Thursday, 18 April 2013

Rare Plants & Spring Food Festival, Waddesdon Manor

Location: Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JW, UK
Being a big fan of food markets and after an enjoyable visit to Vale Harvest Market in Haddenham, my ears pricked up when I heard there was to be a market at Waddesdon Manor Plant Centre the following weekend. Looking at the list of stallholders, the range of produce looked enticing: handmade chocolates, fresh fishcakes, wine, confectionery, biscuits, cheese and.... well, plants.

On arrival at the Plant Centre, we were a little confused by the lack of clear signage for where to go. We stumbled our way through the gift shop, then on into the Cafe... Still no market. Off we wandered, following signs to the toilets, eventually spotting a large greenhouse/barn (but no toilets?!), et voilà! Here the market was.

As a side note, I found the toilets - on leaving the market and turning right, there was a portakabin containing the loos. I wasn't quite so pleased to find them though when I smelt them (a rotten ash tray is the closest description I can think of).

Back to the market. Sadly, there was no impressive stall to greet you head-on as you entered - as you may see I wasn't inspired to take many pictures. There was a stage area to the right for talks and demonstrations, some plants immediately to my left, then the food stalls further round to the left and all down the left side.

So, what and who caught my eye this time?

Food and Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour
With an impressive array of big, beautiful pies, Wessex Pantry was a huge draw. We purchased one large Beef & Red Wine Pie and one large Game Pie. The Game Pie is yet to be eaten but the Beef & Red Wine was glorious (see pic below). Travelling all the way from Devon, Wessex Pantry had by far the most impressive stall - with a long list of Awards to boot (see further pic below)

Food and Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour
'Glorious' Beef & Red Wine Pie from Wessex Pantry

Food and Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour
Wessex Pantry's long list of Awards!

Food and Restaurant Reviews. FoodieOnTour
Straight after Wessex Pantry, were Supreme Sausages - quite the meaty corner of the room! Hailing from Chalgrove, in Oxfordshire, Supreme Sausages were displaying a large selection - one packet of Cumberland (my sausage of choice) and one pack of Venison purchased, we were on our way. Having since sampled the Cumberland, they were too sweet for my taste, however I am yet to cook the Venison (we tasted a small sample of it at the market and it seemed very pleasant).

Sadly, whilst there was a fairly interesting mix of products on display, I wasn't tempted to make a further purchase - although I may have lingered longer at Gastro Nick's if I was able to eat Charcuterie at the moment! It seemed like most of the stallholders had quite small stalls, packed fairly tightly together, with maybe a little too much on them. It meant there wasn't much room for meandering slowly and taking it all in, without coming to an outright stop and getting pounced on by an eager stallholder - not that I blame them of course, as there weren't many people there... Maybe everyone got lost in the Cafe?

There also seemed to be too much overlap - three handmade chocolate makers placed closely together, and two pie companies slap bang right next to each other - one selling savoury, the other selling sweet and savoury. Sadly, the general theme becoming apparent here seemed to be poor organisation by Waddesdon itself - the lack of clear signage, the poor layout of the market, the below-par toilets, and, on doing further research when I got home, several astonishing typos in their marketing material.... including some producer's websites listed incorrectly - poor show Waddesdon.

So, after a disappointing and brief visit to the market, we decided to take solace in some lunch at the Cafe. MrF chose the Rosemary Focaccia with buffalo mozzarella, beef tomato and homemade pesto, served with a salad of roasted peppers, olives and roasted courgettes. For my Parents, the Glasshouse Platter - hand raised pork pie, pickles, home cooked ham, salad, roast tomato, peppers, cheddar and crusty baguette. I opted for the duck salad - shredded confit duck, warm potato and onion salad with plum dressing, baby salad leaves and mustard seed croutons.

Food and Restaurant Reviews, Oxfordshire. FoodieOnTour
Pretty, but just plain weird, Duck Salad from Waddesdon Manor Plant Centre Cafe

I was informed MrF's Focaccia was very good, but the salad far too oily. The Glasshouse Platter shared by my parents looked appealing, if a little bread-heavy. My Duck Salad was without doubt though, the weirdest duck salad I have ever eaten - and I LOVE duck salads. With a minuscule amount of duck, an over-abundance of sautéed salad potatoes, way too much roasted red onion and a tiny heap of salad leaves, I would certainly not price this dish at £8.50. You can order a small version for £4, but I imagine you'd only get a sniff of duck. By far the weirdest thing about this dish though was the overall mismarriage of Mediterranean and Oriental. Needless to say the combination just did not work.

Bad day at the office for Waddesdon? Difficult to tell, but I won't be rushing back to revisit.

Waddesdon Manor Plant Centre
Waddesdon Manor
HP18 0JW
Facebook: @WaddesdonManor
Twitter: @waddesdonmanor
Phone: 01296 658586

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