Ones to watch: 2016’s London street food stars

Ones to watch: 2016’s London street food stars

Updated on • Written By Amy Grier

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Ones to watch: 2016’s London street food stars

Forget chef school and long stages in sweaty, sweary kitchens. London’s booming street food movement is now the breeding ground for the hottest restaurants around – and these guys and girls are the ones to watch.

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016

There was a time, not so long ago, when a pop up referred only to a type of book, and a van was something you hired when moving. Now, a new movement has firmly cemented itself (or dragged its Airstream trailer into semi-permanent residency) in the London food scene: street food. Places such as KERB, Druid Street Market, Street Feast and Hawker House have become dining destinations that rival even the most hotly tipped bricks-and-mortar opening, and street food has become a fertile training ground for the chefs of the future.

Get in early and earn some serious bragging rights by following these six vendors who we’re tipping as the restaurant stars of tomorrow.

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016


Who: Rachel Jones, 31, former music PR

What: Italian-American home cooking with an emphasis on meatballs, sandwiches and some of the best red (ie tomato) sauce you’ll ever taste.

Find them: @Capishfood, KERB or at Mason and Company in Hackney (from 16 June)

The story: It all started in December 2012. “Admittedly, it was a terrible time of the year to launch. On our first day’s trading [on Roman Road in the East End] it snowed, the fryer broke down and there were tears. But when I got home I couldn’t wait to do it all over again,” says Jones. The reason Capish? is still here is Petra Barran, founder of KERB. Jones explains: “We picked up a pitch at Red Market in Shoreditch and Petra came along. She instantly got what we were all about, inviting us to join KERB. From there things really took off.”

Since then Capish? has had some pretty special highlights. “Our residency at the Duke of Wellington in Dalston was a turning point, as it allowed me to think seriously about what my own restaurant would be like,” says Jones. “Taking our Meatball Sub on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch was also pretty surreal, and cooking at the premiere of the film Chef was a huge deal.” However the true validation comes from her fans. “When an Italian tells me that our meatballs taste just like their nonna’s I can’t help but feel a sense of achievement.”

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016

BBQ Dreamz

Who: Sinead Campbell, 33, fine art graduate, and Lee Johnson, 32, former restaurant manager and cocktail bartender

What: Filipino grills, hand-rolled prawn spring rolls and a truly awesome pork-belly dish.

Find them: @Bbqdreamz, KERB, Epicurean Events and Brockley Market

The story: Together for a decade, this couple’s street food baby is just two years old, but it’s already something of an over-achiever. They have traded everywhere from KERB at The Gherkin, Paddington and West India Quay, to Street Feast at Model Market in Lewisham and Dalston Yard, and Hawker House in Shoreditch. Last year BBQ Dreamz ran a three-month residency at the Secret Cinema Star Wars event. As if that isn’t enough, they’re also appearing at Lambeth County fair and Wilderness Festival this summer.

The inspiration comes from Johnson’s Filipino heritage, with recipes passed on from his mum, but given a slightly healthier spin. “In the Philippines, everything is deep-fried,” says Johnson. Their bestseller is the Crispy Baboy, a slow-braised, crispy pork belly dish served with jasmine rice, sesame, green bean and cabbage salad, pickled cucumbers and a coriander ginger dressing.

A restaurant deal was in the pipeline but fell through. Watch this space though. BBQ Dreamz is already on the radar thanks to a nomination at last year’s Young British Foodie awards (YBFs) and their growing involvement in the Filipino Food Movement. Filipino food = the new Peruvian food, so get in early.

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016

Eat Poke

Who: Celia Farrar and Guy Jackson, both 30, formerly in fashion and graphic design.

What: A kind of Hawaiian version of sushi that’s made with black rice and marinated raw fish. Soon to eclipse ceviche as the dish to be seen eating this summer.

Find them: @eatpokelondon/, Selfridges food hall, KERB, and Street Feast Dalston.

The story: First up, it’s pronounced ‘poh-kay’. And it all started in LA, well, for Farrar anyway. “The first time I had poke was on Venice Beach two years ago, and I fell in love with it. As soon as I got back to the UK, Guy and I started recipe testing and we eventually decided to take the plunge and run a stall full-time in June 2015,” she explains.

KERB spotted them on Instagram, and from there they appeared at KERB King’s Cross, and then at Druid Street Market in Bermondsey and Street Feast.

Poke’s popularity lies in its point of difference. “A lot of street food is very meat-heavy, so having something raw and salad-based is far from the norm. People love it though, because it’s small and light, and good when you’ve got a drink in your hand,” says Farrar. So is a restaurant on the cards soon? “It’s definitely on our radar. We’ve had interest from someone wanting to invest, which is exciting.”

Have you checked out our London pop-up restaurants and bars page? This lot will keep you way ahead of the London curve…

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016

Blu Top Ice Cream

Who: Richard Makin, 28, formerly a research manager at University of the Arts London

What: Homemade cookie and artisan ice-cream sandwiches.

Find them: @blutopicecream /, KERB, Druid St. Market

The story: The UK has some of the best dairy in the world, which is why ice cream obsessive Makin decided to go down the sweet route for his first foray into the street food arena. “I lived in San Francisco for a bit, and there are two big food movements out there, the natural food movement and the street food scene. I wanted to combine the two and showcase the amazing produce that we have in this country by creating artisanal ice cream in the type of sandwiches I had growing up,” says Makin. “As a child, I regularly spent all my lunch money on a Maxibon, so doing this for a living now is pretty special.”

Blu Top is famous for its brown toast and jam ice cream sandwiched between two brown butter chocolate chip cookies. “I make cinnamon rye bread, toast it with sugar and cinnamon, and add those breadcrumbs to vanilla ice cream with a big swirl of raspberry jam.” Following a YBF nomination a few publishers have shown interest and something could be in the pipeline, but for now the dawn of summer means Blu Top’s in for a busy few months.

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Decatur pop up restaurant London Spring 2016


Who: Tom Browne, 28, a former travel manager at STA in New York

What: Louisianan and southern American delights that run the gamut from grilled oysters to buttermilk-fried quail, prepared using the best British produce.

Find them: @Decaturlondon, Druid St. Market and Pamela

The story: The van was stolen after only six months and if Browne’s food had been sub-standard that would have spelled the end. But it’s exceptional, so Decatur has quickly landed a residency at Pamela, a hip Dalston cocktail bar.

“New Orleans has one of the best casual dining scenes in the world,” says Browne. “The idea came to me when I was living in New York a few years ago. I was travelling to New Orleans a lot as I had friends there, and just became obsessed.” Then came KERB and Druid Street Market, all within only a few months of trading.

The dish that’s made Browne’s name is the chargrilled oysters. Sourced from Maldon in Essex, they’re laced with garlic and pecorino butter and hot sauce. “They come out from under the grill and are hot and steaming and bubbling.” Happily for Browne (and Haggerston), Decatur is now a permanent fixture at Pamela.

Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016Street food vendors London Squaremeal spring 2016


Who: Fabian Clark, 27, who previously worked in branding

What: Unsurprisingly, it’s a celebration of all things crab, including a crab burger, crab mac’n’cheese and a crab roll that rivals its more famous lobster sibling

Find them: @CLAWfood /, KERB or at their residence at The Hat and Tun, from Wednesday 15 until Friday 17 June and Wednesday 22 until Friday 24 June (5:30pm – 9pm) and at Skylon from June-August.

The story: It all started with a crab sandwich on the Isle of Wight as a child. “It stuck with me, so that when I went back two years ago with a few friends, I knew it would be the start of a business,” says Clark, who approached his new venture from a business and branding angle, despite his considerable passion for the subject. “I knew I didn’t want to be on the street food scene for years. I wanted Claw to become a restaurant” says Clarke, and with a couple of residencies on the way, he could well get his wish.

Last year Claw won the much sought-after Virgin Foodpreneur award, a sign that things are going in the right direction. It’s also just finished a weekend pop-up at Fish Market restaurant in Borough, testing the water for what could become the most exciting thing to happen to seafood since Sexy Fish put a 13ft black crocodile on the wall.

For more of London’s best street food and shiniest rising stars, don’t forget to take a look at our London pop-up restaurants and bars list

Portraits by Steve Ryan

This article was originally published in the spring 2016 edition of Squaremeal Lifestyle magazine

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