FOOD FESTIVALS. Arguably, they are the best thing about summer time in London, since, well, the weather is almost always terrible, and the closest thing we have to a sandy beach is Boris Johnson’s ridiculous hair. But food – glorious summer street food, is what London does best, and the team at Halal Gems may have just thrown one of the best festivals yet. “Street Eats” – a halal, alcohol-free, family-friendly event in Spitalfields Market, is one of its kind, and after all the excitement they’ve been stirring up in the last few weeks, we finally had the chance to enjoy the fruits* (*burgers, chaat, ice cream, pancakes) of their labour. Below is a run-through of just some of the glorious grub that was on offer, and if you’re visiting today, a heads-up on what to look out for.
Chit Chaat Chai:
After progressing from a market-trader to a fully-fledged restaurant owner, Tania Rahman and her chit-chaat-ing team returned to their roots with a crispy, crunchy offering of their addictive bhel puri. Remember, every (binge-eating) marathon requires a thorough warm-up, so be sure to pay them a visit.
Bhel Puri by Chit Chaat Chai (£3)
Regular Instagram users will no doubt recognise the famous pomegranate-laden halloumi fries by Oli Baba’s, often found lurking amongst hipsters and cool kids at Kerb Camden Lock. Aesthetically pleasing they may be, but personally, we were rather underwhelmed.
Halloumi Fries by Oli Baba’s (£6)
The team from Bake Street Cafe were also on hand with a line-up of tacos, filled with lamb, chicken, and vegetable fillings. We tried a triple tray, and were quickly taken aback when the vibrant vegetable taco came out on top.
Taco tray by Bake Street Cafe (£8)
Naturally, we had to counter this sentiment with a mouthful of meat, and so, we stopped by the Band of Burgers stall, which literally had a long, snaking queue by the end of the day. The reason? Their gloriously creamy “Mexican” burger, and their heart-stoppingly cheesy “American” burger – which comes with a show-stopping fried cheese patty. Need we say more?
The Mexican by B.O.B (£8)
Meat & Shake
Meat & Shake also made an appearance with their familiar slow-cooked beef brisket burgers. Though they were a resounding hit as always, we did find them to be a little on the dry side of life. They also had to shut shop early, so consider paying them a visit first if you really want to get your hands on their food.
Beef brisket burgers by Meat & Shake (£6.80)
Equally popular were the two stalls run by veteran chef Omar Shah, who soon found both himself and his team rushed off their feet. With a line up of adobo lamb ribs, adobo and buffalo chicken wings, and chicken and waffle tocinos, it’s no wonder that we had to wrestle our fellow food-lovers for a bite.
Chicken & Waffle Tocino by Bintang (£8.50)
Adobo wings by Bintang (£6)
Another item that caught our eye was the “Indian fish & chips” from Little Mangalore, which sought to put a spicy twist on a classic British dish. Unfortunately however, the flavours and textures fell a little flat of our expectations, so this may be one to reconsider.
Indian fish & chips (£7)
Indian Street Kitchen
If the queues at B.O.B and Meat & Shake get a bit too lengthy, consider popping by the Indian Street Kitchen for a pulled lamb raan burger. It’s not quite as life-threatening as its counterparts, but the soft lamb should do well to satisfy your meat tooth.
Lamb Raan Burger
Mamason’s Dirty Ice Cream
As featured on our collection of London’s Top 10 ice-creams, Mamason’s is London’s first Filipino ice cream parlour, and their deliciously dirty ice-cream is well worth dying for. If you don’t manage to pick up a fluffy bilog filled with heavenly ube ice cream, be sure to stop by their parlour in Camden to do so.
Of course, no food festival is complete without the crafty and creative team behind Blu Top Ice Cream. They also featured in our collection of London’s Top 10 ice-creams , and if you take a peek at the range of flavours on offer, you’ll soon know why.
Cardamom & Jaggery by Blu Top Ice Cream
By far the greatest thing about a food festival is the tendency to stumble across a relatively unknown and brilliant trader, and Darlish certainly falls into this category. Her range of Persian ice cream flavours is heavenly to say the least, and we found it very difficult to pick just two.
Muscavado & Molasses and Orange Blossom ice cream by Darlish
Waffle Stick UK is another relative newcomer to the street food scene, and we just couldn’t resist the temptation to try a lotus biscoff waffle drizzled in nutella. The hot steaming waffle was certainly satiating, but I would have liked for it to have been doused in an actual biscoff sauce – rather than biscoff crumbs alone. Nonetheless, they’re certainly worth a go.
Waffle Stick UK
Lotus Biscoff & Nutella (£4.50)
Stacked Dutch Pancakes
Needless to say, the magical thing about pancakes is that you can have them whenever you want. Summer time? Check. Winter time? Check. Breakfast time? Check. Lunch time? Check. Dinner time? Err probably not, but go ahead anyway. Stop by the Stacked Dutch Pancakes stall, and you’ll no doubt find yourself fighting the temptation to indulge in their nutella-slathered pancakes. *Whispers* You know you want it.
If for some bizarre reason, you love your family enough to want to take something home for them, be sure to stop by Bake Street‘s sister stall – Evering Cake. From dainty cupcakes to hefty lemon bars, they have everything you need to doom your loved ones to the dentist’s chair.
Square Root London & Penny Appeal
Lastly, to wash down all that sugar and junk, stop by Square Root London’s soda bar or Penny Appeal’s drink stalls for some sugary sodas and sugary juices respectively. For those who are unaware, Penny Appeal is an international charity, and all of their proceeds from the festival will be going towards their “Feed The World” campaign.
If you opt for a Square Root soda, try the mango & lime or the “nojito”, but steer clear of the uninspiring raspberry lemonade.
Raspberry Lemonade and Mango & Lime
And so, after a full day of eating ourselves into an early grave, we can say that the first day of the Street Eats festival was a resounding success. The turnout certainly became excessive towards the end of the day, but that is simply the nature of a popular free-entry food festival, and something that could not have been avoided. From our perspective, Street Eats has set an example for the quality and variety of traders that should be on offer at a halal food festival, and we tip our hats to the Halal Gems team for making it happen.
If you’re reading this in good time, be sure to head down early to Spitalfields Market for the second day of Street Eats (29th July 2017), and if not, pray that the kind folks at Halal Gems have the energy to organise a sequel next year.