Olivers at Hoxton Street Market

The simple menu at Olivers, Hoxton Street Market

The simple menu at Olivers, Hoxton Street Market

“Geezer, I need another traditional please,” said one to the other after after I’d announced my order.

“Comin’ up, geezer,” came the reply.

Next to me two women who lived locally were rubbing their hands in satisfaction at having made it to the stall early enough to secure a salt beef sandwich.

“So they’re normally all sold out then are they?”

“Ooh yeah, ooh yeah, darlin, they certainly are,” he said to me with a crooked grin.

“So I’ve hit gold, then?” I asked.

“Well, we like to think so. We do hope you enjoy it, darlin…”

I’d happened upon Hoxton Market on my way over to Kingsland Road and the London Illustration Fair last weekend. Having ambled along for hours, I wasn’t in the mood to have my efforts rewarded with a supermarket sandwich; I wanted something really worth the walk.

I struck lucky. Olivers is a little stall with a bright red awning and white writing, two men inside with their heads down, one cutting up ciabatta and smoothing onto it mustard and pickles, the other leaning over a saucepan filled with bubbling water and salt beef inside it; every so often he peers over the steam and plucks out a piece of plump salt beef. They call each other geezer, and they laugh a lot as they work.

The menu is short; there is either traditional (hot salt beef, English mustard, fresh cut pickles, new green cucumber on organic ciabatta) or classic (hot salt beef, homemade dill slaw and organic ciabatta), and both are £5.

“We used to do the Up Market off Brick Lane but it was tricky because even though there was the footfall, people wanted to wait until it was half price – and when there wasn’t a huge markup anyway, that made it difficult,” the first guy tells me.

We talk about how our days were going and I discovered they’ve been going two years, they’ve done pop-ups in the past, and they still run a residency at the back of a cocktail bar in Stoke Newington. The name, I suspect, came from Oliver, one of their sons, as he’s mentioned a lot on the Facebook page.

A 'traditional' from Olivers, Hoxton Street Market

A ‘traditional’ from Olivers, Hoxton Street Market

Soon my traditional sandwich is ready. The meat is pink, light and loose, falling apart easily. There are two plucky bits of pickle, and then that sudden whoosh of mustard up the nose which shoots you into action. The ciabatta, a surprising choice, is only slightly toasted but holds it all together and scoops up the juices. Its lightness means you don’t finish feeling like you’ve just inhaled a dead weight. It’s probably the lightest salt beef sandwich I’ve eaten. I love it.

Walking away, I realised I never even asked how Marios and Gary came to cook together on the London street food scene. There is a hint on the website: “After decades of friendship, interrupted by a spell apart, Marios and Gary have rejoined forces. Powerful as y’ like! The lure of legit business together was just too great to resist.” So it just means I’ll have to go back and find out.

If you want some too, head to Hoxton Street Market on Saturdays (9am-4pm) or to the White Rabbit Cocktail Club, 125 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UH, Fridays and Saturdays form 6pm; olivershotsaltbeef.co.uk

2 Responses to “Olivers at Hoxton Street Market”
  1. That looks and sounds truly scrummy! I’ve not been to Hoxton before, are there many stalls like this?

  2. Oliver says:

    It’s a funny one, Hoxton Street Market. Measured by the number of pitches, Hoxton is officially London’s biggest street market and is mentioned in eighteenth century literature. Measured by the amount of investment from the London Borough of Hackney over the last ten years, it is the poorest and least developed part of what remains of the traditional ‘East End’. Market management is effective and proactive but Hoxton remains the (exceptionally) poor relation to the internationally acclaimed Broadway Market (saturdays) and Columbia Road Market (sundays).
    Maybe that’s why the stallholders who do support Hoxton have a reputation for consistently offering true quality at prices that are almost embarrassingly low…..it’s what a local market always used to do.
    Turn up on a cold, wet, grey London day and you’ll wonder why any of the market traders bother. After all, everything good that has come from the “gentrification of the East End” is half a mile east, south and west of Hoxton St. That said, surely the whole point of TfL’s investment in the transport links to this part of London is so that the masses can share what the locals have always known. There is no greater joy than smugly bringing your friends to a downtrodden area and listening as they tell you how they can’t believe how long you have kept the place a secret.
    Particularly of note is Flanders, the vintage/retro shop at the south end of the market.

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