Put down the pulled pork roll and step away from the turkey and stuffing sandwiches that are leftover from Christmas. As much as we love these holiday staples, tis the season to try something new. In London everything runs at double speed so street food is the optimum way to cram in a great tasting meal while consuming just minutes of your day.
New year diets aside, now is the optimum time to sample the infamous street food of London and we have got the rundown on the best places to go…
London Street Food: A Brief History
London is a melting pot of people from the world over and is saturated in rich culture. Street food can be traced way back to Roman times and their fondness for street sellers purveying British oysters. Through medieval times, fruit and berry sales became increasingly popular and after that, the Victorians attempted street snacks serving a questionable array of seafood like hot eels and winkles.
The past few decades brought us ice cream vans, fish and chips and hot chestnuts, but food is changing and we should grab it – all of it – with both hands! London is proudly home to a wide range of multi-ethnic communities therefore many food stalls in the city now reflect its vibrant population.
This is good news for the British public who are known for their love of ethnic foods; from fragrant Indian curries to sweetly spiced oriental dishes, a taste from afar has defined the British palate for decades.
For the Everyday Brunch Explorer
Brunch is a meal currently growing in popularity and we found the ideal twist on traditional midday fare at Poke. Hawaiian food may not be on your radar right now, but after perusing their menu you’ll never go back to a tepid Elevenses crumpet again!
The sunshine bowl is the total opposite of your lowly mid-morning snack, jam packed full of goodness and flavour. Spicy ahi tuna, kimchi and black rice are a revelation to the taste buds compared to store bought sushi
If you fancy something crispy, swap the usual soggy toast for Poke’s delectable Hawaiian fries – pineapple fritters coated in yuzu mayo, lime salt and chilli seriously hit the spot
Poke can be found at Kings Cross Kerb and across London and UK based events and markets.
For the Post-Football Match Alternative
Following a rainy football match say ‘no’ to usual the greasy burger van and opt for a sandwich with a stateside twist from the Liberty Cheesesteak Company. You’ll get the beef, bun and cheese satisfaction tenfold, the authentic taste of a Philly favourite right on your doorstep.
The Liberty Cheesesteak Company offer up an ideal combination of rib eye beef layered across a soft Italian ‘hoagie’, both of which are smothered in a homemade 99.9% cheese based sauce. It’s enough to make any self-respecting football fanatic sincerely say the word ‘soccer’.
Liberty Cheesesteak Company can be found at Spitalfields Market, Moorgate and across London and UK based events and markets.
For the Animal Friendly Fare
Veganism has taken the world by storm and now more than ever plant based food options have been permeating the street food arena. Gone are the days when meat free options were considered bland and unappetising and vendors like Club Mexicana have helped to give vegan food a good old shake-up.
To show the world that filling and tasty vegan food exists (and prove that it isn’t ’rabbit food’) Club Mexicana decided to challenge negative perceptions, all while maintaining an animal-friendly approach to eating.
The BBQ jackfruit satisfies the desire to eat healthy fast-food without the arduous feeling. Substantial portions leave you feeling refreshed and energized rather than sluggish and lethargic, and the best part is that no animals were harmed in the process – win win!
Club Mexicana can be found at Hawker House in Canada Water, Kings Cross Kerb and across London and UK based events and markets.
For the Seriously Sustainable British Favourites
We’ve all become increasingly conscious of the food we eat and the way in which it was produced; The Roadery is the perfect example of all that makes our home grown, locally sourced food great.
With the approach of sourcing ethical produce and focusing on a small but solid menu and, The Roadery offers up more than a filling alternative to your standard sandwich.
The flat iron steak and wild mushroom sandwich contains perfect slices of tender beef done just right (medium rare). Topped off with locally foraged wild mushrooms, a fresh garlic sauce and nestled between Brixton sourdough buns, this sandwich is fresh, flavourful and wins top marks for its ethically sourced, top quality ingredients.
The Roadery can be found at Bishops Gate, Kings Cross Kerb, Camden Market, across London and UK based events and markets.
A burger, in its purest form, is simply a thing of beauty. Complete love and care goes into the local sourcing of the meat, the perfect amount of sauce so as not to overpower the taste of the thick, medium-rare, beef patty and just a little smattering of lettuce gives you a bit of crunch.
Burger Bear not only have the goods but the personality to back it up. These guys seem to be hosting a non-stop disco and appear to genuinely love what they do. Friendly staff rustled up what they call a ‘Greedy Bear’ (which is possibly one of the biggest burgers we’ve ever witnessed) and it’s clear to see why these guys were backed by a Kickstarter campaign that raised £36k to see them make a permanent mark on London.
Burger Bear can be found at The Magic Roundabout at Old Street Underground across London and UK based events and markets.
For the Tropical Taste Traveller
When you need a pick-me-up, base your food choice on vibrancy and flavour. After a week of bleak weather and your colleagues repeating the same Christmas songs all day long, an uplifting visit to White Men Can’t Jerk will get you out of your festive funk.
Caribbean twists on traditional dishes provide a much needed lunch time pick-me-up, with offerings such as curried mutton shepherd’s pie and steak and ale winter warmers.
For the slightly more adventurous, the signature jerk chicken is the only choice when it comes to dining at White Men Can’t Jerk. Homemade BBQ chicken, jerked to perfection alongside traditional rice and peas, coleslaw and pineapple & mango to cut through some of those richer flavours, offers a sensational taste bud experience.
White Men Can’t Jerk can be found at Hawker House in Canada Water, across London and UK based events and markets.
The true testament of quality came down to the moment of sampling the enormous chicken wings from White Men Can’t Jerk. Moreover, gauging the reactions of two people who ‘generally wouldn’t eat chicken on the bone’, with the overall sentiment resting at; “this is the best chicken I’ve ever had!”, I believe that it’s safe to say, White men definitely can jerk!
White Men Can’t Jerk can be found at Hawker House in Canada Water, The Magic Roundabout at Old Street Underground across London and UK based events and markets.
For The Alternative Asian Cuisine
Is there anything more British than an adaptation of the traditional burger? We’ve seen it all; peanut butter and bacon burgers, donut burgers and quadruple stacked burgers.
As a nation, we love to add eastern influences to our everyday dishes and The Sticky Bundits have done just that. Taking your average burger bun and twisting it up with sesame-infused rice is not only healthier but creates a totally different texture and taste sensation.
These incredible burgers are almost too good to eat, stuffed to the brim with spiced chicken thighs and dripping with Okonomiyaki sauce, Kewpie mayo and pickled ginger to top it off. The Okonomi-YUMMY burger befits its name in every sense of the word and is definitely a top alternative for when you can’t decide between a burger or sushi – you can have both!
The Sticky Bundits can be found at Hampstead Market and Chatsworth Road Market and across London and UK based events and markets.
For Noodles That Are Far From Normal
Noodle pots are the ultimate lazy lunch; drab flavours combined with half a cup of boiled water is enough to make you fill the remaining half cup with tears, although perhaps that would add more flavour.
Hanoi Kitchen consists of a couple of friendly guys serving up hot and spicy noodle boxes, jammed to the gills with Vietnamese goodness. In the past tofu might have been considered a reasonably dull flavour, but Hanoi Kitchen has taken it to a whole new level offering a spicy honey infused vegetarian option that could entice even the most avid meat eater.
Hanoi Kitchen can be found at Kings Cross, West India Quay, Broadway Market and across London and UK based events and markets.
For The Stateside Super Sundae
Made-to-order food options are great but a made-to-order cookie ice cream sandwich is better; that’s why Blu Top Ice Cream is the ultimate way to have your ice cream and eat it too.
With clear state side influences and offerings such as cinnamon snickerdoodle cookies, brown toast, jam ice cream and toppings such as pretzels and lucky charms, these sweet treats offer up a nostalgic childhood ice cream experience.
One of the key reasons you simply must sample Blu Top’s creations is for the marshmallow sauce, a fine art that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Creator and owner, Richard, has spent endless hours perfecting the ultimate homemade desserts, accompanied by logical packaging so good you won’t end up with ice cream running down your arm.
Blu Top Ice Cream can be found at Camden Market in the West Yard and across London and UK based events and markets.
For the Replacement Pastry Pick-Me-Up
If the weather isn’t ideal for ice cream (although who can resist when they’re that good), Crosstown Donuts have got your back. Nestled in a quiet corner of Old Spitalfields Market, the welcoming sight of the sourdough donut vendor was comparable a port in a storm.
Thick and savoury dough that pulls apart to reveal hidden fillings, slathered in some of the richest toppings imaginable. Multitudes of icings and flavours, offer a plethora of choice, all with a unique twist. Even with even the most standard everyday option, Crosstown are dealing us up the likes of a Tongan vanilla bean glazed delight. Pumpkin flavoured treats make a brief appearance for Thanksgiving Day and other unusual choices include Chai Tea, featuring a custard filling flavoured to match the name.
Chilli chocolate featuring a slither of candied chilli, beetroot lemon and thyme and crème brûlée, all feature on Crosstowns flavour roster offering sweet, vegetarian friendly treats to suit every taste.
Crosstown can be found at Spitalfields Market and across London and UK based events and markets
Why Street Food?
These culinary connoisseurs are responsible for creating some of the best food in London, in tiny spaces. Utilising their prep kitchens before the day’s trading begins means they can create enough dishes to easily distribute incredible food to the hungry masses, day in, day out. Working tirelessly in tight kitchens to be able to deliver constantly evolving flavours and ingredients, the London locals have never had it so good.
Street food is a great way to experience cultures and tastes from around the world, often exceeding restaurant quality in half the time. As many vendors articulated, it is important to be able to create one or two dishes very well, rather than offer an extensive menu that is sub-par.
Safestore chose to profile some of the best street food in London, to highlight how great things can truly come in small packages… or airstreams… or a vintage H van! We love to see the great use of space and this way of working allows people to compete in the foody arena with ease, complete freedom and lower overheads. Incredible cooks with a savvy business mind are now able to share their skills and creations with wider communities without the need for large restaurant spaces to showcase their talents. A simple idea that we love!