The Best Street Food Traders In The Country Went Head To Head
In the year that the British Street Food Awards partnered with Universal Music, to create our very first Festival, it felt right for the country’s best vans, trucks and trailers to ‘perform’ at The O2 – the world’s premier music venue. The final of the massive street food cook-off parked up in its new home on December – real scarf and hat weather. But, judging by the thousands of people that queued to get through the gate, these days it clearly takes more than a little bit of winter to put us off our street food.
All weekend, the 13 traders chosen from the regional heats served up the signature dishes that they had entered into the Awards — to be judged by the public and our panel of experts. The public were able to buy sharing plates from each competitor, and vote for the winner of the People’s Choice Award alongside the other categories judged by our panel (including Giorgio Locatelli, of London’s Locanda Locatelli, Neil Rankin of Smokehouse, and actress and award-winning food writer Fay Ripley). Reason enough to make our first national TV ad…
Alongside the incredible food, there was live music curated by Universal Music, Street Food — The Musical, street food crazy golf and tasting sessions from Sharp’s Brewery in the secret bar. In the regional heats, everyone from The Shires to Kimberly Anne and Paul A Young the chocolatier snuck in there for a bit of afters. This time it was Cam from Sigma. And Naughty Boy. Plus the two presenters from the Gadget Show. Plus Lisa Markwell rushed away from editing the Independent on Sunday to host our brilliant food quiz — Have I Got Foods For You. With proper prizes. We went out in style!
2015 was a busy old year. The Central and East heat took Oxford by storm. Check it out here. Then came the Wales and the West heats, in Cardiff, under the circus tent of Street Food Circus. We were at capacity all weekend, and everyone from ITV to the Western Mail and BBC Radio Wales came down to join in the fun. We loved it. The Scotland and the North heats? In Newcastle? Where better for us to do our thing — read about it all here. And we wrapped it all up with the South heats, next to the sea in Cornwall, with a Bank Holiday crowd in their rolled-up trousers. But the final, at the O2, topped it all off nicely.
It was an exciting year for the movement, as British Street Food continues to grow opportunities for street food traders. There was our franchising of street food brands for London’s Euston Station, our street food showcase at Leeds’ Trinity Kitchen for Land Securities, our street food roadshow across Scotland and the North of England with British Land and – coming soon – our street food pub takeover. But the British Street Food Awards is the foundation of everything we do. It’s where we get to find the exciting new talent. And parade the best of the OGs. The British Street Food Awards is where it all starts…
The finalists of the 2015 British Street Food Awards all competed in our regional heats. Either they won through on the public vote, or the judges chose them as ‘wild cards’. They were all selected because they offered up something unique. These were the traders who lined up to be crowned the 2015 Best of the Best…..
Scream For Pizza (Tyne and Wear)
Meet Goldie – a J7 vintage Peugeot aka The Scream Wagon. She is gobsmakingly gold with red and mint green trim, and is the pride and joy of Alex and Victoria. Their motto? “To Gold-ly go where no van has gone before”. Goldie is best known for serving up Neapolitan pizza with a twist, but people go mad for The Mountie — mild gouda, smoked pancetta from a local farm and drizzled in maple syrup. And there’s talk of a Crasta Crab Thermidor for the British Street Food Awards. Come and see if that’s just idle gossip. Most unusual request? “Can I have a pizza please. Without cheese, tomato or any of the toppings…”
Rasher are about the WHOLE pig – even the squeak. From a sous-vide of pork loin to a crispy fried tail — and everything in between. So the provenance is vital. Rasher work exclusively with Primrose Herd, an award-winning Cornish pig farm, because they are raising some of the best Middle Whites, Large Blacks and Gloucester Old Spots in the country. The results speak for themselves. One of the Rasher signature dishes is a beasty triple-decker club sandwich containing house-made fennel sausage, smoked cheddar rarebit, Primrose Herd bacon, bacon and whisky marmalade, mustard mayo, pickled reds, roast tomato ketchup and round lettuce. Nice.
Think of the South West and you think of the coast. Atlantic breakers and pretty harbours bobbing with boats bringing in the bounty of the sea. But less than 10% of the seafood stays in the region. The rest is exported. That’s where Seadog comes in. They create innovative world street food that takes our local catch on a wondrous journey across the globe picking up influences from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and beyond. We’ll never let Johnny Foreigner get his hands on this stuff again….
Crema Caravan (Selkirkshire)
Callum is a chef. Mel has a background in marketing and design. They fell in love, and set up a really well designed food business. Crème brûlée was originally going to be the dessert option to complement something savoury but they saw a niche and decided to start the UK’s first crème brûlée van. It all clicked into place when they spotted a vintage Renault van whilst working in France. They bought Florence in May 2014 and The Crema Caravan was born! Most unusual request? A vegan crème brûlée, made with tofu. “No offence vegans, but…”
The Cheeky Indian (Middlesex)
Ash (former Street Food Manager for Jamie Oliver’s “Barbecoa”) and the Cheeky Crew form The Cheeky Indian, some of London’s most innovative Indian street food. Well, it’s Indian-ish. They have adapted Mumma’s recipes for the modern age – looking for different and unique vehicles to deliver typical zingy Indian/Desi flavours. Menu includes the famous ‘Freakie Tikkie’ Lamb Burger — if we’re lucky.
Happy Maki (Sussex)
“Su-shi” means seasoned rice, not raw fish, and Happy Maki (the winners of the Central and East heat) combine it with with vegan fillings alongside the ginger, wasabi and seaweed. Think avocado and sweet potato – all served out of Gloria, the Renault Estafette. With the rosy glow that comes from doing the planet (and your person) nothing but good.
Cheeky Italian (London)
These boys specialise in the best of Italian street food, showcasing not only fantastic pasta but also dishes that aren’t on the Pizza Express menu. Pop by for Meatball Calzone Fritti, Black Truffle and Wild Mushroom Arancini Balls and Pistachio Mortadella Croquette. Their passion for food is also shared with a love for all things vintage having grown up around the clunk of enamel pans and classic motors. Check out their 1970s Citroen H-van clad in reclaimed wood.
The Fish Hut (Suffolk)
A legend of British Street Food – and winner of goodness knows HOW many Awards over the years. There’s fish shop fish — frozen and deep-fried. And then there’s the wonderful white flakes of Fish Hut fish, that taste like nothing you’ve ever had before. The Southwold beach hut comes with it’s own seagulls and sand pit. Plus a Kiss Me Quick hat. Leave space…
The Crabbieshack (Kent)
With the help of one of his oldest friends, Dougie built the Crabbieshack, inspired by fishermen’s huts from his home town in Folkestone. Resisting the naysayers, he decided to concentrate only on crab, offering soft shell crab burgers with a number of different garnish options. As much as possible he sources his ingredients for his signature crabbie burger from the Kent coast – a soft shell crab, deep-fried in Old Bay batter, garnished with fennel, almonds, harissa and avocado. and served in a brioche bun. Winner Of The London Heat in the 2014 British Street Food Awards.
The Roadery (London)
Ethical street food? You heard me right. This old “ one country boy and a van” set-up works out of London and beyond, serving up unique dishes (tick), using forgotten cuts (tick) and the very best of British (tick).
The man behind BangWok is a Thai native called Dong. Really. Standing at the back of his converted tuk tuk – long-retired from speeding around the side streets of Bangkok – Dong wants the sounds and the smells of BangWok to be 100% authentic. Working with his English wife Sara, expect no dumbed down flavours, no cheap ingredients and no MSG. Whatever you find them serving – be it a fried green curry rice ball, a classic pad thai, or a steaming bowl of beef noodle soup — it’s all authentic. They will also be serving BabyWok, a kids’ menu of sweet bbq pork skewers and succulent chicken breast satay, with a bag of sticky rice. Secret of the perfect pad thai.
The Bowler (London)
Jez drives round in The Lawn Ranger, a van covered in grass. It used to sell ice cream, and the chimes still work, which is hilarious and annoying in equal measure. The smutty jokes about Jez’s balls – free-range meatballs — show no sign of letting up. Why would they? His beautifully seasoned servings of chicken, beef, pork and fish can be ordered individually, although we did find that two of Jez’s balls fitted perfectly into our mouths. PS All The Bowler’s prime ingredients are British, free-range, fair-trade, sustainable and seasonal. And now he’s a published author. And a father. Nice work Jez.
Slingin’ subs that “put the soul in ya roll” etc. Sangers, but not as we know it Jim! These quality sub purveyors offer up fillings such as pulled pork, crispy crackling and hot jerk sauce or scallops, rare breed beef and market fresh veg that are currently setting London’s Berwick Street Market on fire!
Here are the dishes the traders entered — and the categories they entered them in.
BBQ pork neck, chunky jaew dipping sauce and som tum
The Fish Hut
Suffolk smoked haddock and Southwold lobster seaweed empanada, with a creamy cheese sauce, served with pea puree and tomato and caper salsa
Fried pig-tail and horseradish
Seaside Popcorn, chilli vinegar, Cornish seaweed salt
Ox tongue Braco (British taco) with 10hr Longhorn beef tongue, clementine salsa, sour cream, foraged blackberry hot sauce, pink pickled onion, on homemade yoghurt flat bread
Best Main sponsored by NCASS
Scream For Pizza
Hello Crabulous! with thermidor sauce, Northumbrian crab, beechwood pancetta, chilli flakes and mozzarella
Beef short rib cook long time massaman
The Fish Hut
Ghostship-battered Lowestoft long-line caught cod served with chips, minted, creamed and mushed peas, jalapeno tartare sauce, Stokes tomato sauce, lemon wedge, sea salt and Aspall Golden Malt vinegar
Smoked Clovelly herring laksa, Devon crab, rice noodles, crispy shallots, peanuts, pineapple and Cornish seaweed
Green chilli chicken meatballs, coconut curry sauce, steamed long and wild rice, crispy shallots, chilli jam, coriander
The sub-marine, with seared king scallop, blackened calamari, free range pork shoulder, lemon, caper and parsley mayo.
Beijing Booty with Hyderabadi shredded lamb (bhuri), cucumber, spring onion and fresh red chilli, drizzled over with a sexy dark plum sauce, nicely tucked and rolled in lavash flatbread.
Crabbieshack – Soft shell crab, roast artichoke purée, picked carrot and coriander in a bun.
The Rasher Club
Pig Cheek Sandwich with cider braised free range Gloucester Old spot pig cheeks, rare breed bacon, pickled fennel, Winchester cheese, wild foraged blackberry hot sauce and toasted demi brioche bun.
Beet and basil satay with grated beetroot and carrot, fresh basil, homemade satay sauce, avocado, cucumber and crunchy peanuts.
The sub-terranean, with seared woodland mushroom, roasted garlic, stilton, crème fraiche, thyme and white truffle.
Goan Beach Buns, with meaty wedges of paneer, pineapple and portobello mushroom, sweet and spiced BBQ sauce, served between soft plump buns with leafy greens.
Thai Sweet Potato with sweet potato wedges, roasted coconut, fresh coriander, avocado, red pepper, cucumber, pickled ginger and teriyaki sauce.
‘Balafel’ with chickpea, spinach, ricotta balls, bulgar wheat, salad, spiced tomato sauce, sweet pickles, cumin soured cream, shallots and slaw.
Madagascan vanilla creme brûlée topped with spiced poached pear and cardamom palmier
Scream For Pizza
The Night Before Christmas with vanilla cream base, crumbled Oreo, swirl of a Paul A Young chocolate sauce and decorated with borage
Chestnut and chocolate creme brûlée with Scottish heather honeycomb
The Winners Were..
It was a blowy winter’s weekend at the O2 in London. But we had high walls (to protect us from the bracing winds), roaring log fires on the tarmac and big heaters inside our comfortable tasting tent…
Winner Best Of The Best 2015 – SeaDog
Winner People’s Choice 2015 – Angus and Mitchell (Rasher)
Winner Lifetime Achievement 2015 – Angus Denoon
The 13 finalists didn’t just feed the crowds. They fed Ellie Goulding, who was backstage at the O2 arena. The fed Naughty Boy — who also fed them back, with chicken tikka linguine from his Naughty Kitchen. And they fed Cam from Sigma, who popped by to understand the architectural brilliance of a Crabbieshack burger. But they took it all in their stride. Feeding the judges, however, was a little more tense.
For the finals, the traders entered two dishes. The judges — sensibly — came without eating breakfast. Or lunch. Nil by mouth for a week. At 1.15pm exactly, on December 6, the esteemed panel sat down to two entry dishes from each of the finalists. Yes there were complications. Fay Ripley was delighted to judge Best Snack, especially Roadery’s beef tongue tacos, but her dairy intolerance meant she had to hand over Best Dessert (and Crema Caravan’s creme brûlées) to Giorgio Locatelli. Who muttered something in Italian about the very idea of being asked to judge a dessert pizza. But he seemed happy enough to judge Best Main that included the Fish Hut’s exquisite fish and chips, The Bowler’s green chilli chicken meatballs, and a thumping great poutine from Cheeky Italian. Neil Rankin judged Best Vegetarian (which for a God Of The Grill is quite some reach) and Best Sandwich. One hour later the three of them emerged, slowly and deliberately, to declare the following winners:
SubCult – The Sub-terranean, with seared woodland mushroom, roasted garlic, stilton, crème fraiche, thyme and white truffle.
SeaDog – Seaside Popcorn, chilli vinegar, Cornish seaweed salt
Best Main (sponsored by NCASS)
BangWok – Beef short rib cook long time Massaman
SubCult – The Sub-marine, with seared king scallop, blackened calamari, free range pork shoulder, lemon, caper and parsley mayo.
The Crema Caravan – Gingerbread and chocolate creme brûlée with Scottish heather honeycomb
The five winning dishes were then presented (a point, natch) to the Judges’ Table where — in a judgely huddle — they settled on the Best Of The Best.
Best Of The Best
The traders all wanted to win the People’s Choice too. Everyone at the event was given a vote (with an extra vote for users of the British Street Food app), and they deliberated over all the vans, trucks and trailers before they settled on a favourite.
1. Angus and Mitchell (Rasher)
3. Cheeky Indian
Worth pointing out that Naughty Boy and his Naughty Kitchen got 8 votes (even though his Chicken Tikka Linguine wasn’t actually meant to be in the competition). Oh, and Otis and Jon from the Gadget Show got a few votes too. Find out how many when the programme goes out in February. Although it has to be said, their efforts to run a pizza van using the latest technology (including a flavour pairing app) weren’t quite as successful as Scream For Pizza, who do it the old-fashioned way — with a wood-fired oven, and hand-pulled dough. In your face, the 22nd century.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Angus Denoon – Angus started selling Jhal Muri – the Kolkata street food – out of a supermarket trolley. But he’s now traded up to a van which he dresses up (depending on his mood) as a temple, a brothel or a harem. He then sells the Jhal Muri in his own distinctive way. “I do a lot of hawking” he says, “taking food to people queuing outside the cinema, or waiting for the night bus – wherever. It’s all possible. Generally the law enforcers turn a blind eye because they have no idea what it is, and it looks pretty harmless.” Angus calls his business The Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express because he’s confident in his product. “Kids, old folk – everybody loves it” he says. “I think I am the only Jhal Muri Wallah over here, which is a shame. I would love to see it everywhere, because it’s one of the tastiest and most nutritious snacks around. Perfect to share with your neighbours, on the bus, or slowly, slowly, with your lover in the park. It is what Indians call a ‘chat’ – a snack. And it’s a class of Indian food that the British get shortchanged on. “All we seem to offer is overpriced fat and salt.”
Over the summer we have been holding two votes on our Facebook page.
Best Street Food Event
Street Food Cardiff (It was a close thing with Digbeth Dining Club, but Cardiff won out. We did our West and Wales heat with them, under the circus tent of Street Food Circus — thoroughly deserved winners).
Best Looking Mobiler
Nelly’s Barn (Another close run thing, with Sweet Ally Scoops and Juice Dub, but we were delighted to hand over the Award to Ben Mills, who also owns the legendary Tea N Toast. Nelly is a proper beauty, and deserves our love and respect in her dotage).
Thanks to Sharp’s, for bringing British craft beer on the journey with us. And the Independent on Sunday for bringing the smiles, with food quizzes and a News Review for everyone. Universal have really got the street food spirit, folding new musical talent into the Awards — music that’s as fresh, engaging and creative as the street food that’s unfolding around them. And thank you to the street food community for just being such an amazing lot. Can’t wait until we do it again. And take the whole thing overseas. More news on that soon.
It wasn’t JUST about the food. Check out this little lot…
Naughty Boy on stage (as well as in the kitchen)
SPECIAL GUESTS — Sigma
DJ sets PLUS Small Town Jones, Ava Lily, Matthew Caws and Barns Courtney
Maybe you know him for Runnin’ (Lose It All), his number one featuring Beyonce. Or La La La, featuring Sam Smith. Maybe you know him for his songwriting/production partnership with Emeli Sandé on her multi million selling debut album Our Version of Events. But here at British Street Food, we know Naughty Boy for his lamb chops. And his way with garam masala. Whenever he’s in the studio, he’ll take a break by going off to cook in his tiny kitchen upstairs. On a Baby Belling. Emeli likes his way with vegetables, and Mary J Blige loves his wraps. Serious. Yes the man is a musical genius but what he does with the keys to the spice cupboard gets us just as excited. Last year, everyone at the final of the British Street Food Awards loved his chicken wings. And that’s why we’ve invited him to come back and cook up a storm at the 2015 British Street Food Festival — bigger and better than ever. Yes, he’ll be DJing on Saturday night too — but you should never dance on an empty stomach.
Matthew Caws has been the lead singer/guitarist of the New York based group Nada Surf for almost twenty years. He’s consistently toured the world with the band during this time, but only on rare occasions has he taken the stage solo to perform their catalogue of melodic, soulful pop songs.
DJ Monique B
We are gathering together a line-up of DJs and live acts across the weekend that will warm the cockles of your heart. Plus a few surprise guests, who are popping over from the Jingle Bell Ball. But it wouldn’t be the British Street Food Festival without DJ Monique B. She lit up our weekend at the Wales and the West heats, in Cardiff, and has played at every regional heat since. She is one of the most promising up-and-coming female DJs at work in the UK music scene, and is also in a six-piece female band who go by the name of Baby Queens who have performed everywhere from T in the Park to The Great Escape and Boom Town.
Ava Lily is a 21-year-old singer songwriter from Bristol signed to Naughty Boy’s record label after being spotted on YouTube. Combining an instantly captivating voice with powerful melodies and heartfelt lyrics, Ava is set to take 2016 by storm. Having featured on the conceptual single ‘Pardon Me’ with an enticingly contrasting line-up of collaborators including Professor Green, Laura Mvula and Wilkinson, she’s one to watch.
What a blinkin’ journey! With a debut EP in the works for early next year, an almost accidental global launch via a major feature film (Harvey Weinstein plucked Fire out of thousands of songs to feature as the main song on the Bradley Cooper film ‘Burnt’), early fans clambering for the identity of the unheralded yet fiery opener for Ed Sheeran and The Libertines, the new journey of modern-day voice and guitar man Barns Courtney is one well worth following.
Small Town Jones
The last couple of years have proved promising for Devon based singer songwriter Small Town (Jim) Jones. Having provoked numerous great reviews including a four-star review in Q magazine Jim is making some noticeable waves. He is becoming more widely known after the title track of his last album Freight Ships was picked up and was played on the BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O Leary show which later led to a live Saturday Session with his long time compadre and guitarist Dave Little. We loved his set by the seaside for the BSFA South heat, in Cornwall, so we invited him back…
Our judges gave of themselves so selflessly at the regional heats this summer. Thank you, Paul A Young, Matt Tebbutt and Andy Appleton. At the final, we needed judges who weren’t still full up…
Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli
Smokehouse’s Neil Rankin
Award winning food author Fay Ripley
You (For The People’s Choice Award)
It was one heck of a judging panel. For a start, there was Giorgio Locatelli, the Michelin-starred chef, and the actress and award-winning food writer Fay Ripley. Plus the street food legend Neil Rankin, and the founder of the British Street Food Awards Richard Johnson. They cast their votes for the winners at the all new Judges’ Table.
Giorgio isn’t a food snob. Don’t let the chef’s whites fool you. At heart, he’s an eat-with-your-hands kind of guy, and dead excited to get involved with the British Street Food Awards. “The reason I enjoy street food is because of its simplicity” he says. “Good quality food doesn’t necessarily need to be produced in Michelin-starred kitchens.”
Fay was every bit as eager to get stuck in. “Nothing excites me more than delicious food cooked in front of me by people that truly care about every mouthful I take. This is the fourth British Street Food Awards finals that I have been lucky enough to judge. I’m coming along mob handed with friends and family because I don’t want to miss out on the party. Just you wait…“
Formerly head chef at Pitt Cue and John Salt, Neil Rankin is now head of food and traders in London Union, and busy growing his own ventures — Smokehouse and Meat Hook.
“Street food in the UK has had a bigger influence on the way we eat — and the food we serve — than almost any other sector over the last 6 years. I don’t see it as an alternative but more as part of the future of dining out. As new ideas become priced out of the High Street, the innovation will likely come from the streets rather than the restaurants and be fed upwards. The future will likely be more and more restaurants moving out of bricks and mortar rather than the other way around. It’s great that organisations like British Street Food, and their annual Awards, are leading the way in recognising this fast-growing movement and it’s a real pleasure to support it.”
Richard Johnson is the founder of the British Street Food Awards – and the man who, literally, wrote the book on the subject. It was called Street Food Revolution. His company curates the street food offer at Trinity Kitchen, and is developing street food brands for Euston Station and beyond. He’s just taken his Eats From The Streets roadshow round the North of England and the South of Scotland, and is planning to stage a street food pub takeover in 2016. He kept the judges in order. And finished off any leftovers.
What's Happening When?
Then there was the other stuff….
Have I Got Foods For You
A quiz about food, hosted by Lisa Markwell, the editor of the Independent on Sunday. Because Lisa is also the newspaper’s restaurant critic, the questions might be hard to swallow and written in French. But we’ll see. The format will be like the TV show, sort of. There will be a few cookbooks for prizes, and a picture round to die for. Guest stars include Sam Muston, food editor at the Independent Magazine, and Dominic Rowntree from the restaurant blog Samphire and Salsify.
Street Food — The Artisan Musicalong
The world premiere of a new musical, telling the story of what it really means to be a street food trader today. Following the adventures of a troubled French ambulance turned pizza van, it centres on a young couple preparing to compete for “a coveted street food award”. Hmm. This will be a six-minute taster of the full piece, going up to the Edinburgh Festival in 2016, so come along and witness the spectacle of vehicle breakdowns/nervous breakdowns as the team strive to create the most delicious pizza of all time. NB Not on the stage — out of (and around) Goldie, the Scream For Pizza van.
Street Food Crazy Golfing
With real bowling green surfaces. Except that this little beauty isn’t about Bridges, Tunnels and Windmills. It’s about hitting the ball into Burgers. Or under the BanhMis. Wait and see. You won’t believe your eyes! Nor should you!
View our Awards archive below