Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square, London, E1 6EW (closest station: Liverpool Street)
11am-9.30pm on both Friday 28th July and Saturday 29th July 2017
This is a quick, impromptu post for anybody interested in going to the Street Eats Fest tomorrow (the second day of a two-day event). This street food fair has been organised by Halalgems, and it is free entry and open to everyone. In their own words, Street Eats is about bringing Halalgems’ ‘favourite foodies together to celebrate the best of London’s street food scene. London has some of the finest street food in the world, and Street Eats celebrates the best of this vibrant foodie community’ (source: Halalgems website). It is their inaugural event – and by their own admission, the first day has been far more popular today than they thought.
It’s entirely halal and alcohol-free, and I have to say the atmosphere was brilliant: it’s highly family-friendly, perfect for groups and solo (I was both – I went with my brother and stayed for a while alone), and if it’s not just for halal eaters only, but I think it’s varied enough to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. I ended up sharing a table with two groups of strangers and comparing notes on the food offerings, so it’s definitely friendly and open! There are also games and play areas for kids, so it’s catering for all ages.
Here’s a quick run down of what’s what, and what I tried and loved, plus the opinions of others I spoke to…
1st stop – Rola Wala
I was looking forward to trying the offerings from the rather Anglicised Rola Wala, which does street food with a twist. Their menu is basic: a coriander chicken roll or a daal roll, both served in a sourdough naan (both £6.50). I went for the chicken roll with the works, which consisted of carrots, marinated onions, coriander, crunchy sev (a nice addition), and a mayo sauce, with the option of their coriander-based and/or mango-based sauce to finish off.
Verdict: this was tasty, but I was disappointed by the portion size. For £6.50, you can definitely afford to be more generous, when you think that a typical chicken tikka roll in a restaurant is pretty hefty and priced at about £5. The naan was nice and fresh, I liked the sauces (they said they were spicy but they’re not at all), but it disappeared too quickly.
The upside from a miniature size portion is that I had plenty of space for something else, so I made a beeline for a place which caught my eye (of course I’d done a quick reccy on arrival)…
2nd stop: Indian Street Kitchen
I liked the look of this place, a brightly coloured camper van kitted out to cook some tasty-sounding street food. The menu looked appealing…
We got the Tikka Tao and the Raan Burger.
Verdict: Again, the portions were on the small size, and I thought the chicken Tikka Tao couldn’t justify the £8 price tag – two small blue corn tacos with a (tasty, but still) chicken filling and garnish. However, I really enjoyed the lamb Raan Burger: you could taste the quality of the lamb, and it was tender, well seasoned and perfectly cooked. I would have loved it if it was bigger – especially when you compare it to some of the other portion sizes immediately around.
The owners are clearly passionate about the integrity of their food: at least two people asked for ketchup and were met with genuine stares of horror. So ask for condiments at your peril…
Band of Burgers was the clear favourite of the evening, with people queuing for over an hour (!) at peak times to get their hands on one of their epic burgers. I didn’t go because I eat at their restaurant a fair bit (I love their burgers), but they’re doing a great special for Street Eats: a burger and fries for £10. Choose between the ‘American’ burger, a standard with cheese and pickles, or the ‘Mexican’, with chilli cheese and jalapeños. These burgers are enormous, and the girls sitting ay my table loved theirs:
- Little Mangalore is serving up a British classic – fish and chips – with a masala twist. This looked really appetising, and when I asked somebody who was eating it what they thought, they said ‘it’s OK – more flavoursome than spicy’. He wasn’t bowled over, but it seemed to be popular.
- There were several chaat stands there (chaat = classic Pakistani/Indian street food, normally composed of a warm element like a samosa, topped with seasoned yoghurt, tamarind (imli) sauce, crunchy sev, and other garnishes and sauces – done well, it’s delicious). These were getting more popular in the evening as people arrived after work and for dinner.
Some of these offered street food with an innovative twist:
- Hiba Street offers Palestinian/Lebenese food, which looks like your standard shwarma-type offering.
- Sadly, some places ran out of food really quickly – Oli Baba’s (a Camden Kerb regular famous for their Halloumi fries) and Meat and Shake – offering a pulled brisket beef burger for £6.80 – had both sold out and packed up by 4.30pm on Friday, which was unfortunate.
There are plenty of options for a sugary end to your meal. The churros and waffle stick stands were both really popular (waffle stick pictured below)…
…but for me the real decision was between Darlish, which offers home-made ice cream in traditional ‘Asian’ flavours like rose and pomegranate, chocolate and halwa, and cherry and cream (2 scoops for £3.50), and Blutop, which has accolades for the quality of its ice cream, freshly made in small batches. I went for Blutop, and got their cookie ice cream sandwich (£5), made with freshly baked cookies and topped with salted caramel sauce:
Verdict: I loved the turmeric and brownie ice cream – such an unusual flavour, but quite delicate and with generous hunks of brownie in it. The cookies were crunchy rather than chewy (I think chewy would be better with ice cream). but generously studded with chocolate chunks, and made with quality ingredients.
Square Root was offering fresh, tangy lemonades and non-alcoholic drinks – it took a long time to get served, but when I did I enjoyed my raspberry lemonade (£3.50 for a large size, £3 for regular).
There was also a coffee stand, and some of the stands were also selling drinks.
Note on queues: some stalls were clearly more popular than others, and were busy all day. The burger and ‘roll’ stands were the busiest: Band of Burgers was a bit insane, and towards dinner time from about 6pm the queue got ridiculously long – and I think it will be busier on Saturday. I would recommend getting an early lunch at around 11.30am if you go, or waiting for a post-lunch lull (if it happens). Rola Wala was also busy, as was Indian Street Kitchen. Square Root also had a slow queue, strangely. The Waffle Stick stand and Dutch waffles were also busy, but I think the queue might move faster. It’s all about timing! I’d recommend going during the day and before/after lunch.
Overall…I was pleasantly surprised by how varied the food offerings are here, and how enjoyable the environment. Even if you’re not a halal only eater, I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area: the food will appeal to most foodies, and there are some great value options here.
My top recommendations are:
– Band of Burgers meal deal – great value and got rave reviews (their burgers are good anyway) – but get there early and be prepared to queue!
– Indian Street Kitchen’s Raan Burger
– Blutop ice cream/cookie sandwich
– Darlish ice cream
If you go, I’d love to know what you thought of it!