North East chefs and producers brought an international flavour to this year’s North Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival.
The Bank Holiday weekend event – held in Northumberland Square for the eighth year – offered visitors tastes to try from India, the Middle East, Greece, Germany, Spain, South America and Italy.
The festival also provided a new outlet for food professionals. Alan Barker opened the Zucchini Pasta Bar in the centre of Newcastle two years ago.
Last year he decided to expand his business and built a pasta van, which he used for the first time in North Shields.
Fellow chef Craig Howlett, who worked with Alan at Marco Polo – one of the city’s best-known restaurants – before joining him at Zucchini, said discerning North East festival goers want high quality and healthy street food. “No one else is doing hand-rolled fresh pasta, so we saw a great opportunity,” said Craig.
Danny Kowalczyk, from Gosforth, was working as a baker when he started practising making fish tacos in his kitchen at home. Last year he gave up his job and launched Goodtimes Tacos, which is becoming a familiar site at festivals, events, breweries and bars in the region.
Inside his food truck Danny – helped by Rob Harrison – hand make fresh corn tortillas to create their tacos, which use locally farmed meat and sustainable British fish.
“I was a baker for 16 years and this is a lot more fun,” said Danny. “Street food is massive now in Newcastle. Business is going great and we’re fully booked for the summer.”
As well as providing the very best street food, the North Shields Proper Food and Drink Festival – which attracted thousands of visitors over the three days – provided a showcase for dozens of local producers. There was live music, including performances from the North Tyneside Steelband, and this year the event also featured craft stalls.
Mark Deakin, who runs the festival with his wife Shelley, said: “For us one of the best things about the event is that it’s a mix of people who have taken part before, along with new ones like Alan and Danny. Most importantly that’s also good for the many people who come to see us every year.”
The Proper Food and Drink Festival’s next stop is Bents Park in South Shields over the late May Bank Holiday weekend. It then comes to Whitley Bay’s Spanish City Plaza on 15 and 16 June. That will also be the venue for a new event, called Feast by the Sea, which takes place over weekends in July, August and September. Admission to all of these festivals is free.
For more details about Proper Food and Drink Festivals visit www.properfoodanddrinkfestivals.co.uk/