A SPECTACULAR Venetian Masquerade Ball will be the grand finale to this year’s Christchurch Food and Wine Festival.

The annual feast of food and drink runs from Friday May 11 until Sunday May 20 with a jam-packed schedule of events to tempt even the fussiest palette.

This year’s highlights include the cookery theatre with TV chef and festival patron Lesley Waters on Saturday, May 12 and top chef James Martin on Sunday, May 13, as well as chefs from Christchurch restaurants including Alex Aitken from The Jetty.

The UK’s first medicinal chef Dale Pinnock will also visit the event, carrying out a 40-minute demonstration creating dishes to treat ailments and health problems.

A new event will also be launched this year based on the baking boom sweeping the country.

The Great Christchurch Bake Day and Fête on the Quomps at Christ-church Quay will take place on Saturday May 19 from 10am (see panel below).

Co-sponsored by the Captain’s Club Hotel and Frettens, the event will also feature a “pop-up” champagne bar and vintage tea room with the Captain’s Club restaurant serving lunch and dinner alongside other foodie stalls.

The festival will climax on Sunday, May 20 with the Venetian masquerade ball at the Christchurch Harbour Hotel, to raise money for the Food Festival Education Trust and the Regent Centre.

Tickets, priced at £55 per person, include a drinks reception, live entertainment, a three-course Italian feast and charity auction.

Thomas Huber, general manager at the hotel, said: “We are delighted to be hosting a fabulous charity dinner to round off this year’s festival, celebrating yet another wonderful event and raising money for two very worthy causes.”

To book tickets contact 01202 483434 or christchurch-har bour-hotel.co.uk.

To enter the baking competition, pick up an entry form from The Captains Club Hotel go to http://miss-ingredient.co.uk