I wasn’t even hungry. I’d had a rather extraordinary breakfast in the Colombian place in Brixton Village earlier. I’ve been afflicted with a touch of wanderlust lately and my mind keeps on roaming to that rough little jewel at the top of South America. Down we sat in the hot-house filtered sunshine of Brixton Village. I got all carried away with my long-buried Spanish and soon enough was ordering off-menu at quite an alarming rate. While my friends sensibly went for the desayuno calentadas, I honed in on arepa, chorizo, plantain, chips and eggs. What arrived was scary but I was determined to forge on ahead with this little vicarious safari none the less.
Afterwards I needed ice cream. We went to the amazing Laboratorio Artigianale del Buon Gelato, just in from Take Two on the Coldharbour Lane entrance. Bliss! I had chocolate with salted caramel -double-scoop, baby! Then I remembered that I had a date with Cristiano, stall-side, to finally get to pick up what he’s been putting down in this city.
Cristiano came and rootled me out one super-icy day last November. He was over from Italy on a research visit. As we slipped and slided from Goodge Street to my uni, he breathed hot, crazy, mad professor-style ideas towards me. Who is this cat? I thought. He is about to up-sticks and move his wife and child to London in order to better understand the life and culture of the street food world. I was all ears. Especially when I heard that his plan was to set up an offal-mobile.
Tongue ‘n Cheek would be the first recent purveyor of abandoned and undervalued cuts of meat to hit the London curb in decades. It would be tongue with salsa verde and ox cheeks with red wine and onion. Fabulous. this is the stuff I grew up on. I used to marvel at the textured grey studding that paraded along the underside of that incredibly long bit of boiled meat. We always had it with salsa verde and it was one of the few bits of offal that I could get down with in my house.
So here I was, not hungry, but faced with a delicious Wild Caper sourdough roll stuffed with slices of tongue and surrounded with that magical bright green sauce.
Properly summery and delicious in its simple execution.. For someone with such an out-there mind and such a discerning appreciation of food, for Cristiano it’s about doing something very easy but very well.
People walked past and peered into the pot…
…aghast at the sight that befell them.
I took a step back and took it in. Here is this great mind with amazing vision, hawking proper, unembellished Italian food and at the very early stages of his street food adventure – and, like others I know, he needs to be set apart from the crowd in order for people to be seduced by his food.
I am delighted that Cristiano has found eat.st and wants to play such an active part in it. We need people like him to grow this little firecracker. And I hope that we can assist him in getting to the right audience for this intricately thought out, well-delivered, deeply succulent food.
I left Cristiano to it and made my way through the crowds to Street Kitchen – filling Bhangra Burger’s pitch for the day. It was my first visit. I’d met up with Mark Jankel earlier this year to talk shop. I’d heard some stuff about Street Kitchen last year when the image of him and business partner Jun Tanaka beaming from the counter of a borrowed Airstream had been splashed around. HMmmm, I mused – looks well contrived. I dismissed it as a PR stunt and went about my business. When he called me up and told me about the plan things changed. What I love about them is that they’re not giving it the big one about how organic or how sustainable they are, they just are. If people want to ask questions they will be told that every ingredient item they use is sourced from within the British Isles. That’s 100% – they don’t even use vanilla (much to Jun’s chagrin, apparently).
Mark whipped me up a lemon sole, crushed potato, beetroot and horseradish special. Oh lord, how could I tell him what I was currently packing? But then, on the first mouthful, how could I not finish the little beauty?
This is clean food. As clean as the look and feel of the branded trailer they’re towing. It makes you feel well, healthy, virtuous. And it tastes amazing. Simple, fresh and really well-seasoned. What the two of them are doing is very different to the rest of our traders. These are not itinerants or adventurers in love with the life of the streets – they are chefs with scruples who see an opportunity and are going for it. That’s great – breadth is good – and I look forward to having them along to the party.
Finally, just for fun, I got sidelined by the smell of the grilled cheese sandwich being racked up by these hands…
Currently outcast from Borough Market for one of the ongoing disputes, their loss is the Real Food Market’s gain. He lured me in. No, no – I’m full, I pleaded. But I couldn’t resist. I’ve long hoped and prayed that one of the new school of street fooders would set up a grilled cheese sarnie-mobile. How amazing would that be from this country?! Someone could go to town on all those fine wheels we have. But they’d need to get it right – maybe starting with a lesson from this expert. Jesus, Mary and Joseph – that thing got me inspecting the back of my head.
Get yourselves down to the Real Food Market for some of these gems – there are plenty of them if you scout around…