100 London street foods: Berwick Street Market
Last week I took a few days off to have a holiday in London. This, I think, is one of the ultimate luxuries, as it enables you to scamper about in the city while everyone else is at work. You can delve into art galleries you never normally get into during the working week, linger in boutiques that on most days close at the very moment you step out of the office, and have coffee and cake at 3 in the afternoon knowing that the people you’re surrounded by are talking shop.
Having a staycation also means you can wander through the London street food markets because, given that there are none on High Street Kensington (where I work) during the week – I sense this is becoming a recurring theme on the blog – I tend to make my own lunch or buy it from somewhere else, and never get a chance to eat street food.
Last Wednesday was a bit different. I had been asked by some of the team from Chillsauce, an events company based in central London, to road test some of the food from their list of ‘London’s 100 best street eats.’ Together they had compiled the list, but wanted input from writers and bloggers and avid followers of the London street food scene to see if they were on the right track.
Frankly I tend to avoid these kinds of Ultimate Bucket Lists; but in this case I was encouraging of it simply as a celebration of brilliant London street food, in the way that I hope this blog is too, thus I agreed to get stuck in.
And so my friend and I ended up at Berwick Street Market, the daily street food and produce market in the middle of Soho (that is annoyingly now split across the street next door while the road works take place) to sample some of its treats.
Here is what we tried:
What: CHICKEN BOX
From: MOROCCAN BOX
I hadn’t been here before. It’s run by the same guys who started Freebird Burritos – they share stall space – and they sell what they describe as gourmet Arabesque street food. From a menu of a full box, naked box and other things, we went for medium spicy chicken, brown rice, lentils, lettuce, hot sauce and garlic sauce, baba ghanoush and tomatoes. The baba ghanoush had been over pulped, but otherwise it was filling and wholesome and would make a good working lunch. So the food was good, and worth a position on the list. But unfortunately the service was terrible. The guy had been working there for only a few weeks and as far as I could tell couldn’t care less whether we wanted the food or not. This is rather out of kilter with the ethos of London street food because most traders – or their staff – tend to talk to the people they’re serving and look as if they’re enjoying themselves. He let the side down.
What: SUB-TERRANNEAN SANDWICH (pictured above)
Where from: SUB CULT
These guys are newbies on the scene, with great branding, food and energy, and just four months under their belts. They’ve done the clever thing of combining their spot at Berwick Market with big TV and film catering, which of course brings in the money. On top of that they have a guy who looks how I imagine Liam Gallagher might look if he became the friendliest man in town, had a previous career as a TV presenter for youth music and begun selling street food – ideal for attracting crowds. The sandwich was the best of everything we tried. It had slightly truffled fried mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and rocket – enough ingredients spilling out, but not so many you couldn’t eat the thing without making a mess. A satisfying veggie hit – and good conversation.
What: PHILLY CHEESE
Where from: TONGUE N CHEEK
Another sandwich-type thing from Cristiano who makes one of my favourite burgers, The Heartbreaker, this had pieces of dry aged chuck eye steak, red onions, some beautiful, gently, fried peppers, with chimichurri and cheese melted on top and held inside a big fat sub. It’s £9 and you get your money’s worth but I wasn’t up for a colossal meat feast today and there was a lot of food to get through. I might get it again but I’d have to share it.
If you want to see the full list of 100 street eats, you can take a look here; there really are some treasures on there.
And stay tuned on Monday when I’ll have some really exciting news to share from the ever surprising world of London street food.