Tag Archives: Urbanism

eat.st at King’s Boulevard – N1C, baby.

11 Oct

On a sunny day last Thursday, eat.st at King’s Boulevard opened itself up for business.

This has been the result of an ongoing dialogue between ourselves and the King’s Cross developers – taking place over a number of months. They had seen what we were about at other events in the City and wanted to bring a bit of what we were slinging to their brand new street.

It was back in July that I donned hard-hat, steel-caps, goggles, gloves and hi-vis to go lagging around what looked like a rather unprepossessing scenario…

What has since occurred – transplanted trees, set-design leaf hoarding, beautiful gravel underlay and a steady flow of PEOPLE – makes it look like a STARchitect’s utopian vision of mixed-use urban space. I rarely believe those ‘visions’ – can’t seem to reconcile what’s there now with what is being reimagined for the future. But here it is, happening, and there are all sorts sweeping up the Boulevard.

My personal favourite was the Korean guy in the future-Aztec poncho and Cuban heel/legging combo. I saw him striding around our micro-market, perusing the options and finally settling on a bit of Hardcore Prawn. He is joined by a whole swathe of quirksters emanating out of the new UAL Building. God damn, that place is amazing. If you’ve not been in you should drop in. You’ll either be pining to be a student again or trying to recall which dark recess of the place it was where you used to have it when it was Bagleys.

From along Goods Way come the food fans of Kings Place – many of them Guardian workers and looking to fill the hole that being ripped from Exmouth Market left in their lunchtimes. One guy Tweeted about King’s Cross having been an ‘erstwhile culinary wasteland’ until eat.st showed up. This is what’s great – how you can spend endless amounts of time and money on place-making from a structural point of view – but then as soon as you bring in the food the whole place springs to life.

It may only be four stalls at the moment and only two days a week, but we are just settling in to our new spot. We are open to suggestions from anyone who thinks they might visit it. This micro-market is here for a while and we want it to be used by all.

Come and see us here:

So you can get stuck in to some of the good stuff, enjoy a gentle perambulation up the Boulevard and get some fresh-ish air. The trees rustle well, anyway.

 

To find out who’s trading when head to www.eat.st/kings-cross – All traders and their menus listed under each Thursday and Friday in October.

After that we’ll have more for you. See you stall/cart/van-side soon!

What is street food?

1 Sep

That is the question.

I was interested to see what a vitriolic response Richard Johnson‘s ‘neocolonialist’ Guardian article on the subject incited the other day.

It seems that the subject of eating on the curbside carries with it all sorts of strong beliefs about food, culture and the rest of society at large. A longer conversation between Johnson and I ensued. He was mystified by how people could feel so strongly against some of his slicker British Street Food Award finalists. “I just believe in good food” he offered. “Me too”, I replied, “and I don’t believe that a stall/van/cart needs to be cutesy and twee-ified in order to be great”. “But I like pretty”, he argued, “I think a bit of bunting goes a long way”.

But a long way to what? And for whom?

Similarly, a journalist expressed an interest in my take on what street food is last week. Upon telling him, he seemed surprised. ‘That’s not a take I’ve yet heard from the others I’ve been speaking to”. I asked to know what the others had said, whereupon he quoted the following statement:

Street food is about bringing restaurant quality food to the masses.

Oof! I floated this theory on Twitter and people were by turns, confused, horrified, incredulous.

Honestly, I don’t give a damn about bunting. Nothing wrong with the stuff and we even have some of our own eat.st branded, but it plays absolutely no part in my appreciation for the food or the stories behind that of those I consider to be truly flying the flag for its outside slinging. And to think that the twee needs to be implemented in order to soften the blow of the undeniable ‘challenge’ of street food to certain paletes is worrying. Johnson has coined this the ‘street food revolution’, full of pioneers pushing the boundaries of taste and adventure. My fear is that his may be a manicured revolution that, far from being about pushing the limits of what exists, must conform to all that is already accepted and safe.

But it’s important, during these high times of ‘street-food’ mania where the very term is threatened by parody and tokenism, that we advance in a useful way. Then we can talk about progression in Britain’s food culture and a possible revolt of that which has been before. Good food being made available to any and everyone – however it comes – by appearing more consistently on our streets and in our public spaces. Now that would be a move towards the radical for Britain’s rather blurry foodscape.

For me, this is about the battle against the bland, about a dismissal of the exclusive and how food served in public contributes to the mental well-being of a city. And it’s also about the amazing traders who slog their guts out to bring the public something worth queuing for. Take Mark here…

A Hammer-loving ex-butcher from Hornchurch who was the fastest de-boner on his team. Then an accident prevented him from continuing, and so he turned to cooking meat and slinging it just down the road on Brick Lane.

The guy is on the strip from 3am every Sunday, slow-cooking those ribs and serving them until he sells out. He smothers those suckers with a homemade scotch bonnet sauce and hands them over in a foil-lined bag.

When I ploughed through mine I became so wrapped up in them that they were gone before I’d clocked it. Lips singing with BBQ sauce heat and fingers sticky with pork shrapnel, after that I became a Rib Man fan and signed him up to the eat.st family. Off he went to the football…

…and off I went to explore Stratford (Brother in the Land-of a place), glad that London has Mark.

I resist the temptation to define, categorically, what street food is and welcome the opposing views on it. Are we growing this thing or what? If you have anything to say, I want to hear it – so that it might stop being called a ‘trend’ and start being thought of as an integral part of our urban fabric and important evolution in our food culture.

Find The Rib Man HERE

Look for him at The Thames Festival (10-11 Sept) by St Katherine’s Dock

The British Street Food Awards take place at Harvest at Jimmys, 9-12 Sept – Here’s wishing all the finalists the very best of luck.


Masa Revolution – this documentary needs YOU.

19 Apr

I’ve just found out about the Masa Revolution happening over in L.A. Synchronicity is a funny thing. There I was, writing an essay for my Masters about the dualised street food scene in Los Angeles and its socio-spatial implications, when an email arrives for me talking about just that.

Award-winning journalist, Patricia Nazario, has produced, directed and self-funded the first stages of Masa Revolution, a documentary about how inexpensive Mexican street food inspired a pop-culture gourmet phenomenon. L.A’s social, cultural and economic cleavages are shown through the lens of food vending on its streets – who has the right to the city, how Latino cultures have ‘tropicalised’ public space and now, how the new-wave movement has been mediatised and harnessed for its creative pull.

It’s fascinating stuff and is destined for great things at independent film festivals. But it won’t be completed unless they can raise $20,000 for post-production – by the 4th of May.

Is this up your strada? If you’d like to help contribute to making this almost-completed project a reality then head to Kickstarter.com and pledge whatever you can – every dollar helps!

I’m excited about this project and hugely impressed by what’s been done so far. Follow that Revolution and learn about how a city is enlivened and challenged by the determination of its people to serve food in the open air.

Follow Masa Revolution on Twitter HERE.

Towpath III – Better Vibes!

9 Nov

A huge great laser beam sharded upwards for all of East London to see on Saturday night, announcing the presence of a new type of gathering in the area – the latest Towpath event – a unique coming together of eat.st traders, War Child, food photographer and local food proponent Jason Lowe and the Love Tank – a whacking great gold tank from which DJs do their thing.

Ca Phe VN were there with their award winning coffee drinks…

Mongo Denoon and the OK Catering Success unfolded the beauty of his van for everyone’s eating and visual pleasure…

The Meatwagon boys still smiling after a long old shift…

And it all took place with the full backing and support of the British Waterways who are keen for these newly revamped areas to actually get some real and proper use. This is what’s so surprising – you wouldn’t imagine that such a revamped private looking public space would be so welcoming of such freedom (and quite base heavy) freedom of expression. We’re glad that they are and look forward to working with them in other spots.

And I hope this guy turns up again…

Back to the Towpath – Strike III

4 Nov

More Towpath fun this Saturday as eat.st teams up once again with War Child, Jason Lowe (on the paella pans this time), Nick Strangeway (on cocktails) – and with music taken care of by Lisa Loud, The City Shanty Band + others to get the gravel grinding.

We all had such a good time taking part in October and the British Waterways were so impressed with what’s possible to achieve, in terms of usability and better vibes on the canal, that we hope to be part of many more to come.

This is what it looked like later on in the evening…


And here are the details for anyone wanting to grab a slice of that DIY fun:

The Towpath Festival comes to the City Road Basin.

Saturday 6th November 2010, 12 noon til 12 midnight

THE PARTY
…Following the huge amount of fun we had at last month’s Towpath Festival we couldn’t just leave it at that…

Last time we raised £1790.96 for WarChild and this time we’re aiming for more.

The builders have moved onto our last site opposite the Towpath Cafe, but, true to their word, British Waterways have found us another site to continue the tradition of good food & fire related frolics by the waterfront.
We’re kicking off at 12 o’clock noon this Saturday 6th November and going through until 12 o’clock midnight: 12 hours of music, food & drink around a fire by the water with, hopefully, a very special surprise from Lovebullets…

Entry is free, but we’ll be taking donations for War Child at the gate.

This will be a Silent Fireworks event: All hands on deck to light and send off a flotilla of fiery flowery floating lanterns courtesy of Rebel Rebel. All proceeds go to War Child.

THE FOOD

eat.st is back and we’ve got some great food vendors lined up, some old favourites and some new faces, including:
The Meatwagon serving up our regular burgers PLUS we’re resurrecting The Dead Hippy for one night only.
Healthy Yummies will be back with the best diver-caught scallops you will ever eat.
Jason from The Towpath Cafe will be hauling out his huge wood-fired paella pan to cook, well… paella.
Skye Cooks will be there serving tea & cakes.
Churros Bros are providing something for the sweet-tooth in the form of churros & hot chocolate.
Grass Roots are serving fish caught fresh that morning off the Sussex coast.
The Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express will be rolling in, serving Kolkata-style vegetarian street snacks.

There will, of course, be covered areas to keep us dry and a licensed bar to keep us all refreshed. Once again, the legendary Nick Strangeway will be creating a signature cocktail for us for the night – something hot and warming this time.

THE MUSIC

A party’s not a party without some tunes, and our line-up this time includes:
The legendary Lisa Loud
Reggae from the Kongo Sound System
Joanna Bin Laughin & Erika ‘Del Boy’ Trotter from ‘Rubbish’
Terry Francis and Keith Reilly from Fabric
The City Shanty Band are back, making noise and getting raucous.

THE VENUE

One of Islington’s best kept secrets is a beautiful stretch of water at City Road Basin. A former industrial site which fell into decline in the 50s and 60s, the site remained undeveloped, unattractive and inaccessible to the public for many years, but now a multi-million pound project has brought it back into public use and created one of the largest open stretches of water in North London, complete with a newly landscaped public area facing onto the canal.

HOW TO GET THERE

City Road Basin plaza is just off City Road in between McDonalds (EC1V 1JQ) and Graham St.
Transport: Angel or Old Street, Buses 43, 205, 214, 394

Thanks to British Waterways, eat.st, Lovebullets, NCASS, Groveworld, Nick Strangeway, Fabric, Islington Council and everybody at the Towpath Cafe. Also, thanks to all those whose support and generosity make all this possible.

Why I love Brixton Market

14 Apr

I love Kieran Long’s piece on Brixton Market in the Evening Standard today. Not for at least two generations, he says, has any new commercial space been created in London with this much character. We are being served up, again and again, developments that makes a mockery of the City’s swagger:

The case needs to be made that despite the economic advantages of large-scale retail floorplates, every time we make the grain of the city less rich we lose something for good that is unlikely to be replaced. Public spaces should lead people to discover things about their town, allow the city to speak.

The malls that developers would like to create in place of these rich and connected places are more about choreographing our experience of the city, removing us from weather, noise, smells etc, in order that we become more effective shoppers.

No one could really claim Brixton Market to be a hive of effective shoppers – there’s too much chat; too much enquiry – but this is its success. Under those ceilings of miscellaneous height and colour and alongside those slightly cowboy canopies exists something that is vital. It’s called Funk.

Every time I turn into the haphazard flow of Atlantic Road – all polyester pimp suits and wet, florid pigs’ tails – my mind starts slotting my body into a zone that is part comfort, part perky alertness and always rambunctious like WOAH. Sometimes it’s dangerous – like when I’m not concentrating and almost get caught in the crossfire of dead animals being tossed from truck to butcher shop; or when the incongruous French traffic warden with the exaggerated accent tries to do me for parking offences – but it’s always UP.

It’s walking past that said Halal butchers, lit crystal-white, with bright red counters and a queue of people all lined up for their meat, heads nodding in unison to Dr Dre blasting out from in-house speakers. Or it’s a fingernail of a hole in the wall given over solely to the sale of sandals, or phone gear or Trini gospel.  Inside the market layers of different kinds of people crash along together, united by the shared roof, the highly charged space. Inside the market you run the gauntlet of ancient old girls, with ruthless granny shoppers sussing out the banks of iced fish; or shouts from guys in white coats and white wellies, asking how you are.

The truth is, I’m always fine in Brixton Market and the lanes and streets around it. I’m fine because I’m feeling it. I’m bombarded by Reggae, dancehall, Raggaton, gospel; I’m hit by smells that taunt and tempt in equal measure and there is always something going on that makes me laugh, or else ask WTF?!

This is unedited life on the streets and it’s a circus that I cherish. I’m glad that it’s just been listed and that all that music and all that food and all those people will continue to be part of my daily London experience.

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