London street food: Sea Dog at the Southbank Centre Market
When I was younger my family would go on very long drives all the way to north east Scotland to visit my ‘Scottish granny’ who lived in Banffshire, and my brother, sister and I would all sit in the backseat of the car mostly arguing or sleeping. My parents, always thinking up solutions on how to keep us quiet for the 11-odd hours that it took to get there, would often give us each a choice over which tape we wanted to play. At one point my brother became absolutely obsessed with the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and so every time it was his turn to pick the entertainment, we’d have to listen to that story again… and again… and again… Mum used to describe him as a broken record.
Well the good or the bad news is that I think I’m slowly becoming the London street food equivalent of a broken record, where my LW&W choice of the moment is laksa. I just can’t stop eating it. I’ve even already written about my latest obsession with it on here, after eating it at Phat Phuc and Sea Dog at the British Street Food Awards; but since then I’ve taken my dad and stepmother to eat it too, as well as another friend to the Sambal Shiok Malaysian pop-up for a kari laksa. For new laksa converts, my Evening Standard interview with Sambal’s Mandy Yin, which is all about her memories of eating laksa growing up, is here.
And now, guess what. This broken record has had it again.
It’s Twitter’s fault, really. The nice people at Sea Dog Food, whose laksa I had liked so much last time, got in touch to say they were coming up from North Devon to have a stall at the Southbank Market (held just where the Real Food Market used to be, behind the Southbank Centre) on 22-24th January. I was heading away for the weekend – but I’d make time. And what with the Southbank Market being BANG next to Waterloo Station where I was leaving from, it made a pre-train pit stop very achievable.
So on Friday I dragged my draggy suitcase all the way from Soho to the Southbank – ‘cos who wants to get involved in Friday night rush hour tubes? – practically crashed into the market (how much of it is a new market, because it looks very similar to the old one, with many of the same stalls?), and stomped up to the Sea Dog stall.
I ummed and ahhed over the menu because that’s what you do when you think you want to try something new. But who was I kidding? This trip was about one thing only. So I smiled at the lovely man behind the counter, sighed, and ordered the herring laksa again. (Well actually I did also order some of their cockles and mussels popcorn but what with laksa being on the brain I forgot all about it and rather ruined the experience by eating it cold).
And I don’t have much to add except that it was as good as last time, if a little different, Sea Dog being a lovely street food stall rather than a production line. Here there was no sign of crab, bigger ‘leaves’ of seaweed, and more of a citrusy-ness about the whole thing, and it really was good.
So I sloshed and slurped furiously until a man sat down opposite me on the bench with a Sea Dog whiting fish burger in his hands.
“That looks pretty good,” I said, in between laksa mouthfuls.
“It really is,” he replied, “It’s just what I needed. And this market has turned out to be a surprise hit for me on this trip.”
It turned out he was Brit who’d lived in Australia for 16 years and he was back over here for work. Coincidentally I then heard two girls sitting further down the bench agreeing that “this market was far more like the ones we have in Brisbane. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?”
And at that minute I realised the time, jumped up, said goodbye to my new friend and dashed off to catch my train.
Which only leaves two things to say: one, get to the Southbank Centre Market soon to see what else is on offer (I too will go and report back). Two, if you’re in North Devon, it’s worth checking the Sea Dog website to see where they’ll be popping up next – at least you know that I’ve road tested the laksa while some Brit-Stralian man who I met on Friday night says the burger’s pretty good, too…
Southbank Centre Market, Sutton Walk, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX; open Friday midday – 8pm, Saturday 11am – 8pm, Sunday, midday – 6pm; southbankcentre.co.uk