Perhaps one of the things I love most about the Western Cape – and the Mother City – is its enthusiasm for outdoors festivals and markets, and 2016 has seen yet another such festival added to the city’s growing event ranks in none other than: The Burger Festival.
Tickets to Cape Town’s first-ever exclusive Burger Festival sold out quickly, especially the Early Bird tickets (R55), which were snapped up in a heartbeat, having already been announced as ‘sold out’ in mid-Jan. Normal Bird tickets (R75) had also sold out by the time my interest really started to pique and Late Bird tickets (R95) were simply beyond my price bracket as a full-time Journalism student.
So I decided to approach the festival organisers, Flavourful Events, and see if they would be willing to allow me to cover the event. Fortunately, they were and I was added to the Festival’s media list.
The event was held over the Valentine’s weekend, from Saturday 13th (11:00 a.m. to 23:00 p.m.) till Sunday 14th (11:00 a.m. to 20:00 p.m.), after the desired venue had been secured as Jan Van Riebeek Hoerskool’s main rugby field, high up in Tamboerskloof, just off the steep Kloof Nek Road in a quiet, treed up area on the pretty slopes of Lion’s Head, promising burgers, wine, beer and cocktails, as well as live entertainment scheduled for both days.
Initially, the list comprised of 25 burger vendors, 10 craft breweries, 10 wine estates and 10 artisan stands, though the final vendor list featured the following vendors: Stickman Brewery, Afro Caribbean Brewing Company, Everson’s Cider, Darling Brewery, Pit Masters Restaurant, Marianne Wines, Island Way Sorbet, Skinny Scoop, Apollo Brewing Company, Long Beach Brewery, Drifter Brewing Company, Red Sky Brewery, Woodstock Brewery, Mondiall Burger Bar, Atlantic Storm Beer, Stone Circle Brewery, Rack n Grill (food truck), Fat Harry’s Restaurant and Bar, Villiera Wines, Sticky Fingers BBQ (burgers), Blasters, Wicked Waffle, Kitchen Cowboys, Lunchworks, Woodstock Gin Co., TRE Restaurant, Bean there drunk that (mobile coffee business) and Wahine Food Truck.
I was placed in the 15:00-17:00 p.m. time slot for Sunday, but I decided to make my way there early in case I got lost along the way. Fortunately, I only had to ask for directions once (though I was relatively close to the rugby field at that stage) and there was helpful Festival signage a road or two below the venue. The security at both entrances (the first gate you could enter through on foot and buy your tickets there, whilst the second entrance was mainly for traffic) were pleasantly helpful and welcoming and instantly gave off a positive vibe.
Further in, when I paused at the main entrance to ask get my access band, the guys and lady stationed there were exceptionally helpful and sweet to me and really went out of their way to help me get the media’s WiFi password.
There, my name was ticked off the list and I was given my purple wrist band, after which time I carefully proceeded down the cement steps, which afford you your first view of the full splendour of the venue – and honestly, at that point, the views of the distant harbour, ocean and skyscrapers to your left and Lion’s Head off to your right are well-worth admiring for a moment or two, as I did so often during my time at the Festival, but nothing beats the exquisite beauty of Table Mountain before you in all its glory.
The weather, which had seen me caught in a rather nasty ‘monkey’s wedding’ on my way to the Festival, held for the most part on Sunday and it was sunny and warm enough out. I certainly did not burn and only when I left, just after 17:00 p.m. did I need to pull my jersey on. It was, however, famously windy (typical of Cape Town at this time of year, really) and there were a few heart-in-mouth moments when the lovely white umbrellas and wooden picnic benches actually blew a short distance across the field due to the windy conditions but these are things over which no one can have control and I was glad the weather on Day 2 had turned out better than expected. (Though it was apparently less pleasant outdoors on Saturday, as I well know.)
I was at once greeted by a number of canvas tented stalls, as well as picnic benches dotted around the entire length and breadth of the field. After soaking up the atmosphere by walking once around the field, I made my way over to the VIP media lounge, which, although it felt a bit bizarre to me at first, certainly ensured that its permitted guests were made to feel right at home in the comfortable, chic surroundings.
We had access to a great cocktail bar and within moments of my sitting down and hurriedly logging into my social media accounts to begin uploading my festival snaps, Kelly Hartmann of Flavourful Events came over to personally welcome me and ensure I knew where everything was and what was what.
I would just like to say that Kelly was an absolute pleasure to liaise with via email prior to and after the Festival and also on the day, as she was efficient, warm and extremely quick to respond so thank you to both Kelly and Flavourful Events for this professionalism, it was greatly appreciated.
I received my media coupon from her (which entitled me to a burger, dessert and drink from the stalls outside) and got up to choose my complimentary drink from the bar.
Like most of the media personnel attending the Festival, I ordered the barman’s speciality cocktail, which he briskly prepared for me, finishing my particular yellowy cocktail off with a fresh mint leaf.
He, like all the staff I had encountered up until this point, greeted and addressed me most politely as I watched him prepare my drink. Afterwards, I listened to him lightly conversing to the other media reps, which I felt was a nice touch, as I appreciatively sipped my icy cocktail. It was honestly delicious (8/10 rating) and as the lady across from me said to her colleague, “Oh my word, this is amazing!” I hope that the rest of the festival-goers were treated to such tasty cocktails as we were. Sadly, I only caught some of the ingredients and I hope they are right, but it consisted mainly of: a double shot of vodka (enough to taste without being too strong), passion fruit and naturally, crushed ice etc.
I sat back in the comfort of the lounge, half-listening to the others as they casually chatted around me, while I updated my social media. After that, it was time to begin doing my work proper, so I went out just around 15:30 p.m. to take photos and notes.
I smiled as I passed the marked athletics rows where one of the breweries had seemingly set up a game of ‘barrel riding’… the trick? Keeping your balance without letting your beer spill. It looked fun and a few guys were having a go at it, as spectators sat in the shady stands, looking on.
In the distance at one end of the field, outdoor toilets were lined up and waiting, whilst the stalls selling the burgers and craft beer stood nearest the stands. To my left, the marquee for the performing musicians sheltered the stage as pop music drifted across the field, the likes of Coldplay and John Mayer soothingly serenading visitors as the smells of frying patties and onions deliciously filled the air.
The dessert and ice-cream stands were mainly alongside the stage but at the far end near the ground’s brick outbuilding, there were the other drink stalls, offering wines, cool-drinks, water, gin and cocktails. In front, there was also a sand pit (presumably used for long jump) with some of the pretty pink and cerise hearts, found across the field to remind you that it was Valentine’s Day*, embedded into the soft sand.
* (I learned afterwards that a couple even got engaged on the day – congratulations to them – whilst notable visitors included: former DA Leader Helen Zille and Provincial rugby players, Nic Groom and Bongi Mbonambi.)
Another thing that quickly became apparent to me was that the day was far less crowded than Saturday appeared to have been, if The Burger’s Festival Facebook page and Twitter were anything to go by, but there were still 50-60 people there at any given time from what I could judge. I feel like we could have fitted far more people into the event (at least on Sunday) but that is entirely up to the Festival to judge.
One thing that I did notice on the day was that the vendor list was noticeably smaller than expected and there were more drink stalls than food stalls. This received mixed reaction from visitors and I think the Festival should indeed consider making this the Burger and Beer Festival. Or at least ensure that the burger stalls outnumber all others going forwards. I can confirm, however, that Flavourful Events has said they are considering all the feedback received post-festival and said in reply to one comment on the FB page: “Our initial aim was definitely to reach the quota of vendors. We have already started work on the next festival and improving in multiple facets.”
Though others complained about the fact that the Festival did not permit any under 18s or pets, I feel that, in some respects, this decision was perfectly within the Festival’s rights. Yes, wine events allow children and dogs, but this is not necessarily a rule in and of itself and quite frankly, the Festival was probably more peaceful and tidier because of those rules but again, it is something for organisers to decide on going forwards.
I was also pleased to see that staff were frequently cleaning and clearing away after visitors or when the wind had its way. This ensured that, despite very windy conditions at times, there was no littering and the venue was kept spotless throughout my time there. I must commend organisers and Festival staff on this effort because so often that is, regrettably, not the case at outdoor events and it sickens me personally when our planet has to suffer further because of our ‘fun’, so well done there!
As I weighed up my burger options, a few of the stall reps called me over to see their offerings and even joked with me. I must give a special shout-out, as I did on the day, to Everson’s Cider for having the most fun and pleasantly amusing bunch of guys tending their stall (thanks for willingly posing for a picture or two), whilst the best burger staff I encountered were those from Fat Harry’s. Both stalls were refreshing as some reps were rather lifeless and reserved. I know it might seem like I am nitpicking but honestly, I only approached the stalls that seemed openly welcoming and courteous and later, amongst ourselves in the media lounge, we did in fact say which stalls had disappointed us or been unnecessarily aloof in their dealings.
Something else that struck us as odd (though I noticed it the last time I covered an event) is the fact that only certain stalls were prepared to accept coupons. Considering that the majority of coupon holders were in fact members of the media or PR people, this makes little sense. I understand that vendors need to break-even and still make a profit, but I’ve always thought the entire point of featuring at such an event is to receive good, more widely spread publicity. Not that I minded much in the end though, as the stalls that did accept the coupons actually seemed to offer the best, most delicious foods available anyway – and as such, they will certainly be receiving a good write-up from me herein.
After approaching one stall and having my coupon declined, I went to the one that I knew for a fact accepted coupons and which had one of the best display burgers, perched on the wooden counter, I think I’ve ever seen. Also, I think the owner was manning the stall, alongside his employees and I even heard them offering to deliver orders to their customers.
I, however, was more than happy to wait for my burger and when I asked the lady what she recommended out of their burgers, she immediately said, “Our 3-cheese burger with Jalapeño.” My eyes lit up at the mention of chilli and I opted for that one because I love spicy food. I didn’t have to wait long for my ginormous Jalapeno 3-cheese burger with huge potato wedges (most of the burgers were not accompanied by chips so I really scored here) and two equally sizeable onion rings. This was priced at R85 and, although mine was technically ‘free’, I would probably have forked out R85 for that and still thought it good value because this was a huge meal and really gourmet food at that. Also, most gourmet burgers cost at least R50-80 nowadays so I was okay with the price.
My mammoth meal was held in place by a toothpick, the crisp onion rings balancing like a top hat, and was served in a practical, cardboard takeaway box, ensuring that I didn’t spill on myself and making my meal easier to carry off.
I went back to the VIP lounge, where my fellows eyed my burger with evident longing as I jokingly admitted that I had no idea how I would get my mouth around it. I really do believe I made the right meal choice in the end and have to say it is probably one of the best, if not the best, burgers (and wedges) I have ever tasted.
My wedges were perfectly cooked, slightly crisp but still soft and hot inside and were a lovely golden colour. They were seasoned by a nice chilli spice and in and of themselves deserve a 9/10 rating.
As for my Jalapeño monster, it was cheesy, perfectly cooked (it was medium rare from what I could see and although I usually only go for well done meat, this was actually really, really good and flavourful and I had no qualms about eating it), tender and oh-so-varied with its tasty sauces, melted cheese, double patty (I kid you not) and purple cabbage on a nice, fresh bun. It was easier to eat than I had imagined and thankfully, never even fell apart so all in all, it truly deserves a 10/10 rating, I can’t fault it. Also, I must add that the Jalapeno added a great kick to it and was indeed quite hot but if you love hot foods or good flavours, this is definitely the burger for you. (For more info. on Fat Harry’s, please see: www.fatharrys.co.za, call +27 (021) 671 7433 or follow them on social media.)
What’s more, it was healthy enough to balance out the calorie overload, though I was not in the least bothered by this on the day as I love my food, was famished and had certainly had my share of exercise to and from the venue.
I strolled around the venue again once I was done in search of a dessert stall. I was hoping to find a tasty ice-cream as the weather was warm enough for it and I had seen some nice looking tubs doing the rounds, but I was referred to the Wicked Waffle when, again, certain stalls told me they did not accept coupons.
I was still rather full at this point from my monster burger, but seeing the Wicked Waffle menu and watching them being prepared right in front of me quickly made me push this thought aside as I had no plans to eat again that day anyway.
I, like the other customers, had difficulty choosing but I finally settled on the ‘Death By Chocolate’ (well-named as it was to-die-for) Waffle for R50 that offered their speciality wicked waffle, topped off by a huge lump of cream and melted, rich Belgian chocolate.
Before you baulk at the price, I must say it was a meal on its own and I treated it as such and as most desserts cost R30-45, it wasn’t too much above the general price.
It was brilliant, the waffle was certainly the best I have ever tasted, it was so fresh and yummy, and the melted Belgian chocolate and whipped cream was so good on top. They also didn’t stint on the toppings so it made for a seriously divine, creamy treat and it was also a generous portion. You could easily have split it in two and shared it between two people (same goes for my burger, in fact). I would give it an 9/10 rating and I might be a waffle convert after this!
I was also served quickly and politely enough by the Wicked Waffle team, who had to deal with the wind hitting their stall at the same time, so well done to them for that. (For more info. on Wicked Waffle, please see: www.wickedwaffle.co.za, call +27 (082) 674 0182 or follow them on social media.)
After that, I retired back to the media lounge for my third and final time to upload and tweet more photos, as well as to savour and reflect on my overall experience.
I must confess that, if I had known that the entry fee (whether R55 or R95) did not include in the cover charge a free burger and drink, I do not believe I would have been even contemplated attending the event. I feel that is quite steep and generally, from what I can see on the Burger Festival’s Facebook page, there were many people who felt the same.
I think it’s perhaps, well, food for thought for the Festival organisers going forwards and can’t help feeling that if tickets cost less or offered visitors more for their buck, even more people would have happily attended the Festival. It is not necessarily a criticism, just my honest feelings and I feel it is important to voice this concern, as it cropped up quite a lot online.
At the same time, I have to say I personally had a truly amazing day and felt that they could not have picked a more ideal and truthfully, breathtaking venue to host this first-time Festival and I do believe that the food and drinks were of the highest quality and what’s more, I like that they gave smaller, less well-known vendors a chance to showcase their offerings, though it would be nice to see some of the bigger burger joints (Cape Town is blessed with so many, after all) making an appearance in the future.
The vibe was relaxed, calm and entirely enjoyable, everyone acted sensibly and responsibly and there was never a moment where I felt out of place, despite wandering around on my own, because there was a prevailing feeling of slow-paced relaxation and an easy, fun Sunday atmosphere. Everyone I saw seemed to be enjoying their Valentine’s Day here, whether they were talking with friends and loved ones, tucking into tasty food, joking with vendors or sitting on the grass cheering on the live music performances.
I would give the Burger Festival an overall 7/10 rating for the following: quality food and drink offered by their selected vendors, excellent, polite Festival staff, who were helpful and efficient, an amazing venue, clean, well-run facilities and lovely seating arrangements and finally, for a good first effort at this latest CT festival.
I wish them all the best going forwards and would love to attend another Burger Festival and additionally, I would like to thank Flavourful Events for sponsoring me on the day and for treating the media and general visitors so well. I must add that whilst I was given some contact addresses for the vendors, sadly, the ones I contacted did not get back to me in time for the publication of this post. However, if I do hear back from them, I will edit the post accordingly so it includes their thoughts on the Festival.
If you missed the Burger Festival, keep an eye out for the next one. 🙂 For more info. on the Burger Festival, please find and follow The Burger Festival or Flavourful Events on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) or see the Flavourful Events website: www.flavourful.co.za.
Please note: All views and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own and in no way reflect upon the views of any other person, company or institution. Furthermore, the opinions contained herein are as unbiased and honest as possible, and were in no way affected or influenced by the free merchandise I received at this event. Thank you.