This weekend I attended the Halal Food Festival at the Excel centre. Being a big foodie, and more precisely a ‘Haloodie’ (halal foodie), of course I wasn’t going to miss it. This was the first event of its type, a food festival where everything is halal. I know this is obvious but going somewhere like this is quite liberating as you can eat anything and everything-so this was a special event. The event promised a range of food and drink vendors, celebrity chefs, cookery classes and demos.
I have to say given that the organisers don’t have a background in the food industry or in event management, they put on a pretty darn good event. The atmosphere was fantastic, it was buzzing with like-minded foodies. All the exhibitors were extremely hospitable and I really enjoyed speaking to so many different people.
However there were many unhappy customers. Depending on which day you attended, people’s experiences varied. Obviously a Fri-Sun event will see Saturday as it’s busiest day, and most people who attended then, were complaining about overcrowding, queuing and food running out at some stalls. Another gripe was the price of the event. Tickets were £20 each, parking was £15, and most food items inside ranged from £2-£8. This added up. I wasn’t too troubled by the prices but I would in return expect bigger portions, £4 for a ‘mocktail’ served in a plastic glass, most of it being ice-so yes a bit steep. I queued 15 minutes for a hotdog, but this was not too bad as on Saturday people queued over 45 minutes for one hotdog! The queue for ‘El-Gaucho’ spiraled around the stalls and looked never ending so when I went back later at 4pm-they had run out of meat. The organisers had said food would be between £2-£6, but there were outlets like ‘Bhangra Burger’ and ‘The Kings Kitchen’ who didn’t have anything less than £7.
Although a food festival, there were many other exhibitors ranging from Islamic art to clothes to stickers. The ones that stood out are these:
‘Serendipity Tailormade’ – specialise in ‘Halal holidays’. This family run travel company, arrange luxury holidays fitting in with a halal agenda. What does that mean? Well they can find you resorts that serve halal food only, as well as taking into consideration privacy and therefore providing private villas as well as offering a personal touch with local knowledge of all the destinations they offer.
‘Halal to Door‘ – Having supplied halal meat for 7 years to wholesalers, this company have launched a new service delivering halal meat to your door-yes it does what it says on the box. The quality of the meat was endorsed by Jean-Christophe Novelli who said it was ‘of fantastic quality’. The guys running the stand were really passionate about their new venture, I wish them the best of luck!
My favourite part of the day was meeting Jean-Christophe Novelli who conducted demos and cooking classes through out the day. I watched him cook ‘Meat Boulangere’ which is slow cooked lamb chops with potatoes. The man is a true gent, taking time to speak to all his audience, happy to mingle and generally very chatty.
From attending this event, it is obvious that there is a real demand for halal goods. Not just your standard curry, or kebab roll but a variety of cuisines. The busiest food stalls were ‘El Gaucho’ who were selling various beef steaks, and ‘Big Apple Hot Dogs’. These are foods that are hard to find if you only eat halal meat, hence the demand for them. The event would have benefitted with many more food exhibitors, then there wouldn’t have been such long queues. The organisers have created a fantastic concept but like all new ventures it has teething problems. I would advise for the future, a larger venue, a quota for the number of tickets sold and perhaps cheaper tickets. Despite this, it was a wonderful day out, and definitely one of it’s kind.
|Expresso based mocktail by ‘Anise’|
|Chef Norman Musa|
|JCN teaching ‘Couscous de mes voisin’|
|Big Apple hotdogs selling like hotcakes!|
|Having a lovely chat with chef JCN|