Adventures in Piccadilly: new London street food market – with Michael Fassbender*
The thing about street food, for me, is that I always know that finding and then eating it takes me on some sort of an adventure. I’ve talked about this before, of course (see post on travelling around the world without leaving London here), but part of the reason for starting this blog was to document some of these escapades, as a way of seeing what might happen when I set off to somewhere random in London in search of… food. And then it turned out that people – readers – wanted to join the journey too, which has been a joy.
Back when I started thinking about London Street Foodie in 2011, friends would regularly get in touch to ask where I might suggest they took people on dates. And actually other than simply wanting to create a library of London street food stories, wanting to provide this date information in one fell swoop – to save sending out numerous identical recommendation texts or emails on a weekly basis – was part of the reason for starting it.
“I don’t want just the usual cocktail bar or a restaurant or ‘an art gallery-type activity’,” they’d say.
“I just want to take him/her somewhere fun that they won’t have been before, because it’s less stale than just sitting there looking at each other. And since you seem to know all these markets and things where you can try stuff and it’s a bit different, I wondered whether…”
And then I’d sling them a list of possible markets and how to find them, remind them that part of the fun was in working out how to actually get to the right place, and suggest a few stalls to buy food from.
And then I’d get texts afterwards saying things like:
“We went to that London street food thing you suggested. It was amazing. Third date next week!”
And so it would continue…
Now, of course, the London street food scene has exploded and everyone’s become a bit more clued up about where to go. But my own adventures haven’t stopped.
This morning I was in need of escapism. I managed to get through part of my To Do list first thing but then hopping off the bus at Piccadilly Circus I spotted a sign outside the courtyard in front of that very beautiful church of St James’s Piccadilly which read: ‘Church Open. Market Open’. And since I’d done exactly the same thing yesterday having read a sign that said ‘street food market open’ and ignored it, I couldn’t resist a nosey. It’s been there for ages, of course, but because I’ve always thought it looked a bit crap and touristy from the outside, I’ve never given it a second glance.
And guess what? It’s only partly touristy and the food wasn’t crap.
What happens is you sail through the metal archway, hop down three stone steps and there in front of you, you have all the jewellery and picture sellers on your right and now a new array of food to choose from. On Mondays there’s a new market to check out – which I believe is just food – and on Tuesdays (when I went) a whole other collection of London street food.
I could have bought Scotch eggs from Finest Fayre, arancini from Sicilian Brothers, brownies from Bad Brownie (fresh off Dragon’s Den last Sunday), and more, but I settled on someone I’d not eaten from before: Ebby’s Kitchen, billed as an ‘authentic Turkish kitchen’, for a kofte and halloumi wrap. The lady there told me she’d been going for three years, and also trades at Alexandra Palace weekend market.
What I got was this (you’ll have to buy one to see the contents), and it did the trick. It’s £6.50 but it’s the size of a bulbous burrito and at 4.30pm I’m still not hungry again. The halloumi squeaks under your teeth as you bite into it, the wrap does not – I repeat does NOT – fall apart under the chilli and yoghurt, and the meat is soft and oniony (but do ask them to season it for you, as it needed s&p).
So there you go. A mini adventure involving good food and time to chill, right in the middle of central London. You can sit down on the long stone bench where hundreds of people must have sat before you, and look up at the buildings around you, enjoying a little slice of London you’ve probably never thought to appreciate.
So, hey, daters of Mayfair/Soho/St James’s etc, if you feel like shaking things up a bit and doing a weekly lunchtime wander with someone one day instead of the well-worn nighttime routine, maybe go check this one out. It’s basically on your doorstep.
Food markets at St James’s Piccadilly Monday and Tuesday 11am-5pm; piccadilly-market.co.uk
*Ah yes. Him. There was also a man walking around there with dark glasses on who looked identical to the actor Michael Fassbender. So just in case it was him, or even if it wasn’t and you’re happy with a lookalike, it’s probably worth going to check in case he comes back…