Food halls are hot right now, with London getting two major additions this month alone - Borough Market Kitchen and Market Halls West End.
The first, Borough Market’s first ever communal dining space, opened on Monday with over 20 stalls and stands. Market Halls West End, meanwhile, got going at the end of last week, with eleven independent food traders all representing different areas and cuisines typical of the budding street food movement.
The critically acclaimed and wildly popular Arcade Food Theatre and Kerb’s Seven Dials Market also launched in 2019, with food halls providing wide-reaching perspective on the UK food scene.
And Market Halls West End, now the UK’s largest single food court, boasts several noteworthy food trends among their eclectic food stand line-up, with unusual Asian dishes catching the eye.
Chirashi, jian bing and jiaozi
One of the most talked about of the food traders here is Yatai, a Japanese concept restaurant from the former Restaurant Story head chef, Angelo Sato. Meaning ‘shop stand’ in Japanese, Yatai offers a range of sushi, katsu curries and ‘sandos’, and chirashi bowls.
A chirashi bowl is similar to the poke bowl concept, containing sushi rice, slices of sashimi, a plethora of vegetables and extra toppings such as crispy shallots, radish and pickles.
Gopal’s Corner, an offshoot from the celebrated Malaysian cheap-eat restaurant, Roti King, is also causing a stir. Peddling their famous buttery roti breads, with a larger Tamil-inspired menu; Gopal’s Corner is also a stall at Market Halls Victoria, with owner Sugen Gopal’s growing armada of spots part of the growing trend for Asia Pacific cuisines in the capital.
Two traders at Market Halls West End focus on Chinese cuisine. The first, Pleasant Lady, deals specifically with jian bing – a crispy crêpe-like wrap stuffed with an array of savoury ingredients. The hand-held Chinese favourite has an eggy coating and is served with a sweet and savoury sauce, with visitors able to add miso grill chicken, iberico pork or cumin lamb to a base layer of vegetables.
The second is Baozilnn with their contemporary Cantonese menu that includes a dedicated section for jiaozi – a traditional Chinese dumpling. And, in true Hong Kong fashion, a selection of Chinese roasted meats and barbecued roast ducks will hang from their windows.
Market Halls West End’s only dedicated vegan outpost is CookDaily, which is well known on the London food circuit for their South East Asian street food with meat-free chicken and fish.
Pizza, kebabs and chicken
Classic Texan barbecue/smoking joint, Hotbox, use a combination of kiln-dried hickory and oak in their rotisserie smoker, with an array of meats dry-rubbed before being slow-cooked at a low heat. There are Korean influences here, with their pepper-rubbed beef short rib with smoked dripping BBQ sauce and pickled kimchi slaw a good example of what’s being cooked up.
Rotisserie is the aim of the game for Goodbirds, too, who use fire and creative sauces to elevate the chicken. Roasted chicken is a big focus, with sides such as fire-roasted broccoli with oyster and anchovy butter and sticky rice with burnt onions.
NYC pizza slices also make an appearance through Paradise Slice Pizza Shop, with a menu that includes classic margherita and pepperoni slices alongside more creative options and a vegan offering - The Vegan Heathen, which is made up of homemade tofu ricotta, mushrooms, roasted peppers, red onion, artichoke, capers, cherry tomatoes, basil oil and a fresh basil dressing.
There’s also fresh pasta – incidentally one of Deliveroo’s predicted delivery trends for 2020 – through Pastaio and a Mexican revamp with Super Tacos, who cook with charcoal.
Finally, there’s the modern kebab peddlers, Fanny’s Kebabs and their continuing mission to provide free-range, healthier kebabs. Their short menu includes chicken, lamb and vegan falafel, with daily specials and several sides (including baba ghanoush and flatbreads).