It’s no secret there has been a recent surge in the London street-food scene. The number of vendors is growing. The standard of the food started high and is getting higher. There are more areas around London that are welcoming friendly food vans, trucks, and airstreams that serve everything from good ol’ pork pies and scotch eggs to Korean comfort food. New markets are popping up around London with even more street-food vendors. It’s easy to see that the capital is quickly becoming a street-food force to be reckoned with.
It’s good timing, too. With consumers hanging on to their cash more than ever, a street-food lunch is certainly cheaper than dining in a restaurant, although on closer inspection, not by much. The street food I’m talking about isn’t the stale, greasy hot dogs that you might imagine. These people know food, and theirs is gourmet. So gourmet, indeed, that devoted fans take trains and buses to find them, or walk that extra block to snag their fare, just like they would for any popular restaurant.
This in itself is an interesting shift. The original food trucks were intended to bring hot food to areas of the city that lacked it, feeding the hungry workforces there and sometimes starting in the early hours of the morning to supply the construction crews heading to work, or late at night after nightshift workers had finished up and restaurants were shut. Long gone are the days when street food meant only grease and convenience. Now it equals fresh, often local, ingredients and extremely varied international offerings, all served up hot and delicious by some of the most passionate foodies in London.
Our street-food-loving team at Boat Magazine has compiled an entire A – Z of London street food available from boatstudio.bigcartel.com. For the time being, here are my top 10 picks.
Anna Mae’s Smokehouse
Serving up Southern-style street food, Anna Mae’s has become a hit with Londoners lacking a little pulled pork and ‘slaw in their lives. The Notorious P I G (Anna’s name for a pulled-pork sandwich) is smoked for 14 hours, then doused in their signature barbecue sauce, topped with pickled red onions and served with a cup of ‘slaw. Just make sure you take enough serviettes! You can find Anna Mae’s every Thursday 7-10pm at The Shop NW10 (75 Chamberlayne Road, NW10) and occasionally at Eat.St King’s Cross (King’s Boulevard, N1, between Pancras Road and Goods Way).
Eat My Pies
Eat My Pies is quintessential British street food at its best. Serving fare such as scotch eggs, pork pies and custard tarts, Eat My Pies aims to “make great British food available to the great British public”. And that they do, in spades. The smoked-haddock scotch egg is something to behold, but save some space for the chorizo pie. Catch them Thursdays and Fridays at White Cross Market (Whitecross Street, EC1) and Saturdays at Broadway Market in Hackney.
If you’re a fan of paella, you have to check out the ever-popular Jamon Jamon stalls at the Real Food market behind the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, and Portobello Road market in W11. With at least two huge paella pans on the go, the smell of spice and prawns hits you long before you reach it, which is some reward for the snaking queues. Alongside seafood, the paella Valenciana is a favourite (chicken and runner beans) – and if you happen to bump into them at a festival, send us your verdict on the fryella, an English breakfast-style combo including bacon, eggs and beans.
When I say burgers, sandwiches, fries and chicken do you immediately think Korean-fusion street food? No, didn’t think so. If, like me, you are new to Korean fast-food, then this is as good an introduction as any. Danny O’Sullivan and Sarah Hogg’s Korean-style fast food venture is proving a hit, with their Korean-inspired sliders (miniature burgers topped with kimchi) winning kimchi fanatics and newcomers alike. They can often be found at Eat.St (as before)
• kimchicult.com or follow @kimchicult for further location details
One of the delights of Netil market is this pop-up homage to the 50s American diner experience. A homage it might be, but it’s better than any diner I’ve ever been to. Hand-cut chips with the skins on, served with wasabi mayo and sweet chilli, and juicy, meaty aged beef burgers topped with the meltiest cheddar. Who can fault it? They’re at Netil market (Westgate Street, London Fields, E8) every Saturday, and have a more permanent residence at The Sebright Arms (31-35 Coate Street, Bethnal Green, E2).
• Follow them on Twitter @Lucky_Chip
I love crêpes, which is why I had to squeeze this one in. Traditional yes, boring never. They also serve fresh coffee, which is a nice touch for a lazy breakfast option. The savoury galettes are made with organic buckwheat flour, the brie, bacon and mushroom tastes as good as it sounds, while the sweet crêpes use a vanilla-flavoured batter. There’s a full board of fresh fillings, but the Nutella lover won’t be disappointed either. They are normally at the Real Food Market (as before) on the weekends and Eat.St (as before).
Not traditional street food, but I had to include On Cafe. Sweet tooths will be delighted by the mouth-watering macaroons. Regulars at the Real Food market (as before), they also cater for events around London serving the most beautiful, Japanese-inspired macaroons. I tried the black sesame, and the jasmine and charcoal macaroons, and was blown away. Honestly, follow these guys everywhere they go.
Finalists in the 2010 Street Food Awards, Churros Garcia represents all that is wonderful about the street-food revival. A Spanish family business that has been making churros by hand for more than 40 years, you can find them at Broadway Market, Real Food market and Portobello market. Churros Garcia is proof, if you ever needed it, that doughnuts are best served hot! Eat them as they come: try them with sugar or cinnamon – but frankly you’d be crazy not to eat them “con chocolate” – with dark, Spanish dipping chocolate.
Well Kneaded Wagon
Do you know what firebread is? And you call yourself educated? It’s this little red-and-cream food van’s answer to pizza. With a clay oven built into the back, they churn out chewy sourdough bases loaded with fresh toppings for their hungry pizza-loving followers. I recommend the “Fresh” with beetroot, goat’s cheese and spinach but they also do a sweet pizza with a maple-syrup base topped with apples, cinnamon, and walnuts for the sweet tooths. Get your firebread at Battersea High Street market (Battersea High Street, SW11) and Eat.St (as before).
• Follow them @WellKneadedFood
For the days when only a pork bun will do, you need to run, not walk, to Yum Bun. Free range Blythburgh pork, slow roasted then gently fried, is stuffed into a rice bun and slathered with hoi sin sauce, cucumber, spring onions and sriracha. Fortunately for vegetarians and non-pork lovers there’s also a veggie option and yummy Asian broths and soups to try. Check them out at Broadway market (Broadway market, London, E8 4QG) on Saturdays and Eat.St King’s Cross (King’s Boulevard, London, N1C between Pancras Road and Goods Way).
The foldable A-Z of London Street Food is available for £2 from Boat Studio’s website, or comes free with the London issue, published on April 24, which costs £8