North Leeds Food and Drink Festival returns to Roundhay Park 14 and 15 May

It is such a sunny Saturday today, which makes the return of the North Leeds Food and Drink Festival at Roundhay Park all the more enjoyable. What a bonus!

The Festival boasts a range of international street food options, artisanal markets, cookery demonstrations, a funfair and open air music from local artists. I’ve been at Roundhay Park with some friends, to try out some food, soak up the sun and relax as we listened to music.

As I arrived at just after 12 noon, I was greeted by a long queue of people, all eager to get into the site. I relaxed under the shade of a tree until my friends arrived. We then headed over to queue up. Thankfully, it only took a few minutes to make our way through the line. When we got inside, I found a safe spot to store my bike, and then we began our foodie adventure.

First stop was a smoothie bar, much needed as the sun had started to really heat up. Although the smoothies were small, they were tasty and refreshing, and fuelled us for a bit of wandering. We had a browse around the international street food vendors, of which there were loads. Anything from bratwurst and burgers, to gyoza and bao buns. We decided to get a couple of things to share, whilst the queues were small.

Gyozas were calling. We ordered a plate of 5 pork and ginger parcels, with a ginger and soy dipping sauce. The little dumplings were delicious. The filling was well seasoned and moist, whilst the gyoza pastry was crispy on one side and soft on the other. The dipping sauce went well with the gyoza and helped lift them to another level. I could easily have eaten all 5, but I’m glad I resisted my urge, as there was a lot more food to enjoy ahead of me.

Caps of Chicken

A couple of stalls down from the gyoza stand was ‘Caps of Kitchen’, a fried chicken extravaganza. I am a big fan of fried chicken, and so when I saw the stall, I couldn’t hold back. I opted to go for a plate of 5 chicken dippers and chose the secret burger sauce as my dip. The 5 dippers cost £7, which, seeing as the strips were big and very tasty, I thought wasn’t too bad. I shared the dippers with my friends, who both agreed that the coating was epic and both also really enjoyed the secret sauce. I would definitely get the dippers again if I see the stand at another food event.

We had another wander, this time checking out the artisanal market stalls inside the big tents. We tried some of the tasters, including almond and cherry flapjack, fresh lemon and orange juice, and chocolate brownie bites. I enjoyed speaking with the stallholders about their products and also appreciated seeing how much of it was produced in Yorkshire.

After our wander, we were ready for some more food. We opted to try a bowl of macaroni and cheese with pulled pork and chilli from the Redheads stall, which seemed to be a very popular choice as the queue was pretty long. But, we decided it would be worth it, and thankfully it was. I particularly loved the pulled pork-chilli topping, which I would have happily eaten by itself. I’m not a massive fan of super cheesy pasta, but my friends both loved the macaroni, and thought the meat, chilli, cheese combo was incredible.

Meat, chilli, cheese pasta

By this point, we were all thirsty. I went in search of some water to fill up my bottle. I couldn’t find any water fountains, which was disappointing, but thankfully, one of the coffee shop stalls kindly let me fill up my bottle from their water supply. My friends are more into a stronger drink, so I found them queuing up for frozen cocktails, one opting for a frozen margarita and the other opting for a frozen strawberry daiquiri. Despite not being a drinker, I thought their drinks looked incredible, especially as the temperature was rising out on the field.

To rest our feet, and to get out of the sunshine for a bit, we decided to head into the cookery demonstration tent, where the head chef from Leeds Cookery School was showing the audience how to make chicken jalfrezi. I enjoyed learning new cookery tips and also liked hearing about the brilliant work of the cookery school and Zest. I am already looking forward to trying to make a homemade curry next time I have friends over for dinner.

After we’d cooled down, we took another wander through the artisanal markets, this time, buying some sweet treats to enjoy whilst we listened to some music. There were so many options, but in the end my friend opted for a Malteser tiffin bar, which was chocolatey, rich and devilishly delicious.

By this point, it was almost 3pm, and the Festival was absolutely heaving with people. Thankfully, we bagged ourselves some deckchairs by the main music stand, and we decided to rest up and enjoy the music. We were there in time for Carioca Soul, a four piece band inspired by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66. I loved the exotic, yet soulful vibe, and particularly loved listening whilst the sun shone down on us.

As we listened to music, I had a read of the brochure and was glad to see that the North Leeds Food and Drink festival have Leeds Mind as their charity partner, as they have done over previous years. As the Festival was so busy, I am hopeful that they have raised lots of money for the charity that provides personal support to those suffering with mental health difficulties.

I decided to head home at about 4pm, as the Festival was super busy. Some of the stalls were even selling out of food, which seemed crazy as there were still another 4 hours of the day to go! Despite how busy it was, I really enjoyed the whole Festival, and am glad that the weather was so good, as it really made the event special. I am looking forward to attending in future years and may even try and get to other festivals in the region over the summer – especially if the sun shines like it did today!

Photography by Gemma Bridge.

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