Hard to believe it’s all over. But the 2016 British Street Food Awards have been a blast. The final was a fitting end to our best season ever. We unearthed some extraordinary talent along the way, at the West and Wales heat in Bristol, the South and East heat on Blackheath Common and the Scotland and the North heat in Leeds Dock. Buddha Belly won the Central heat, closely beating The Meat Shack and Street Souvlaki to the top spot. And we finished off in Northern Ireland, with heats at the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival — an amazing showcase of produce and provenance. But what about the final?
We had more than 3,000 entries for the 2016 British Street Food Awards. And after six months on the road, it came down to 17 street food professionals, from all over the UK, cooking in pursuit of honour and prizes. What. A. Corker.
Last year the final was at the O2. But in 2016 we parked up in Birmingham. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. Digbeth Dining Club know how to throw one heck of a bash.
We made a noise on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. In the Daily Telegraph. And on twitter. All over. But it was YOU who really made it happen. Thanks to the thousands that turned out. You came a long way for what we hope was more than just a lunch. St Ives, Bath, Whitstable, Pembroke, Leeds and Derry — all over the UK. Heck, even London – the birthplace of the street food revolution.
But, for one weekend in September, the eyes of the street food world were all on Birmingham. The public voted with their hearts as much as their stomachs – Buddha Belly and Baked In Brick’s home advantage came into play, with votes in the People’s Choice Award getting up into the thousands. It was neck and neck when Saturday came to a close.
Sunday was a trader’s dream: a real sun’s out/buns out scenario. Our long-suffering judges (bear in mind they were required to taste EVERYTHING), from their patch of shade picked out the category winners from this little lot. To be voted the top dog by some of the biggest names in British food? That’s prize enough.
But it definitely helped that the winners of Best Of The Best were also going to get to pitch up at Trinity Kitchen, the game-changing street food market in the sky curated by British Street Food. Plus a guest spot at one of London Union’s world-beating markets — they’re the people behind the 2016 award for Best Street Food Event. And a month at Digbeth Dining Club. Our best prize ever. So, who won what?
BEST OF THE BEST (sponsored by Santa Maria)
Baked In Brick
PEOPLE’S CHOICE (sponsored by NCASS)
Goat offal and chorizo taco
BEST MAIN DISH (sponsored by Steelite)
Baked In Brick
Shire meadows beef shin ragu and wild mushroom calzone, Colston Bassett blue cheese dip.
BSF Cheeky special
UK-sourced grass fed beef hand formed and hand pressed patty (chuck, rib, brisket and bone marrow), Comte cheese, confit onion and rosemary compote, grilled smoked applewood bacon, homemade garlic aioli, homemade ketchup, pickle, served on toasted bun
Bao with braised pork belly, mirin cucumbers, coriander, sweet powdered peanuts, and chili
Chilli Cheese Dosa
A stuffed dosa with a spiced paneer cheese, tomato & roasted channa dhal chutney, fresh red onions and tamarind apple and date chutney. Served with a coconut chutney and a side of Bombay bhel salad (a crunchy puffed rice, cucumber, onion and tamarind sauce salad)
Man Meat Fire 12.15
Fallen Angel Cake
Rich dark chocolate flourless cake with small batch bourbon soaked cherry
BEST LOOKING MOBILER
We ran our poll for the Best Looking Mobiler on Facebook. As always, it attracted a lot of interest, and the final shortlist looked like this:
Baked in Brick
Sweet Ally Schoops
The Toast Office
Market Wraps ran out worthy winners — Yorkshire’s finest, working out of a horsebox dressed up like an allotment.
BEST STREET FOOD EVENT
Finally, after years of Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff fighting it out between themselves, our panel decided that London should win back the crown for Best Street Food Event. We love the way Dinerama has offered up a different type of night out. All in the name of street food. And made scaffolding sexy….
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Just because we remember the early days, when NCASS and British Street Food met for the first time — over sandwiches — and talked about how best to put on the first British Street Food Awards. He’s a great man, with a charitable heart, who has given his life to food safety and gas connectivity. This one’s for you Bob. Thank you.
The Award for Longest Queue (all weekend) went to Dim Sum Su — the hardest working woman in street food. The Trickiest Pitch Award went to Pheasant’s Hill Farm, who made the most of Pitch Number One — right by the entrance. But by frying up buttery onions and pork sliders (and pulling their hotplates forward three feet) they soon managed to draw the crowds. The Most Photographed Award was shared between the food at the Breakfast Club (with their neon sign saying simply ‘Bacon’) and the Catch of the Day on Cafe Mor’s fishing boat. The Destined For Offshore Banking Award went to Well Hung, with their amazing energy, passion and business sense. Sure to be the first street food billionaires. And special mentions for Cracking Nuts, with their ridiculously delicious mix of ice cream and warm nuts, and Cheeky Indian, for an Indian-ish menu that won them a lot of new friends in the West Midlands. The Ones To Watch Award went to Shoot The Bull — the rolled lamb just didn’t happen for them on the day — plus Smokin’ Lotus — both hot contenders for 2017. Did someone say 2017?
BroughGammon (County Antrim)
Broughgammon Farm is situated three miles from the rugged North Antrim coastline, nestled between Ballycastle and Bushmills. Up a long winding lane. It’s a farm with a mission, set up when the team saw that a majority of male kid goats born to the dairy industry were being put down at birth. It seemed such a waste of life — so they set out to rear the males for kid goat meat. They’ve since branched out into free-range rose veal and an on-site butchery to save the animals a long journey to slaughter. This is one inspirational place.
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club are a family-run caff business (note — caff not café) doing a mean old all-day food and drink offering. They say they invented breakfast. Those rumours are unfounded. But whether it’s the bright yellow junk room that is their Soho caff or the Wigan Casino inspired Canary Wharf caff – their joints are all different. And their street food offer? Come see.
Shoot The Bull (Yorkshire)
There’s no neatly-pressed table cloths. No silver cutlery, polished on a waiter’s cuff. But otherwise it’s a full-on restaurant experience at Shoot The Bull. Chris the chef has had years of experience working in the industry, including The Hand & Flowers — the only two star pub in the world – and the Fat Duck. It shows. We brought him in on a job to showcase the finest English lamb and cannot WAIT to see what he produces for the heats.
Buddha Belly (Warwickshire)
Sai Deethwa is a third generation street food trader. Her Auntie, back in Thailand, was in the business, but – to begin with – Sai wasn’t convinced. “I didn’t fancy standing outside” she says. After she made it into the final 24 of Masterchef 2012, street food seemed to allow her the opportunity to be her own boss and sell her own menu. So she set up Buddha Belly. Her food is cheffy but, as Thurber said, ‘Seeing is deceiving – eating is believing’. Her chicken is beautifully moist, and her vegan yellow curry, with toasted cumin and coriander seeds, is sweet and comforting. So, for now, she’s happy enough to stand outside. But catch her while you can. A finalist in 2014, this time she wants a title.
Well Hung (Lancashire)
Well Hung are all about the very best of British steak. James and Heather (the butchers of the team) source the best beef in the local area and then age it, in-house, at the Well Hung butchery. The 28-day flat iron they use in their Philly Cheese steak sandwich is the stuff of legend, and their SLJT — a New York Bagel topped with steak, lettuce, jalapeños and tomato – has been known to stop traffic in Manchester.
Smokin’ Lotus (London)
There’s a lot of excitement in London around Smokin Lotus and their six-hour slow smoked char sui ribs. Their concept – an itinerant Asian BBQ — was born out curiosity. As a young child growing up in China, Rosalind Chik, the founder, was fascinated by the food markets in Yunnan. “I then moved to America where I experienced the precision BBQ techniques which have come to define the Southern style of cooking. This is what makes my food unique!”
Dim Sum Su (Lancashire)
Sue Chiu-Fan Lee was born in Hong Kong and worked in the family food business as soon as she was old enough to reach the till. She’s now all grown up, and cooking authentic dim sum, gua bao, wontons and spring rolls for discerning customers in the North West of England – exactly the same way her family did back home.
Man Meat Fire (Yorkshire)
The first Man Meat Fire gig, at a Christmas market in Lancashire, could have closed this barbecue team for good. “We’d just got the smoker fired up when the direction of the wind changed, creating a tornado in the market square. The main event marquee lifted off and somersaulted through the air past us to land on the roof of a nearby building. Terrifying. Literally a baptism of fire.” The BSFA heats were a breeze by comparison. But now it’s the finals…
Café Mor (Pembrokeshire)
We’ve had vans, trucks and trailers before but A STREET FOOD BOAT? Never. This year, Café Mor (winner of the British Street Food Awards in 2011) have come up with a real game changer. “We had always wanted a fishing boat to sell our fantastic seafood from” says Jonathan, “and saw a lovely old-timer on Ebay.” After a year-and-a-half of designing and building, Josie June (named after Jonathan’s daughter) is finally ready for launch. Expect lobster pot speakers for the sound system, and a Pembrokeshire menu that showcases the very best of the sea. “Plus there are 720 species of seaweed in the UK and we’re on a quest to cook, design and experiment with them all!” Be warned!
Baked In Brick (West Midlands)
When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore. When an eel bites your hand , and that’s not what you planned, that’s a moray. When Othello’s poor wife, she gets stabbed with a knife, that’s a Moor, eh? We all like pizza – that’s why we sing about it. But a definitive thin-crust pizza, cooked on a wood-fired oven in a classic car? Or a chicken tikka wrap, with succulent meat barbecued under the bonnet? Now THAT’S amore.
Cracking Nuts (Devon)
It started with a 200 year old German recipe, a trailer, and a family that wanted to bring hot nuts to the people of Devon. Jonny ‘Nuts’ – Main man and nut maker Jax – Creative support Oli – Mini nut seller, likes to put the stickers on the cones and take the money! (aged 6) Evie – In training (aged 3) They have created a range of sweet cinnamon, salty and chilli-roasted peanuts, cashews and almonds, all warmed over with homemade syrups and ice creams. Oh my.
Dosa Deli (London)
Dosa Deli – stalwarts of the capital’s food scene for years – have always been about bringing the street food of Southern India to the streets of London. The food is always vegetarian, and their dosa recipes are inspired by their travels. Check out their special for the finals — the Bhaji Bhaji Bowl – a cripy onion bhaji with a spiced pav bhaji masala.
Pheasants’ Hill Farm (County Down)
How do you sum up the meat from Pheasants’ Hill Farm? Well, they boast it’s “Ireland’s best free range, rare breed, outdoor roaming, naturally fed, additive free meat.” A mouthful, we know, but a delicious one. All the products served by their trailer are butchered and cured at the farm – come and see what a real happy meal tastes like.
Cheeky Indian (London)
Lock up your Dosas. The Cheeky Indian is here! Ash (lover, cook, and street food manager for Jamie Oliver’s “Barbecoa”) likes to use and abuse traditional Indian flavours, techniques and equipment to create a unique style of what he refers to as “Indianish” street food. It’s a style which saw him and the team voted into the top three traders for the People’s Choice at last year’s British Street Food Awards. This year they want to go one better.
Eat the Farm (Kent)
Eat The Farm are obsessive about the ingredients in their food. “It is not always easy to work like that” says Arturo, the boss. “Take the Ashmore Farmhouse cheese we use. We settled on using this unpasteurised Kentish cheese very early on, but always had challenges around slicing it. The only way is by hand using an Oxo Y Peeler. And bearing in mind that there are two slices of cheese on every burger, when you have a big weekend event looming, that is a lot of slices of cheese to slice by hand. But the effort is worth it.”
Cheeky Burger (London)
Don’t let the word ‘burger’ fool you. Before getting into street food, Sebastian was head chef of a busy gastro pub in London. He’s a classically-trained French chef, and appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals. But it’s his wife, Marta, who is (inadvertently) got him to rethink his future. “I was pregnant” says Marta, “and craving burgers pretty much all day so Sebastien — being fed up with driving me around London looking for perfect burger to satisfy my cravings — created one. And the rest is history.”
Le Bao (London)
In 2013, Jessica and Laetitia started a popular Instagram page with meals that they used to cook at home every day. After a lot of pressure from family and friends to take it to the next level, they decided to start a street food business. “After our trip to Taiwan in 2014, we concluded that baos would definitely be our product of choice, and we would bring them to London with a modern flare!” Le Bao was founded in May 2015…maybe 2016 will be a real year to remember?
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