Sunday, 30 June 2013

Street food down South

I've lived in London for almost ten years now, and all of that has been north of the river. South London was always been a bit inconvenient - never hated or frowned upon, just further away and harder to get to. Lots has changed since then - better north-south connections with the Overground, the second advent of the bicycle, and of course, the pull factors of good foodie stuff happening south of the river.

I've tried out Honest Burger in Brixton Market, I've stocked up on Persian goodies from the wonderful Persepolis in Peckham, and more recently I've been checking out their street food markets in Brockley and at Maltby Street.

I went to Brockley Market in the middle of our prolonged winter. It isn't in Brockley proper - more on the fringes of Lewisham and Deptford, in a car park next to Lewisham Way. It drew in all the hip kids from across SE London - lots of late 20s/early 30s couples with beards and small dogs, trendy families, groups of students. I thought I was in Hackney for a second.

It was barely even noon before I was in the queue for Mother Flipper - famed for it's delicious burgers. They cooked it from scratch, but before long it was ready. I went for a double candy burger - you don't cycle all the way from Hackney for just one patty! - and it was one of the best I've eaten in London. Really juicy, pinkish meat, with candied bacon, perfect brioche bun, great condiments.

We also stopped off at the Fish Dogs stall, where fresh, warm doughnuts, or Dog Nuts) were being fried up (in separate oil, importantly) alongside fish sandwiches. Sadly our savoury compartments were full (their fish sandwiches are becoming legendary), but we did have enough space for the doughnuts. They were shaped like mini churros, coated in cinnamon sugar and served with a salted  caramel nutty dip.

Absolutely perfect. I love a good cinnamon coating on doughnuts - it reminds me of holidays in Spain or Portugal and getting sweet fried goods from roadside vans.

A few weeks ago we finally made it down to Maltby Street, which is at the Borough/London Bridge end of Bermondsey. It's a fascinating area: sleepy, residential with lots of council estates and new build blocks, but urban and very central - Maltby Street takes place in railway arches. Nearby Bermondsey Street is going through (or coming out of ) a very high end process of gentrification, with lots of foodie destination restaurants and Zandra Rhodes' fashion and textile museum. Maltby Street feels very much part of that, and the vibe was power-professionals having weekend downtime.

Our first stop was St John's Bakery, which is one of the best known units there. Enormous loafs of sourdough of more varieties than you could ever imagine are sold, alongside their legendary custard doughnuts. That's what we went for. The custard filling comes in plain vanilla, chocolate and lemon. I went for the classic vanilla. The doughnuts are light, fluffy and perfectly formed, but the real treat is the custard inside - it's very light and airy, with visible vanilla seeds inside. I tried so hard to make it last more than a few dozen metres, but failed miserably. It was worth the trip alone.

We started with doughnuts because I'd heard scare stories about them selling out. There were still a fair few left at midday, but don't chance it.

Our next call was Monty's Deli for their famous reuben sandwich. The queue was long, but this is generally a good sign when it comes to street food. It turns out the queue was disproportionately long because one of their hot plates wasn't working, so they were at half capacity. And you don't rush good food (luckily there were some samples of their chicken liver pate to nibble on - so luscious).

The fillings were piled high between the two slices of rye - pastrami (home made, really juicy, lots of proper fatty bits), sauerkraut, thinly sliced 'swiss', mustard, sauerkraut and russian dressing. We sat on a wall just outside the market area, and guzzled our sandwiches in silence, with intermittent happy groans. It really was excellent; a really great combination of salty and tangy and fiery and wholesome. 100% soul food.

At both Brockley and Maltby Street markets had a lot of really great looking stalls. I went for the greatest hits first time around, but will be back to try out the other stalls. Both have a good range of produce in addition to street food, so worth going for a top up on 'nice things' too.

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