As I stand at the entrance of the Urban Food Fest in Shoreditch, it’s easy to see why there is so much fuss surrounding street food these days. With the inviting sound of acoustic music drifting towards me and the air heavy with a heavenly aroma of spices, I entered what can only be described as a food emporium.
The brains behind it is Jessica Tucker, a lawyer who saw a gap in the market and acted on her vision for a “perfect night out” of cheap but quality drinks, homemade gourmet food, live music and an incredible atmosphere. The concept is simple: each week fifteen traders appear at the event ready to serve up their grub to eager market-goers, while various musical acts provide the entertainment. The twist? This is a night market, held between 5pm and midnight, resulting in a vibrant feel which adds another element of excitement to the event.
Given just how packed out it is, it’s surprising that it started out just three months ago – and within six weeks had been nominated for Best Street Food Event at The British Street Food Awards. But just what exactly is the appeal of these pop-up events? Predominantly, it means foodies everywhere are inundated with opportunities to try new foods, often at much lower prices then the average cost of a meal in London which is always a bonus. And the variety. Within two hours I’d greedily sampled tasty Peruvian chicken skewers, tangy currywurst, and a Chinese duck crepe bursting with flavour. My particular favourite had to be the unbelievably delicious Goan-style pulled pork wrap filled to the brim with punchy, tender meat and complimented perfectly by pear and tamarind chutney.
To sample everything would leave you filling a little worse for wear, as the portions are huge and incredibly filling. And that, of course, is the whole point of these events. Sharing is encouraged, and food as a shared experience is exciting. It brings people together. Food is life; it’s relationships, it’s a sense of community, and the buzz of trying something new together. And while you can of course do this in a restaurant, there’s something that bit more thrilling about taking the chance to do it somewhere you know won’t be around forever.