Belfast Telegraph

Eclectic selection of food and vibes hit right note at Taste and Music Fest

By Amanda Poole

Northern Ireland's largest al fresco restaurant is back.

Some of our best-known chefs have made a welcome return to Botanic Gardens in south Belfast for the annual Taste and Music Fest.

Over this weekend around 30,000 people will enjoy a boutique bar, music acts and mouth-watering culinary delights in the beautiful surroundings of the Great Lawn.

Taste and Music Fest - which is open today, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10pm - is the brainchild of Chicago businesswoman Connie Cunningham.

She has been delivering food and entertainment events to the city since 1991 and told the Belfast Telegraph she is very fond of Northern Ireland.

"I love it here," Connie said.

"We are very proud of the brand and what it means to the city, to Northern Ireland and the chefs.

"There is no other event that promotes chefs in this way. It's helped make Northern Ireland chefs into a culinary team."

Barry Smyth is the culinary director of this year's festival and he jokingly said his job is "like being referee for 14 different chefs".

Chefs at the event include Ciaran Steele from Molly's Yard, Michael Glinowski from 27 Talbot Street and Ian Orr from Brown's.

"Planning goes in all year and the chefs are here on an invitation only basis," Barry said.

"We try to vary things from year to year to reflect what's happening out there in the industry.

"It's great for the chefs to showcase what they do best in their restaurants and the produce is pretty much locally sourced."

Dave Taylor, lead singer with Otis And The Elevators, is performing over the weekend but is also the festival entertainment director. He said: "It's a fabulous event. A real buzz. We've got a great selection of people on stage.

"We've got everything from jazz right through to rock, to soul, blues and pop music."

Acts performing include Grainne Duffy, Sweet Savage and James Huish & The Michael Buble Tribute Band.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster called the Taste and Music Fest a "super festival" and said the "atmosphere is great".

"It's really a great day or night out - grazing along all the food. It's a great opportunity to taste food from a lot of our top chefs."

The DUP woman revealed her love of cupcakes to the Belfast Telegraph.

"The cupcakes are a big winner for me. A lady from Dungannon makes those and The Yellow Door guys from Portadown are great," she said.

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