Christmas has come and gone but for those of you with dietary requirements or anyone intending to overhaul their diet this year, the Free From Festival, the UK’s first gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free event, was full of alternative choices, tips, tricks and goodies!
Our food contributor Syeshia Sweeney attended the event, which took place on 17-18 December 2016, and brings you her review.
After navigating the journey to the venue at The Oval space in Bethnal Green, it was good to see that the organisers didn’t come to play. They knew their audience well, the free-from dairy/gluten/refined sugar type of bargain hunters. Our free drinks token allowed us a free drink such as a glass of gluten-free wine, a matcha non-dairy milky drink or maple/coconut/watermelon flavoured water. I went for the gluten free wine. I couldn’t wait to try lots of guilt-free products from local businesses because for once, I wouldn’t have to miss out on all the good stuff! I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which means that dairy, alcohol and spices can trigger symptoms but I’m also a little in denial so finding alternatives is a great way for me to still feel like I am eating what I want to without the repercussions.
The Coconut Collective little choc pots stall was gathering a crowd so we stopped to see what the fuss was about, they were giving away whole choc pots as samples, result! The choc pots tasted sweet and milky which is refreshing as free from chocolates can have a dark bitter taste which you kind of get used to when it’s your only choice but these were great! Made from coconut and perhaps a little too rich to eat alone, we thought about having it on the side of a slice of banana loaf but if you’re a big chocolate lover, I think you can handle it! If you’re interested, visit their website www.coconutco.co.uk or find them on IG or Twitter @coconutcollab.
There was everything from fruit crisps, to cake mix, granola, bread, pasta, donuts, fresh crepes, mince pies, vegetable tarts, even cream eggs (just like Cadbury’s) and cake, lots and lots of cake!!
The atmosphere was busy and friendly, and it was a little difficult to get through the narrow walkways, particularly when everybody started filling up their bags with the goods on offer. If you are planning to attend next year, I am told that the Sunday was relatively quieter.
There were topical live talks such as “The reality of starting a healthy street food business in London” and entertaining live music on the stage facing the seating area. The scale is much smaller than the Foodies Festival for example so it’s really easy to get around and leave confidently knowing you have seen everything on offer which is great if you are thinking of returning for something.
It’s all cash only and there are no ATM machines on site so be sure to have your dosh ready. Another top tip would be to take an empty tote bag as not everyone has a bag for your shopping, in fact most stalls do not. One stall who had labelled paper bags was the Zims Tribe saucy marinade brand. They had tasters with crackers of their mild, medium and hot chillis with very clearly outlined simple, fuss-free ingredients. The chilli tastes addictively great and captures the spice and heat of Nigerian flavours, so I grabbed a gift box of all three for my secret Santa gift for a chilli lover. Perfect! The only downside though is that it must be consumed within two days and if you are sensitive to spice you may want to take your time with it. (zimstribe.co.uk)
I made sure to take some goodies home, cakes, a gluten free donut which cost over £3 and a slice of chocolate cake made with beetroot and avocado icing and a coconut cheesecake. Although I am familiar with eating dairy-free products, my tastebuds are not yet adjusted to the gluten-free or refined tastes of sweet things but I can imagine what a treat it would be for someone who has denied themselves such delights due to their intolerance or dietary choice. My guest sampled some other products such as fruit crisps and a cheese and tomato pizza at home and said they lacked in taste but she thought the Vini & Bal’s Rustic Indian Curry sauce was brilliant. Spicy and full of flavour, they had tasters with mince at the fair. It’s gluten free, dairy-free and suitable for vegetarian curries too. (Viniandbals.com)
We were handed a little booklet on entry to the event which included all the vendor information as well as other extremely useful info such as alerting us to Eat Safe – a mobile restaurant directory helping those of us with dietary requirements to find restaurants with ease. (Eatsafeapp.co.uk)
I was also particularly pleased to discover a little gem which is located practically on my doorstep … Paradise Unbakery is an all vegan bakery based in Kensal Rise, open seven days a week. They hold dinner nights, events and workshops. (paradiseunbakery.com)
I can’t wait to see how this event grows next year! Thanks so much for having us.