Monday, 18 February 2013

London Street Food 2.0: Brick Lane, Kerb, Brockley, Red & Borough

The last time I wrote a street food post it included a multitude of traders over multiple locations. I thought it was an easy way of showing the range of cheap, quality fast food available to the average Londoner. This is the same. I appreciate its rather long but there are also lots of lovely pretty pictures to entertain those with shorter attention spans. 

I was happy when I saw the post getting widely retweeted because these guys work fucking hard and deserve greater publicity than they currently get. The London street food scene has exploded over the last year and there are some great characters and custom modified vans that are beginning to rival the culture found in New York or California. I love street food because it's a great equaliser. Huge bank rolls can only do so much if your product is pants. Put McDonalds onto the streets next to the likes of Burger Bear or BleeckerSt and they wouldn't last a day. Your advertising is limited to who can see your sign, twitter, and people like me. It's capitalism as its most simplistic - those that create a superior product thrive. those that can't match them fall away. Hopefully that means they'll be a race to the top, not the bottom as demonstrated by the recent Horsegate scandal in supermarkets.

Its a well known fact across continental Europe that markets give an area a sense of community and that's what is beginning to happen in and around these sites. Come summer I expect it'll be at its height. Cyncial or overly-manufactured vendors will be shunned. Passionate, hard-working, talented traders will continue to thrive. Vive la révolution. The (Burger)King is dead, long live the King.
Market Happiness

Market: Brick Lane
Mark Gevaux AKA The Ribman, is one of the longer serving traders. A butcher since his youth, Mark has been serving up his famous ribs in Brick Lane for years. He usually starts slow cooking a ton (literally) of baby-back ribs before some of us youngsters even get to bed for his #SundayISribday! Baby-back ribs come from the top end of the pig’s ribs (below are the longer spare ribs) and are fattier and have a milder porky flavour than spares. Mark uses a secret rub of herbs and spices before slow-cooking them for hours. You can get either a rib roll (below) wrap, rack or half rack. The rolls are easily the best value with a huge handful of super-tender ribs in an over-sized bun. Also, Mark has made his name as much from his famous divinely-inspired hot sauces as the ribs themselves. Ranging from hot to instant-death, if you’re a fan of BBQ, super-stuffed meaty goodness or just think you’re a chilli fan, then get over to and grab one. You wont' be disappointed.
Rib Roll with Holy Fuck Sauce
Mark also mentioned the last time we spoke about potentially massively upgrading his smoker. If his plan goes ahead he may well end up selling to every omnivore in London!

Orange Buffalo
Orange buffalo are run by two guys Mike (owner) and Nick (the vendor). Although not American themselves, they have done their homework on one of America's favourite foods. They start with quality free range chicken. They are a reasonably sized too, not the huge franken-chicken wings that you get in America, but not the measly little ones either. A reasonable £6 gets you 8 wings.
They serve four different sauces, Original, Woof Woof, Vincent and Viper. The second time I had the Vincents it was a significantly hotter batch. I'm not sure which is the 'correct' version but the second time around I was in tears.

The reason Orange Buffalo are the best wings in London are twofold. Firstly they are the only place to do proper, twice-fried, crispy wings. The skin has that amazingly satisfying glass-like crunch as you bite it. Secondly, they make the best sauce. Some people say it isn't vinegary enough. They are wrong. And if they like being wrong then Nick will customise your sauce for you and even includes vinegar at service point. The Vincent has mango pulp in the mix which gives a great noticeable fruity twang to the heat. In my opinion these knock MeatLiquour's wings out the park. It's guys like this that make me love street food.
Orange Buffalo Van

N.B.Orange Buffalo aren't quite on Brick Lane but can be found a short hop awar at Old Truman Bewery in Ely's Yard.

Kerb: Citypoint
Although this blog is not supposed to focus on any one food type, it is clear I am a huge fan of burgers. I’ve tried almost every highly regarded spot in London and at one point was eating three burgers a week. T&C is a different kettle of fish (patty) as they offer something a bit off-the-wall: the heatbreaker burger. Italian Cristiano's goal, is to reintroduce us to offal and to recognise their value and flavours. The team use a blend of the 60 day aged beef and ox heart. I paid extra for slice of slow cooked pork belly on top and exchanged the gorgonzola for cheddar.
Heatbreaker Burger

It was a welcome change from the regular burgers: the patty had a the recognisable irony taste from the offal coming through after the deep beefyness. The leanness of the heart did give the patty a slight grainy texture though. The pork belly was a huge plus point in their favour, silky, fatty and tender. The cheese perfectly melted and gave a mature cheddary kick to the patty. T&C also serve one of my favourite burger condiments – pickled onions. Only real issue was the bun was much too large for the patty. That said it was one of the best non-brioche I've had and was nicely toasted.

My second lunch was from The Bowler. Run by the exuberant Jez in his bowler hat and recognisable grass covered van; they serve up the meanest meatballs in town. Frankly, I picture it as Jez hoofing a Subway meatball marinara in its balls. They really are fantastically good. I don’t usually ever, ever order meatballs as I’ve been disappointed almost every time i've ever ordered them, but these were exceptional. Moist, porky, a little bit of mealiness and a wonderfully soft texture. As good as these are, the sauce is even better. Rich tomato with a noticeable cumin kick. A drizzle of honey, nuts, coriander, cabbage and yoghurt and you’ve got yourself a very special lunch for not much more than that baguette. Do yourself a favour.
A little bit more than 'just meatballs' - a little steamy
Probably the most English traders at Kerb, these guys' pies and rolls are legendary. I stood watching them serving (I was pretty full from the above two) and the selection and quality of their stuff was impressive. Every pie looks perfect. The bronzed pastry make the leathered women in San Tropez blush! Easily the best looking pies I have ever seen, all in a little stall, in the cold, outside some office blocks. 
EatMyPies Stall - Much more stock than in pic

I ended up getting a (huge) slice of a three-layered meat pie. I am big fan of pork pies and have eaten my fair share (even made one this weekend) but this was the best pie I've ever had. The meat was good quality, nicely chunky and basically looked very appetising. It was seasoned well and the pastry superb: uniform thickness for an even bake. They do a huge selection of scotch eggs (highly recommended by others), pies, pasties and rolls. Another strong recommendation from me.
Always have my pies with tabasco and pepper
A relative newcomer to the street food scene; Fishdogs is the brainchild of Mark Hix and Kevin Gratton. Apparently borne out of a late night conversation, they have followed the street food manual to the letter: a fast food classic with a twist. Its basically a pimped up fish finger sandwich. Now everyone loves a fish finger sandwich but the only issue is they usually taste best using cheap supermarket fingers, white pappy bread and lashings of ketchup. That fact withstanding, after this I would respectfully disagree. The fillet is coley (the team try to be sustainable) and it embarrasses supermarket versions. Delicate, crispy coating hides soft, flaky perfection inside. The fish is very good indeed and very light. The bun also have an incredibly light, fluffy crumb. This lightness makes a change from heavy greasy burgers and BBQ. Served with mushy peas and tartar sauce it is a tasty snack. My only feedback was that it needed a little extra citrus kick. Although fish finger sandwiches are joyfully bland, this is a different product and needs a little zing. When these guys move into the City on Fridays they'll make a killing. Its fish and chips but with lower fat content and without the chip shop smell clinging to your clothes.
A FishDog
FishDog Van

Extras - 'Dognuts' with hot chocolate sauce
Another day, another burger. I had been looking forward to trying these guys for a while with quite a lot of burger reviewers giving great feedback. I ordered one after my first fishy treat. MF was the busiest stall there and after ordering a double bacon candy burger I waited around 20 minutes before getting it - too long for a burger and they didn't give an indication of time so I couldn't go for a walk around.
Mother Flipper @ Brockley Market
First thing I noticed was that the bun had been sliced way off-center leaving me a tiny disk as a base. Also the patties were significantly smaller than the bun making for several initial meatless bites. The patties were also severely overcooked, leaving a bland beef taste and a crumbly texture. Although seemingly damning I know for a fact that MF can, and does, regularly produce better quality. This time, sadly not the case and some people have been critical in the past.
Mother Flipper Burger

Mother Flipper - Bite Through

Mike + Ollie
These guys were the choice of my Better Half. She saw the homemade flat breads sizzling on the griddle and was drawn like a fly to the light. I had a few mouthfuls and loved it. Reminded me of the Bangra wrap from the last post, but without all heavy spicing. The wrap was springy and slightly chewy with good smokey charring. The slow-cooked lamb shoulder had slippery rinds of fat keeping the meat underneath moist and succulent. The yoghurt and pomegranate (they had run out of blood orange) dressing was sweet and a nice contrast against the warm meat. Overall a very tasty, healthier option.
Lamb and Coriander Wrap
Tom has annoyed me for some time now. He trades just off Old Street at lunch which is just too far for a weekday lunch visit. He then trades in Harringay on the weekend which couldn't be further from me in Clapham if he tried! I finally got time off work and headed over on a very cold Wednesday. Tom is one of the nicest guys on the scene and full disclosure is he gave me my burger for free as it was my birthday the day before (I wouldn't suggest trying that yourself). I ordered a Grizzly Bear - a single stack with smoked bacon, cheese and pickles and his now famous bacon jam. The bacon jam is candied and makes for a great additional, and slightly confusing flavour. He also uses the Ribman's Holy Fuck sauce in his Angry Bear burger for those who can't get enough.
Buger Bear
The patty itself is generously sized and develops an incredible crust on the grill. Its got a good strong beefy taste and isn't too densely packed. The bun is steamed to give it a slightly slippery feel similar to MeatLiquor. Mine was a juice-bomb and I needed several tissues to wipe up so apologies for no cut-through picture. I don't like being too harsh but this was everything that Mother Flipper wasn't. Also at £6.50 for a Grizzly or £7.50 for a Greedy (double) burger, Burger Bear is a great deal. Tom has big plans for the Red London market so keep your eyes peeled on the site.
A lesson in the Maillard reaction
Burger Bear burger
Borough Market
I could do a whole post about Borough Market but I just thought I'd pop this here. Ever seen this place and thought it looked a little naff?
Well you could do a lot worse than grabbing a quick snack there as you wander round the stalls buy your £50/kg tomatoes, Himalayan pink rock salt and vintage first blush purple carrots. I got a BBQ pulled pork sandwich and it was very tasty. Had that 'dirty' feel that everyone keeps going on about. The pork was juicy and tender with strong spicing slathered with a vinegary BBQ sauce. The brisket looked a little on the ropey side though so pick wisely.
BBQ Pulled Pork Bap

Brick Lane - Brick Lane, Shoreditch,  E1 6PU. Nearest Tube:  Aldgate East
Brockley Market - Lewisham College Car Park, Lewisham Way, London, SE4 1UT. Nearest Station: St John's (Overground)
Kerb Citypoint - Outside the Citypoint Building, London, Greater London EC2Y 9HT. Nearest Tube: Moorgate
Red Market London - 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DT. Nearest Tube: Old Street 
Borough Market - 8 Southwark St  London SE1 1TL. Nearest Tube: London Bridge

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