The Topsham Food Festival
A weekend celebration of eating and drinking June 13-15th

in aid of the Matthews Hall Modernisation Appeal

'The Global Village at The Globe'

Topsham, Devon June 13-15th, 2008 Nello’s Longest Table was the highlight of the Topsham Food Festival, a wonderful and full weekend of activities and events that centered on food.

Friday Films and Art Exhibition
It all started on Friday with the screening in Matthews Hall by the Topsham Film Society of two beautiful and moving films that touched on themes that explored how food connects us, defines who we are, where we have come from, maybe where we want to be. The Italian connection was particularly poignant. Big Night tells an immigrant tale of two brothers running an Italian restaurant in New Jersey, trying to be true to their Italian roots, but failing as a business. Finally, they have one big night to turn things around. Mostly Martha is a German film that explores the obsessive personality of top chef Martha, whose world is turned upside down when she has to take care of her niece Lina, and whose precise restaurant kitchen is turned even more topsy turvy with the arrival of Mario, an Italian chef, who is brought in to cover for her. Germanic perfectionism meets head on with Italian spontaneity. The food scenes in both films are beautifully shot and incredibly appetizing; ultimately, though, these are movies that nourish the soul.

Throughout the Topsham Food Festival, there was an Art Exhibition by artists living in Topsham in the upstairs Council Chambers of Matthews Hall, another demonstration of how this important civic building is used by our community. Works included landscape paintings by visiting American artist Read Baldwin; oil paintings and wine cartoons by Jane Cope; ceramic work by John Woolner; photographs by Kathy Woolner; pottery by Anne Cope; mobiles by Anna Bowen; large abstracts by Lizzie Westrop; images created with paper pulp and natural objects by Louise Stolworthy; photographs by Kim Millon; and a print and photograph by Guy Millon.

Saturday workshops
On Saturday, the Topsham Food Festival continued with an exciting programme of events and workshops throughout the day at Darts Farm, ‘The Global Village at The Globe, and at the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar.

Darts Farm events included the parading by butcher Gerald David of two prize winning pedigree Red Ruby Devon bulls that had won top honours at this year’s Bath and West Show: Dunkery Jack, Junior Champion, and Fitzroy, Supreme Champion. A novel competition was to plot (using advance GPS technology) the exact spot in the field where said champion bulls deposited their first cow pats. According to Mike Dart, this simple and natural task took quite a lot longer to perform than expected! Later on in the day, James Chubb, East Devon Education Ranger, demonstrated how to make an amazing ‘rock pool paella’ while there were also barbeque demonstrations in the new Barbeque Hut, cyder tastings and producers on hand to offer tastings and explain their products.

The Globe Hotel has been the centre of activities throughout the planning of the Topsham Food Festival, so it is fitting that on this day it was transformed into a ‘Global Food Village’. Ian Shears from nearby Highfield Organic Farm drove into the courtyard with his tractor, trailing his mobile wood oven. This brilliant contraption is used for his ‘Seed to Loaf Roadshow' whereby children are allowed first to mill grains of wheat into flour, then use this make their own bread rolls that are cooked in the wood oven.

Ian Shears

Ian Shear's 'Seed to Loaf Roadshow'

Food writer Natacha Du Pont De Bie, meanwhile, gave a fascinating children’s food workshop, “Adventures in Taste” which encouraged children to try new foods and flavours and not be afraid to sample foods that are unfamiliar. It was as fascinating and provocative for adults as it was for children.

Claire and Shona make chocolate

Claire Richards of Leapfrog Foods and Shona Buchan of The Happy Gelateria gave a demonstration on making Raw Chocolate, that is chocolate made without reaching higher than body temperature.

Tasting chocolate, yum yum!

Dharmendra Gour Singh, the new 5-star chef at Denleys Essence of India Restaurant, gave a fantastic talk and hands-on demonstration of the preparation of northern Indian foods. Dharmendra is himself from Rajastan and he made a variety of breads cooked in the wood-fired oven (in the restaurant he would of course use the tandoor) as well as demonstrated the preparation of a colourful vegetarian dish and a dish of local Topsham mussels deliciously cooked in warm and fragrant Indian spices.

Darmendra Gour Singh gives a masterclass on regional Indian cuisine

A chat and a taste

Live musical entertainment was provided by Star Struck, a talented jazz band made up of local youth musicians.

Star Struck

Luisa and Mario Fontana, had come over from their home in the Barolo wine hills to be with us for the Festival. Luisa was happy to demonstrate how to make a favourite home-style dessert of Le Langhe, bunet, a delicious chocolate custard pudding made with amaretti biscuits (which we later enjoyed for our Nello’s Longest Table pudding).

Luisa demonstrates how to make bunet. James and I are on hand to taste.

Owen, chef at the newly opened Quay Brasserie, came on next to demonstrate the home curing of bacon, as well as the traditional French ways to make sauces and vinaigrettes.

Finally, Tony, our butcher at Arthurs for so many years, gave us a masterclass demonstration on making sausages, and in particular, on twisting them into links. What fast hand movements, what dexterous skill! I've always rated Arthurs' sausages as the best around, so it was good to see how they are made.


Tony from Arthur's making sausages

Tony also mixed up a special batch of Italian sausages for me, just coarsely minced shoulder and belly pork mixed with salt, lots of crushed black pepper and a generous slosh of Mario’s excellent Dolcetto wine. As he readied to make these into sausages, a little lad in the front row asked if he could help. His name was Bradley and he had been intently watching all the demonstrations throughout the day. Tony brought him to the front, and Bradley made the sausages, proving himself to be quite expert at picking up how to twist them. A butcher for the future? A chef for the future? Who knows! Well done, Bradley.

A helping hand

The Pebblebed Tasting Cellar, meanwhile, hosted beer, wine and oyster tastings throughout the day. Greg Towning had a display showing the raw ingredients needed to brew a traditional pint, together with a selection of his own brewed, bottled and labelled beers. Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana was over from his home in the Barolo wine hills to offer tastings of his magnificent wines. And of course Geoff was on hand to talk about and offer tastings of Pebblebed rosé and the newly launched Pebblebed Brut sparkling wine, accompanied by simple drinking platters of cheeses and meats. Outside the cellar, meanwhile, Richard Marsh of Bigbury Bay Oysters was shucking his delectable bi-valves by the dozen as people stopped to sample an oyster, a taste of Pebblebed.

Pebblebed Brut and Bigbury Bay oysters, a fantastic combination

Saturday's evening of music and food
Saturday evening - lest we forget in the euphoria of Nello's Longest Table - was a rare and special night, too, simply and utterly magical, an evening of music and food on The Green of Matthews Hall.

Beluga Blue bass

From around 6pm, the "Windbags", under the expert direction of Geoffrey Brace, gently welcomed people on to The Green (what a magnificent public Topsham space! And how underused it is). People lounged on the grass, sat in chairs from the hall, listened to the music, while children ran about and freely and safely playing in the background. There was such a friendly and warm atmosphere, the foods – a hog roast provided by Kenniford Farm; grilled meats and salads by Antonia’s Kitchen; a fish barbeque by David and Ondine Kerley of The Fish Shed; and wood-cooked pizzas by Ian Shears of Highfield, with wines by Pebblebed and Vino, were quite spectacular. Music by the incredibly talented local Beluga Blue jazz trio led by Ron Murray was just perfect. A rare and very special night indeed!

The Green at Matthews Hall, what a wonderful public space!

Afterwards some of us retired to The Globe for a late night sampling of the special Topsham Food Festival IPA, specially brewed for us by James Warrior with the assistance of Greg Towning.

Sunday: Slow Food Devon Topsham Market and Nello's Longest Table
And so on to Sunday. The Slow Food Devon Topsham Market started off an hour earlier than usual. Natache Du Pont De Bie had set up a barbeque outside the front of Matthews Hall, and, under an umbrella, was cooking the most fragrant and enticing Laotian foods. Indeed, for me, one of the highlights of the weekend was standing outside in the rain that morning, just slightly worse for wear from a little too much of that wonderful but wickedly strong Festival Ale, eating a plate of sticky rice, trout steamed in banana leaves, served with the most refreshing and deliciously hot and fragrant chili relish, which woke me up and brought me back to life, energised me to set up tables and prepare for Nello's Longest Table.

Click here for our full report and pictures of Nello's Longest Table.

Thank you
I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped to make this extraordinary weekend happen. A quite small group of us gathered together now and then around a table in the Malthouse of The Globe Hotel over a glass of beer or wine and somehow made it all happen. No committee, no minutes, just everyone contributing and working together to achieve a common goal. Special thanks go to Liz Hodges for her incredible energy and her fantastic ability to cut to the quick and simply make things happen. What a great group of people, and what a very special community we are fortunate to live in.

Liz Hodges


The Topsham Food Festival has been run voluntarily on a not-for-profit basis, with all proceeds from the weekend's activities to be donated to the Matthews Hall Modernisation Appeal and to Force Cancer Charity.We will report on amounts raised as soon as all the funds are in and outstanding bills accounted for.

The Topsham Food Festival has a long-term goal: to be the start of an on-going “shop local” campaign. The Food Festival has highlighted so much that is outstanding and excellent, literally on our doorsteps. Topsham residents are fortunate indeed to have such a wealth of food shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes and it is up to the community to support these local businesses.

Related links

Our report about Nello's Longest Table

Our Nello's Longest Table menu. What was yours? Please email

Ray Girvan has done a brilliant YouTube with a series of pics that show the whole length of Nello's Longest Table from start to end with music by Spinach for Norman.

A report in the Exeter Express & Echo.

Some excellent photos of the Topsham Food Festival and Nello's Longest Table in the Express & Echo.

A report and photographs in the Exmouth Journal

For the full Topsham Food Festival program, visit

For further information contact Liz Hodges at The Globe on (01392) 873471, Marc Millon on (01392) 873778, or email

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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 1997-2008