Yesterday I took myself along to the Black Food Festival here in London. It promised to be a gothic food paradise: black sushi, ice cream, wine…
Or not, as the case may be. Most of the vendors advertised didn’t turn up, and the whole event was less than half the size they implied. But I still had a nice day.
A quick glance at the comments on their Facebook posts last night when I got home showed that I wasn’t the only person feeling let down by the whole thing: many people were demanding their money back, and I passed several people on my way out who were saying things like “Is this it?” and asking for refunds on the ticket price.
(Side note: The Black Food Festival have removed the negative comments on their social media posts and turned off commenting, which is exactly the opposite of what any professional social media manager worth their salt will tell you to do. Refusing to engage with unhappy customers is not a good look, and will only lead to even worse reputation damage in the long run. Of course, if the Black Food Festival organisers want to get in touch and ask for some advice from Bohemiacademia, we would be happy to help 😉 )
The festival cost £15 to get in, or £17 on the day. The listing promised:
Black Taco ★ Black Temaki ★ Black Pasta ★ Black Langos ★ Black Vegan Sushi ★ Black Caviar ★ Black Tofu Cheesecake ★ Black Cupcakes ★ Black Vietnamese Baguette ★ Kimchi ★ Black Coffee ★ Black Cocktail ★ Black Wine ★ Black Arepa ★ Black Chicken Wrap ★ Black Toast ★ Black Marinade ★ Black Apron ★ Black Gothic Womenswear ★ Black Clothes Black Magic ★ Black Silhouette Art ★ Black Bunny Mask 🐰 ★ Black Food Festival T-shirts and Hoodies ★ Black Sunglasses
Of the food items on that list, only five were actually available. I went because I wanted to try this black wine from Colour of Raven, but when I arrived they were not there:
Although I was mildly disappointed, it didn’t initially bother me: I know from running my own events that there are always at least a couple of no-shows. But after I’d done a walk round the single, small room the festival was held in, I began to get the impression that they’d been advertising things that were never going to show up at all.
A lot of the food – the majority, in fact – wasn’t black, so essentially you were just paying for overly expensive street food with a ticket price on top. Considering that we were in East London, one of the capital’s main street food destinations, this felt like even more of a rip-off.
When I asked where the wine people were and was told they weren’t there, I was directed to the bar in the corner of the room. “There are black cocktails,” they told me, so I went to buy one.
“Hi,” I said to the person behind the counter, “I’ve been told there are black cocktails available.” I expected to be given… I don’t know, options? Something interesting that I wouldn’t be able to easily replicate at home? Instead she said “We can do you a black gin & tonic,” which I agreed to mainly because I was stunned into confused silence.
It was Bombay Sapphire + tonic water + a dash of charcoal powder. And, I mean, it was fine. But it wasn’t really a “black cocktail.” It was just a G&T with some charcoal in it.
I’d been expecting something more interesting. Something like this:
I finally found a good cocktail in the shape of a frozen margarita. It tasted good, but it was not black.
I resolutely decided to try only the black food on offer, since that was literally the whole reason I’d gone.
First I tried black lángos. I hadn’t had lángos before; it’s a Hungarian pastry a bit like a pizza, topped with all sorts of different things. I had the most traditional topping: sour cream, cheese and garlic sauce. It was delicious.
I can imagine it being an excellent hangover food.
The dough was different from what I expected: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, probably a result of it being deep-fried rather than oven-baked like a pizza.
The lángos came from The Langos Factory, and I would absolutely visit them again, if I were extremely hungry or very hungover.
Hermanos Taco House were also in attendance, offering black tacos, nachos, and the aforementioned frozen margaritas. I tried the tacos, which were excellent; I did not try the nachos, but I did manage to take a sneaky picture of someone else’s portion.
Which reminds me: there was also nowhere to sit. In the room inside, there was a single tall table at one end, near the door, which you could lean on to eat your food. But only about six people could fit at a time, and there were easily over a hundred in the room. Outside there was a single long bench, which quickly filled up, and aside from that you just had to stand around in the middle of the crowd (there were no breakout areas, either) and hope you didn’t drop anything.
On my way out I had a tarot reading by the lovely Crystal Forest – as a tarot reader myself, it’s always a treat to have it read by someone else. The tarot reading was easily my favourite part of the festival, although it was hard for both of us to hear each other over the pounding noise of the DJ, who seemed to be playing the same migraine-inducing music and visual effects on a loop.
And then it was over, because there wasn’t anything more to try, except non-black food, which wasn’t the point.
However, I was still glad I’d gone: partly because of the frozen margarita, and the excellent introduction to lángos; partly (mainly) for the tarot reading; and also because on my way back to the station I found this absolutely magical plant shop:
I bought two more plants for my collection, but really I just want to move into the shop. It’s called Conservatory Archives and it is a lovely oasis of greenery.
On the train home I met a couple of Canadians who were on their way to Kew Gardens, which isn’t a million miles from where I live, so I guided them from the bus into the (well-hidden) Whitechapel train station and onto the correct train.
I got home tired but happy, and inspired to explore more of London. The food festival itself may have been a disappointment, but my day out was fun, and I might try to leave my house more often at the weekends (we’ll see how long this lasts).
What did you get up to at the weekend? Are you going to anything interesting in the near future?