There has been a revolution in the streets where you live. It’s original, daring and fresh, and sometimes it gets messy. It’s rolling into town in gleaming vintage trailers or retro split-screen vans.
Street food is being talked up as the next food frontier; the opportunity to experiment and serve up restaurant quality on the road. Think home-grown organic produce, sustainable fish and seats made out of vegetable crates. In fact, there are already around 10,000 food trailers around the UK, many have traded successfully for years, and some of the most innovative are right here in the capital.
Now the spotlight is turning on the ones to watch out for, where they get their ingredients and how they got their distinctive look.
The British Street Food Awards, now in their second year, are judged by a team of experts including celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson, head of catering for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Jan Matthews, and actress Fay Ripley, using criteria that includes taste, appearance and the originality of the dishes, as well as the look of the trailer. It’s about the food first, but also aesthetics, and with that comes a preference for minimal packaging and recycled knives and forks.
Two London mobilers tied for best dish this year - the judges couldn’t decide, so made them joint winners. They are both traditional with a twist, and both part of the new breed of environmentally and ethically aware street traders. Street Kitchen impressed with its slow-roasted pork shoulder with coleslaw, pickled apples and mustard dressing, served by Jun Tanaka and Mark Jankel from an Airstream trailer. Wholefood Heaven wowed with its vegetarian fusion of pan-Asian flavours known as the Buddha Bowl, created in an old restored Citroen H by Charlotte and David Bailey, who have worked at London restaurants including Vong, Saf and E&O.
Richard Johnson, TV presenter, food writer and founder of the Awards insists that some of the environmental and ethical credentials among the finalists ‘impressed the hell out of the judges’. “It’s quite tough when you’re selling at £7.50 to offer high quality restaurant food with a message and politics behind it,” he says. In fact, both businesses are no strangers to sustainability. Wholefood Heaven only uses 100 per cent UK produce which it gets directly from organic farms. Its meat is from two farms using traditional breeds and rearing methods and its fish is a combination of wild varieties from day boats on the south coast, plus farmed salmon from cutting-edge UK fish farm Loch Duart. Street Kitchen is focusing on broadening its supply chain by growing with small producers such as the Luton Hoo Walled Garden, which is renovating a four acre Victorian walled garden near Luton.
Welsh beach shack Café Mor was voted overall winner of the Awards for its hand-made flatbreads stuffed with seafood forages from the Pembrokeshire shore. The prize includes the chance to take its mobile to the London 2012 Olympics and get some expert advice from high-end retailer Marks & Spencer.
“I started it as a way to honour people who were doing good things and to show that street food didn’t have to be dodgy sausages on Trafalgar Square,” says Richard. “This means vans like Taste of Freedom, which makes smoothies from fruit that would otherwise be going to landfill. And like The Chipper, which fries its potatoes in oil that is then used to drive it home. That was a big part of what we were trying to do.”
His dream is that British street food continues to use good quality ingredients as they do in Asia, and learns from the Americans to sell the food with showbiz and pizzazz. The next step is to put the food together in interesting ways, moving food on, Richard says. “When you open your own restaurant, you wouldn’t take risks with food. With a truck, you have more freedom to do amazing things and create new genres. It’s exciting. This time next year you will see more of this blending, rather than straightforward crepes, churros or fish and chips.”
BEST MAIN DISH – Street Kitchen, for its slow roasted pork shoulder with coleslaw, pickled apples and mustard dressing, and Wholefood Heaven, for its Buddha bowl
BEST OF THE BEST – Café Mor (Pembrokeshire)
BEST SANDWICH – Laughing Stock – Salt Beef Sandwich (Perthshire, Scotland)
BEST SNACK – Jalopy Pizza – Pizza Puttanesca (Bridport in Dorset)
BEST DESSERT – Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven (Manchester)
BEST DRINK – Café Mor – La Bomba
BEST LOOKING MOBILER – Café Mor
Street Kitchen can be found at Broadgate Circle, Tuesday to Friday 11.30m-2.30pm. To keep up to date with week-to-week locations, visit www.streetkitchen.co.uk or follow on Twitter @streetkitchen
Wholefood Heaven trades at Whitecross Street, most Thursdays and Fridays from 12pm-3pm. For a full list of events, visit www.wholefoodheaven.co.uk or follow on Twitter @veggie_heaven
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