Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The (food) revolution is here

While this recession continues to linger on, people are becoming more and more 'value for money' conscious. Whether it be at home or out, We don't want to be paying over the odds for processed, bland, nutritious-less food. Often called 'guilty pleasures'...well you should be guilty because there is A LOT better out there. Because of this there has been a rise in quality street food, and with twitter great places can be known by 'word of mouth' very fast, very far, very quickly (See: Portland, Oregon). Without the need for pointless things like knives and forks, or napkins these gourmet take-aways are becoming increasingly popular. These enterprises 'out of a truck' has led to two great successes of the 'MeatWagon' (then #MeatEasy, followed by MeatLiquor/Market) and Pitt Cue Co branching out into their own fixed residence...minus the wheels!

Eat.St (found just behind the new Kings X development) is a micro-market usually with about 4 or 5 traders each selling contrasting dishes. It changes everyday, so there is always something different to try. Thankfully, there seems to be a fantastic community between traders and places like in Kings X, Real Food Market at South Bank Centre and Street Feast in Shoreditch, where the best of the bunch gather together in the same spaces. Served up by people who are clearly passionate about their food, it is exciting times to experience this food revolution. We've spent most of the past few months trying out what the London street food scene has to offer. Here are a few of our favs:

Ribman @theribman (Owen's Pick of the Bunch)

Ribman stripping the meat from the bones

This is heavenly stuff, self described as 'the best ribs in London', while normally I'm put off by these declarations, I think you'd have to go far to disprove this. Mark..sorry Ribman..slow cooks these babyback ribs over several hours until the meat is literally falling off the bone. This tender meat is the main constituent in either a soft bun or a wrap, or if you dont mind getting messy you can have a rack of ribs. For £5 you get a fair amount of rib meat, and combined with some hair raising hot sauce of the aptly named 'Holy f**k' or 'Christ on a bike' sauce it is a monumental bargain, I think I've grimly spent this much on a baguette at Upper Crust. This will leave you with a smug satisfied grin on your face, or tears rolling down your cheeks if you can't take the kick from the sauce! Look up anything to with street food in London and Ribman is always there - Owen

Kimchi Cult @kimchicult (Shahz's Pick of the Bunch)

Korean cuisine is one of our favourite Asian cuisines, combining excellent cuts of meat with sharp, spicy flavours. Which all makes sense as to why Kimchi cult works so well. It combines Bulgogi, which is a good cut of steak (usually rib-eye or sirloin) marinated in a rich, umami-heavy mixture of Korean spices and chilli, with kimchi (the famous spicy radish ubiquitous in Korean cooking). I'm aware that Hawksmoor has been serving this for a number of years, but the fast food version just exemplifies everything that's great about the street food scene in London: great ingredients, attention to detail and a very original concept (in this setting at least!). The only thing that prevents me from all out loving this ''burger'' is the attempt to fuse in Mexican ingredients into this dish. It's good to have some greens with all the heavy meats but guacamole and jalapenos with Kimchi? I'm not wholly convinced to be completely honest. Otherwise it's excellent. Highly recommended! - Shahz

See also: The Korean pancake (Japchae) stall at Brunswick on Saturday mornings/lunch. Really nice guy working there, and excellent pancakes (try the prawn if you can) for very reasonable prices! Will put extra chilli sauce if asked :-)

Luardos @Luardos

First time I went here, I originally went to for Big Apple Hot Dogs who were supposed to be trading there that day. It's a fair walk from my work, so while disappointed there were only 3 traders there that day I made the most of it and had a buritto from Luardos. Wouldn't normally have gone for this as I usually go to Benitos hat as a pre drink staple most fridays, so am used to having my burrito fix. But, oh how it's soo much different when it's done properly and the meat is of great quality and not overcooked! Aswell as either pork, beef, chicken filling it is ladened with rice, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and guac for a bit extra (well worth the 50p). Despite (for me) the lack of refried beans option the freshness of the ingredients comes through and they balance each other well. Come with an appetite cause these are really filling, and be prepared for the afternoon food coma that ensues! - Owen

Mother Flipper @motherflipperuk

As the guys at meatwagon move on to bigger, better (and more permanent) things at meatliquor and meatmarket, the influence of that London favourite are clearly felt at this popular food truck. Not least in the flavour combination of the chuck steak, brioche bun and sauce eerily reminiscent of the dead hippie sauce (itself an homage to the Big Mac sauce). The one notable difference (purely a matter of personal taste here) is that it doesn't ooze out buckets of guilt-inducing burger grease (Black Palace burger I'm looking at you here). Whilst this makes for a lighter burger overall, leading to more productive afternoons in the office (wahey!) it doesn't quite make it as satisfying an experience. However, the quality of the meat was excellent, if cooked slightly above the advertised medium level. Isolating these guys as an offender in this regard is slightly unfair as this is a very common occurence in many burger places in London right now. Definitely the best of the street food burgers. - Shahz

Banhmi11 @Banhmi11uk

Photo courtesy of

Vietnamese cooking has been around in London for a good while, concentrated around the traditional community hubs in the east of the capital. However, it appears that one of the most popular trends these days (along with peruvian ceviche and american comfort food) is Banh mi, a french-vietnamese fusion dish involving a baguette filled with grilled meat along with mayonnaise, shredded carrot, daikon, cucumber and coriander. It's so popular in the city right now that you can even find a version of the dish in the healthy, fast food sandwich chain Eat. The quality of the baguette that the vendors use play a very importnat part in the success of this Eat.St/Berwick St market regular. These are freshly baked and lightly toasted leading to a soft, doughy texture which contrasts with the usual jaw-breaking crunchy baguettes commonly served in train stations and aforementioned  fast food chains in London. I had mine with beef, but chicken, pork tofu and fish were also available and looked fantastic too. Good value, tasty ingredients, reasonable price..and add to that a permanent Banhmi11 shop opening in Shoreditch? Things can only get better for these guys - Shahz

Pitt Cue Co Trailer @PittCueTrailer
Southbank under Hunderford Bridge

 Shaz ponders the eternal question - the Beef brisket or the pulled pork

Last but certainly not least is the Pitt Cue Co trailer. Their success was so great last year that they've opened their own restaurant. Even Daniel Clifford was trying to recommend this to me the other week (I had already been the day previous), surely no bigger recommendation than from a Michelin star chef! It's reputation is duly deserved.  After a time away from the street they've gone back to their roots with the trailer on southbank under the Hungerford Bridge, perfect on a sunny to day to sit down on the newly re-landscaped Jubilee gardens basking in the sun (or as of recent great british rain). I've only been once (so far) and had the pulled pork bun served with gherkins and slaw. While probably a bit more expensive than other street food vendors at £6.50 but damn its worth it. The pork is soo tender and smoky with great depth of flavour. What's more there are specials including the Trailer Trash Burger (mac'n'cheese with pulled pork) and the Big Ode ( brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage), no doubt I'll be back again armed with an appetite an a half. - Owen

No doubt there will be an update to this. So many places still yet to try. What is your favourite?

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