BOLTON was promised the biggest and best food and drink festival yet — and it certainly delivered.
The foodie extravaganza looks set to be the most successful ever as thousands of people flocked to the town centre.
Some travelled from as far as New Zealand, Australian, Bahamas and Bahrain for the ninth food festival.
As well as 130 stalls, food fans also had the opportunity to learn from the best, as celebrity chefs Gino D’Acampo and John Torode wowed the crowds in the cookery theatre on Victoria Square, with demonstrations and competitions.
The fun continues today (MON), with demonstrations from James Martin, the star of TV show Saturday Kitchen, and Andrew Nutter, who owns Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale.
Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, says this year it set to be the biggest festival yet — with all indicators suggesting that last year’s figure of 130,000 visitors will be smashed.
He added: “There is one day left to go and the festival atmosphere has been absolutely fantastic.
“The feedback we’ve had from the chefs, visitors, traders and town centre businesses has been really good and the weather has been kind to us so far.
“It’s become a truly international festival with visitors coming from a far field as Australia, Bahamas and Bahrain, as well as from all corners of the UK.
“We’re on course to at least equal last year’s figure if visitor numbers so far are anything to go by.
“All of our chefs have gone down a treat. The audiences loved John Torode on his first ever visit to Bolton food festival.
“If you haven’t been down yet, there’s one day left, come and make the most of it.”
One food fan who has taken Bolton to her heart is Jeanette Heseltine, who travelled from Scunthorpe with her friend Nicola Sorlie to soak up all three days of the festival.
This is the sixth time she has made the near two hour journey — and says she would not miss it for the world.
She added: “There are all kinds of different food and stalls and fantastic cooking demonstrations, where else would you get something like this?
“Not only that, the prices are reasonable and you get a really friendly welcome. It is wonderful, I will definitely be back next year. There is nothing else like it.”
Stall holders were similarly upbeat about the festival.
They fed and watered thousands of hungry punters with tasty treats from all four corners of the globe.
Franca Laverdino, who runs Italian restaurant Franca’s in St George’s Road, was one of the main stalls in Victoria Square over the weekend.
She said it was great to be in such a prominent position in front of the town hall steps, and that the festival helps to get their name out to the public.
Ms Laverdino added: “It is great, I have been based in Bolton for 28 years, and I have been at the festival for the last four. It gives us a real boost.”
A new face at the festival was the creatively named Arjee Bhaji, which has only been open for a month.
The Egerton-based team prepare Asian food from their home to cater for events, and said the festival was meant to be their launch event.
Owner Andrea Nallapillai added: “It has been great, a lot of people have been interested in our food.
“We were initially going to launch our business here, but we have already started in the past few weeks after word got around.”
The taste of Asia could also be found with Horwich-based firm Spice Valley.
Manager Sanjeer Muttra said the firm had sold all its stock on Friday and that business had boomed all weekend.
And visitors could have been forgiven for thinking Bolton had been transported to medieval times on one stall, which sold Henry VIII’s tipple of choice, mead.
The Lancashire Mead Company, which is also based in Horwich and was set up last November, has seen demand soar after mead was referenced in hit shows such as Game of Thrones.
Owner Gordon Baron said: “We came to the festival last year, and the prospect of being able to come and sell stuff here ourselves was just a dream.”
James Martin will give cookery demonstrations in the tent on Victoria Square at 1pm and 3pm today, and Andrew Nutter will be at the marquee near Market Place at noon and 2pm.