When is a street feast not a street feast?
“Uhm, when it’s not on the street?”
Congratulations! You win a burger. That will be £7 please.
“But, but I”
– ok I tell you what how about a couple of little Tacos for £6?
No, no we’re not that mean. You can have two little short rib beef tacos for £6.
“So that’s £3 for a portion of food weighing in at approx. the weight of a bag of crisps.”
Well come on you’re paying for your surroundings.
“Really? This disused shell of a warehouse justifies as high a mark-up as wahaca for instance where for £4 you can eat three tacos, inside a restaurant?”
You’re paying for the ambience innit? I mean if we made it cheap all the riff-raff would come in. The hoi polloi. The cheapskates.
“You mean, the people who don’t want to pay £4 to drink 175ml of beer in a shell of an industrial lot ….so you mean, most people?”
Nah, look around you, loads of people. They’re all here aren’t they?
“Are they people? They look more like sheep to me. Put out to pasture, grazing slowly on the green grass of a brighter tomorrow, framed in the decadent sheen of this shabby chic homage to the pop-uppathon fad that has swept the nation. Chomping naively in to the salty burger of hipsterism as the gloopy relish of gullibility swamps their palates and souls…”
I’ll stop right there because in actual fact, despite what I along with others viewed as being pretty steep prices, it has to be said that Street Feast is actually quite brilliant. Certainly the word on the (not) street is that they’ve got the right mix for the right people. Product, Place, maybe not price but promotion, tick tick cross tick. And those 3 squidola tacos? Delicious. I had three of them. One in particular was an absolute flavour bomb, made with porcinis cooked in about a thousand spices and more salt than the Med. The burger was relatively unremarkable without being easy to fault.
I also succumbed to the much lauded “pickle back.” A shot of tequila is chased with a shot of pickle juice. Not quite as delicious as I expected and the tequila could have been three times bigger, but a cute gimmick and pick-me-up.
So how and why does Street Feast work, and the conjoined plethora of street food markets and pop ups with it?
It’s the upside to the collapse of corporate Britain which actually hasn’t collapsed but has a certain ring to it that could hardly be resisted. It’s a perk to the craving for indie brands that dominate cool press and get tongues wagging in all the right places. I beg your pardon. It’s cultural, collaborative, quirky dining in a nutshell, BUT and here is the big butt (I like them, I just can’t lie) it’s not street food. Not at those prices it isn’t. Certainly it’s more social than going to a restaurant, as the casual and open plan aspect encourages people to mingle more, and the thrill of the new makes for good nattering. However, it is in essence a glorified restaurant.
The financial hardships of the last few years have resulted in a surge of entrepreneurial endeavours. Pop-ups, supper clubs, individual, creative, quirky brands operating with low set-up costs for short durations; its all the rage. We’re almost spoilt for choice, but in a city this large does it really matter? That this cultural phenomenon coincides roughly with the emergence of a wave of foodie bloggers and social mediaphiles makes it all the more engaging. Now anybody and everybody can be an influencer. Swanning from place to place, they compare and compete with one another, waving their handheld digi-tech about, proudly proclaiming their latest boost in followers. It’s a space for posturing. It’s cultural eating. It’s a dynamic, shifting and interactive zone. Restaurants should have done more of this a while ago but of course they couldn’t because, well, a restaurant is a restaurant. One luxury hotel restaurant laughably hosted a “street food pop up” a while back. Oxymoronic, no?
The atmosphere when I was there was pleasant but subdued and I couldn’t help but think that a bit more of a buzz would have really made this a treat. Head along to Camden Lock for example when they have live gigs there, it’s a different story. Reasonably priced grub and a rocking atmosphere. In summery summary, the last of the summery whine, it’s worth a visit, even if just for novelty factor, but take plenty of friends and a fat stash of cash.