Last weekend, I was dancing around, beer in hand, to the strains of Primal Scream and James…in fact, I was so close to the stage, that I could count the spots on Bobby Gillespie’s pink shirt. This weekend, I’m sat in a conservatory, listening to the Archers, wishing I was back in Roundhay park. Thus is life. In fact, last weekend will take some beating, as it was the first OnRoundhay festival, in sponsorship with John Lewis. I am hoping with every fibre of my body that it will be the first of many as it was exactly the sort of thing that sets Leeds out as the jewel in the North (obviously, I’m biased, but I don’t care…LEEDSLEEDSLEEDS!). As we entered the grounds of the park, it was clear to see that this was a family affair, with hundreds of families queuing up to get in. As you entered, a glittery ON sign greeted you, with different pathways for every type of reveller: the Main Stage for the music fans, the Chef’s Stage and John Lewis Food Village for the foodies and the Puffin Magical Storytelling Stage for those with little people (who are probably desperate for a distraction). We chose the fourth pathway…the one to the bar!
We went inside the guests’ area (I know right….fancy!) and plumped for prosecco, beating the queues at the other venues. There were plenty of bars set up around the site though, serving real ale, gin and even champagne – we found that magical moment of when a band had just hit the stage, meaning there were minimal queues. Festival skills 101!
After getting our fill of fizz, we went for a wander around, checking out what to gorge on. The festival started at 12pm and we got there for 3pm. The park was already full of hungry mouths, and we saw the Ox Club stand, with spits of whole lamb busily roasting away.
Next door were perennial Leeds favourites Patty Smith’s, serving up their dirty burgers which are already legendary at their normal home, the Belgrave. Rola Wala and Piggie Smalls were also busy serving their tasty wares, opposite the John Lewis Chef’s Stage. Seeing the queues for food, we decided to go and take a seat for the next talk, which was Stephano Corvucci, who runs CIBO (The Culinary Institute of Bologna). Taking our seat on the front row, it was easy to forget that we were at a festival, as we watched him being interviewed as he cooked a ricotta and spinach stuffed cannelloni, after expertly making the pasta from scratch. What I loved about Stephano’s talk was how honest he was about his food. When the presenter asked him how long it would take him to teach someone on his course to make fresh pasta, he said ‘a few hours’. If I had a cookery school, I’d drag it out enough to make as much money as I could…but then I’m an unscrupulous bastard. He seemed really relaxed, open and enthusiastic about his cookery and it really made me want to fly to Bologna to try it out myself…cookery, that is, not starting my own culinary school (see previous unscrupulous bastard comment).
After whetting our appetites with Stephano’s cookery, we went to decide what we wanted to eat. By now the queues were immense, so my friend and I took a split attack approach and queued up separately for Patty Smith’s and Yakumama.
Impressed by the vibrant offerings from Yakumama, a food seller I’d not encountered before, we decided to go for the Tiger fries and an avocado brownie for afters. That was the starter and dessert sorted – and a Patty Smith’s dirty burger for our main.
Now this was when things fell apart for us – rookie mistakes all over the place. We were hungry…nay, ravenous after the Chef’s Stage talk and didn’t realise what the waiting time for food would be like. As my friend queued for Yakumama for 40 minutes, I was still in line for Patty Smith’s, with no sign of getting anywhere near the front. After about 50 minutes, I got to the front to see that there were 12 tickets on order, meaning my order would be another 35-40 minutes. Hats off to the Patty Smith’s crew though, who were working their backsides off and being really apologetic to customers for the wait. I think just due to the size of the event, the food stalls were really pushed to the limit. My friend found me in the queue and had already eaten part of the tiger fries in an attempt to not eat her own arm off in hunger. I too tucked in the the beauteous pile of sweet potato fries, spring onion, fried chorizo, lime mayo and sriracha until there was none left and thought, later on, ‘fxxk…I didn’t take a photo of it.’ In fact, so incensed by our greedy actions, I got in touch with Yakumama, asking for any images of the fries, but I haven’t yet been able to find any of that particular dish. Maybe I dreamt it, in a hunger fuelled haze…we will never know. All I do know is that is was incredibly tasty and filled the hunger hole we had whilst waiting for our burgers. The avocado brownie was eaten during the James gig, and was absolutely delicious. It was moist with a rich chocolate taste that gave you a smug feeling that you were eating, in part, good fats due to the avocado. Chocolate and healthy = winner!
After our wait, we finally got our paws on the Patty Smith’s burgers and practically inhaled them, enjoying their trademark dirty sauce and slightly sweet brioche bun.
Gorgeous, as ever. After a few more drinks, we settled in to watch the legendary Primal Scream play, and they were wonderful. Seriously, when Loaded started to play, I was so overjoyed, I felt like I had an almost religious epiphany…and Bobby Gillespie was God. At 54, boy can he move! Saying, that, he ain’t got the moves of James’s Tim Booth, who at 56, makes you feel like you could never have as much fun as he does on stage. He has some serious moves and the dude even crowd surfed whilst singing. With Wolf Alice playing beforehand, and Primal Scream and James topping the bill, it was an embarrassment of riches and a real coup for the first On Roundhay festival.
In between bands, we walked around, looking at the other foodie offerings, though the queue sizes stayed impressively large. I chatted to someone who had just bought a broccoli laden Mac and cheese from the Mac Shac and seemed very pleased with his little tray full of pasta heaven. We also spied, but unfortunately didn’t have enough room for, a Yorkshire wrap from The Allotment, which was the ingenious idea of a Yorkshire pudding wrap with a myriad of meaty delights inside. Makes you proud to be in Yorkshire, doesn’t it?
All in all, OnRoundhay, to my mind, was a massive success. Even though the queues were huge, the food on offer was fantastic and if it encourages more indie food sellers to set up stall next year, then all for the better. The music was amazing and the whole atmosphere was brilliant – there’s not many festivals where families, foodies and hardcore festival goers can enjoy themselves in harmony. Here’s to next year!
Thanks to Simon Fogal at Leeds Indie Food, John Lewis, Yakumama for the brownie photo and Ben Bentley for additional photos.