Almost anyone will tell you in London, Street Food is a star that has risen. People love it and they want it whenever they can get it. They also want more to go with their Street Food… like… a party! And parties and food are perfect partners.
With the formation of several markets and Street Food collectives, this is definitely a trend that is growing in our city.
One of the originals in the London Street Food scene was Eat Street, co-founded by Petra Barran in 2009, who used to drive the wonderfully delicious Choc Star Van around. They welcomed Street Food traders and set up a pitch which held three or four vans on a rotating business on King’s Boulevard at King’s Cross. This has since evolved to become Kerb, and has gone somewhat beyond the daily lunchtime service from the over 40 who would call themselves part of the Trader Family (the Ribman, Yum Bun etc). Beginning with a Kerb Launch Party, which had each of the more idiosyncratic street food vans take place in a parade, they have since also held a winter party and more are no doubt on their way.
These parties so far have taken place near St Martin’s. They start at about 6pm and go into the night, and a lot of the traders will put wone or two special items onto the menu that aren’t normally available. And of course, being a party means that there’s booze, which isn’t on offer at lunchtime, and tunes, provided by one of the vendors themselves. Spit & Roast were the resident DJs at the first one, Luardos took the helm last time.
Kerb can also often be found collaborating with Jamie’s Fifteen and bringing the food mirth with them. They have also expanded and have dedicated areas at Moorgate and by The Gerkin.
Over the summer another place to get your food-on-the-go kicks was the pop-up market Red Market in Old Street. These guys straddled lunch time and those looking for a way to pass the evening, and provided an ‘urban beach’. They had TV screens to watch the Olympics on, and bean bags and deckchairs as well as benches from which to chow down on the Fish Dogs, and other options while sipping on a beer, wine or cocktail. These guys had some crossover with the Kerb crusaders but also welcomed some other street foodies that weren’t part of the Kerb/StreetFeast scene so it was a good place to get something different, like Pasta e Basta or Burger Bear, and the aforementioned Fish Dog. They’re shut for the winter months, though there’s the possibility of a few one-off events. Definitely the place to head to when the weather warms for some cool summer vibes.
For a more regular Street Food party, then Street Feast are your man. They were operating every Friday and Saturday night from a plot just by Dalston Junction station but then moved to a space in Hackney, although they could also be found at BoxPark on occasion and had their special Grotto over Christmas. These folk introduced a sit down area for those who like Street Food but didn’t want to lose out on the more restaurant-like experience. And of course there was a bar for beer or cocktails.
Street Feast share a lot of traders with Kerb, like Big Apple Hot Dogs, the Ribman, Buen Provecho. Which, in my opinion is great as it gives you another opportunity to sample these titans of Street Food if you can’t get to their lunchtime posts.
Street Feast are taking a break from trading now, after their New Year’s Eve bash, but keep an eye on them. Something tells me they won’t be able to keep away from the scene for too long.
All the above events are a free entry thing. You turn up and just pay for what you eat and drink. Feast is a little different. Part-founded by one of the organisers of The Long Table (in Dalston bringing Street Food vendors together) this, again, gets a whole bunch of street food traders in one place, as you would expect. But, it doesn’t end there. It also invites established restaurants such as Moro and Hawksmoor to get in on the act and create dishes that would fit the Street Food mould. Or you might find a pop-up restaurant or supperclub chef hosting a stall. The prices for the dishes are pretty cracking too – commonly only five pounds, which are big enough to share, giving you the chance to try a LOT of different dishes between you. Entry is only about 8 quid, but what makes this one stand out a little from the rest is the entertainment and the venue. They use interesting spaces, such as Guy’s Quadrangle in the summer, or the old North London Mail Centre, and have live acts (such as The Turbans providing amazing gypsy swing) as well as DJs (or the Tweetbox) providing the atmosphere. There are well priced special cocktails depending on the time of year, all of which adds up to a buzzy food party.
I still haven’t managed to go to one of these myself so know of what goes down by the grapevine only, but it sounds amazing. They have gotten into the habit of hosting various large scale competitions, such as Ribstock and the Chilli off, and have even moved into drink based competitions such as Ginstock and Rumstock. Tickets are nothing to sniff at, priced up to 40 pounds but with it you get the chance to taste something like 8 or 10 different ribs/chillies/cocktails (depending on the theme) included in the price of the ticket, and there is normally some ‘grog’ or other libation being served at cut-rate prices. Not strictly Street Food as restaurant chefs are welcome to compete in whatever the competition happens to be. So, of course the Ribman competed in Ribstock, but so did a representative from Opera Tavern and Red Dog Saloon. But the food is generally “street” and it sounds like one hell of a party. There are whispers of a Chicken-Off or Tacowar to come. This year will be the year I attend, and I kinda wish I wasn’t telling you about it because it will make it even harder to get tickets.