Discover the Best Street Food Markets, Halls
and Trends in London
It’s hard to tell quite when London fell in love with street food. Maybe it was the food festivals, increasingly open-minded foodies, a growing passion for international cuisine, the rise of the food truck (in both prestige and popularity) or word of mouth. Whatever the reason, street food is here to stay, especially in London, arguably the world leader in cuisine.
The entire face of street food has transformed in the past few years. Yes, you can still get a greasy burger or hot dog, should you want to. But now casual diners are demanding more: street food vans and trucks are offering vegan, international and high-end cuisine; restaurants are proudly declaring themselves part of the movement; and foodies are trying to replicate the magic in their homes.
TV is getting in on the action, with a slew of shows focussing on the mouth-watering trend. Netflix are even launching an entire series about it, simply called “Street Food”, a spinoff of their hit series, Chef’s Table. The co-creator of Chef’s Table, Brian McGinn, said of the new Netflix show: "Street Food takes viewers to some of the world’s most vibrant cities to explore the rich culture of street food all over the globe."
So where is this going? What can London diners expect in this movement that we don’t want to end?
Here are some percolating trends for 2019 and beyond…
Opening a food truck business is cheaper than opening a restaurant. This is one of the reasons why street food attracts innovative, experimental and new food entrepreneurs.
While street food was once thought of as chip vans, the range of cuisine has really snowballed in recent years. Not only are there more types of food, but there’s more variety within those types too.
For instance, Mexican food has expanded beyond burritos, with food trucks, restaurants and stalls offering less traditional ingredients like avocado and crab; and some restaurants slow-cook meat for tacos for 14 hours.
Healthy, vegetarian and especially vegan street food is becoming more ubiquitous. Londoners can enjoy acclaimed vegan street food from Ghana, India and beyond.
Then there’s the continued Rise of Middle Eastern food. The UK has shown great affection for dishes like Sambousek Chicken (pastry parcels with chicken and garlic), and more and more Middle Eastern food stalls, trucks and street food restaurants are appearing throughout London.
As foodies become more open-minded and experimentation is rewarded, you can expect even more variety in your food trucks and street food restaurants in coming months and years.
More Street Food Restaurants
Now that the stigma of street food has fallen away, more restaurants are embracing the description and the style. Street food, by definition, is affordable, prepared quickly and relatively simple. Many chefs believe in simplicity as a principle of cooking (including, famously, Anthony Bordain). And street food maintains this principle.
And, since people generally love fast, affordable and delicious food, the market is exploding.
Street food restaurants can have one of several origins. Some, like Pizza Pilgrims and Meat Liquor, made the leap from the truck to bricks and mortar. While others, like Kanada-Ya, have been serving street food in a restaurant setting from the start. Others start life as a successful stall or part-time venture and eventually grow the business into a full-time restaurant.
With London rental prices notoriously high, an open-minded and diverse population, and long queues at food trucks, stalls, festivals and restaurants, this trend is likely to continue.
The Rise and Rise of Good Food Halls
Food halls in London are not what they used to be. The traditional image of mall-style dining courts (filled with plastic tables and chain restaurants) is becoming increasingly out of date. Standards and expectations have changed, leading to an ongoing renaissance in the humble food hall.
Some of the best street food halls - like Bang Bang Oriental in Edgeware Road or the Japanese venue, Ichiba in Shepard’s Bush - have a theme. Others, like the three-floor Market Hall in Victoria aim for a more diverse range and a longer visit, with restaurants, cafes and bars all sharing the same hall.
Another theme that’s emerging is ‘reclaiming’ neglected spaces: the company behind the Market Hall (among others) are refurbishing spaces that had fallen out of use. Food stalls, stands and trucks offer a relatively low-risk opportunity for restaurateurs and entrepreneurs.
More Prestigious Cooks Going ‘Street’
A major reason for an upswing in street food quality is, of course, the businesspeople and cooks behind the scenes. Le Cordon Bleu have numerous alumni in street food businesses: Nora and Nama’s vegan bakery and deli in trendy Camden Market is a perfect example. Nora, one of the co-founders, is an alumnus of Le Cordon Bleu.
Another street food success story with prestige pedigree is Growlers. This company serves Portuguese-style steak sandwiches from its food truck (named “Archie”). And, like Nora and Nama, is founded by Le Cordon Bleu graduates.
This is the essence of street food: that vegan croissant or meaty sandwich you buy from a stall or truck might well have been prepared by a formally trained chef!
More Street Food Events in London
Along with a proliferation of trucks, stalls and themed restaurants, Londoners will enjoy more street food events across 2019.
The best street food festivals and events can be weekly, through spring and summer (like Lewisham's Model Market) or a series of regulars and one-offs (like Pop Brixton). Then, more established events combine multiple disciplines, including street food. Even markets that haven't traditionally focussed on food are now meeting the demand, such as Portobello Road Market which has seen food stalls increase over time alongside it's traditional antique traders.
The high street is often the final seal of approval for a trend – a sign that a niche product or culture has become mainstream.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising to see street food in the aisles of supermarkets and food shops. As the Grocer reports, shoppers can now find Mexican fusion food, Bombay brunch dishes and seasonings, soft drinks and crisps labelled “street food”.
Londoners are not just visiting Brick Lane, Fullham and Camden for their favourites – they’re making them at home.
Le Cordon Bleu London – at the heart
of the world food capital
Sitting in the nexus of these thrilling food trends, Le Cordon Bleu has generating entrepreneurs, chefs and food professionals for decades. Our list of alumni includes the full menu of success stories, from world-famous chefs to chain restaurant owners and everything in between.
Find out more about starting a career in the culinary arts.