Archive

Food

I know there has been a slight radio silence from Eats of London over the last couple of months- since festival season begun my feet have barely touched the ground! I’ve been from one end of the country to the other (well, almost) enjoying myself and along the way, I’ve had some brilliant festival feasts. Festival food has had something of a revolution over the last few years. While Glastonbury caught on to the fact that food can be a wonderful part of the festival experience many, many years ago and has one of the most varied array of food stalls I’ve ever come across, there are still a number of festivals that haven’t figured out their crowd might want more than a greasy, overpriced frozen burger while they are stranded in a field.  Sadly, I haven’t quite been switched on enough to take photos of my festival food this time round but I’d still like to shout about a few of the things that have entertained my tastebuds over the past few weeks.

So, to start with, I’d like to get the 2012 foodie low out of the way as honestly, the disappointing one for me was Latitude festival.  In previous years, there has been several more interesting traders at the Festival Republic ‘middle-class’ festival in Suffolk but sadly a large number of the plots this year were handed over to what can only be described as bog-standard, corporate noodle and fish and chip stands.  To me, this makes little sense- Latitude festival prides itself on it’s wonderful mix of culture and arts and these days, food is so intertwined with our popular culture it seems an oversight to not make a feature of the food available and offer a wide range of choice, particularly to an audience who have a few more pounds to spend on their meals than your average Reading festival teenager.

There was one saving grace that is worth a mention however, and that was the great little selection provided by a group of food traders named Bumble, from Argyll up in Scotland. (http://bumbleargyll.com/?page_id=317)  Not short of a long queue all weekend, they offered a huge mix of dishes from succulent and substantial venison burgers, to cullen skink and delicious homemade macaroni cheese and all of these were made from fresh and well-sourced ingredients. They were most certainly a saving grace in amongst the crowd this year.

At both Secret Garden Party and Boomtown Fair however, it was a different story and I couldn’t eat my way round quick enough.  There were way too many individual traders to mention, including some of the usual London traders, some faces I only ever see at Latitude and some that (as far as I know) are completely new to the circuit but I’d like to highlight a few of the best, to look out for at an event near you!

Roaming Rotisserie/Roaming Raclette

While I’ve come across Roaming Rotisserie and their succulent chicken with roast potatoes before, this year they’ve added an extra offering to their stall- the Roaming Raclette. The second I saw this, I knew I had to try the mountain of authentic raclette cheese served over potatoes, bacon, frankfurter, cornichons, onions, peppers and chillis and it was one of the most satisfying meals I have eaten all summer, both filling and delicious. The rotiesserie side of their stall was sold out by 6pm on the Sunday of Boomtown, so if you spot them at a festival snap some up quickly before it’s too late, I’ve tried it before and I can assure you, it’s worth the queue!

Wholefood Heaven

On the very last night of Secret Garden Party I was lucky enough to stumble across Wholefood Heaven and instantly recognised their beautiful little truck tucked away towards the back of the site. Although I’d already eaten, I couldn’t reisst the opportunity to sample their award-winning Buddha Bowl, so shared a portion. The buddha bowl is made up of brown rice, wok-fried curly kale, massaman curry, new potatoes and a tasty kimchee and was a perfectly balanced and fulfilling dish- not only was it great for me after a weekend of mostly unhealthy food, it also tasted delicious and left a fantastic lasting flavour. It’s easy to see why this dish has been so popular and I hope to see Wholefood Heaven at even more festivals in the future.

Anna Mae’s

I am whole-heartedly putting my hands up and doing a u-turn on my first review of Anna Mae’s. In a moment where I was in need of good, cheese-based comfort food, I found myself making a beeline for their awesome stand at Secret Garden Party for a portion of their ‘Don Macaroni’ – their traditional mac’n’cheese topped with a healthy serving of pesto and bacon. My friends were a bit skeptical of this combination but every single one who tried it had nothing but good things to say. The combination was delicious, with the pesto lifting the stodgy cheesiness. The cheese flavour was much more intense than on the batch I tried the last time, so it was taste to see Anna Mae’s on good form!

Special Mention – Sourced Market

Finally, I wanted to give a special mention to the Sourced Market, who put on a special array of stalls at Secret Garden Party each year. They have everything from chorizo stew to panninis, katsu curry to cupcakes and all created by specialists. It’s great to see a festival picking up an established food market and making it a hub at a festival- why more festivals don’t partner with established foodies,I don’t know and is makes sense for everyone.

So now festival season is over and Summer is soon to follow, I’m back in London and hopefully back to sampling the delights available to us in the capital.

On my Sunday visit to Netil Market, I also had the chance to try the wonderful asparagus and ricotta ravioli, served with a lemon and sage butter sauce from Pasta e Basta.  I sampled their betroot gnocchi however, as I often find with this potato dish, it was a little too sticky for me so I decided to settle for the pasta option. This pasta dish was a rich delight, cooked fresh in front of my eyes- while it’s to be expected that the pasta would be cooked while you wait, to see the sauce being cooked fresh for each customer is a real pleasure, as you see every ingredient and bit of skill that goes in to making the dish.  There’s no doubt this dish is extravagant- I’d hate to count the calories in all the butter I saw go into the sauce and the result is very rich.  Some may even consider it a little much, it’s definitely a dish that is going to appeal more to those who like the creamy, rich side of Italian food, particularly if you like it covered in creamy parmesan cheese, as I do. For my tastebuds though, it was an extravagant treat and was the best Italian dish I’ve tasted in quite some time, better than the vast majority of pricey Italian restaurants. That’s what street food can be all about- yes, it’s great to enjoy the big meaty burgers or in your face flavours but the food being served by Pasta e Basta represents top restaurant quality food being sold for around the £5 mark, for everyone to enjoy.

If you fancy giving it a try, and you should, Pasta e Basta are trading at various places round London including Hackney Homemade and Red Market. One of the interesting points being talked about at the market was the hierarchy that is developing within the London Street Food scene- while Eat St and Street Feast are doing some excellent things, with delicious food on offer, it’s important for everyone to get out and try some of the less hyped small markets and pop-ups, that give new traders the opportunity to get going, as the quality of the food can be as good in a brand new market with 2 or 3 traders as it is in the well-established hotspots. On that note, if anyone knows of any of these smaller markets I should try, please let me know!

You can find Pasta e Basta on Twitter: @PastaeBastaLndn

 

Although I didn’t make it down to Street Feast at Dalston on Friday (thanks Thursday night cocktails into Friday hangover,) the great thing about living in Hackney is that great street food is rarely far away. As a lazy Hackney resident and with such a wealth of choice, I have to admit it’s pretty hard to tear myself away from the borough sometimes but please, drop me some reccomendations of other markets around London I need to visit, as I will break free eventually!

In the meantime however, Hackney is serving me very well and the weekend called for another visit to the new Sunday Netil Market. (http://netilmarket.tumblr.com/) One of the things I love about Street Food market is that the traders chop and change where they sell, so there was a new selection of stalls on offer and loads of tasty things to try.  Unfortunately, given the abysmal weather, the traders weren’t seeing much passing trade so please do get down there and show your support- there’s a great  covered seating area at Netil Market so even when the British ‘Summertime’ is doing it’s worst, there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy a  delicious unconventional Sunday lunch.

One trader who hadn’t let the weather dampen his spirits was the man behind Bare Grillz, who drew us in both with his friendly chat and an amazing taster. To be honest, it really didn’t take much convincing as the food spoke for itself.  I tried the Lamb Kebab, served with homemade coleslaw, homemade hot sauce and green chilis. The standout part of this dish was undoubtedly the meat, which comes from Godfrey’s, one of London’s best butchers. (http://www.godfreys.co/) However, it wasn’t just the quality of the meat that stood out, as it was marinaded and grilled to perfection, emerging medium rare and succulent. The hot sauce and slaw completed the kebab perfectly. Don’t be fooled by a greasy doner, a high-quality kebab that’s cooked well can be a real culinary treat and this is a perfect example of that so if you ever get the chance, I’d definitely recommend trying a Bear Grillz kebab.

One of the other charms of Netil Market is that they not only offer food to eat there and then but there are great bits to take home too. I couldn’t resist giving the Scotch Eggs from The Egg Boss a go and they were an excellent accompaniment to a rainy afternoon spent watching the tennis. Chef Lawson makes 6 varieties of Scotch Egg, some more traditional than others- we sampled a Pork and Leek variety and a ‘Holy F*ck,’ which is pork spiced with the infamous Ribman’s ‘Holy F*ck’ sauce. I genuinely couldn’t decide which I preferred- the spicy version obviously brought a new flavour into play but the more traditional Scotch Egg was so well executed it’s hard to argue with it. Either way, if you like your Eggs Scotch, you need to hunt down The Egg Boss. (http://eggboss.com/)

 

You can find both @bare_grillz and @egg_boss on Twitter to find out their next stops.

After an achingly long break from street food (family and work…who’d have them…!) I was definitely excited to get back in the game last weekend and what a way to return. I managed to make it down to Street Feast London, on their final weekend at Camden Brewery, tucked away in the railway arches in Kentish Town. (http://www.streetfeastlondon.com/)  As soon as I got off the bus, all we had to do was follow our noses to the market, as there were delicious smells drifting across Camden.

Street Feast have built up quite a strong following over the last couple of months and it wasn’t surprising to find the market full of people. They may have had a few less off the ‘blogger’s favourite’ Eat St traders than some other weeks but this gave a fantastic opportunity for some new faces to get out there and feed the hungry hoardes. And hoardes there were- when we arrived at about half 9, some of the traders had sold out and the atmosphere was buzzing, it really did have a great Friday night feel to it, with everyone checking out all the stalls and having an enthusiastic chat to the traders before making their choices.  In a location like Camden Brewery, it’s not going to be a passing crowd- the people at this market knew exactly what they were after; quality food (and, of course, some quality beer to match.)

After considerable deliberation,  I made the right decision as I got myself over to Bhangra Burger, for one of their  ‘Crazy Lamb Jalfrezi’ flatbreads. (http://bhangraburger.com/) I’m not going to put on any airs and graces; it was incredibly difficult to take a flattering photo of my meal but don’t be fooled, the taste more than made up for the fact it wasn’t as photogenic as I’d like! Bhangra Burger pride themselves on a new take to traditional Indian food and they certainly lived up to my expectations.

The burger element of this was a lamb patty, delicately spiced with Indian jalfrezi flavours. Not so delicate was the fresh chilli pickle that gets added to the wrap- it had a kick that would knock you sideways if you went overboard. Luckily, they know what they’re doing and the final product was perfectly balanced by the mango chutney and yoghurt thats added to complete the Bhangra Burger.  The only criticism I have was that we found there to be slightly too much yoghurt, it came oozing out the sides and made the meal incredibly difficult to eat. To be honest, we were their last customers of the night and I think they were being generous more than anything, so I can’t exactly grumble! Don’t get me wrong though, beyond that, the flavour was delicious and I had a wonderful aftertaste for a long time after finishing- a sign of a great meal, in my opinion!

Of course, I couldn’t keep it to just one trader at such a great market but luckily, I had help on hand, which gave me a chance to sample a The Big Dog, from NY-style hot dog vendor Big Apple.  (http://www.bigapplehotdogs.com/) Personally, I like hot dogs but I can’t say they are something I feel particularly passionate about. That said, this one was certainly above the average, with a really juicy sausage (94-98% meat, I hasten to add) and a superbly soft roll, which I have later learned comes from their local bakers. It’s amazing the difference it makes to a hot dog when the roll lives up to the quality of the sausage. If only all hotdogs could be up to the standard of Big Apple, maybe I’d feel a little bit more interested by them.

 

Street Feast have now finished their run in the Camden Brewery and this week are moving on to the new pastures of fashionable Dalston, where I’m sure they are going to go down a storm, particularly as they are accompanied by beer and cocktails and a slightly later finish. (The market will run 5pm til midnight, every Friday.) Given that I live just down the road, I can’t say I object to the new location and I hope to get down this Friday and fill you in on the new setup- and a few more of the traders, of course! I can only see Street Feast going from strength to strength as more people hear about it and get a chance to see what it’s all about- a good atmosphere, a way to unwind with friends and, most of all, great, affordable street food.

You can find out what’s going on at Street Feast on their Twitter page: @streetfeastldn

You can also follow @bhangraburger and @bigapplehotdogs to find out where you can taste their wares.

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of ignoring the rain and popping down to check out the inaugural Netil Sunday Market at Westgate Street, E8. As a Hackney resident, I’m pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to markets offering great food and Netil Market is no exception.  (http://netilmarket.tumblr.com/) It’s particularly nice to see a new market for a Sunday as at the moment, the majority of options in London are to be had on Saturday, which can make it difficult to get round them all! As the first week for the Sunday market, it was a little on the quiet side but there were good, happy vibes between the traders and the layout was great, with a little seating area in the middle of the market where we could enjoy the food.

The highlight for me came from Santana Mexican Grill, (www.twitter.com/Santanagrill) whose Mexican tacos were flavoursome and tasty.

From their appetising menu, I opted for one ‘Carnitas’ taco and one ‘Pollo Pivil,’ which provided a substantial meal for the £5 price. Out of the two, the house speciality, the Carnitas, was by far my favourite; the slow cooked pork was flavoursome with just the right balance between a warm spice and the fresh sala cilantro, onion and avocado. It was great to have tortillas that tasted so fresh and with so much going on inside yet perfectly well balanced flavours.  I oped for beans and chipotle sauce in my ‘Pollo Pivil’ taco, which gave it a very traditional Mexican taste alongside the Mayan Style chicken however, it was a bit trickier to eat than the pork and not quite as lively and full-on in flavour.

Although I have to admit, I’m not a real expert in traditional Mexican food, these fresh tacos made an excellent lunchtime treat. It’s clear how much care has gone into putting these flavours together and that’s one of the things that really makes Rury at Santana Mexican Grill stand out as a passionate and knowledgeable trader.

One of the new traders I’ve been hearing a lot about on the blog and Twitter grapevines is Spit and Roast, who sell roast and buttermilk-fried chicken from their deep green van.  (www.spitandroast.com) The large van lords over the compact market and certainly acts as a focal point; even if I hadn’t already been making an beeline for it, it’s difficult not to be drawn over to have a look- they were by far the most popular trader of the day, from what I saw.

As a fan of fried chicken, I couldn’t resist but opt for the buttermilk fried chicken, served with a traditional cornbread. The chicken itself was succulent with a good flavour (although slightly overshadowed by last week’s outstanding offering from a Label Anglais chicken at the Street Food Festival.) The batter had a great texture, crunchy and well-fried without being overdone or too greasy, a rare treat when it comes to fried chicken.  However, I have to admit that like others before me, I found the cornbread to be too dry and very sweet; I didn’t feel it added anything to the meal as it simply crumbled apart so I soon gave up and concentrated purely on the chicken.  Maybe it’s just that it’s not an accompaniment that I’m used to but personally, I think it let the meal down slightly…dare I sound like a heathen and say it would be better if it came with some great chips to make a fully satisfying meal?

The Netil Market is small but perfectly formed and offers a nice and easy way to sample some of London’s street food in action. It’s relaxing to stroll round, take a look and see what takes your fancy. Although I obviously have to choose each time and so only got to sample the two traders above, there was plenty more on offer so I’ll definitely be making regular visits to try the other stalls and it’d be great to see this market grow in visitor numbers over time and become another thriving hub of street food in London for lazy Sundays.

You can find Neil Market (@netilmarket), Santana Mexican Grill (@santanagrill) and Spit and Roast (@SpitandRoast) on Twitter.

One of the things I loved most about the Street Food Festival at the weekend wasn’t just the vast array of foods on offer but also the combination of this with the great drinks producers also selling their wares. There were smoothies and juices and, of course, some alcohol-based treats such as locally brewed beer and English sparkling wine.  This, combined with the seating area in the middle gave the event a real festival atmosphere, with everyone ignoring the grey clouds and making the most of their extra long weekend.

I make  no secret of the fact that one of my other great loves in life is red wine and although I was initially wary, I made a great new discovery while at the festival. Wines of Uruguay had a tasting stall, showcasing the delicious wine that is coming out of this South American country, which isn’t usually recognised as a great wine producer. In fact, the wineries in Uruguay are still small and family-run; you won’t find any mass-produced wine from the area and it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to pick it up in the supermarket.

I’ll leave it to you to read up the rest of the details if this takes your fancy (http://www.winesofuruguay.co.uk/) but what I can vouch for is that the all three wines I tasted were delicious, ranging from a heavy, oaky red that would perfectly compliment a steak to a much lighter blend that can easily be drunk in volume on it’s own…not that you’d ever catch me doing such a thing, of course! If you ever get the chance to have a taste of some wine from Uruguay, I highly reccommend it.

Moving back on to the food, I managed to devour one more savoury treat, which was a colourful Bruschetta with the addition of some chilli paste from Breadtree. (http://www.breadtree.co.uk/) Their stall easily took the prize for one of the most visually attractive, with rows of bruschetta lined up ready to be eaten. Obviously in the mood for spice that day, I opted to add some chilli paste to mine for an extra 50p and you definitely can’t say they conned us out of value for money on the paste. In fact, although the bruschetta itself was flavoursome, just the right mix of the crunchy bread and the sweet, fresh tomatoes, the y were slightly over-generous on the paste and the heat of the chilli was overpowering. I’m certainly not afraid of a good bit of spice and the paste tasted great but there was so much of it that I found myself trying to scrape some of it off, to stop my mouth from burning quite so intensely.  Nonetheless, if I could have afforded it, I’d definitely have been in the market for some of their chili paste but at £6 a jar, sadly it wasn’t to be this time. You can find Breadtree at the Real Food Festival on the Southbank every weekend, so if you’re looking for some great pastes to stock your cupboards with, they are definitely worth paying a visit.

Of course, that just left room for something sweet and there were certainly plenty of options. As a child, we used to regularly go on holiday to Brittany (home of the crepe, for those that haven’t been lucky enough to go for a visit) and so the second I saw Creperie Nicolas ( http://www.creperie-nicolas.com/) and their beautiful blue Citroen van, my mind was made up. Being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my crepes, I opted for the classic Butter and Sugar option and it was everything I’d hoped for; crispy on the edges, lovely and soft in the middle with just the right amount of butter and sugar to take me straight back to Brittany. It was also great to see a crepe stall using traditional recipies, with buckwheat flour for their savoury galettes and the traditional vanilla flavour batter for the sweet treats. I wasn’t the only one appreciating the treats from Creperie Nicolas, the queue was one of the longest at the festival and quite rightly so.

I had a great day at the festival and left feeling enthused and happy, if very full! I saw so many other fantastic looking stalls to look out for at future events or dotted around London- even if you don’t get to try a full dish of everything, a full festival like this gives a great opportunity to see what a wide range of dishes are available on the streets of London.

You can find Creperie Nicolas on Twitter: @creperienicolas

It seems quite fitting that the first post on the blog features one of the most exciting festivals of the year for street food in the capital; The London Street Food Festival.  In fact, it was this festival that has inspired me to take my fascination for food to another level and start to blog about it so it seems a great place to start.

The festival has been running behind the Southbank Centre for the entire Jubilee weekend, offering tourists and Londoners alike the opportunity to sample some of the best street food that we have to offer; there was everything from strudel to curry and from brilliant burgers to octopus balls to sample and one of the biggest challenges was deciding which stalls to try. Having done a quick bit of research online beforehand, some of the highest praise seemed to be coming in for Anna Mae’s Southern Street Food, who had a huge pan of their flagship Mac’n’Cheese on the go. (http://www.anna-maes.co.uk/) I couldn’t resist such tasty comfort food however, I did decide to spice things up a bit by opting for ‘The Spicy Juan;’ Anna Mae’s flagship mac’n’cheese with the addition of jalepenos, paprika, sour cream and coriander.

Although the Mac’n’Cheese was certainly tasty and had a good consistency, I have to admit I found it a little disappointing, as it wasn’t as cheesy as I was hoping it would be. I did find however that once we stepped away from the main market area and perched on some steps to eat, the flavours became much clearer- sometimes I think at these events, the overpoweringly good smell of grilling meat can take away from the taste of some of the more subtle flavours available. However, the macaroni cheese could definitely have done with a little more flavour and seasoning. The spice coming through from the flavoursome jalepenos definitely packed a punch but the toppings balanced each other out well so it’s a shame the flagship Mac’n’Cheese didn’t have a slightly stronger cheese flavour as it has the potential to be an exceptional meal.  I’ve heard great things about Anna Mae’s pulled pork however, so I’ll definitely be giving that a go when I get the chance.

While my first choice was slightly disappointing, the  Label Anglais chicken wings and salad from S J Frederick certainly made up for it. (http://www.sjfrederick.co.uk/) These special breed of chickens are normally sold to some of the country’s top chefs however, if you ever get the opportunity to try some of their chicken from their street food stall, make sure you do. Normally, I wouldn’t get particularly excited about a plate of chicken wings and salad however, the slightly spicy marinade on the wings, succulent chicken and really well balanced accompniments of coleslaw, potato salad and fresh salad made this a must-have dish for me.    We also were given a taster of their chicken sausage, which was equally delicious, it’s definitely a stall to look out for whenever you get the chance.

It’s lucky we were sharing the food between two as the portion was very generous and it could easily have been all I managed to eat, so it’s great value for a fiver. But, as it was, I couldn’t resist a few little snacks from elsewhere which I’ll write up in Part 2 of the London Street Food Festival, coming to Eats of London very soon.

You can find these street food vendors of Twitter, so look out for them coming to a spot near you: @Anna_Maes & @LabelAnglais