Given that many music festivals are the stomping ground for lefties and hippies the lack of interesting vegetarian and vegan options always surprises me. I’ve been going to music festivals for over 12 years, and whilst things are definitely much better than a plate of soggy chips at my first festival T in the Park (plus that I am now going to festivals more in-line with my lifestyle and beliefs!) I am still repeatedly searching for options of something nourishing, filling and interesting to eat.
I’ll admit that since following a vegan diet earlier this year options at most festivals are more limited, but I do believe that it’s just lazy to make all veggie options with cheese or eggs. I get that grilled cheese sandwiches are popular but that’s not a meal!
I remember going to the first Glade festival in 2004 and being blown away by the fact that all the food was veggie and vegan. Over time they did bow to pressure and open a bacon roll stand, then a few other meaty options, but the fact that the emphasis was on ethically sourced and environmentally sound produce really resonated with the festival’s values, and those of many a punter there.
This year I’ve been to five music festivals and several street food events and had quite a mixed bag of foodie experiences. Ideally I’d try somewhere different for each meal, and whilst I love chips I don’t want to have to resort to these every day of a festival! So here are some of my highlights from 2015.
I’ve been a huge fan of this vegetarian and vegan falafel and burger stall for about 10 years since it was a regular haunt at hippy heaven Glade Festival. One of the more affordable options at any festival, you know what you’re getting with their trusted menu of falafels, bean burgers and tofu burgers. The latter is particularly incredible. A nutty tofu mix served in a seeded bun brimming with salad plus various sauces on offer including vegan mayo and chilli which I had with the burger featured. This burger has the potential to turn even the biggest tofu haters out there! With a soundtrack of drum and bass and some of the friendliest stall staff and volunteers you’ll ever meet, you really can’t beat it. At Festival Number 6 this year I would sometimes hang out by the stall just for a little dance and banter!
With a tag line of “non-violent curries for the civilly disobedient”, this is a popular choice for veggies and vegans at festivals UK-wide. These guys have been serving up spicy goodness for years and I’ve been a fan from back in the day at Glade to this year at Beat-Herder and Festival Number 6. They have a daily changing menu of curries, meaning that even if you don’t have many other options you’ll at least have a different meal if you revisit here over a weekend. The thali tray is usually the best option, with 3 curries including one dahl (protein: tick!), rice, chapati, poppadom and pickle. They also do a mean breakfast kedgeree plus lassis and chai. My only bugbear was that it was more expensive at FN6 than Beat-Herder but appreciate that overheads might be different and that prices might be changeable dependent on location.
Dumplings and noodles. What’s not to love? I first came across Dorshi at this year’s Festival Number 6. I was drawn to the stall by it’s style and decor – it’s amazing what a good sign can do – and it just so happens that I love East Asian cuisine! The simple menu consists of five types of dumpling, including one vegetarian and one vegan option, udon noodles and pearl barley. When I visited the vegan dumplings were shitake mushroom, kale and miso which were just dreamy! All of their produce is sourced locally if possible (from their location in Dorest) and they make a number of their own sauces including no soy soy and no egg Japanese mayo. The dumplings are made fresh on site – you can just see the staff working away in the back in my photo above – and come either fried or steamed.
Usually a takeaway in Manchester, there friendly guys spend their summer going round festivals such as Beat-Herder, Boomtown, Glastonbury and Kendall Calling. I am an absolutel sucker for vegetable momos (Nepalese dumplings – see my recipe here) and these did not disappoint – fluffy little clouds packed full of tasty vegetables transport you to food heaven! At festivals they serve them with curries or a thali tray, and in their takeaway they have additional curry options. It’s a great option for veggies, vegan and meat eaters.
Although I came across Gaia Pulses at Festival Number 6 they can usually be found at their cafe in Hackney Wick, east London. The clue is in the name – all the dishes are pulse based which brings happiness to me immediately – “The Food of the Gods” is a slogan I most definitely agree with! The green lentil salad I had at Festival Number 6 was one of my most filling meals of the weekend, because of it’s protein content. Other vegan options included butter bean stew and lentil soup. And there were veggie options such as spanakopita plus sausages for meat eaters. It was also one of the more affordable options at £5 for a decent-sized pot of pulses.
A chicken stall might seem like an unlikely top choice for me, but they do an mean bean cake wrap or salad. These guys are regulars at Street Feast, as well as London festivals such as Lovebox, Lock Tavern Festival and Visions. The guys that run it are absolute legends and they respect veggies, always ensuring they change their gloves, keep foods totally separate and prep in different areas. The bean cake has delicious jerk flavourings including coconut, plantain, thyme, parsley and “Mama’s Secret Jerk Marinade”. For only £6 it’s an affordable and filling option.
These are my top choices from 2015. What festivals have you been to and what have been your eating highlights? What else would you like to see on offer at festivals and events?