In memory of Wilkes McDermid – where these London Street Food traders are now
This time two years ago a fine food photograher friend Wilkes McDermid, who was probably the biggest supporter of the London street food scene, left us. Last year, with the help of lots of people, we ran a tribute post to him on this blog. This year, I thought that rather than look back that it could be a nice idea to look at some of Wilkes’ favourite London street food traders, and see where they are now, two years on.
The pictures and their captions are all taken from his Instagram feed, which is still open and still a lovely thing to look at. There are of course lots of other London street food dishes that I could have picked from Wilkes’ feed, including Le Swine, SpeckMobile, and Bleecker Burger, but I thought I’d start with some of his good friends below. Two others to take particular note of include Bill or Beak, which now trades in markets right across London, as well as Wild Game Co, which has since expanded to two Mac and Wild restaurants.
Warning: there’s a serious dose of comfort food in here…
Then: Founder David Carter folded in his day job, took off to buy a 4.5-tonne smoker in Houston, USA, then accidentally embarked on a barbecue pilgramage from Texas to Dalston. He began trading his ‘grown up barbecue’ dishes at Street Feast in 2013, as well as weekday nights at TastingRoomLDN.
Now: In November 2016 he opened his first restaurant (on Sclater Street in Shoreditch), which received high praise from Evening Standard and ES Magazine critics Fay Maschler and Grace Dent.
Then: Baby back rib meat in buns, with his infamous hot sauce, Holy Fuck at Street Feast events, and on Sundays at Brick Lane.
Now: Still serving until he sells out on Brick Lane, founder Mark Gevaux is also now in what he describes as his “dream scenario” outside the Truman’s Brewery (E3 2NT, situated behind West Ham’s new home in Stratford), at every West Ham home game (Mark is a WH season ticket holder). Before the stadium move Mark was selling from outside The Boleyn Pub and Wilkes turned up to support Mark at his first ever gig there. At Truman’s Mark has started the #TruRibClub for fans of West Ham good beer and good food – “we have around 800 members and match days are awesome,” he says. Mark has also just returned from Manchester where he is developing his HolyFuck hot sauce (now distributed to numerous restaurants and traders around London). “It looks like it is going be be distributed around the UK and exported around the world. This year could be life changing in such a great way – I know how proud Wilkes would be.”
The Grilling Greek
Then: Serving a small menu, including Wilkes’ favourite feta chips, at markets including Southbank (see image above).
Now: Spyros now has a stall seven days a week at Camden market as part of Kerb Camden, is at Kerb West India Quay every Wednesday, and at lots of other regular Kerb markets in Kings Cross, the Gherkin and Paddington. He estimates that in two years he has sold more than 15,000 portions of chips in that time, and has also been mentioned in Buzzfeed as well as in Time Out’s top 30 (2015) and top 20 (2016) food lists. “Sofia the van is doing well and still going strong and spreading the Greek spirit,” he adds.
The Bell & Brisket
Then: Serving salt beef bagels at Street Feast and Kerb markets, and at a number of pop-ups.
Now: The business has been established as a permanent site at POP Brixton, features regularly at events with the original horse box trailer, has done several residencies, and is looking at the next stage of the business “which potentially involves reinvestment, and the concept of franchising the brand,” says Bel. “We’ve been moving forward!”
Then: Trading Malaysian menus at Street Feast markets, among others. In February 2015, Mandy moved away from street food trading into running a pop-up laksa bar and, in the winter of 2015, partnered with Zeren Wilson at the Newman Tavern pub in Fitzrovia to showcase her signature laksa for the first time, where the sessions sold out. In January 2016 she and her team served over 1,600 customers for dinner at a two-week-long residency at Salvation in Noodles restaurant in Finsbury Park, with an expanded menu, and, following this Mandy ran a six-month long pop-up restaurant in summer 2016 at The Sun & 13 Cantons pub in Soho.
Now: She is now running a pop-up laksa bar at Blend cafe in Harringay Green Lanes until the end of April 2017. Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner described her food there as “vibrant, face slapping… the stuff of memories”. Mandy estimates that since starting the “laksa bar adventure” she has served more than 12,000 bowls, and that she thinks of Wilkes “especially when celebrating the small successes which come my way. It seems fitting that the product that my business is now centred around is Malaysian laksa – the king of noodle soup – which we both loved so much and made pilgrimages across London to explore.” Mandy hopes to open her first Sambal Shiok restaurant later this year.