29 | Feb | 12

Richard Johnson

Well Stocked

Catherine Kilgour is one half of Scottish caterers Wild Rover Food. But apart from travelling around in her trusty old (1961!) Series 2 Land Rover, and sourcing food directly from local farms and hedgerows, Catherine is a writer. And she wanted to let the BSFA know who she fancies for the Best Street Food Market in the 2012 Awards….

Public spaces, when they’re used well, can generate social cohesion and a sense of community spirit; when they’re not used well, however, they suffer from antisocial behaviour and environmental neglect. That was what was happening in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge town: it was what every budding Landscape Architect dreads – ‘dead space’.

That was until last September, when the heroic Beth Berry opened Stockbridge Market in Jubilee Gardens, and filled it full of traders. I say ‘heroic’ because it took Beth two years and the patience of a foodie saint to get permission from Edinburgh Council. And I say ‘full’ because Jubilee Gardens wasn’t just hosting pigeons last Sunday – there were crowds of people.

Now you’d be forgiven – on initial inspection – for thinking Stockbridge was a Farmer’s Market, for it has its organic vegetable stalls, farm meat and artisan bread. But there is a range of traders contributing to the ‘buzz’: Ridley’s Game and Fish dealers, all the way from Hexham; Vintage Remix with its range of vinyl refashioned artworks; and Street Food in Scotland.

Nestled nicely between the preserves and pickles, there were no less than five street food traders busily selling last Sunday. Kaori Tsuji-Simpson of the Harajuku Kitchen (above) is bringing her third-generation Japanese food from the kitchens of her 76 year old mother’s restaurant (still cooking) to the street scene. Kaori cooks up Udon noodles, dumplings and miso soup.

“My inspiration comes from the streets of Harajuku itself”, she tells me. “It’s a very passionate, artistic place — a bit like London’s Soho. My great grandfather was a Samurai, and when they were abolished he converted his home into a traditional Japanese restaurant, with Geishas and dancing. That was the start of our family’s cooking tradition.”

Just along from Harajuku Kitchen, Rachna Dheer is also sharing her childhood memories through freshly-cooked food from the Babu Bombay Street Kitchen. Nearly a year on from her first customer, Rachna is now pretty much running an Indian deli. “We’ve got chutneys and marinades,” she says, “chai masala, savoury cakes and tiffin — as well as fresh hot food.”

Stockbridge now has more than 40 traders. “We’ve survived the winter,” Beth smiles, “and we’re planning to start Thursday trading as soon as we’re into the sunnier evenings.” That should go down well with the local shops – they’ve never been busier. With Jubilee Gardens firmly back in the public realm, let’s hope it goes down well with the Council too.