01 | Sep | 16

Hugh Thomas

Playing Away

Ever watched a game, even if you hated the sport? A lot of us have, whether it’s England dropping miserably out of the Euros this year (or any year, come to that), or Barnsley lifting the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on a soggy afternoon in April.

Doesn’t matter if we enjoy watching the footy less than treading on a stray piece of Lego – if our local or national team’s involved, we can’t get enough. It’s the same with street food — and September 17/18 is our Cup Final.

For the past few months, we’ve been tracking down the best street food traders in England, Scotland and Wales. This year you can add another one to that list because Northern Ireland are going to be represented in the Awards for the first time, meaning we’ll have the most diverse collection of traders to park up at any UK festival. Ever.

This all culminates in a grand old bash at the end of the season. Seventeen traders will be put to the test by some highly esteemed judges. And you. That’s the important part – traders will be out for your vote and your support. Especially the home fans.

Birmingham have the home advantage, with 2014 finalists Buddha Belly and debutants Baked in Brick entering the fray. But what about Hull? New kids on the street food block, they have broken into the top tier courtesy of Michelin-starred chef Chris Harrison and Shoot The Bull? Or Leeds’ Pizza Loco, finalist in our Facebook vote for Best Looking Mobiler? Historically, Yorkshire have churned out traders with a title-winning pedigree — remember Fu-Shnikens won Best of the Best back in 2014.

But for London traders, every game is a home game. Represented this year by Cheeky Indian, The Breakfast Club, Dosa Deli, Le Bao, Cheeky Burger, and Smokin’ Lotus, the capital’s team will be difficult to match. What’s more, Londoners are so used to that ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality that quality runs in the DNA.

Last year’s Best Dessert category was won by Scotland’s Crema Caravan, but the Award could be making its way to the South West this time round. Rosemary Shrager was bowled over by Devon’s Cracking Nuts at the opening heat in May, but they’ll need to beat more than just local competition to win the category. And, with last year’s overall winners (the sublime SeaDog) coming from Devon, Cracking Nuts are also defending their county’s street food credentials.

Green by name and green by nature, Ireland’s traders will be the rookie participants to this year’s Final. But that’s not to say they haven’t got it in them – we’ve seen what they’re capable of, as have the Guild of Fine Foods, which means we may well have the ultimate dark horses on our hands.

As for the rest, you’ll have to go back to 2012, when Ginger’s Comfort Emporium were named Best of the Best, to hear about Manchester’s accolades. Same goes for Bristol and Kent – Katie and Kim won Best of the Best in 2013 and Little Blue Smokehouse got a People’s Choice in 2014. Wales has had strong rep from Café Mor for as long as we can remember – Jonathan Williams’ seaweed-based menu has been a real crowd pleaser since 2011, when he won Best of the Best. But what about his lobster rolls? Can he do it again?