Street food and locally grown produce being sold in cities and towns is a tradition reaching back millennia. Farmers travel to market a couple of times a week, sell their goods to city folk, then hop back on their cart to the countryside to continue toiling in the fields. It was a system that worked perfectly until the Industrial Revolution came along.
In the last decade, that age-old relationship is back on, and farmers markets are booming again, along with their new natural neighbours: street-food vendors.
But it’s easy for street-food markets to pop up alongside fruit and veg markets or snuggle in alongside farmers markets that have been running for decades – think London’s street-food leader, Borough Market.
What is less easy is building a street-food destination in an old church, on a roof or on a 1980s trading estate in Glasgow. But it’s happening, and the punters are flooding in.
Giant Robot, Canary Wharf London
What do you do in a city like London, where it feels like everything has already been done? You look to the sky. By opening its rooftop street-food market, Giant Robot did just that. Battling against the Prets, EATS and Subways of this world, street-food markets like Giant Robot gather vendors serving authentic, homecooked street Londoners can’t get anywhere else.
On a Canary Wharf rooftop, it’s an experience that brings together great food, good music and incredible views ofLondon’s iconic skyline. It kind of ticks all the boxes, right?
Big Feed, Glasgow
In a big old warehouse on Govan Road, opposite Festival Park, Big Feed is on a trading estate just outside Glasgow city centre. The family-friendly gathering of horse boxes, homemade pallet stalls and double-decker buses under a corrugated roof is in a huge hall near Cessnock and Ibrox subway stations.
Twice a month, Glaswegian punters queue up for plates piled high with salt ‘n’ chilli chicken with chips, churros, pizza, vegan delights, spicy grilled cheese or Indian street food – and every time, it’s slightly different.
Digbeth Dining Club, Birmingham
Based under the railway arches of Lower Trinity Street in Birmingham, surrounded by graffitied walls and shuttered yards, Digbeth Dining Club pushes its mission to “bring locally sourced and honest food to the people of the Midlands”.
Its weekly Thursday to Sunday food-and-music extravaganzas have Middle Eastern mezzes and Caribbean creations, cheesecakes and disco fries, burgers and burritos. And the good folks at Digbeth Dining Club also go on the road with amazing-quality food created by Masterchef finalists, chefs from Michelin-star restaurants and street-food entrepreneurs, touring warehouses, zoos and city spaces of the Midlands.
Hull’s Fruit Market
The huge regeneration at Hull’s Fruit Market on the shores of the Humber has breathed new life into Hull Marina. One-time warehouses line restored cobbled streets as transformed street-food stalls. Alongside the food, musicians and artists gather in galleries, art groups and workspaces, creating a cultural community that was not there a decade ago.
Hull Fruit Market’s street food celebrates all things local, with homemade tapas, plenty of fish and Humber beer and industrial-casual places to sit and eat.
Mercato Mayfair, London
Another exciting street-food transformation is in the stunning vaulted St Mark’s Church in Mayfair. Walk through the colonnaded entrance and you’re in a beautifully restored Grade-One building that champions community, sustainable products and eco friendliness.
Seafood and cocktails line up next to steaks, wines and charcuterie plates in a venue that refuses entry to single-use plastic and overly processed food. And the basement has room for cooking classes and local community events.