01 | Nov | 16

Hugh Thomas

Location, Location, Location

Banks. Air raid shelters. Public loos. Seems like there’s rarely a bad place to stage a pop up restaurant. Or even a more permanent one. Well, it’s the same in our little corner of gastronomy.

What street food has been doing to ambulances, horse trailers, and double decker buses for some time, it’s now doing to rundown factories, disused grain silos, and empty train stations. That is, using them to showcase a bit of the old street food magic. The best thing? Taking an place – venerated by the local community – and giving it a sense of purpose again.

Let’s run you through a few good ones. Lewisham’s Model Market, one of Street Feast’s big players, took over the spot of a 1950s indoor/outdoor market, and it’s still got the half-stripped paint (flakes n’ all), eerily empty shop windows, and barbers’ light boxes to show for it.

Sheffield, which was once the world capital of steel, gave up one of its spring making factories for repurposing. Now, it’s the home of Peddler market, which hosts BSF finalists like Dim Sum Su, Shoot The Bull, and Manjit’s Kitchen once a month. That’s what WE call industrious.

Newcastle’s Boiler Shop Steamer is run by a duo one could rarely dream of – a Riley’s Fish Shack/Wylam Brewery collab – in the centre of Newcastle. The kicker? The Boiler Shop space was once used to build some of the most advanced locomotives of its time. Though bear in mind this was around 200 years ago…

Leeds has it good, food-wise. Really, very, good. One of the reasons is Belgrave Music Hall, which was, contrary to its name, a place for working family parents to get support for their kids in the 1930s. Now it’s got a different kind of behaviour going on within its walls – comedy, film, two kitchens, two bars, a bleedin’ roof terrace, and the occasional trader residency.

Dare we tag our own current little endeavour onto the end of the list? Course we will. As Mancunians will know, there was once a functioning fire station on London Road. It’s still there, but the brigade isn’t. Not wanting a 100 year-old, Grade II-listed building to go to waste, we’ve taken it over for The Winter Gathering — a jolly old Christmas bash, with all the small batch coffee, Belgian beer, Lèige waffles, and chuck steak burgers the weather demands. Fetch the firemen back, because it’s about to hotten up in here…