If someone tries to sell you a handbag or a bicycle in the street, then you’ll probably call the police. But if it’s an artisanal flapjack, then we give them a restaurant. The path from street food market to posho Soho restaurant is well worn, think of Hoppers and Kricket and a slew of others, but the key to making it in food nowadays seems to be starting out life in a market stall in an ‘up-and-coming’ bit of town. Of course, for every streetfooder that goes onto Michelin star dominance, there are dozens that fall by the wayside, dreams shattered, before returning, tail between their legs, to their well paid solicitor’s job. But either way, we’re all the beneficiaries as we swan round London’s increasing array of street food markets. Here are some of the tastiest…
Berwick Street might have cemented its ‘cool’ status twenty years ago when it featured on the cover of Oasis’s second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? But it wasn’t until street fooding became a thing that the market got a similar lift. Until recently the domain of florists and endless fruit and veg stalls, the streetfooders are encroaching, with Mexican burrito vendors vying with authentic Greek souvlaki makers, Egyptian sandwich kiosks and various Caribbean options selling jerked everything; takeaway this and that. And endless fruit and veg stalls, of course.
It’s the big daddy in streetfooding terms. Cavernous Borough market is packed to the steel girder rafters with stalls selling pretty much every possible cuisine, perfect if you’re looking for impossible-to-find ingredients from artisanal producers. Or you just want it all pre-packed in a beautiful wrap, or pie, or dish then you should look no further than the expansive array of foodie producers in every direction the eye can see. You literally can walk through and enjoy a four or five course meal on the go as you move through the space.
The Boxpark empire is growing one shipping container at a time until it takes over London. From its original site in Shoreditch there are now Boxparks in both Croydon and Wembley, with everything designed to keep millennials entertained and retained. Once a twenty-something heads through those gates, they’re staying put in this stainless steel lobster pot for the long-haul. And that’s not just because the surroundings, with live DJs and cool events, resolutely chime with the zeitgeist, it’s also down to the fact that the food and drink options are second to none (well, second to very few), with more streetfood traders than you can shake an artisanal toasted baguette at.
Brixton Market was historically the place to head if you were looking for a Ghanaian smock or some Caribbean supplies; and it still is. But it’s also now the place to come for authentic or cutting edge foods as well with the whole place full of independent traders. It’s given us the likes of Franco Manca and Champagne & Fromage and, being covered, it’s weather proofed. Mostly seated, albeit generally with rather eclectic seating arrangements, this is street food come-of-age.
If you’ve not got a beard and/or riding a penny farthing then they probably won’t let you in at Broadway Market. The street food market in the proper sense (it’s a market, on the street, selling food), Broadway Market bills itself as a ‘working Victorian streetfood market’ and likes to think that it was the original inspiration for EastEnders. It’s also the place to come for everything with the word artisanal in front of it.
A Lewisham carpark is SE4’s answer to Borough Market, albeit only on Saturdays and a little more low-key. But what it lacks Boroughness it makes up for with a regular spot for burgerists Mother Flipper, Crosstown Doughnut and various sourdough pizzerias.
Another streetfood market that captures the millennial mood magnificently is Street Food’s Dinerama. The Shoreditch venue echoes to the beat of some of the coolest DJs on the street food beat, as you chug down on drinks from the snazzy bars and an array of streetfood from one of the plethora of traders crammed into this supercool, festival-like venue. Indeed, so cool and cutting edge that I once observed a very famous TV presenter snorting coke in the loos here.
Flat Iron Square
If you’re looking for somewhere in Borough that isn’t Borough Market (or Maltby Street) then head straight to Flat Iron Square. This yard, wedged between railways arches and fanning out is small and really rather exquisite, dotted with traders and a chilled vibe.
KERB your enthusiasm guys, these streetfooders are always seriously impressive. The Granary Square street food-fest that is KERB has an exciting array of foodie options, down not least to their innovative incubation programme which helps promising streetfooders get a foothold and promotes upcoming talent. Which is all good for us as we head down for a weekend’s browsing and sampling. So successful has the programme been that KERB now has its markets in Paddington, the Gherkin, St Katharine Docks and West India Quay.
Maltby Street Market
Maltby Street Market is a heaving strip of a market running alongside a railway a viaduct and the bare-brick back of nondescript Borough buildings and might seem an unlikely location for one of London’s most interesting street food markets. However, it’s ridden the wave of London’s rise in street fooding since it launched back in 2010 and it is never without some sheer delights.
Pop Brixton is a community in itself, a place where small entrepreneurial businesses from in and around Brixton work out of sea containers and where startup restaurants and streetfooders ply their tasty wares to a soundtrack of live music and a general vibe of Brixton cool.