In the face of foams, smears and amuses bouches comes lard, carbs and dogs. Gourmet street food has already been trend-spotted by the gluttonati, books written and awards given, yet burgers, dogs and bacon are still big news and getting bigger.
As Richard Johnson states in his newly published Street Food Revolution, Britain has a strong history of street food: “… as far back as the 12th century shopkeepers sold hot sheep’s feet. By the 18th century they were hawking pies and pasties, and by the 19th it was warm eels, pickled whelks, oysters, fried fish and hot peas, with a slice of rhubarb tart for dessert.”
With the Victorians came a sweeping distaste for the practice of eating food in public, but it seems that a combination of resourceful chefs, over-pricing and the gentrification of menu lexis has resulted in a greasy backlash. If you’re sick of knowing your vichyssoise from your terrine, your ceviche from your julienne and if the term ‘modern British fusion’ leaves you scratching a suitably furrowed brow because it actually means nothing, then this is an unpretentious food movement for you.
Local, seasonal and reasonable by default. Yet street food is not only re-establishing itself in vans, huts and marquees for consumption on the hop, but is being given permanent residence in some of the capital’s finer establishments. Bubbledogs, set to open in July in London, is the brain child of husband and wife team, James Knappett and Sandia Chang. A menu of ten hot dogs will be offered alongside champagne and include the BLT dog which will be wrapped in bacon and served with truffle mayo and caramelised lettuce. A changing list of five cocktails will feature such updated classics as the Old Fashioned: bacon-infused Bourbon and maple syrup.
Both Knappett and Chang have serious credentials, having worked at the likes of The Berkeley, Per Se and Noma. “We are very excited to be opening our first restaurant together on Charlotte Street and to be introducing something a little different,” explains James. As well as the dogs, there will be a bijoux dining area known as the Kitchen Table for 19 guests, serving intimate lunches and dinners. James will prepare, serve and talk about his dishes, led by an ‘ideas board’ which will feature his planning as well as guide diners through the menu, in a cookery-school-meets-restaurant experience.
By contrast – Meat Liquor under a multi-storey car park in London’s Welbeck Street, has used burgers (probably the best burgers in London) to flip the crisp white table-clothed world of genteel dining on its head: resembling a slaughterhouse, the environment is made to appear blood-spattered, wine is served in jam jars, expect outside queuing of up to 90 minutes and no sympathy from waiting staff. The result? Everyone wants some. Competing with the Spuntino sliders, Meat Liquor (and newly opened sister, Meat Market, Covent Garden) represents restaurant food at its most street.
Prices at Bubbledogs start at £6.00, a burger at Meat Liquor from £6.50 and don’t worry about reserving a table. You can’t.