Plenty of food and drink for thought

Morpeth Food and Drink Festival
Morpeth Food and Drink Festival

The third annual Morpeth Food and Drink Festival on Saturday, October 3 promises to be the best and biggest yet staged in the centre of town.

The event is expected to draw thousands of visitors and resident into Morpeth showcasing not just what a great place it is to visit and shop, but also to eat out in the town’s many restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and tea rooms.

It’s a chance for the town, as well as many eateries, to demonstrate not just what Morpeth can offer visitors, but residents as well.

Medi Parry

For the first time some 60 stalls will fill two huge marquees erected along the centre of the road in Bridge Street, supported by a number of street food trailers extending along to The Chantry end of the street.

The Chantry itself will be a centre of attention, hosting as it will the return of what turned out to be a popular jam making competition last year. This year scones are being added into the competition mix.

Homemade jars of jam and home-baked scones, with any variety of filling, have to be received between 9.30am and 10.45am for judging by an independent panel. The winners of the accolades of being named Morpeth’s best jam and scone makers will be revealed later in the morning.

In the Market Place there could be as many as 30 stalls selling all manner of foodstuffs and goods because the festival coincides with the usual monthly Morpeth Farmers’ Market.

Between 15 and 20 stalls will be filling the Town Hall, promoting local beers, wines, spirits, non-alcoholic drinks, cheeses, olives, chutneys and preserves.

Back by popular demand throughout the day will be the demo kitchen, manned as always by chefs working in town centre eateries, who will be demonstrating their cooking skills and the sort of dishes they regularly have on the menu in their cafes, restaurant, take-aways, coffee shops and tea rooms.

This year the line-up is as follows: 9am David McDonald, from Geordie Bangers, who will be serving up a ‘proper breakfast’; 10am Paul Barker, from the Cube, just around the corner from the Market Place in Bridge Street; 11am Wendy Smith and some of her team from Café des Amis, letting foodies into the secrets of their pastry baking and cakes; Noon Andrew Laurie, from Barluga; 1pm Abdul Muhit preparing some of the classic Indian dishes available from his Chantry Place Morpeth Tandoori take-away; 2pm Ken Froggatt, head chef at Marabini’s; and last but not least, John McKale, formerly pastry chef at The Ritz in London, and now church pastor at Morpeth’s New Life Christian Centre, who will be running a masterclass in cake decorating.

The New Life Christian Centre will also be the venue for a children’s Bake-Off and Cake Decorating Challenge. Entries need to be in by 11.30am, with the winners announced an hour later.

In the Sanderson Arcade piazza there’ll be the chance to sample some local sausages and ales while enjoying entertainment and live music, and the Band of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be playing and marching down Newgate Street at 11.30am.

During the day a free park-and-ride shuttle bus service will be operating from County Hall to and from the town centre for the public and stallholders.

The event is being organised by the Morpeth Food and Drink Festival Committee, led and chaired by Sanderson Arcade, supported by Morpeth Town Team.

Sponsors and supporters are Stratstone Tyneside, Arriva, Barluga, Jimmy ‘The Lamb Man’, Morpeth Town Council and Northumberland County Council.

This year the Rugby World Cup will also be well under way, with a keynote game between South Africa and Scotland being played on the Saturday afternoon of the Food and Drink Festival, at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park ground. On the same evening England go head-to-head with Australia at Twickenham.

Throughout the World Cup, which started last weekend, Morpeth Rugby Club will be organising a series of events coinciding with all the big weekend games, and during the Food and Drink Festival officials of the club will be out and about in the town centre encouraging visitors to end their day off by going down to their Mitford Road ground to watch the matches on a big screen they are putting up for the games.

“This year’s festival promises to be a spectacular event and one which we are all looking forward to,” said Medi Parry, Sanderson Arcade Manager and a member of the Morpeth Town Team.

“It’s a chance for the town, as well as many eateries, to demonstrate not just what Morpeth can offer visitors, but residents as well, along with the wide variety of produce available locally.

“We have a truly cosmopolitan mix of cuisine offers in Morpeth these days, as well as our excellent coffee shops, cafes and tea rooms, most of them serving up homemade fare.

“This year we are extending the festival along Bridge Street, which will be a major new attraction for visitors and will help to truly put Morpeth on the map in an entirely new way.”

Morpeth Tandoori’s Abdul Muhit was one of the chefs cooking at the demo kitchen last year and he will be back in the Market Place at this year’s festival.

He said: “It was great fun for all the chefs last year and I am really looking forward to it again next Saturday.

“There are excellent places to eat in Morpeth, covering all tastes and varieties of food, and the demo kitchen will give a chance to showcase our menus.”

Morpeth Food and Drink Festival programme leaflets are being distributed and are also available in town centre shops, cafes, restaurants and coffee shops, giving precise timings, where to see activities and stalls.