Saturday the 3rd June saw Durban host the first ever Fitch & Leedes Gin and Tonic Festival at Chris Saunders Park in Umhlanga to the great anticipation of the city’s ever-increasing crowd of devout gin-drinkers.
From Craft Beer to Cold Brew and now the time-honoured G&T, the craft movement is in full swing thanks to the up-and-coming generation’s taste for the finer things in life, and I for one am elated that the Gin and Tonic is finally getting the respect that it deserves.
True to form, Durban delivered an incredible sunshine-filled day (despite being the beginning of winter), perfect for sipping on G&Ts and lounging beneath the trees. The park setting paired with the live bands and music created a very laid back lazy-afternoon-picnic vibe, and looking around, groups of friends and family had brought camp chairs and blankets to do just that. Given the heat of the Durban sun, it would have been nice to have a few more umbrellas or an awning to offer festival-goers some relief. Thankfully however, with the variety of gin that was on offer one could keep more than sufficiently hydrated.
The festival boasted roughly 16 gins with the chance to win a years’ supply of gin and tonic if you tried them all. Being a measly 5’2” this was obviously an impossible task for me to achieve, but I did manage to sample just enough to determine (and go back for) a new favourite: Bombay Sapphire. Paired with the new Fitch & Leedes Rose & Cucumber Pink tonic, the Bombay Sapphire gin was delightfully fresh and crisp paired with a slice of lemon and small sprig of thyme. Another personal favourite I discovered at the festival was the Whitley Neill gin mixed with the classic Fitch & Leedes Indian tonic. In contrast to the brighter flavour of the Bombay Sapphire, the Whitley Neill gin had a drier, richer flavour that is closer in taste to the gins that I’m accustomed to drinking.
This brings me to the third and final gin I’ll refer to, the iconic Gordon’s Gin. The first recollection I have of tasting this famous gin is from my early childhood, toddling around the ‘grown-ups’ asking for sips of whatever it was they were drinking. My grandfather always used to give in, giving me a tiny taste of his Gordon’s G&T. Being 7-years-old, the bitter taste of the gin intensified by my grandfather’s heavy hand initially wasn’t my favourite. Now it’s a flavour that I have come to really enjoy and fills me with floods of nostalgia. As expected, the Gordon’s didn’t disappoint, delivering that same distinctive Juniper taste I’ve known for years.
The food at the event was brilliant however I believe there could have been a bit more variety. A selection of about five food stalls were present at the festival including Afro’s Chicken from across the road, Out to Lunch, Maddison Bakery and a tasty new steak roll place called “Peck-Eish”. Between the handful of stalls, food choices ranged from pizza slices to chicken burgers and steak rolls, with one vegan option available that day.
Being quite substantial meal items, I managed to only try the steak roll which was incredibly juicy and tender piled with a generous helping of caramelised onions and diced gherkins, after which I was understandably stuffed. Granted, I probably could have only had half of the roll, but it was so good I ate the whole thing anyway! There were a lot of meat options available at the festival that were quite heavy with the only lighter, meatless, option being vegan without anything much in-between (I’m a cheese girl myself). In the future, I think it would be nice to include some lighter appetizer options to be able to share amongst friends.
After chatting with some fellow festival goers, the consensus seemed to be that it would’ve been nice to have a drink or two included with the price of the tickets (R130 online and R160 at the door). Overall however, I think the festival was a great first attempt by the Fitch & Leedes team and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for next year’s event. Durban is such an incredibly diverse and vibrant city with so much promise, and it would be great to see more events like the Fitch & Leedes Gin and Tonic Festival take place in the city in the future.