Goodbye Burger Van, Hello New Festival Food

8 September 2015
Read Time: 3.0 mins

The Growler is a Glastonbury legend. A baguette stuffed with chips, topped with bacon and dripping with melted cheese, it’s not for those with high cholesterol. But for carb-craving festivalgoers, in the rain and on three hours sleep, it can seem just the ticket.

Served under a giant image of Pauline Fowler’s scowl, the Growler is lodged in the hearts and arteries of many, but thankfully, festival food has come a long way since its creation.

 Celebrating not having to drink Tuborg at Helsinki's Flow Festival

At Flow Festival, a three-day event in the surrounds of a power plant in Helsinki, some of the Finnish capital's most famous chefs were working to delight the taste buds of music lovers who at lesser festivals might have had to content themselves with a burger and chips.

Matti Jämsen, the head chef at restaurants such as G.W.Sundmans and Pastor – a stylish new Peruvian-inspired joint – was initially unsure about catering to a less than sober crowd. But after a hugely popular response at a local food festival, he signed up.

He picked dishes based on what he himself would love to eat at a music festival. “The answer was quite simple … perfectly made crispy chicken, bbq pork with a tasty garnish, sandwiches with a lot of veggies and self-made milk shakes. What could be better?”

His New York-themed stall was busy all weekend handing out surprisingly delicate toasts topped with salmon tartar and avocado, or generous chunks of pork neck accompanied by a crunchy salad.

 Richard McCormick's pink van served smoked rainbow trout

On the other side of the main stage - graced by acts from Beck to Florence and the Machine - were food vans run by Richard McCormick, a young chef who, with long surfer’s hair and a floral jumpsuit, was completely at home on the art and balloon-filled site.

He welcomed the friendly competition from Helsinki’s other star chefs.

“There are no rules here,” he told me. “It’s like having a restaurant for three days but without the risk. People come knowing that they can eat well with ten euros (A$12.50) and I’ve got the opportunity to experiment.” If his sustainable dishes and vegan ice cream sold well, he planned to introduce them to menus at one of his three respected city restaurants.

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His smoked rainbow trout with new potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, dill and cucumber pesto, seasonal pickles, apple salad with horseradish crème fraiche and parsnip chips, was the most complex and delicious plate I have ever eaten standing up.

Raw food was available for those wanting to counter beer with something healthy from the PUR stand, which offered tempe (soy) toast, raw blueberry cake and smoothies.

 Goodbye burger van - hello the new festival food

A sushi restaurant and delicious ceviche bar made the most of Helsinki’s high-quality salmon, while the outlet of Helsinki restaurant Farang had a permanent queue of people sampling crispy pork with palm sugar and a green mango salad or even half a lobster, served with “hand-peeled” shrimps and a roasted coconut dressing for 27 euros (A$36).

Not that all music festivals have yet to turn their attention to food. Some make it a priority. Somersault, held in July, focused on outdoor sports and campfire feasts catered by television chefs, as much as bands.

Valentine Warner, for example, admitted that kitchen facilities on the Devon site were limited but he still managed to pull off a four-course dinner with a goats curd toast, chilled lettuce, pea and crab soup, tender shoulder of lamb with cockles and new potatoes and a blackcurrant dessert for around 200 people noisily sat along rows of banqueting tables.

Best of all, the meal was matched with not wine but ale.

As more and more craft ale breweries pop up around the country, the bland lager that could sometimes be your only option at a festival thanks to heavy-handed sponsorship deals, is gradually being replaced with a more varied choice of hops. Green Man and End of the Road in particular make a notable effort to please ale drinkers.

The feasts at Somersault were paired with beers from Cornwall’s excellent Sharps Brewery, most famous for its award-winning Doom Bar.

 A meat platter at a Somersault feast

Amazingly, a beer with fennel was the perfect accompaniment to the pea soup, while a heavy blend of vintage ales was a fruity, caramel partner for Warner's lamb. Its Dubbel Coffee Stout, meanwhile, matched crumbly blue cheese and chocolate beautifully.

Elsewhere, crowds who filled their time before Bombay Bicycle Club, Jimmy Cliff and Laura Marling with morning runs, surfing at Croyde beach, hill walking and rock climbing, refuelled on meats from the Halls Dorset Smokery, sushi from Happy Maki, fresh local fish from Devon’s Seadog and buttermilk-fried chicken from Spit & Roast.

With more feasts from Fifteen Cornwall and Somerset’s The Ethicurean, even the fussiest eater could not have gone hungry.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Helsinki.

This article was written by Natalie Paris from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Natalie Paris

Natalie Paris is the news editor on the travel desk. She also commissions for South-East Asia, family travel, gap years, festivals and solo travel.