We all have our local food markets, specialist shops and bakeries in some form to frequent but what if you want to browse it all under one roof at the same time? That's where shows like BBC's Good Food show come in, bringing a wide range of home grown food and drink businesses together for one heck of an event.
Funnily enough, Heck is actually the name of one the traders attending this year's Good food summer show, they're a gluten free sausage company with a rather tasty selection of meats. That's just part of the variety that you can find at the show, gluten free meats, delicious cakes, home brewed sloe gin and even hand crafted spices are on show. Essentially it's a chance for foodies to go a little crazy sampling from companies they may not find near them, whilst also having a bit of a shop from their favourites.
This was my first time at the Good food show and despite doing my research online it was still a bit of an experience, as a first hand, first timers account I've decided to put together a bit of a guide for what to expect and what to do when you visit the show, a bit of a first hand account and advice to make the most of your day at the show.
So what to do first? Before you even leave the house consider the best time to go first, I arrived at 11am and boy was it packed, much more so than when I left mid afternoon. In order to beat the queues to get in and the rush around the show I'd advise on visiting either first thing after the doors open (around 9:30-10am) or later in the day (around 2pm) for a much more relaxed entrance to the show. Lunch time does get hectic, the queues around the hot food stalls could have formed a conga line.. so you may want to come prepared with a snack. You'll also want to pack a hand fan and a bottle of water (yes, even for a winter show) as the NEC does get rather toasty even at the coldest of times of the year, and as much as you want to wear those pretty heels, wear flats, it's a long walk from the train station entrance to the show.
Now with that preparation done you should be all set for the show, even arriving at a quieter time of the day the show itself will still be busy inside, that's a given any time of the day, but don't let the crowds rush you though, the main aisles will be the busiest, but smaller more specialist areas of the show; like the 'Great taste market' will be much easier to browse. Take your time no matter where you start to really browse the aisles you'll be surprised what stalls you'll find next to each other, or what offers you may find. Try the samples that take your fancy and make a note of any stalls to come back to for purchases on the way out, especially for heavier items like boozy tipples.
Some of the stalls that took my fancy weren't where I expected so it pays to have a long, paced walk around. Don't forget to take time to have a sit, now this is my only major failing with the show, there was a distinct lack of seating around the show.
Good food magazine subscribers do have a rather swish fenced off area for seating, alongside the small on show cafe, but beyond that there was only floor space to perch up on inside the show itself, so you may want to venture outside to the hall entrance where you'll find benches within the NEC to sit. This could however have been a one off for this show so it may not happen regularly but it's best to be prepared and know what to expect just in case.
Of course, it's not just about shopping, don't forget to take in a demonstration or two at one of the stages, you'll find these listed in the show guide (available free across the show) alongside the main shows in the super theatre throughout the day. It will get busy around all of these but you can easily flit back and forth between stages within the show.
When your starting to get ready to head off don't forget to pop back to stalls for those purchases, you'll be surprised how much bag space all those tasty bottles, cakes and treats will take up. Some visitors did come pre armed with trolleys, which if you do expect to go mad is an idea but make sure it's a nice compact one for space.
Above all else, make the most of the day, I found some rather delicious treats at the show and came back with a guide book full of notes to visit online for those who I didn't manage to get back to. It's a chance to sample food and drink and find some new favourites.
There's always a Good Food show lined up whatever time of the year, visit their site for future dates including the Bakes & Cakes show in October.www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com
Interested in what I found? Find my rather cake focused review over at my sister site, Cake porn.