Two weeks ago, some serendipitous internet surfing led to me stumbling across something called Street Feast taking place at Dalston Yard for 9 weeks this summer. It boasted over 20 street vendors in what looked like a rather cool venue. As someone who’s really enjoyed the recent upward trend of street food vendors and likes to try out various market stalls on the oft, this looked like a really interesting event. Plus, it gets a bit boring just heading down to Shoreditch or Borough for their markets every week.
The first thing that strikes you about this place is just how incredibly trendy it all looks. Somehow, corrugated iron and flaming barrels along with fairy lights and neon signs all works with the overall vibe of the place. They play a variety of mostly upbeat music and none of it was your typical Top 40 fare: I heard everything from reggae to indie acoustic to ska, but despite the swift genre hops, it all helped to create a very lively yet happy atmosphere.
The majority of people that we saw were young and attractive in that very hipster kind of way. There were families here too, lots of young kids munching down on bite-sized treats whilst their parents gorged themselves on dripping pulled pork sandwiches and BBQ slathered ribs.
The set up is really nice, with a good amount of tables and chairs. It’s almost like a food court, with somewhat central table areas surrounded by the aromatic smells of all the food vendors. The second time I visited, it was pouring with rain and we were apprehensive about getting our food soaked; however, it turned out to be fine as they had set up a bunch of marquees and umbrellas to keep the patrons relatively dry. Even the flaming barrels were periodically topped up with lighter fluid to stay burning bright even in the downpour.
Plus, the staff were incredibly friendly and efficient. There were cleaners periodically clearing the tables, wiping down tables, replacing table-cloths, and on the rainy occasion, trying their best to sweep some of the water down the drains. The people working on the stands were all lovely, and despite some of the stands having small queues (the largest queue I saw was about 5 people so not very long), they managed to serve people very quickly. Everyone was up for a chat, and what struck me most was how every vendor would enthuse about their fellow vendors’ food. I would order, for example, a taco and I would get in addition a raving review about a neighbouring stand’s all-American sliders. I just got the impression that everyone there was having fun, and not worried about enterprising neighbours cutting into their profits. They were also all very enthusiastic about the food, and knew exactly what ingredients were going in.
So I’ve skipped around the topic, but of course, the main highlight of a food market is the food. I wish I could have tried out everything but I’m not sure my stomach or my wallet would have been very happy with that. I wish I remembered to photograph it all but I just couldn’t wait to scarf these down most of the time!
30th August Visit
Gua Bao (Steamed Pork Bun) – £3.50
Soya Milk Fried Chicken – £3.50
I had never seen a steamed pork bun served momofuku style before, despite having had plenty of baos in my lifetime of dim sums and Chinese food. So I was eager to try this. The bao was fairly small, but packed full of flavour. I’m personally not a fan of coriander which topped the bao, but apart from that, the pork was deliciously succulent and the steamed bun was fluffy and light.
The soya milk fried chicken has to be the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my entire life. No exaggeration. I was worried that at £3.50, I was just overpaying for some generic fried chicken but I could not be more wrong. It was so incredibly tender on the inside, it could have melted on my tongue. Then, the crispy exterior was just the perfect amount of salty to complement the gorgeous chicken.
Kimchi Chips – £2.50
The portion size was just perfect. The chips were good, though not spectacular. The real standout is the kimchi on top. It packed a tiny bit of spice, just enough to overcome the stodgyness of the chips, but it tasted very fresh despite you know, being fermented cabbage. The melted cheese on top also added an extra dimension of flavour.
St Louis Cut Ribs – £6
Smoking hot ribs are always a delight to have. These were incredible. Not quite falling off the bone tender, but close. The sauce was excellent and really complemented the smokiness of the ribs. A bit messy to eat but totally worth it.
Thai spiced fried chicken served with sambal, asian slaw and mango salad – £5
Blackened calamari served with a sriracha mayo dip – £5
The fried chicken was gorgeous as it had a richly spiced crispy coating over very tender chicken. The sides as well helped to take off some of the heat, with the mango salad in particular being really refreshing and yummy. Also they gave me an extra piece of chicken and I’m not sure if that was on purpose or accidentally, but either way, I enjoyed that very much.
The calamari was good, and it was served in a newspaper cone which was cute. The sriracha mayo dip was a good complement to the calamari. The coating on the squid was quite mealy, which may put some people off; the squid itself was perfectly cooked though and not too chewy. A bit on the expensive size considering the cone is actually deceptively small.
5 Bites – £3.50
I had mine with cinnamon sugar, a salted caramel sauce and mini marshmallows. I got this both times I went to the Street Feast because they are just so goddamn moreish. Served hot, the doughnuts are incredibly fluffy and combined with the cinnamon and the salted caramel, they were like little bites of heaven. The mini marshmallows were literally the icing on the top, and as they melted into the caramel, they became an extra little sweet treat.
13th August Visit
Short rib taco and lime chicken taco – 2 for £5
These are small tacos, about 4 bites worth of taco each. The short rib taco was served with a lovely tomato salsa that really lifted the whole thing. The lime chicken taco came with habanero, agave and mango slaw. The chicken was okay, but the chicken was shredded and I think I would have preferred a whole piece that was a bit smokier. Both were very messy to eat so no wonder they gave us a fistful of tissues!
Shaking beef banh mi – £6
The beef was nice and very soft. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of coriander which did tend to overpower some of the other flavours. Served in a bagette, the bread was serviceable but was a bit too chewy and tough for my liking. The chilli sauce though was really nice, and not too spicy.
Exotic fish wrap – £5.50
These were crispy battered pieces of white fish served in a wrap with a warm pepper salad, lettuce and chilli mayonnaise. This was fantastic value for money, in my opinion, as the wrap was huge! I’m incredibly partial to battered fish so this was fantastic. The pepper salad was nice, though I thought it was a bit overcooked and I would have liked it to be a bit crunchier.
Halloumi bites – £3
Incredily moreish breaded pieces of halloumi with a tomato salsa sauce on top really hit the spot after the two larger meals we bought. Again, great value for money as the halloumi pieces were very large and they were thoroughly addictive.
Overall, I’m so glad I randomly stumbled across this bastion of street food in Dalston. Unfortunately, today is their last date and it’s running from noon to midnight, so if you hurry, you might still make it! I really wish I had discovered/heard of it sooner, as I would have made this a weekly priority whilst it was on. It really had the best of everything. A fantastic atmosphere coupled with great, authentic and cheap food, it was highly enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone who likes trying out exotic new foods.
Also, the cool thing is that now I’ve discovered all these awesome vendors, I’m definitely going to keep my eye on them. I’ve followed them on Twitter, I’ve bookmarked their websites, and if I get the chance, I will definitely sample their wares again. It’s really made me more aware of the burgeoning street food market in London, and as much as I like eating out at nice restaurants, I think I prefer the more casual atmosphere of a street vendor. You have a quick chat as they prep your food, it gets served almost immediately, and it’s pretty cheap. Plus I feel like I’m directly supporting some great, friendly people, as opposed to some faceless corporation. That’s not to say that regular restaurants aren’t great too, but just that the rise of street vans all across London is definitely something to be welcomed.
I wanted to end by looking towards the future. I was given a leaflet for an upcoming event called Street Food Europe taking place in the same location on the 28th/29th September. Tickets can be bought online at britishstreetfood.co.uk/sfe for £6 (which includes two drinks that are worth £11…). I’m definitely going to check it out, as it promises the best vendors from all around Europe as they compete for the British Street Food Awards. Apparently there will be a way to vote on the best food there. Anyway, given it’s in the same venue, and it boasts an even more incredibly sounding line-up of vendors, I’m really looking forward to it and for any Londoners who read this blog, I hope to see you there!