15 | Sep | 19

Hugh Thomas

We Are The Champions

How much fun can you have in a warehouse in South East London? A lot, it turns out. Our 16 finalists came to Street Feast’s Hawker House from all over the UK (from Leeds to Edinburgh; from Nottingham to Caerphilly) to compete at the final of the 2019 British Street Food Awards supported by Hellman’s. After five qualifying heats around the country, the traders came to the capital to fight for top honours. And a spot at the European Street Food Awards in Sweden.


It was our tenth birthday, and the 2019 final got even more attention than usual. We were on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Plus the ITV news. The print media loved the intense competition. We were pick of the day in the Standard. And Metro. They loved our free canapés – made from food waste. End result? Tickets sold out. Alright, the sunshine may have helped. But we’ve been doing this a long time. And these were some of THE BEST STREET FOOD MENUS WE HAD EVER SEEN.

But it was the boys and girls in yellow that the judges voted as Champions – Pabellón, who trade in Waterloo with their Venezuelan menu, won gold for their slow-cooked sauces, fresh salads and hand-made arepas as much as for their energy and affability. Veteran BSF judge, cookbook author and BAFTA-nominated actress Fay Ripley summed it up nicely: “They’re my pick for the overall experience – lovely people, and lovely food.”

Meanwhile, Utter Waffle were in the thick of it, soaking up the sun (and the punters’ votes). “Such a smiley team” said BSFA founder Richard Johnson. “And the talk of the weekend with their savoury waffles”. It helped that they had been talking about the BSFA on Sunday Brunch the weekend before. The London-based stuffed waffle-slingers picked up People’s Choice and Best Dessert for their trouble. Oh, AND Best Looking Mobiler for Reggie the Waffle Wagon.

Competition was tougher than ever in the tenth anniversary year for the British Street Food Awards. “It would have made it easier to judge if there were some rubbish entries,’ commented Fay, who struggled at times with the 32 courses that she had to sample. Ranie Sirah, the reigning European Street Food Awards champion, joined the judges table and was blown away by the quality. “I’m very pleased I’m not in competition this year” he said.

Which only made winning all the more special. Pink Peppercorn from Glamorgan, the winners of this year’s Welsh Street Food Awards, picked up Best Main Dish. Alex’s attention to provenance and Slow Food – Welsh chorizo, Tenby mussels and all – giving him a leg-up on the competition. Saturday Kitchen’s Matt Tebbutt deemed it “really, really good food”, while Fay thought his dishes were, simply, “beautiful”.

Turo Turo introduced the complexities of Filipino cuisine to a very eager crowd at Hawker House – and came away winners as a result. Well, we all did really. Their charred aubergine in a soy garlic glaze, served up with a tomato salsa, toasted peanuts, fried tofu and garlic fried rice was a thing of wonder, and won them the Best Vegetarian category. “It was the toughest category this year” said Richard. “Another great indicator of how Britain’s tastes are changing.”

We had a TITANIC competition for Best Snack. The judges couldn’t be split between Homeboys from Nottingham and Wanderers Kneaded from Edinburgh. Homeboys got Matt’s vote for their “amazing” pig’s head croquettes, with Ben Ebbrell (of SORTEDfood) going for Wanderers. “Their sourdough was excellent, their Scottish buratta was genius. If we were judging a pizza competition, they would have have won.” Instead we voted to have TWO winners.

Jon Marsden-Jones, Michelin-starred chef at The Black Rat, fell for Flying Cow’s burgers. A champion of sustainable food, Jon liked that the Dexter beef came from Dan’s own farm. “That’s the way a burger should be,” he said of their Truffle Shuffle. Flying Cows also had a fan in Fay, saying that she’ll dream about it when she’s next hungover. The decision was unanimous. Flying Cows, winners of Best Burger in 2017, should win again in 2019.

You would have thought Robin from Buffalo Truck would be tired of the M6 by now. Not so – the multi award-winner of the Scottish Street Food Awards, all the way down from Edinburgh, was out for blood. And showing Londoners a bit of (fried chicken) thigh along the way. Falling in line with the overall “amazing standard”, said Matt, it was only due to Dan’s efforts that Robin headed back up the M6 without silverware.

Flying Cows also beat Indian Street Kitchen’s slow cooked lamb raan burger to the coveted Best Burger prize. Fay embraced Indian Street Kitchen’s exciting approach to Mexican-Indian fusion. And despite being “more full than I’d ever been in my life”, managed a mouthful or three of the Amritsari pindi chana (chickpea) and 3 cheeses rocket served in a toasted yeast-free Italian Piadina (Paratha),

Fay made a convincing case for MorMor as BSFA Champions. She said that their chicken shawarma “took shawarma to the next level” and felt that the other judges had criminally “overlooked” Hugo in their Champions considerations. Especially when MorMor’s vegan buffalo wings were taken into consideration. A BSFA might not go back to Leeds with MorMor, but plenty of love sure will.

MorMor’s queues were indicative of the public’s affections. Londoners know their street food so, in an arena like this, traders have to be better than what’s already out there. Fortunately for Makasih, their roti stood up against anything from Roti King or Umana Yana. Their butternut squash and blue rice curry won over the likes of Winnie, a 5-month-old who tried EVERYTHING at the Awards. Judging panel next year, Winnie?

Elsewhere, we had Kokodoo and their Korean Fried Chicken. If it wasn’t for Pabellón, Turo Turo and Kokodoo were Jon’s favourite traders. “That kind of food? I’d Deliveroo it” said Fay. Kokodoo Deliveroo? Catchy. All the way from Hull and, perhaps less befitting of Deliveroo, was Shoot The Bull. Matt was all up for their ‘beautifully sourced’ and of-the-moment lamb flatbread. Ben, meanwhile, liked the ‘Instagramable’ cheese-pull on the poutine.

Talking of Instagramable, Dolly Does It All won the Most Photographed All Weekend award. But Andrew works as a private chef and proved that there was more to Dolly’s success than her canopy and her paint job. It’s remarkable what he managed out of the back of a Citroen 2CV. Korean short rib? No problem when you’ve got a sous vide in the glove compartment. Lobster roll? Go on then. A flight of soufflés? Sweet and savoury? If you must.

It also turns out that beef brisket can win you a lot of fans. The ladies and gents from Hampshire – Need Street Food – racked up the public’s votes throughout the weekend, and were a hit among the judges too. In a lot of other competitions, their impeccable brisket sandwich “would have won the day” said Fay. People were also blown away by the fact that every sandwich sold helps pay for protein sachets to be distributed to areas facing acute malnutrition in the developing world.

Need Street Food shared the Most Sustainable award, sponsored by Hellmann’s, with AritSam. The Sustainable Restaurant Association, who wrote the Award’s guidelines, said that Need Street Food were always going to be a a tough act to beat. But ArtiSam, “who swallowed the sustainability manual” deserved to share the Award for their progressive attitudes – pickling leftovers and building an in-house aquaponic system to grow their own herbs and salad.

Going up against Utter Waffle in the dessert category, Flats also had it tough. While their vegan doughnuts – sweet flatbreads essentially, anointed with marshmallow fluff, Lotus biscuits and chocolate sauce – lived up to their name, their enthusiasm was anything but. Their only complaint? The high counters at Hawker House meant that customers couldn’t see the marshmallow fluff being torched. They LOVE their customer interraction.

It was our most sustainable ever British Street Food Awards. There was zero food waste, and Eighth Plate made sure that any leftovers were taken to people in the community who needed it. Meanwhile, Hellman’s, as sponsors, let the public in on what can be achieved with food that would otherwise be binned with their ‘real taste, less waste’ H Van. Whether it was potato gnocchi or any veg frittata, it showed what could be done with a bit of imagination. So who’s in for Sweden?

THE WINNERS

CHAMPION – Pabellon (London). Second Place – Homeboys (Nottingham). Third Place – The Pink Peppercorn (Glamorgan)

PEOPLE’S CHOICE – Utter Waffle (London)

BEST MAIN DISH

The Pink Peppercorn (Glamorgan)
Fishguard Cawl: Welsh chorizo, Tenby mussels, pan-fried MSC hake and burnt Kent corn. With marsh samphire, pickled rock samphire, salsa verde, heritage tomato and dusty knuckle bread.

BEST VEGETARIAN

Turo, Turo (London)
Charred Aubergine and Tomato: Charred Aubergine with a soy garlic glaze, tomato salsa, toasted peanuts, fried tofu and garlic fried rice.

BEST SNACK – TWO WINNERS

Homeboys (Nottingham)
Crispy Pig’s Head: Oak smoked ham hock and six-hour braised jowl croquette, pickled pineapple, pea shoots, bonito salt, lime.

AND

Wanderers Kneaded (Edinburgh)

Sweet Fire: Figs and Nduja pizza topped with an exploded burratina and organic hot honey on a base of our unique sourdough.

BEST BURGER

Flying Cows (West Midlands)

Truffle Shuffle: Aged Dexter beef patty, mature cheddar, truffle and porcini mayo, beef fat caramelised onions, smoked bacon

BEST SANDWICH

Pabellon (London)

Beef arepa with sweet potatoes tempura fries: Hand-made grilled cornbread filled with shredded beef slow-cooked in our own sauce, deep-fried sweet plantains, creamy avocado chunks, grated cheddar cheese and homemade garlic sauce. As a side, crispy tempura sweet potatoes with smoked paprika and sea salt.

BEST DESSERT

Utter Waffle (London)
A Waffle a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Warm waffle soldiers dunked in cinnamon apple compote, biscoff cream, salted caramel and fudge.

MOST SUSTAINABLE award sponsored by Hellmann’s – Need Street Food (Hampshire) and ArtiSam (Manchester)

BEST LOOKING – Utter Waffle (London)