Monty’s Deli on Hoxton Street (and a preamble about what happens when a London street food trader turns into a restaurant)

What happens when a London street food trader opens up a restaurant? Is it still street food, has it sold out, and/or or does it move into London street food stall-turned restaurant territory and therefore become a different thing, with different priorities and a different audience? Also, if it’s the latter, then should it really be appearing on a blog about London street food? Probably not.

Nduja pizza from street food turned restaurateurs, Pizza Pilgrims

Nduja pizza from street food turned restaurateurs, Pizza Pilgrims (pic: Pizzapilgrims.com)

Well, my street food eating friends, in principle I don’t think a street food business sells out because it wants a permanent site; in any case, people are motivated to start street food businesses for different reasons. Obviously, many of them are linked by a passion to run a business that means something to them (and if they don’t, you can work it out pretty quickly) and the need to make a living, but not everyone sees Opening A Restaurant as the end goal. Those who don’t often like the freedom that a street food stall can give in terms of having complete control over a menu and how the business is run (before there are any investors involved), and of course the variety of customers and clients (many do outside catering, for example); many, too, often don’t want to stop the over-the-counter interaction with their customers. Those who do might be looking for other things – the opportunity to scale-up and multiply… think about where Pizza Pilgrims (pictured left) or Meatliquor (pictured below right) are now. And look at my previous post about where some of the others are now.

Meatliquor N1 (pic: Meatliquor.com)

Meatliquor N1 (pic: Meatliquor.com)

As for whether a new restaurateur should feature on this blog, well, here’s the thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the influence that the London street food movement that I began blogging about here in 2011 has had on the way people eat in London now, the kinds of restaurants there are here today, and how we talk about food in 2017. In short, it’s been huge.

I started this 6 years ago for a few reasons: partly to recommend my favourite London street food traders to friends who at the time were always asking for suggestions on where to go on dates and more generally; but I also wanted to share the stories behind some of these traders. Sure, their food was good (that was a bit of a given in the early days – now there are still a lot of great dishes, but I think you have to be a bit more clever about where to find it), but what I found really thrilling was hearing about what job they had been doing before, or where they’d got the idea from, or who inspired them to cook.

In the first few years of starting this, I’d spend days trawling round the various markets and simply chatting to the traders. Then of course, the traders began to get busier, and it became harder to linger for a chinwag.

However, a fortnight ago, following an interview I’d done on Hoxton Street, I decided I’d swing by the bricks and mortar outpost of Monty’s Deli, one of the loveliest success stories from Maltby Street Market (food pictured below right, during the Maltby days).

And, guess what, co-founder Mark Ogus was there polishing glasses at the bar, and we had a chat while I took down a salt beef reuben sandwich.

So rather than giving you the lowdown on all the many things you could try there, I thought I’d just share a little success story of one London street food trader, and roll with that instead.

Enjoy…

MONTY’S DELI: where it’s at now

What was it?

A street food stall set up by former music makers Mark Ogus and Owen Barratt, which ran at Maltby Street Market (formerly Ropewalk at Maltby) from 2012 and 2017, selling reuben sandwiches with either pastrami or salt beef (or both) in them, plus Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, mustard and gherkins.

What’s it now?

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s now a restaurant and deli run by Ogus and chef Barratt, serving what they call ‘Jewish soul food’ on the middle bit of Hoxton Street, surrounded by two cut-price supermarkets, the inimitable Perry Ingle bakery, fruit stalls, a falafel street food stall, and up the road from Super Lyan cocktail bar (where I’d come from a few minutes before). It’s a big open restaurant that looks a bit like a snazzier hipster version of a deli from the 50s. When I visited the first time, it was for a press dinner that highlighted the Shabbat-style non-Kosher dinner menu (of chopped liver and homemade challah rolls, chicken soup with matzo balls, roast chicken with greens, potatoes and homemade horseradish chrain, and homemade lokshen, a baked milk and pasta pudding) that Mark grew up eating with his grandfather Monty. The second time I went there was a table by the window of old East Enders sharing salt beef as well as a host of local trendsters out for lunch. Meanwhile Mark was there at the bar in his high waisted denim jeans and big Buddy Holly-style glasses, chatting to all his customers and polishing glasses.

A table at Monty's Deli, where a table of happy East Enders had just been eating

A table at Monty’s Deli, where a table of happy East Enders had just been eating

Bagel shelves at Monty's Deli, pic from Instagram.com

Bagel shelves at Monty’s Deli, pic from Instagram.com

Why’s it so lovely?

Because it’s got soul: you can sit at the bar and have a chat as you might have done at the stall; it’s still got the homemade classics like the Reuben sandwich – you can watch the salt beef + pastrami being sliced up and weighed out; and it’s still got delicious savoury food (but the menu’s been extended, allowing the cooking team to stretch their muscles a bit); there are also homemade bagels and babka galore to buy and take home with you, as a proper deli of this kind might; and everyone there seems to smile a lot.

 

 

Why the salt beef Reuben?

IMG_8837

The salt beef Reuben at Monty’s Deli on Hoxton Street

Go and try it, and then come back and ask that question. I wanted to look at the new menu, in principle I wanted to try something different. But in the end I went with what I know, a great hulking wedge of salt beef, mustard and Swiss cheese inside two slices of toasted bread. My tip: eat the first half, then take out bits from the second half so you can appreciate each one individually – the cheese, for example, has a wonderful sweet flavour, the beef is as juicy and salty as you could hope for, and the homemade mustard just hums happily along.
Monty’s Deli restaurant, 227 – 229 Hoxton Street, N1; www.montys-deli.com;

Twitter: @MontysDeli; Instagram: @montys_deli
LSF

*By the way… thanks for continuing to read this blog – I’m so pleased that so many people decide they want to tune in when a new post goes up. I know the content is varied and mis-matched – sometimes it’s a guide, sometimes it’s an interview, sometimes it’s a colour piece at a market, and sometimes it’s just a story – but that’s just how I like it, so I’m glad you do too.

Comments
3 Responses to “Monty’s Deli on Hoxton Street (and a preamble about what happens when a London street food trader turns into a restaurant)”
  1. Alice says:

    Hi Richard,

    I saw you across the room at the embassy and kept meaning to say intro myself and declare my fandom. So in lieu of that, here’s an email instead. I’ve followed this blog for years and I love it, so a heartfelt thank you.

    Best, Alice

    • Well that is just the loveliest thing to hear – thank you for passing it on
      I look forward to your email, but next time do please introduce yourself, and we can talk about salt beef sandwiches.. x

    • Victoria says:

      Haha I’ve just realised you addressed this to Richard – I’m Victoria :) – but regardless I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the blog! (I was a bit confused by the embassy comment!)

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