Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux is a new festival for the city. We get the lowdown from project director, Julia Huf.
Liverpool is a hospitality city that has massively polished its food and drink offering over the last decade. From fine dining to street food and everything in between, our independent restaurants, bars and markets together create one of the world’s most vibrant hospitality sectors. But is global gastronomic recognition - alongside the likes of Barcelona, Malmo, Lisbon, Hong Kong and Montreal - within our reach?
Liverpool is a very warm city and that’s what hospitality is all about.
Julia Huf, project director of the "Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux" festival certainly thinks so. Julia has been working on this ambitious four-day citywide event, billed as “the most delicious weekend of the year”, running over the jubilee bank holiday in June.
After a gloomy few years for the industry, Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux will celebrate Liverpool’s famous food and drink culture with a huge programme of events. There are free family friendly activities including immersive takeovers by leading restaurateurs and chefs, cookery demonstrations, food inspired cultural events and special festival menus.
As some of the city’s leading names in hospitality came together for the launch of the festival programme at Oh Me Oh My, I asked Julia more about the story behind the event.
“Liverpool is a very warm city and that’s what hospitality is all about,” Julia says.
“After everything that has happened, after the impact that the past two years has had on our industry, it’s fantastic to be able to celebrate. Liverpool hasn’t had a food and drink festival for a while, so it’s been a long time coming to bring something back to celebrate the food and drink sector in our city.
“We have a big vision for Taste Liverpool. We want to continue to develop and invest in this industry, and the big vision we have is to position Liverpool as a recognised gastronomic city in the UK. Working with Bordeaux helps very much.”
As the sole UK city to host the famous Bordeaux Wine Festival, it’s a huge honour for the prestigious event to be back in Liverpool. We last hosted the festival in 2019 at the waterfront, but our historic links with Bordeaux go back much further than that.
After the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Bordeaux came under English rule between 1152 and 1453. It was then that the British first developed their taste for "claret" (from the French clairet, originally used to refer to a dark rosé wine rather than the rich reds we are familiar with today). Bordeaux wines were the very first wines to arrive in Britain through the ports in the North.
Today, the Bordeaux region (in France) is renowned for its unique terroir - which refers to the special environmental factors which create the high quality vines covering over 120,000 hectares. More than 6,000 vineyards produce a wide variety of red, white, sparkling and rosé wines, from affordable bottles through to special occasion vintages.
Julia describes Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux as an “urban food and drink festival” and says they've been motivated by some of the best gastro-cities in the world.
“I jumped into this project because I’m passionate about hospitality,” she says.
“I’ve worked in Liverpool hospitality for five years, and overall for ten years. I believe so much in this industry.
“The plan for Taste Liverpool is that we start this project with the festival and that festival becomes an annual event. For the first year we want to keep it more to the city centre, but the ambition is to grow to city region level.
“Then it will become the Taste Liverpool 365 project, promoting and developing the sector all year round.
“The main thing now is Bordeaux, because that’s something that’s been building for a while. But there’s always going to be the potential to work with other people.”
One of the inspirations behind the Liverpool event is Eat Brussels, Drink Bordeaux, an annual four-day festival that takes place in the Belgian capital. Brussels is one of 31 members of Delice, a network of worldwide cities who consider food and gastronomy as a boost for urban economic development and city attractiveness.
Currently, Birmingham is the only city flying the foodie flag for the UK. Julia says that for Liverpool to join the network would be a big achievement.
“Delice isn’t something that you can apply to join - they choose who they want it to be. They’re very particular about working with cities that are actively investing in the sector and are passionate about it.
“This festival is going to give us the barometer to the funding bodies and the steering groups, to say, ok, yes the sector wants this. It has to be very much built by and led by the sector. And this festival is the pillar for all of that.”
Over 50 of Liverpool’s leading restaurants will create special menus as part of Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux, including Lu Ban, Bold Street Coffee, Cafe Lucaya, Tsujiri, and Slim’s. Six themed festival menus have been curated but the idea is that each venue puts their own spin on it, keeping it within a certain price range to make sure it’s accessible.
At St Luke’s “Bombed Out” Church, there will be free chef demos from the likes of Paul Askew (The Art School), Simon Rimmer (Sunday Kitchen), Elizabeth Acker (Great British Bake Off), Sarah Mountain (Channel 4’s Snackmasters) and Gabriella Margiotta (Gabriella's Kitchen) with more to be revealed in the coming weeks.
A city centre market will host many of the city’s artisanal farmers, producers, makers and cultivators, with stalls showcasing the range of produce and culinary talent from the region.
Ticketed events include the Bordeaux Wine Experience at the stunning Town Hall and The Bordeaux Bar in Martins Bank.
“We want to be able to educate people on wine variety and diversity,” Julia says.
“Bordeaux is not just about high end wines. There is a lot of affordability in Bordeaux wines which come with great quality and diversity as well.
“The whole idea is that people learn how to appreciate it, learn more about the background, and be able to make more informed decisions when they go out - like not just choosing the house wine, just because.”
Taste Liverpool, Drink Bordeaux takes place from Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June. For the festival programme and to book tickets, go to VisitLiverpool.com
Follow Vicky Andrews on Twitter: @planetvicster
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