The Winner Is…
The winner of the public vote at the Scotland and the North heat of the 2015 British Street Food Awards was Riley’s Fish Shack. Fitting really. Nobody has done more than Adam (the ‘Riley’ in question) to bring street food to the city of Newcastle. Trading from his bbq bicycle (despite a buckled wheel), he cooked up monkfish, chilli squid and mackerel wraps with his own special ‘Hepplewhite’s Relish’ all weekend. Until the vote was announced, that is. At which point, he opened a bottle of fizz, disappeared with his wife, and let the coals take care of themselves. The greatest elegance comes with simplicity. And Riley’s Fish Shack — an elegant construct of wood, metal and cotton — champions that idea. All Adam needs to work out now is how to get his ridiculously fresh fish down to London over the finals weekend. But you know what? He’ll do it.
The results were as follows:
1. Riley’s Fish Shack
4. Fat Hippo
5. Crema Caravan
Paul Young, the genius chocolatier (above), came along as guest judge — in a dangerously smart suit. After trying all 12 finalists’ dishes, he still managed to look the part. Even if he did walk a little more slowly. He loved the artful look of the Crema Caravan, and the crack of their creme brûlée. And the authentic Thai of Dong’s Bangwok. He fell in love with ‘the walking taco’ from Fire and Salt — Mal’s genius idea of taking a bag of nachos, and stuffing it with juicy ox cheek, cheese and lettuce. And he was blown away by Ginger’s single origin chocolate ice cream — “the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever tasted” he said. That’s one for the back of Claire’s next book. He also declared the peanut butter burger from Fat Hippo “the best burger I’ve ever tasted” (it was one of those days) and that he could easily manage a second. Even though he was only halfway through judging…
Unfortunately he missed out on the Roast On A Post from Bangers and Bacon. Richard Brown has come up with the idea of taking pork shoulder, peas, potatoes — all the constituents of a delicious roast dinner — and turning them into a sausage. Which he then enrobes in a crisp Yorkshire pudding batter, and serves up on a stick with a pot of thick dipping gravy. Paul missed out because it sold out on the first day of the heat. Like the samosa chat from Kukoos. And the cider-braised pork cheeks from The Pickled Porker. Papaganoush and Claw Hide expertly managed to keep a full menu until the bitter end — handling Festival-sized queues all weekend.
Paul also missed out on the DJs, Prose (who got a lot of love with their indie/rap/folk set, and the dancing. But he wasn’t too late to join in the food quiz — hosted by the tireless Lisa Markwell, editor of the Independent on Sunday. Maunika Gowardhan (and her new book Indian Kitchen) joined journalist Jane Hall and ice cream innovator Claire Kelsey on the girls’ team, with Paul and Gareth Kyle doing it for the boys. The result (controversially) was a win for the boys. The fact that the boys won the tie might have something to do with the fact that the scorer had just visited the Sharp’s secret bar, with their legendary beer/street food matching experience. I say “might”….
The eventual winner of Paul’s wild card to the final was the amazing Craster Crab Thermidor from Scream For Pizza. And well deserved it was too. You think you’ve had all that’s out there, and then something new comes along. This rich, saucy plateful was much, much wetter that traditional pizza. More luxurious. But the base (and it’s all about the base with pizza), still had the sour flavour — and the body — to hold it all together once it was artfully folded it over. He loved that Alex and Victoria were using local crab. And that they were selling a Wor Margaret (a Geordie take on the Margarita) to show off their more classical Italian pizza making. There’s talk of Goldie – their J7 vintage Peugeot aka The Scream Wagon — collaborating with Paul on a chocolate pizza for the final in London. Watch this space!
Next up, it’s the South heats. Details soon! And then the finals! Competing were…
Crema Caravan (Edinburgh)
The Scots are coming! 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 whilst working in France. They bought Florence in May 2014 and The Crema Caravan was born –and they always “Burn to Order! Most unusual request? A vegan crème brûlée — made with tofu. No offence vegans, but…
Fat Hippo (Newcastle)
Northumbrian beef – pink, juicy and straight off the grill – topped with cheese, gherkins, ketchup and a smear of American mustard. You really don’t need to overcomplicate a classic. Local boys Fat Hippo like to grind and blend their acclaimed beef burgers in-house every day. It keeps them fresh as you like and – they boast – produces the best burgers anywhere in Scotland and the North. Come see if they’re right…
Ten years ago, Mudassar Amjad and his brother Tayub set up a small 10-cover restaurant in Bradford. But they still insisted on trading at small melas and local street markets. From a trike. It helped perfect the marinade (“our secret weapon” says Mudassar) for their chicken tikka. As much as they love what’s happening in Britain, their favourite place for street food is India. “It’s completely effortless” says Mudassar. “Not like you’re being sold ‘culture’.” Wait til they taste the atmosphere at The Steamer….
One of the very few Arabic Street Food traders in Scotland and the North, Papaganoush are a father and son team — a family run operation that adopts a modern approach to Middle Eastern food with a relaxed swagger. They are proud of their gazebo because it allows the public to see what they cook from start to finish. “We keep it simple but those who are contained within it have infectious banter and great knowledge. Our facia is made from re-cycled pallets, silk and handmade signage produced by one of our staff and a talented local designer. Collaboration!” Expect everything from African/Arabic stews to wood-fired lahmacun, gozleme and Moroccan pulled lamb.
The husband and wife team have had one heck of a year. They were the first of the 14 traders announced for the Scotland and the North heats of the 2015 British Street Food Awards. And they’re the latest to go indoors. After two successful stints in Trinity Kitchen – the street food shopping mall — they fell in love with Leeds and decided to stay. But much as they love the city, Sarah and Dong (above) will always think of Bankgok as home. “They call it the city that never sleeps” says Sarah. “It’s actually the city that never stops eating. There’s the som tum lady wandering the streets with her whole set-up balanced on her shoulders – ready to put it down and pound a papaya salad right there and then. Or the dried baby octupus displayed on a rack that’s welded to a push bike. In Bangkok you don’t have to find food — food finds you.” The lovely couple got married in Bangkok. And the catering wasn’t a problem. “Once the sun went down motorcycle food carts started showing up and before we knew it there was an impromptu food court assembling along the road outside. Some kids next door saw an opportunity and set up a mini whiskey soda shop. In Thailand anything goes — no permits, no licences, just common sense catering.” The pair will be bringing their legendary tuk tuk to The Steamer in Newcastle to compete in the heats. And Dong has promised to do his signature BBQ pork neck – even though it’s a real hard sell. “People over here queue in droves for a bacon sandwich or a hot dog” he says. “But when it comes to an actual slab of pork people seem wary. In Thailand we’re addicted to pork. It might mean free tasters, but nothing makes me happier than bringing the curious over to my side.”
Scream For Pizza (Newcastle)
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…”
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium (Manchester)
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium serve ice cream for grown-ups. Claire Kelsey set up the business in 2010 not knowing quite what she wanted to do with the newly purchased ice cream van outside her flat. She just knew it would be something special. She got hooked on the alchemy of cream, sugar and flavour and — before long — was recruited by The Experimental Food Society. They still talk about her goat’s milk ice cream in seminars. “I understand my menu is different “ says Claire. “Sometimes odd. That is why we take the time and care with our customers. Try before you buy is totally fine with us!” The honey and tahini is extraordinary. So is the white chocolate and pink peppercorn. She has won three British Street Food Awards at the least count, and has promised something extra special for this year’s heats at the Steamer. Just keep your fingers crossed that she’s got some This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven – a divine mess of roasted banana, salted caramel and peanut.
Claw Hide (Newcastle)
Steak is more than a food – it’s a life philosophy. Seated at life’s dining table (we tend to go on like this after a glass of red) our eyes may wander over what else is on offer. But we always come back for steak. At Claw Hide, it’s chargrilled flat iron steak – juicy as you like — in a wood-fired flatbread. One of the simplest meals to prepare – yet somehow one of the hardest to get absolutely right. Not using a hot enough pan, turning the steak too many times, not allowing it to rest….why not leave it to the experts?
Pickled Porker (York)
The Pickled Porker trade from the Pig Shed. It’s a one-off – part Basque cider house and part Yorkshire pub – and a place where you can sit down and enjoy Yorkshire craft ciders with low and slow meats on brioche, or a Yorkshire tapas board with two or three dishes to share. Not that you’ll be doing a lot of sharing. With cider-glazed Yorkshire chorizo and fennel seeds on the menu, and cider-braised pork cheeks with rosemary and white bean smash, why on earth would you share?
Fire & Salt BBQ Co. (Manchester)
The idea for Fire & Salt came from a bunch of guys deciding to cook a pig in a backyard pit. Their obsession with all things smoked and rubbed has now evolved into Championship level barbecue, done right. Marinated meats, slow-cooked above wood and charcoal, with handmade sauces that taste a little bit special. Stop by the trailer smoker and you won’t be disappointed.
Bangers And Bacon (Manchester)
Such a simple idea – bangers and bacon. “But we make all our own sausages” says Richard Brown, “and cure all the bacon ourselves. That way we know where it came from, and what’s in it, and we can create a bespoke flavour for a particular dish.” And then there’s the touches that turn the dish into an art form. Take the Porchetta — rolled middle of pork stuffed with herbs and garlic, slow roasted and set on a flatbread with salsa verde and dressed leaves. Genius. Most unusual question? “Do you have anything suitable for Jews?” Most quick-witted answer? “The bread”.