Thanks largely to Magnus MacDonald, a sometime restaurateur who has been allocating licences to caterers for the past five festivals, there are more worthwhile food stalls than rock groups this year. Mr MacDonald has discriminated against the greasy-burger thugs who monopolise event catering and has encouraged more creative entrepreneurs.
Take Ron Zahl, who runs a peripatetic noodle bar specialising in pan-fried yaki soba. Last year, Now 'n' Zen was voted Best Food Stall of the festival. This year, Ron is running two noodle stalls, plus a vegan Zen Food stall in the jazz field, and is trying 'a new banana concept' at a stall called Banana Crazy.
Or how about Hazel Kayes? She has been running a cafe called Simple Simon at the festival since 1979. This year she has the use of a tent, made for the wedding of a bedouin princess, where she is offering a six-course Moroccan dinner at pounds 9, which includes a special cabaret of belly dancing performed by the proprietress and her friend Louise.
From the all-Welsh hamburgers served by Big D's Chuckwagon to Indian street food from Chicky Peas, the range on offer is so vast that it takes careful planning to fit it
all in. The Gastropod urges revellers not to miss Delia's Kitchen Africa, Paula's Punch Stop, and a creole outfit called Yam The Cassava.
DESPITE the atrocious spring weather, the Pod is pleased to announce that prospects for British Strawberry Week look good. Sergeant Strawberry - a man dressed as an outsized fruit - will attend Nicholas Soames, from the agriculture ministry, when he picks the symbolic first strawberry on Monday morning at Harewood Bridge Self Pick, near Leeds.
Down south the season has already started. To locate your nearest self-pick farm, send your name and address to Harvest Times, PO Box 200, Winchester, Hampshire, and enclose 50p (they like it Sellotaped to a piece of card).
WOULD it not be a fine thing if one did not have to settle for salad in one of those plastic pillows of assorted leaves that supermarkets sell at inflated prices? The Gastropod, for one, would prefer to eat a lot less lollo rosso and a lot more of the stuff grown by the legendary Frances Smith of Appledore Salads in Kent.
Ms Smith is a market gardener specialising in obscure or old English salad varieties
which she supplies mostly to restaurants, but now also to Mortimer & Bennett, a delicatessen with branches in Covent Garden and Chiswick. Dan Mortimer gets up early on Tuesday morning to wash and pick over the salad, which he packs into heat-sealed anti- mist bags. These extend shelf- life to three days (although he has usually sold out by Wednesday afternoon).
THE Bengal Clipper is a grand, high-concept new Indian restaurant moored at Butler's Wharf in Conran-land, alongside Sir Tel's Gastrodrome. Located in the former centre of the world's spice trade - it is actually situated within the Cardamom Building - and decorated with brilliant paintings of scenes from Bengali folklore, the Clipper specialises in authentic Bengali seafood.
The Gastropod was unable to attend the launch party, having a prior engagement at the Red Fort in Soho, where an extraordinary Bangladeshi Food Festival runs until 3 July. This was just as well, as it turned out, as the 200-odd guests who did turn up at Butler's Wharf were met by an uncommunicative waiter bearing a sign saying that the party was off.
Apparently, a technical hitch with the kitchen's ventilation system caused the landlord to refuse permission for the party, although he relented next day. The Bengal Clipper is anxious to make clear that it is now open for business and, until the end of the month, is serving a set menu for pounds 15 in celebration of Ismail Merchant's new film, In Custody.Reuse content