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Chicken

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.

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.

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