“This would be a great place to get married”, I’m told as we take our seats on the wooden benches at Campfire Feast. Our table is prettily decorated with dried wild flowers, a drinks menu, and another for the night’s food. The circular, glossy, ‘C’ is not a coaster but a badge, and the green tarpaulin above our heads dips and rises depending on the distance between the trees it is tied to. Thick woodland is all around us, as musicians tune up for the entertainment later. The air throbs with laughter and anticipation. A glass of local fizz is provided as we settle in for an evening just as the sun settles into its final western position.
This being the inaugural feast we have little expectations of the evening. We know there is food cooked over fire from Smoq’d and we know that Sipsmith are on drinks duty. We know that Sipsmith founder Jared Brown is hosting the night and that those who have never met the chap before will be hanging off every anecdote in the same way I was the previous times I’ve been in his company. I down my sparkling wine and order a peanut butter espresso martini. That goes too. I get a polite warning to slow my drinking down. Maybe she doesn’t want a wedding here after all.
The food veers from very good to sublime. Salmon smoked over a plank arrives on a tostada tussled with pea mole and a self-saucing confit egg yolk that bleeds a golden yellow all over. It’s the essence of spring in four crisp bites. Then smoked and chopped beetroot on a blue cheese labneh that tastes like Dairylea dunkers for grown ups, with crispy shards of seed-studded cracker to use as a spoon. With this was a very clever take on a bees knees that used the wild flowers – such as gorse and pineapple weed – that would be the feeding ground for the bees.
Things get interesting with the meat. Rolled breast of lamb stuffed with wild garlic is offset beautifully by a salad containing roast peaches and tomato. Then pork belly tacos, cooked until the fat has mostly rendered and the meat still has slight resistance, with smokey chunks of pineapple and a salsa-style hot sauce that leans heavily on acidity over heat. It takes skill to cook meat like this. Skill that evades a lot of very good chefs. We wash it down with a drink called “A Walk in The Pines”, though, to be honest, I’m too busy waxing lyrical about the lamb to pay too much attention to it.
By the time our dessert of pancakes with baked apples and rhubarb ripple ice cream arrives I’m more than a little tipsy, a situation that only heightens after the lavender old fashioned. The guests are in full swing; ready for the brief talk from Jared and Chris from Sipsmith, which results in the former setting fire to a drink with a blowtorch and the latter opening a bottle of fizz with an axe. Yes, you did just read that correctly. And then there were more drinks, and a bit of haze, and thank you very much, the night is over. The events are monthly, the tickets are roughly £65, and there is a Premier Inn at the bottom of the road for those want to make the make of things. I gather the next one is almost sold out, and there is talk of another event happening near Lichfield that I’m probably not supposed to mention. Either way, you should get on the summer dates and experience something very special for not a huge amount of money. I honestly enjoyed every single second of it.
Thanks to Sipsmith and BAL for inviting me over for the evening.