We’ve been looking forward to the Street Eats food festival for a few months (I say we, but I mean mostly me!). When I was younger I used to watch food festivals on TV and always wished somebody would organise a halal one I could attend. Last year (2016) there was a street food festival organised by KERB which was a decent experience, but very small in terms of halal options. As soon as I heard Halal Gems were organising a fully halal street food festival, I could hardly contain my excitement. I eat street food once in a while and really enjoy the fast service and fresh food. I wasn’t expecting street food on the level of Mumbai and Beijing, but I did have some hope that the food would be unique and fresh. I was seriously doubting my husband would want to come along (his dislike for crowds and queuing is unreal), but he offered to come with me and help me eat as many things as possible (I have a small appetite so it’s always useful to have him there). So we set off with our daughter in her pram.
The Halal Street Food Festival was held in possibly my favourite area in London, the Spitalfield Markets. This area is a quick walk from Liverpool Street Station and has some of my favourite shops and places to eat. It started raining quite quickly (typical English weather) and I was glad the festival was indoors.
Sounds of people talking and laughing and smells of desserts and food hit me before I even entered the market area. The overwhelming number of people immediately had the husband on edge. Looking at the queues for each stall my heart sank. I knew there was no way or time for us to sample every stall. I tried to be as quick as possible to make a decision of where to eat. Unfortunately my indecisiveness led to my husband quickly standing in the quickest moving queue, in the hope of getting something to eat within the next 30 minutes.
I am unsure why we picked this first (shortest queue maybe/the wraps looked tempting). The wrap itself was vibrant and colourful. We opted for the coriander chicken wrap with salad. The chicken was moist and tender and quite flavoursome. Unfortunately it was smothered in a mango chutney type sauce, which was overwhelmingly sour and sweet, taking away from the main star of the wrap (the chicken). The smell of the sauce was also quite pungent and unlike anything I am used to in food. I would probably eat this again without that particular sauce. The staff were brilliant and cheerful, attempting to make conversation despite having to serve customer after customer. I was quite annoyed to see the Rolawala shop just opposite Spitalfield Markets when leaving!
Rating: 5/10 (The mango sauce ruined what could have been an amazing wrap)
I thought I would have a quick sneaky dessert before my next snack. We decided to split up and I stood in the Churros Garcia queue whilst my husband waited in the Meat & Shake queue. The churro’s queue was moving quite quickly and I had my snack in my hand before I knew it. Annoyingly, I had the pram with me and people thought (for some odd reason) that this was a walkway. After moving the pram for the 50th time, I got fed up put the pram next to my side, rather than in front. This tactic did not solve anything and streams of people tried to squeeze past putting me way out of my comfort zone. The churros were hot and crunchy. I opted for both cinnamon and sugar with a pot of chocolate sauce. The churro had the perfect texture but the cinnamon sprinkle on top was quite gritty and bitter quite unlike cinnamon I have had on my churros before. I think the cinnamon need to be grounded more finely to give a more even taste and better experience overall. The chocolate sauce was almost like a lacklustre chocolate pudding adding nothing to the churro. I would prefer a deeper chocolate sauce which would have complemented the sweet and crunchy texture.
Rating: 5/10 (The lumpy cinnamon and chocolate sauce ruined what could have been a great snack).
The line on this stall was almost two miles long. I somehow managed to convince the husband to stand in this queue whilst I sampled a few other stalls. When I returned he had barely moved a metre. As he had been waiting there for what seemed like an eternity (20 minutes/ street food is meant to be fast food!) I suggested to him we move on to a different stall. He insisted on following through and waiting until we got to try the Slow Cooked Beef Brisket in a bun. I had seen this type of meat of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Man Vs Food (American food programmes have a LOT to answer for!) on the Food Channel and was really excited to try it out. Guy Fieri and Adam Richman bite into these brisket burgers and makes faces as if they have gone to heaven. Now after watching Guy and Adam bite repeatedly into these meaty burgers it was finally my turn. 45 minutes later (with an irate and unhappy husband) we reached the front of the queue. The staff member cutting the brisket look tired and worn out. Another staff member pulled out a ready cut and sauced burger and allowed him to put the meat in. Eagerly anticipating the first bite, I saw my husband shake his head. The meat was STONE COLD. Nothing annoys me more than cold food. Even worse, the bun was dry crumbly (probably because it was pre-cut and pre-prepared). I could taste the fantastic flavours within the meat, but it was pointless as cold meat is completely unpalatable in my opinion. I know the stall was busy and facing unprecedented demand, but I always feel as if there is no excuse for cold food especially in a place where equipment was available to keep food heated. Bitterly disappointed with my time and money wasted, we actually had to throw the burger in the bin (and my husband absolutely hates wasting food/ he always eats whatever I leave behind).
Rating: 3/10 (Honestly this was £6.80 wasted. I’m so glad I only bought one burger. There was so much promise here, but ultimately it failed to deliver on the day.)
After the disappointing Brisket Burger, I was half tempted to leave. We decided to try one more stall before calling it a day. The crowd were getting more dense by the minute and it was getting quite impractical with a pram and toddler. Still absolutely famished, we noticed the queue for Bake St seemed relatively small. The tacos looked tempting and the line looked doable. We queued up for under 5 minutes and had fresh tacos in our hands. The tacos were beautifully photogenic and tasted even better then they looked. The slow cooked lamb was fresh and hot, melted in my mouth and was perfectly complemented by the accompanying salad and sauces. I was absolutely shocked that this stall did not have a long queue as it was probably the best thing in the festival. I was glad to have discovered this stall as it reignited my hope for street food. Although this did not satiate my appetite, it was most definitely the favourite of the day.
Rating: 7.5/10 (If the portion was larger, I probably would have given this a 9!)
After Bake St. we decided food festivals are probably not practical with a child and most definitely not fun with someone who hates queuing and crowds. We left early after wandering around to the back end and discovering it was even more busy on the other side and there was no space to manoeuvre a pram (Band of Burgers and Dutch Pancakes would just have to wait for another year/ or I could visit their respective shops!). We promptly left and ended up in our favourite cafe Patisserie Valerie. After musing about how street food festivals are probably not our thing, we ordered some Strawberry Gateau, a croissant and fresh American Pancakes.
Overall, if you do not mind crowds, food that could possibly be cold, and do not have a child, you may enjoy this food festival. I feel if this was a ticketed event, they may have been able to control the crowds better. I may visit the following year but for now I can safely say I prefer to sit at a table and eat as opposed to standing around/ being pushed around. If you would like a more in depth review about the stalls on offer why not read Steak and Teeth’s guide to the festival (they managed to eat a LOT more than we did!).