Saturday 12 November 2011

Street Food in London - Hot Dogs, Tacos & Meatballs

The street food scene is kicking off with fervour. Gone are the days of dodgy hot dog carts wafting of fried onions selling their questionable fare to pissed up Londoners swaying towards night buses. Instead, tacos, hot dogs, burgers, noodle soups, paella, bits of offal and much more are on offer.

Petra Barran of Choc Star fame has headed up a collective, under the name of Eat.St and they now have a permanent residency in Kings Cross. Open Wednesdays to Fridays, 4 to 6 traders a day, 10am - 4pm every week, I snuck in a visit while in the area.

The Rib Man's £5 rib sandwich consists of baby back ribs slow smoked and roasted. The meat is then shredded off the bone and shoved into a white bap, for you to adorn with whichever sauce takes your fancy. I went with a fruity, Scotch-bonnety firebomb called 'holy fuck hot sauce'. Sweet Jesus this sandwich is good.

On the same lunchtime I had a Junior dog from Big Apple Hot Dogs; for £2.50 this was quite a bargain. The sausage had that great crunchy skin, the kind that snaps between the teeth as you bite into it. Polish mustard and sauerkraut complemented it nicely; now I know why people rave about them. I also love their 'no brains, no bones, no butts' line on their website. I'm going for the Big Frank next time.

Buen Provecho are also part of Eat.St but my only visit was when they were outside The Rye pub, now closed for refurbishment, in Peckham. I am a bit wary of tacos as I don't like corn tortillas much - look, they just taste a bit muddy, ok? - but Buen Provecho's were different to any other I've had. The tortilla is nicely toasted; crisp in places, soft in others. Soft, silky meat topped with crunchy salads and salsas, I haven't had any better. (Photo courtesy of Cheese & Biscuits.)

My most recent visit was to Luca Italian Meatballs in Ridley Road Market. Not yet part of Eat.St but brought to my attention by Sandwichist, as soon as I saw that article I had to have it.

Ridley Road Market isn't a pretty one. Proper East End stuff with ferocious elderly ladies elbowing you out of the way for the best veg-in-a-bowl-for-a-paaaahnd, I had my ankles rammed several times by wheelie shopping trollies. I traversed the length of the market before I found my bounty; as soon as I saw that the meatballs were on offer with polenta, memories of the sandwich flew out of my mind. I love polenta.

For £4 you get three meatballs (meat or veggie), a carpet of polenta and a choice of sauces which I was told you could mix. I went for a spicy tomato sauce and a creamy mushroom sauce, which was then topped with little tiny asparagus and black olives, as well as a tangle of peppery rocket (I had eaten most of it by the time I took the above pic).

The meatballs were great too; fluffy inside and spiked with cheese. This was utterly delicious; total comfort food on a slate-grey blustery day. Available Thurs - Saturday lunchtimes.

I'm looking forward to eating my way round London's streets; Anna Mae's Southern Street Food , Kimchi Cult and Tongue N' Cheek are high on my list.


mycookinghut said...

Looks really yummy!!

kankana said...

That photo of hot dog is making me drool! I too love polenta and with meat balls .. yummy!

Cook in a Curry said...

Ooooh Lizzie! This would defo hit the spot. Want want want. Those tacos look divine.

Mr Noodles said...

The Rib Man on a Friday is, without doubt, the Daddy of Eat St. But I'm also a big fan of Banhmi11 - who have a stall on Thursday - their catfish & tumeric banh mi is well good.

SootSoot said...

But... those 3am hotdogs are one of my treasured memories of living in London! How cool would it be to have them serving this decent street food in the morning when Picadilly Circus is relatively deserted? But then again, we'd be too drunk to appreciate it.

Richard Elliot said...

Why are these places never in Brockley / New Cross? :-(

Jonathan said...

Awesome. Glad the Luca recommendation worked out well.

Food Urchin said...

Can I clarify something here, did you go to Eat St and eat all of that by yourself or were you sharing??

Must go back down there soon, now that I know where it is, spent a frustrating Friday lunch a couple of weeks ago trying to find the place.

Hollow Legs said...

my cooking hut - that it was!

kankana - I could do with a hot dog right now. I didn't think polenta with meatballs was 'a thing' but I am right on board.

Cook in a Curry - The tacos were so excellent. I wish I worked nearer.

Mr Noodles - I think I've tried Banhmi11 on Broadway Market; I'll look out for the catfish version.

Soot Soot - treasured memory or not, I am pleased they've been superceded :)

Richard Elliot - come now, we were lucky enough to have the meat easy (stemmed from street van) with us for so long! I hear the Brockley market stalls on a Saturday are good.

Jonathan - thanks for your heads up, oh Sandwich Guru!

Food Urchin - I had the rib sandwich and the junior dog all by myself. It's the worms. "feed me, lizzie!" I must heed their call.

yes, it's quite tricky to find but once you do, oh the bounty!

Alex said...

Ribman's the business! I work near Eat St and visit at least once a week, usually for a rib bap or some pulled pork from Anna Mae's.

Great to see UK streetfood taking off - it's a great way to try relatively under-represented or niche grub. The specialisation is part of what makes great streetfood - you get people who love one particular dish and put all their energy into making it as good as it can be. It's a bit more expensive than abroad, and feels a bit more contrived rather than a natural part of city culture (unlike say in Asia, or even in New York) but then that's just how London's wired - for too long, crappy hotdog stalls/vans are all there's really been.

Poke said...

Great review and spotlight on an exciting time for Street Food in Britain. Big big fan of Eat.St. I try and get up here a couple of times a week now. My particular faves-

Big Apple Hot Dog- I am addicted, simple as that. Need a fix once a week.

YumBuns- never had the idolised Momofuku versions but these steamed buns with Pork are delicious.

Homeslice- some of the best pizza in London I reckon. Chorizo and Rocket slice is another addictive example of London street food.

Tongue and Cheek- great braised ox cheek which will become increasingly popular as the cold sets in.

BahnMi 11- 'BBQ Squared' may be the best Bahn Mi in London.

Hardcore Prawn- the Crab Bisque is smooth, velvety and totally delicious.

Hollow Legs said...

Alex - you are lucky to work near by. I never thought I'd say that about Kings Cross. I agree, it does feel more contrived but hopefully in time it will be more natural.

Poke - brilliant, thanks for your low-down. I tried the skewers at Hardcore Prawn; will try the bisque next.