the Ceviche offered up by the namesake.  This small pot of raw fish marinated with lime juice and herbs was also fresh-tasting and delicious.  I particularly enjoyed the addition of octopus with my seabass and mussel melange. A swift snack-sized onion bhaji from Delhi Grill followed up the fish.  It was complimented with a light coriander based yoghurt sauce which added some much needed moisture to the (not at all greasy) battered sliced vegetable clusters of spice.

The beauty (and somewhat danger) of FEAST festival is that the general concoctions for sale are mostly in bite-size form so you have physical room within the depths of your belly to make visits to at least four stalls (I think this is an acceptable guideline which does not imply greediness, merely a healthy curiosity to expand one’s culinary wisdom).  My last savoury stall-hop was to The Detox Kitchen, a delivery service designed for the lazy (apologies, “time-restrained”) and presumably less “monetarily-deprived” members of society, providing an option of ready–to-consume cooked meals to boost your nutrition, reduce calorific intake with no lack of gratification and educate you in the ability to eat food that does not sacrifice flavour for nutritional value.

It is understandable that amidst offerings all around us of Salt Beef muffins, steaming vats of (3 cheese) macaroni cheese and beautifully formed pastry-topped pies, one could easily side-step the words ‘detox’ to maintain the denial that it’s Christmas and therefore obligatory to satiate every craving for seasonal stodge.  Not in my case though and I was enthusiastic to try their Chicken concoction, stir-fried lightly with chopped up brussel sprouts, cashew nuts, roasted beetroot and brown rice, topped off with a pale, mild dhal and crowing the dainty bowl with a tiny edible flower.  Lovingly made and lovingly eaten.  I thoroughly enjoy food like that, enabling your insides to feel utterly saintly afterwards but with every ounce of you enjoying the tastes permeating your tongue throughout the process.  Great food which I often replicate at home however I commend them for bringing such a concept into the market thereby allowing culinary & nutritionally challenged consumers to have more access to good ideas.

The market was buzzing animatedly with a constant stream of chewing, contented faces. I had never seen a crowd of such consistently happy people in such a large indoor space, during daylight hours with minimal consumption of alcohol and during winter (I did assume this but the Background Bars bartenders did a fine job with the mulled cider & other choice beverages).  Vendors and staff alike were all friendly, approachable and highly engaged in the cause at hand; to have a good time with food and drink.  A band also popped on stage providing dixy-like sounds for the open-mouthed locals which led to various impromptu jigs on the dance-floor.  Our minds were drawn to a dessert next and as well as a wonderful coffee from Caravan (although not on my coffee article ‘yet’, I give them a firm 9/10 and that was just the paper cup version!) Emilia and I were drawn to warmth of Waffles On’s treats.  I opted for the warm cherry concoction, ladled with love over 2 perfectly made waffles.  Each mouthful encased with a crisp jacket and so delicious that as I write about them now, my tastebuds are saturated with fond memories.  A perfect ending to a delightful afternoon.

I hope that FEAST returns soon as it’s pleasing enough to encounter all those wonderful, hard-working vendors in such a well-planned collective space but it is equally fulfilling as a highly educational event that spreads the word of excellent food, centering on quality and original flavours that the general public may have limited access to unless they travel the 4 corners of London to seek out such places.  With more markets like this, I hope it enables good food to feature as a more integral part of everyone’s diet and that this becomes the sustenance of the future, that our children and children’s children will access more frequently than the luminescent late night take-away holes of choice.

It is a future in the making I am more than willing to contribute towards.