Wales Of Delight
It was the first ever Welsh Street Food Awards. So it was BOUND to be something special. Metro recommended us. And BBC Wales came down to interview us for the drive time slot on Friday evening. But on August 18/19, the 15 best traders in the country parked up along the Milford Waterfront in Pembrokeshire for a massive cook off – and the public chose the winners. Well, make that the public and three GIANTS of Welsh food.
Stephen Terry, who got his first Michelin star at the age of 25, runs The Hardwick, a legendary country pub-restaurant in Abergavenny. Simon Wright is a restaurateur, consultant, writer, broadcaster, and former Editor of the AA Restaurant Guide. And Jonathan Davies from Cafe Mor has won a total of FOUR British Street Food Awards. No pressure there then….
At stake? A place in the British Street Food Awards 2018 – The Final in London and – if they win there – the European Street Food Awards 2018 – The Final in Berlin. With Street Food Warehouse, the Wales-based street food company, running the show, and Harbwr Tenby Harbour Brewery and Pop Up Bar Hire running the refreshment, it was one heck of a weekend.
There was everything from overstuffed calzone, Welsh beef brisket and Portuguese pregos to fresh pasta, Malay salads and finger lickin’ doughnuts. But the public chose the soft-shell crab tacos with kimchi, avocado and chipotle mayo from Assembelly and the judges went for the pig cheek arancini with cod cheek, samphire, paprika mayo and gremolata from Paternoster Farm. Come September 21/22, they will do Wales proud.
But then ALL the finalists did Wales proud. Take a look at this little lot…
It wasn’t a great introduction to street food — leaving the lights on in the van and then having to get a jump start from the festival organisers come home time. But Pregos have been invited back at the St Fagans food festival again this year. “So we’re making sure it doesn’t happen again” say Ally and D. With a menu inspired by the voyages of Portuguese navigators travelling through Africa,India and the Americas, Pregos are champions of bold flavours. And their signature is no exception. A steak sandwich with garlic, ham, cheese, salad and finished with an egg crown. Maybe hold the fries?
The Pod, a quirky bar and restaurant from Newport, are bringing the best of Welsh seafood to the table — cones of crispy squid & pickled veg. Simple but effective. Beautifully seasoned (these guys know what they’re doing) and the monkfish was something a bit special.
THE ORIGINAL GOODFILLAS COMPANY
The Original Goodfillas Company is a family-run mobile catering business specialising in ‘Goodfilllas’ – folded slabs of dough stuffled with high-end fillings. Jay and Charlotte so believed in their product that, when they got married, they fed everyone Goodfillas. “And Charlotte did the cooking in her wedding dress” says Jay. “Thank God she wasn’t cooking the Nutella and Peanut Butter one!!!”
Mr Croquewich was launched by chef Darren Lewis (AKA Mr Croquewich!) in 2014 after spending spent 5 years cooking in the French alps. On his return working as head chef in bistro & brasserie style restaurants, his passion for all things that melt saw him venturing into the street food scene. Here are some examples of our favourite Croquewiches:
‘The Glamorgan’: Leeks, garlic & onion in béchamel sauce with Caerphilly cheese, Dijon mustard & cheese blend. ‘The Italian Job’: Goats’ cheese with lemon balm & basil pesto, sun-blushed tomatoes & cheese blend. ’The Indian Summer’: Paneer with a lemon, mint & chilli dressing, red onion, coriander & topped with mango chutney & cheese blend!
What makes Paternoster Farm different, is that all the meat on the menu — pork or lamb — is farmed by the team in the kitchen. Which explains why they don’t want to faff around with too many sauces and reductions. Their crispy pig burger creates a bit of a stir wherever it goes — tender shredded pork in a crispy panko crumb, topped off with an apple slaw in a brioche bun. Not one for the faint hearted. But the pork shepherd’s pie is a pretender to the crispy pig’s crown
THE EARLY BIRD
The signature doughnuts bites from the Early Bird are freshly made to order using only organic Welsh dairy, free range eggs & locally milled flour. While still warm, they toss their fluffy brioche beauties in home-infused sugars and layer them between flavours & textures designed to balance perfectly on the palate…
SPICER’S MEAT WAGON
Spicer’s Meat Wagon are a family whose lifelong passion for BBQ and great food turned into a dream business. What could be better than spending time together and having fun, while bringing great BBQ to the masses?
“Our set up is simple” say Sal and Stu. “Our double smoker trailer – aptly named The Beastly Boys — plus our rustic and relaxed gazebo and whichever unsuspecting family or friend we’ve managed to rope in to help.”
But they always forget one thing at every event. Recently it was the bread rolls. “What did we do? Street Foodies Assemble! Our friends from Puckin Poutine loaned us their cash and carry card; disaster averted!”
Established by Greg Shearman, nearly seven years sgo on a Cardiff Christmas market, Chock Shop is now a fully-grown Welsh institution. With good reason. “We have a tiered display which looks like a rolling mountain of 20 different varieties of brownie.” Signature? That would be the salted caramel chocolate brownie with warm chocolate sauce and cream. But you’ll find everything from the caramelised hazelnut brownie to the sticky toffee brownie with dates, walnuts and the amazing toffee sauce. And if you fancy something a little more adult, how about a Baileys brownie? Or a Penderyn Welsh Whisky brownie, stuffed with buttercream made from soft Welsh Butter….
RUE DE LA COCOTTE
Street food is proudly international. But Rue de la Cocotte takes that internationalism to a whole new level. A Polish chef, inspired by the food of Belgium, classically trained in France, now competing with in the Welsh Street Food Awards with boeuf bourguignon (slow cooked in red wine with mushrooms, thyme, onions, carrots and bacon) and tartiflette. One world, my brothers and sisters….
Filip, from Poland, is a mining engineer and 11 years ago moved to Belgium where his wife, Ewa, fell in love with the frites. When they relocated to the French countryside Ewa decided to train as a chef. Now that Filip is working in Cardiff, Ewa has set up Rue de la Cocotte – and she’s been selected to compete in the first ever Welsh Street Food Awards.
Judged by the legendary Stephen Terry from the Hardwick and Simon Wright – ex head of the AA Guide. But she’s remaining calm. Her advice to new traders? “If you have an idea which you want to implement, keep doing it and don’t give up too early. Some things need time, rely on your intuition!”
Fritti got into street food to share family recipes (thank you Nonna) – “and bring regional Italian food to the people of South Wales”. In a repurposed Citroen Relay, that started out as a fish and chip van, they serve up arancini balls – and their signature piccante panzerotti.
Toby Bradley-Watson’s love of food — and seafood in particular — stems from growing up on a Pembrokeshire smallholding with a mother and aunt both involved in the catering industry. He’s gone on to work at Rick Stein’s flagship seafood restaurant in Padstow, private superyachts in Abu Dhabi, a grouse moor in Northumberland and a vineyard in Australia. But for Assembelly he’s rattling his pans in a Richardson horse trailer.
Sourcing and foraging local produce is the ethos of his business. “Understanding the grain that the chicken has been fed on, the grass the goats have eaten, the farm the animals have lived on — the culture around the food that we eat — is crucial to me, because if you don’t know the source of your food, you don’t know what you’re putting in your body or how to make the best of the flavours and show it off at its best,” he says.
The husband and wife team behind Makasih (it’s Malay for ‘thanks’) will go a long way to perfect their menu. To Malaysia, to be precise. “On one visit” says Ruth, “Roger was desperate to try a dish we had seen on many blogs called Wan Tan Mee. We were told we could find it on most street corners. Well, we could if the stall wasn’t closed on a Tuesday, hadn’t run out of noodles, didn’t close early because it was getting close to Chinese New Year or hadn’t just sold their last five to the gentleman in front of us…it became laughable in the end.” After days and days of searching, they found it. “And it was worth every bite.” Signature dish? Crispy Tandoori Roti (see pic). And any advice to new street food traders? “Get good shoes” says Ruth. “Plus a big car, a back up plan and a great menu. It goes a long way!”
THE PINK PEPPERCORN
What a beauty – and four months in the making. That’s how long it took Alex Cook to convert the charming 1970’s Swift Corvette into a mobile kitchen. But it was worth it. He’s now able to use it to champion a resolutely Welsh menu that runs from his signature of Y Potch Cig Dafad (c.1864) “Rock Venison” to 12hr roast hogget shoulder and Pembrokeshire Potato and Pea Potch. But will it impress the judges?
“It’s both extremely daunting and exciting to think that Stephen Terry and Simon Wright might eat my food” says Alex. “Simon Wright is an absolute legend in the food media world, his passion for promoting Welsh food and producers is second to none. Stephen Terry is such an inspiration as a cook, the emphasis on provenance and traditional fare is very close to my heart.” No pressure then….
Here’s a trend for you. And one that we’re proud to shout about – British farmers taking their produce straight to market by getting into street food. Proper farm to fork. We’ve shouted about the trend before, but with two farmers competing in the Welsh Street Food Awards, it’s really becoming a thing.
Rhosyn Farm and Paternoster Farm (with their Slow Pig food truck) will be setting up their grills with just one thing in mind – winning. Getting the public to vote for them. Oh, and “educating the end customer the importance of where there food comes from” says Emma from Rhosyn Farm.
But that’s not always easy. “We offer a Dragon Burger” says Emma, “and one little lad honestly believed we were cooking dragon. Telling him we went dragon slaying early hours in the morning was perhaps a mistake – but the look on his face was a picture.”
The Awards are a real chance to champion Welshness. Rhosyn Farm’s faggots include local honey, sea salt and wild garlic – with a local blue cheese — and their sausages use local jin talog and local cider. Even the water buffalo in their water buffalo burger is Welsh. It’s a great food story.
“Only 5% of the pork we eat in Wales is actually from Wales” says Emma. Rhosyn Farm want to be part of the move to change that. “And we are so excited that our own Welsh produce is being showcased so people can have a try and taste the difference!”