Despite its small population and laid-back atmosphere, Dartmouth’s busy social calendar puts plenty of larger towns – and even some cities...
Dartmouth Food Festival, which welcomes around 20,000 visitors annually, is one of the most important dates on the Devon calendar, and takes place for one weekend in October every year – a landmark event on the culinary calendar.
Images courtesy of Samuel Fradley
One of the most important things to report about the Dartmouth Food Festival is that it’s completely free to attend, and this even applies to most of the individual talks and events.
Most of the action takes place undercover, either under marquees in Coronation Park, along the Embankment or in indoor venues, from the town’s cosy bistros to larger spaces like the Flavel Arts Centre and Dartmouth Guildhall, meaning the festival is a joy to attend, come rain or shine.
Every year the Dartmouth Food Festival includes:
Over 100 food and drink exhibitors attended 2019’s event, providing festival-goers with a fantastic opportunity to sample the best of the South West.
The event programme is always jam packed with fantastic things to see and do, which gets published on the festival website. Boasting an exciting schedule of events, previously including the popular pre-festival feast, veggie barbecue workshop, and the Salcombe Gin Festival bar, ‘Food Fest’ is always an epic weekend for food lovers! Every year, local, regional and nationally acclaimed chefs hold demonstrations throughout the weekend, previously including chefs such as:
The festival organisers are keen to make people of all ages feel welcome throughout the event. There’s various foodie experiences throughout the weekend specifically for youngsters, including biscuit decorating at the Coast & Country Cottages stand, a sumptuous tea party, and pizza and bread making.
Regular visitors to the Dartmouth Food Festival will all recognise Gina Carter, who acts as compere at the Chefs’ Demo Theatre in Royal Avenue Gardens, where most of the free demonstrations take place. Gina performs this role for all three days of the festival, a job she describes as “three full days of talking and trying to be witty, interspersed with the occasional glass of Prosecco!” As well as chatting with the chefs to ensure the audience gets the maximum benefit from their demonstrations, she also likes to involve the crowd directly, often eliciting questions to ask the experts. “I feel very honoured to be on stage,” she told Coast & Country Cottages, “alongside some of the UK’s top chefs where I can see them working at such close hand.”
Gina has been involved with the festival “pretty much right from the start” in various ways, including handling the PR and running food stalls. During this time, she’s been able to sample a lot of fabulous food and wine – “all in the name of research obviously!” she added. There have been too many highlights for Gina to single out any one demonstration as her favourite, but “Mitch Tonks and Mark Hix are always very entertaining together, and Matt Tebbutt is fascinating.”
This year, Gina will be back in the Chefs’ Demo Theatre for more or less the entirety of Dartmouth Food Festival, so what is she looking forward to most of all? “I always go around all the stalls first thing on Friday as they are setting up,” she explained, “so I can grab samples or get some information on any new products. This means I’ll be able to talk about them, so finding new local products is always good. Back in the theatre it’s always good to welcome back [chef and restaurateur] Angela Hartnett MBE, who is a complete joy.”
Pop along to the Chefs’ Demo Theatre to find out more about – and more importantly sample – the best food and drink from our region.
Image courtesy of Ed Ovenden
Before and after the festival, there are still plenty of fantastic places to eat and drink in Dartmouth and South Devon. Amongst the finest restaurants in the region is The Angel restaurant on the Embankment in Dartmouth, with Head Chef Elly Wentworth at the helm of sourcing delicious local food in her exquisite dishes. Just a couple doors from The Angel is The Seahorse restaurant, run by celebrity chef Mitch Tonks. Or, for something more informal and relaxed is Rockfish, which is also owned by Mitch Tonks. Serving fresh so fish that ‘tomorrow’s are still in the sea’, a hearty portion of fluffy battered cod and chips at this fantastic eatery always delights the taste buds with tones of flavour.
Take a read of our top 10 restaurants in Dartmouth for more foodie inspiration.
Dartmouth is home to excellent cafés, plan a visit to these popular eateries during your visit:
South Devon is also home to a huge number of renowned food and drink brands, such as the South Devon Chilli Farm, Riverford, Tideford Organics, and Sharpham Vineyard and Cheese Dairy. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are a big part of the local food culture in South Devon, making it a great place to visit for foodies at all times of the year.
Find out more about our thriving food culture from this free download, the South Devon Cookbook, featuring original recipes from the best chefs and brands in our region.
Dartmouth is a picturesque harbour town in South Devon, with a busy programme of annual events thanks to its lively local community.
Why not treat the festival as an excuse to take a well-earned break, and choose from our collection of holiday homes in Dartmouth?
If you can’t make it down for the Dartmouth Food Festival, there are plenty of other exciting events held annually in this picturesque harbour town, all of which feature stalls from leading local food producers, namely, the Dartmouth Regatta and Candlelit Dartmouth.
For more information about what’s going on in our county, see our guide to festivals in Devon.