On July 19, I was invited by Cauldron Foods to attend the London heat of the British Street Food Awards at King’s Cross. Cauldron Foods is sponsoring the ‘best snack’ category of the British Street Food Awards, an annual competition established by food critic and Guardian journalist Richard Johnson, to uncover and celebrate the best emerging street food talent.
British Street Food Awards - A taste of LondonPosted · 8th August 2014
A fun filled day
It was a brilliant day, the atmosphere was amazing and the vendors had such enthusiasm and passion for what they do. Although it was a little drizzly when I arrived, by lunchtime the sun was shining brightly and everyone was buzzing with summer energy. I loved that there were many options for vegetarians and I believe the shift in perception has already changed, where vegetarianism is no longer a niche – it is just great tasting, awesome food.
It’s fair to say that everyone seems more aware of the health food movement than ever before and I think that’s really exciting. The truth is that I never considered vegetarianism seriously – I love eating meat and didn’t want to give it up unless it was absolutely necessary. I felt that it could restrict your options and for an allergy sufferer with restrictions already in place, I didn’t want to enforce another on myself. However the more I learn about digestion and equipping your body with the right elements to be able to function easily – my views are changing and I want to give it a go. Street food is the perfect starting point – smaller portions of food with big flavours.
The appeal of street food
Richard Johnson, the founder of the British Street Food Awards explained to me that there are big challenges of producing high quality street food that entices the public, which I hadn’t thought of before. I first met Richard when I was working on a TV series called ‘Cookery School’ and what struck me was how at ease he was talking to me about something that he clearly feels really passionate about:
“Street food has to work at a very base level – you need to want to eat that food, because otherwise it’s just not going to work. It has to appeal. So if it’s a vegetarian dumpling, it has to have something that wets your appetite as you walk past it, whether you’re a meat eater or not. Often, restaurant menus appeal at an intellectual level – you can think ‘oh that’s interesting, I’m interested to see what the chef does with that, so I’m going to try that’ – whereas with street food it’s all about the smells and what it looks like. It’s a different way of working. If it’s just intellectual vegetarian food it won’t work, but if it’s cheesy or you can see the freshness of seasonal vegetables that’s very delicate, then that’ll work.
Personally I love that street food is so transparent – there is absolutely no pretension; what you see is what you get and I believe that’s why it’s so popular. The vendors are all 100% committed to giving each customer the best food they can possibly offer and in return, there were so many smiling faces. The beauty of it is that you can see your food being cooked right in front of you and if the customer spots that it’s not clean, they just won’t eat there. It’s as simple as that, standards and expectations are high, founder Richard Johnson says, “with street food, if you see a chef that has dirty finger nails, you just don’t go there. Whereas in restaurant kitchens, what goes on behind that swing door – the stories that you could tell are legion. Here it is completely transparent and if you’re dirty you just won’t make any money. People just won’t want your food”.
The brands dishing out
I was blown away with the food – it was limiting in some ways to find vegetarian and gluten-free options but there were 3 outstanding vendors that I definitely have my eye out for. The food was fresh and all beautifully prepared and cooked, I left the British Street Food Awards feeling absolutely stuffed!
I had the freshest, tastiest salad here – I loved it! It was really unique and like nothing I had tasted before: mashed cucumber, cured kohlrabi, wakame and lime. I chatted to the owner, Sochi who explained that they wanted to create a type of street food that hadn’t been done before, “We wanted to do something a bit healthy and fresh, compared with the carby, meaty, starchy things that are often associated with street food. We also wanted to do something really colourful”. And that’s just what it was: colourful, vibrant and light – perfect on a sunny day.
The Grilling Greek
Greek food has always been one of my favourites. I love the freshness of healthy and tasty food coming together and loved how passionate the vendors were to be producing their signature dishes. Its owner, Spyros explained to me that vegetarian food has been part of the Greek way of life and a huge part of the food The Grilling Greek prepares, “I made a point to include vegetarian food, because I think that’s an option that should be there and there’s a lot of vegetarian dishes in Greece that we don’t even think twice about that they are vegetarian – it’s just a part of every day life. So like halloumi, houmous, olive oil are an integral part of the Greek food menu”. I enjoyed a beautiful country Greek salad while my boyfriend enjoyed a beautiful Halloumi Souvlaki.
Crab is such a luxury for me and I was so intrigued by this vendor – the delicate preparation of my Crab Kiev with salad dressing sauce and fries was so impressive and after tasting it, I wasn’t surprised that it won the most popular street food of the day. The crab was beautifully seasoned and it was delicious – light, crispy and such an indulgence.
A big thank you to Cauldron for inviting me down to the British Street Food Awards’ London Heat, can’t wait to catch the finals in September! For more information on Cauldron, visit their website
Bridget is a food blogger who loves halloumi, falafel and pretty much anything with almonds. You can find her on Twitter.