Authentic ‘Street Food’
It’s one of the oldest markets in London and the whole street is closed and filled to the brim with traders selling everything from vegan food to authentic goat curries, hog roasts, amazing cakes, cheeses, salt beef and so much more.
Warm drinks on a cold day
Initially the idea of spending the whole day out and about instead of sitting in a nice warm Michelin – starred environment, sipping Cloudy Bay and gorging on goose liver did not initially appeal to the entire group but I knew the promise of booze would tweak their interest. We started with an apple mint and rum cocktail (‘Hot Jamaican’), served in a jam jar.
Great food served quickly
Our next stop was ‘Yum Buns’ in the overflow playground market. It was a tough choice between this and ‘Home Slice’, the pizza place next door where the Chef brings his own wood-burning oven on the back of a trailer, but I am an absolute sucker for a pork bun! ‘Yum Buns’ serve traditional steamed pork buns with hoi sin sauce, spring onion, pickled cucumber and chili sauce – delicious! The pork was perfectly crispy and the bun was soft and light with the amazing perfume of the bamboo steamer it had been cooked in. Feeling a bit full but on a foodie mission, we enjoyed a beautiful salt beef sandwich: juicy salt beef sliced to order right in front of you, layered up with pickles and mustard on a caraway bloomer – divine! We then downed a Vietnamese coffee to keep us energised for more.
For a palate cleanser I went for cake, not the usual choice but such a tasty treat. We visited the ‘Violet Stall’; Violet has a bakery not far away and bakes some truly amazing cakes! The owner is Claire Ptak who used to be pastry chef for Alice Waters iconic restaurant ‘Chez Panisse’ in San Francisco. I went for the salted caramel chocolate cake, which was a tricky choice to make due to their amazing selection of goodies including Pumpkin Whoopee Pie and Red Velvet to name a few.
The best burger?
Again in need of a pick me up I slung down a Flat White from one of the 5 or so fantastic coffee stalls and headed to the final stop of the day, ‘Lucky Chip’. Lucky Chip boasts the reputation of being one of the best burgers in town and I needed to find out for myself. They do a couple of variations of their burger but I wasn’t in the mood to mess about and went for the standard cheese burger.
Now this is the only burger van that I know in which you place your order, take a seat or wander off and come back when your burger is ready – in our unfortunate case this would be 30 minutes later! So we sat and waited, had a drink in a jam jar, ripped into each other the way you would imagine you would when you get a bunch of chefs together around some garden furniture in Hackney and just stared in envy at all the people whose orders were coming out before ours. But then the moment came, this “shiny beasty burger” was put down in front of me and it didn’t matter how cold I was, it was here! I went in with some French’s mustard, which I personally couldn’t live my life without and started to tuck in – it was worth the wait! The burger had been cooked to a medium cuison on a flat top grill, the cheese was perfectly melted and there was plenty of it and the bun had been finished off using the water and closh technique to make it ultra shiny and soft. I have had some good burgers in my time, and I like to think I make a pretty mean one myself, but this one was up there among the top 5.
Eventually we peeled ourselves from the already slightly morphed garden furniture and started our journeys home. Aided by a few more drinks along the way, we made our way towards our stations of choice.
The right food for the occasion
Don’t get me wrong I love fine dining and spend a near fortune on travelling around eating at the best restaurants and in some cases heading towards ‘stalker status’ of the world’s best Chefs but on this occasion it wouldn’t have suited! Sitting on soft furniture with dim lighting and amuse bouches does not suit every occasion and for this we made the right choice. Sometimes I want to eat pork belly on a child-sized bench, or a salt beef sandwich on the floor outside estate agents with a great bunch of chefs, drink syrup-like coffee on tiny stools, relive past horrifying events, make fun of each other for hours on end and use whatever language I deem appropriate when describing an old CDP’s banana-sized hands.
bartlett mitchell Executive Chef