62 | squaremeal.co.uk
restaurants � food
mouthing o ff What once was a great new trend is fast becoming an overblown cliché.
As the trailblazers move on and � nd permanent homes, has the time
come to swerve the street food? WORDS LAURA FOSTER
streets have been hit
by a plague, and it's
coming your way. The
infectious culinary bug
known as street food
has hit epidemic proportions and is mutating
into a terminal disease called marketivitis.
As with all ideas that spark
the public's imagination, canny
entrepreneurs have latched
on to the trend, devouring it
and sucking the bones dry.
Almost every scrap of London
wasteland seems now to be
scattered with makeshift bars,
second-rate stalls and dodgy vans. Closed
petrol station forecourts and pockmarked
car parks are being strung with bunting and
festoon lighting, and every man and his
dog is serving up Quaver- avoured kimchi
buns with lobster dust.
Even worse, I fear we've not yet reached
the peak of this trend. While we watch many
of the founding fathers of the street food
movement secure permanent addresses, a
new wave of charlatans is attempting to step
into the breach, serving the sort of food you'd
have found at Reading Festival circa 1996.
The Square Meal team has rst-hand
experience of this. We were really excited
when we heard about a new market near our
o ce last summer. But the anticipation soon
turned to disappointment as we wandered
around and noted the smell of old oil wafting
from the crêpe stand and the plastic-looking
Vietnamese summer rolls. It says a lot that
not one person from an o ce of foodies
makes the trip down there any more.
Even when the markets get it spot on, such
as Kerb (a shining example of an organisation
doing it right, carefully curating its vendors
and situating itself in easily accessible
outdoor locations with plenty of pedestrian
tra c), Maltby Street Market, Broadway
Market and Hawker House, it's always a
(burger) bun ght trying to buy your food.
And there's the added fact that some of
these markets charge an entry fee, even
though they're probably raking it in from
the vendors' pitch fees.
Strangely, it turns out that people are
happy to pay extortionate amounts of money
for their own discomfort. Want to come in?
You'll have to queue and possibly pay. Fancy
trying those gyoza? Another interminable
wait and £7 for a tray of ve mediocre
specimens with some sad-looking salad. And
how about a drink? Yep, back of the line.
Don't even think about trying to sit
down and don't try to eat something while
you've got a glass in your hand - you'll spill
everything down your shirt.
Call of nature? Another queue, then hold
your breath and hover over a portaloo hole of
doom, before re-entering the world gulping
for air and desperately trying to expunge the
experience from your memory.
By the time you leave, £50 poorer and not
really sated by the bits and pieces you've
nibbled on and dropped, with feet aching
and head spinning, it's di cult to gure out
what just hit you. Why not head to a cosy
restaurant where you can sit down and have
someone bring you your food and drink? But
no, for some reason, we've fallen for secondrate
street food hook, line and sliders.
At this point, I think it's important to point
out that the street food movement - and
especially vendors such as Meat Liquor,
Pitt Cue Co and Hotbox - has actually had
a much wider positive impact on the UK
dining scene, introducing new trends and
providing impetus for the move away from
white tablecloth dining.
It's just that with every
popular trend, a legion of
annoying schmucks will come
in and suck the brilliance out of
it. So please join me in a stand
against mediocrity, and let's
hope that the good will out.
Laura Foster is Square Meal's assistant editor
Canny entrepreneurs have latched on
to the street food trend, devouring it
and sucking the bones dry
has hit epidemic proportions and is mutating
ILLUSTRATION: TIM M¥DONAGH
FIVE FOOD STALLS
WORTH QUEUING FOR
Bad Brownie at Broadway Market, Maltby Street
Market, Street Food Union and Venn Street Market
Gooey, brownie-based heaven. So bad
The Frenchie at Brick Lane, Broadway Market,
Camden Lock and Real Food Festival
Blue cheese and duck on a brioche bun? Zut alors!
Luardos at Brockley Market and
Bountiful bargain burritos served from their colourful
vans, Jesus and Mary.
Yum Bun at Hawker House
Soft steamed buns stu� ed with slow-roast pork belly
and hoi sin. Slobber.
Zardosht at Broadway Market
Fragrant Persian pleasure. Have the sa� ron
orange chicken stew.