Buckinghamshire's Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge brought his Pub In The Park festival back to Marlow at the weekend for its third consecutive outing.
After the success of last year, the number of events is doubling to eight this summer, kicking off with the three-day run at Higginson Park in Tom's home town last Friday night.
I attended the event on Saturday afternoon and evening, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Enjoying perfect weather, with the rain only briefly entering the fray – but mostly during the interval between the afternoon and evening sessions – the crowds lapped up the array of top nosh and quality music on offer.
As ever, the popular pub proprietor brought his chef mates to the event to provide tasting dishes from their award-winning pubs and restaurants, as well as offering live cooking demonstrations.
On Saturday I spoke to Tom about how the weekend had been so far. He said:
“Last night was amazing. It was just about the right temperature, the weather held off, there was loads of food, everyone had an amazing time and then All Saints, The Bluetones and Jake Bugg were brilliant. It was a good vibe, a really good atmosphere – a wonderful start to the weekend!”
During his opening speech in the VIP tent, Tom spoke particularly highly of pastry chef Claire Clark who he described as “having an MBE for puddings!”
Naturally, this reporter headed straight to the Pretty Sweet stand, ran by Claire Clark MBE and her business partner Sarah Crouchman to sample the sugary delights on offer.
Despite being very busy at her packed stand, Claire, who I subsequently discovered is originally from Aylesbury, was kind enough to speak to me.
Introducing Pretty Sweet, she said:
“It's our first Pub in the Park. My business partner Sarah and I have a company called 'Pretty Sweet' and we supply desserts for places like Ascot, Wimbledon, Lord's and the O2.
“Today we've got Eton mess, lemon drizzle cheesecake, ice cream sundaes with hot donuts, homemade fudge and OTT brownies.”
When I asked about her MBE, Claire laughed as she described how she found out. She said:
“I don't really know how it happened – I tried to send it back because I didn't realise it was for me when it arrived in the post!
“It's for services to the industry – I've been cooking for 35 years. It's very humbling.”
I can confirm that Pretty Sweet is pretty amazing. Personally I sampled the Eton mess, always a favourite of mine but this one was particularly special, and my wife had an ice cream sundae which she spent some considerable part of the weekend raving about thereafter!
I returned in the evening where myself and some friends were looking forward to enjoying The Kaiser Chiefs on the main stage.
First up though was the important job of lining our stomachs for the evening ahead!
We chose to enjoy the now famous three-cheese and mustard toastie from Wigmore, whose food menu is overseen by Michel Roux Jr, before settling on Gower Cottage brownies for dessert. I'll spare her blushes by not naming her, but I'm fairly confident that one of my friend's ate four of them!
The headline act hit the stage at about 9:30pm and were in fine form, rocking their way through classic hits such as 'Ruby' and 'I Predict a Riot', as well as some new tracks from their upcoming seventh studio album.
It's safe to say that everyone funnelled out of Higginson Park well fed and well entertained, which was the whole idea to begin with according to Tom Kerridge.
Speaking to me before the event, Tom said:
“The idea of doing it was a celebration of music and food in the town I consider to be home, where everyone's embraced The Hand and Flowers and The Coach, so it's a real opportunity to give something back, and Higginson Park is such a great space that we thought let's try to do something amazing with it.”
Indeed, the Pub In The Park food and music celebration has gone from strength to strength and looks set to become a staple of the UK's summer festival calendar.
To find out where else Pub in the Park will be happening this summer, visit: www.pubintheparkuk.com