Now I get excited about festivals, local ones or national ones. Last weekend was the (apparently) biggest vegan festival of the UK going on in London. So of course I had to go. After all, London is just a bus ride away.
I have to say, festival might have been the wrong event description. It was more like a trade fair. A big hall at the Kensington Olympia was filled over two floors with stands and stalls from various companies, associations and charities. All food, cosmetics and clothes on showcase were vegan. Great job! I went with a (non-vegan) friend, who is also a foody, so I was in good company to explore what the stalls had to offer. First of all, we were blown away by the amount of visitors! Well, they released a number of 4,500 visitors per day today, so no surprise it was packed. Right at the entrance we got handed a program including the stalls, the talks, the workshops, the cooking shows,… So much to see! And we got also a free bottled juice to give a bit of energy for our stroll through the stalls.
The exhibitors were quite diverse: from global brands such as Lush to family businesses selling baked goods, egg-free mayonnaise (produced in Kent!) or coconuts. There must have been about 10 stalls with cupcakes/cakes alone. Heaven on earth! My favourite was my beloved Ms. Cupcake, who I finally got to meet and chat to personally. She has also released her book a few months ago which I bought at a reduced price at the festival and had her sign it for me. Score! Another great pastry chef hails from my shores, Kim VeganWonderland. She has a vegan café & catering service in Camden (and in Germany), also offering wedding cakes with a twist. Had a short and sweet chat with her as well. Furthermore, there was also a creole vegan baking stall (banana breads, apple tarts etc.) that looked sold out at about 3 pm – good job, they were delicious!
After so many sweets, we were craving something savoury. Off to the Wheaty stall! Again a German company (Am I a bit biased? – Sure thing!) selling meat substitutes made of seitan (wheat gluten/protein) – of course mainly sausages. I love their “hot dogs”, my friend really enjoyed the vegan chorizo. Although I am not very much relying on meat alternatives in my diet, there was also a great Italian meat substitute that we enjoyed a lot. They are called Muscolo Di Grano (“muscles of grain”) and their substitute is made of wheat and lentils. Is is very realistic looking and they make everything from roasts to ham to mortatella. I think up to know you can only order directly with them in the UK.
Now I have to say I never was a big fan of cheese, but the vegan alternatives are even less my cup of tea. The only one we both enjoyed thoroughly was the cream cheese by the Scottish brand Sheese. The plain one as well as the one with chives got a high score. The representatives also said that they are producing now for Tesco’s “free from” range, so keep an eye out for the dairly-free cream cheese there.
Lots of the companies had great offers for the show. Lavera cosmetics (again, German) gave, I think, a 20% discount at their stall. My friend and I loved the bargain on Nakd bars, vegan and all natural snack bars. I must have eaten about 3 bars at their stall, snacking on the about 15 different flavours. We got 20 bars each, all at a bargain price. Next up was a stall of Indian chutneys and curries, and you should know by now that I have a love affair with chutneys ever since I moved back to the UK. We tried a few of Panjaban‘s chutneys and got instantly crazy about their Tangy Lime one. SO good! Lastly, I treated myself to the book “Home Cooked Vegan Comfort Food“, because hey, winter is just around the corner and I am never short for an excuse to buy another cook book.
So with filled bellies and bags it was time to sit down for a bit. Enter the cooking shows. We had a look into the one given by raw food specialist Christine Bailey on raw family recipes. Although the lady could have used a burger or two herself, she explained well and seemed to know what she was talking about. A little later we looked into another show by a lady wanting to prepare dips which was so unprofessional we had to leave. Surprisingly, I read up about her and she is a well-known food blogger and supper club organizer. Guess she had a bad day. Second bummer followed as unfortunately the talk by high-endurance runner Scott Jurek was packed already and the security was not allowed to let more people in. But then powerlifter and strongman competitor Patrik Baboumian (I hate to say it: He’s German of Armenian background) walked around the festival showing that you can build up some serious muscle mass on a vegan diet.
All in all it was a great festival which we enjoyed a lot. I personally would enjoy a nicer looking layout of the stalls (this looked very much like a trade fair) and more food stalls selling lunch (there were 10 of them, but they were all overcrowded by 1 pm). Next year’s VegFest will be in Brighton, so just around the corner. Looking forward to it.
P.S.: Just in case you are wondering why I haven’t written about the charities that were present. I just don’t know enough about them to write anything meaningful, so I rather keep my mouth shut. Except for Sea Shepherd. I saw a documentary on them and really liked their work. They are amazing and real heroes. And one of them wore a wicked hammer shark costume at the stall. Nuff said.