The 100 best dishes in London: Street food
Tuck into the best street food dishes from all around the world at London market stalls and vans
Mon Dec 8 2014
Since their emergence in the capital in 2009, Vietnamese baguettes have become so mainstream you can buy them in EAT, but we like them best from the original Vietnamese-run stalls. Banhmi11, the second street-food stall to have specialised in the Vietnamese fast food, has now become a Saturday fixture at Broadway Market. The crisp-shelled baguettes are filled with a choice of freshly grilled meats, fish or tofu and topped with carrot, daikon pickle, cucumber and coriander. Our favourite, the Imperial BBQ, mixes sweet caramelised barbecued pork with the fresh aromas of lemongrass, coriander and fish sauce, finished off with a kick of fiery chilli heat.
- Broadway Market, E8 4PH
- Price: From £5.50
Taller than they are wide, the sarnies from street food maestros Bell & Brisket get their filling-to-bread ratio spot on. Not that the bread (either a fresh bagel from the Brick Lane Bakery, or a couple of slices of deliciously dark rye bread, for an extra £1) is in any way sub-par: it’s just that the fillings are what we came for. We like the signature ‘Lord Rupert’ best: designed as a British take on a classic Reuben, it comes stuffed with layers of succulent hand-brined salt beef, their house pickled red cabbage, fresh dill pickles, a blob of mustard and a slice of cheddar, which they blow-torch so it goes all gooey. A word of warning, though: you may have to unlock your jaw like a snake swallowing an egg to get your chops around the thing. But it’ll be totally worth it.
- Granary Square, N1
- Price: £5.50
There are hundreds of food vans – sorry, 'food trucks’ – roaming London these days, and it’s hard to pick just a handful. But heck, we had to try. Of the dozens we’ve sampled, the dishes of Bhangra Burger stand out, especially the lamb wrap with lime pickle, or as they call it, ‘crazy lamb jalfrezi burger’. Lamb mince is marinated in spices, then served with mango chutney, raita and sharp lime pickle, and rolled in a Lebanese khubz flatbread. Among the van’s locations are Kerb at King’s Cross and the Market House Bar in Brixton.
- Granary Square, N1
- Price: £6.50
Hot dogs were considered to be lowbrow food in the UK until this little stall set up on an unlovely stretch of Old Street. Free-range pork, prime beef and judicious seasoning are used in custom-made sausages that banish all thoughts of weak and watery canned wieners. Even the buns are made in Hoxton. If you can eat one and keep a clean shirt you’re doing well – either way, you’ll be happy. And if it’s a chilly day, pop into Roadtrip (the bar at number 243), and pick one up from there instead (they’re an extra £1 – that’s the price of shelter for you).
NOTE: Islington council are currently refurbishing this section of Old Street, but the stall will return as soon as works are complete.
- 34B Camden Lock Place, NW1 8AL
- Price: From £3
For decades, Brick Lane Beigel Bake has been serving up this signature Jewish snack: a big chunk of just-cooked juicy salt beef, sitting on a chewy fresh plain bagel, optionally spiked with some eye-wateringly strong mustard – all for less than £4. No pickles (they’re 20p extra), no tables, or standing on ceremony, just a pure, perfect salt beef bagel. Well worth queuing for.
- 159, Brick Lane, E1 6SB
- Price: £3.70
Back in the days when Borough Market was still a wholesale market, a handful of food enthusiasts banded together to create an irregular fine-food market selling directly to the public. Among them was Leila McAlister, who created the now iconic chorizo sandwich. She’s moved on to Shoreditch to head up the excellent Leila’s Shop and café, but her buns live on. Join the salivating queue waiting for the renowned griddled Spanish Alejandro chorizo buns, oozing with piquant paprika oil, complemented by silky piquillo red pepper and peppery rocket – all for a very reasonable £3.75.
- 8, Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
- Price: £3.75
At middle class supper parties across the capital, guests will press you into hearing about their favourite hummous recipe or how to get your quinoa just right, but ask them about sausages and they may just recoil with horror. But these people need to get out more, and try the ones at Herman ze German. Everything a sausage should be: fat, juicy, and made with the highest quality ingredients, they’re imported from a German butcher (called Fritz, wouldn’t you know). Choose from chilli beef (made with pork, beef and chilli), classic bratwurst (made with pork and veal), or our favourite ¬– the bockwurst – made with smoked pork. With a delicate flavour, a springy middle and plenty of ‘knack’ when you bite into it, it needs nothing more than ketchup and mustard, though the optional toppings of crispy onions, sauerkraut and curry sauce are jolly nice, too.
- 43 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RS
- Price: £4.45
We like Jerk City for its home-style Caribbean dishes, many of which are Trinidadian and influenced by the island’s Asian population. The mutton roti is a case in point. Jerk City’s floury, flaky roti is a thick and heavy flatbread, the curried mutton spicy, the portions large. Service can be haphazard, so avoid the lunchtime rush unless you’re happy to lime with the crowd at the smattering of brown wooden tables – or join the many who just pop in for a takeaway.
- 189 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZD
- Price: £8
This Thai café in Brixton Village Market is a good place to relive the backpacker experience. KaoSarn’s som tam (green papaya salad) is just like the street vendors in Thailand would make it – complete with slivers of bird’s-eye chilli that assault your palate with their heat. The sharp citrus crunch of green papaya is given sour notes by the addition of ground dried shrimps, with crushed peanuts adding nuttiness.
- Brixton Village Market, (Coldharbour Lane), SW9 8PR
- Price: £5.90
In the world of cheese, the folks at Kappacasein are over-achievers. They’re the kind who, if they posted all their achievements on Facebook, would make you feel a little bit sick. Not content with making his own cheese, owner Bill Oglethorpe went on to develop a new creation: Ogleshield, a sweet, nutty, alpine little number with brilliant powers of melting, that’s incorporated in cheese toasties across town. But for the Godfather of them all, you’ll need to join the queue at his Borough Market stall, where the celebrated Kappacasein cheese toastie is made with eight parts Montgomery cheddar, one part Ogleshield and one part Comté, on a base of Poilâne sourdough, with sliced leeks, minced onions and crushed garlic for extra oomph. Just prepare to lie down afterwards.
- 8, Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
- Price: £6
Don’t talk smack. Don’t take smack. And don’t smack your kids. But DO trot on over to this new fast-food joint (from the people behind Burger & Lobster), for the incredible and incredibly good value lobster rolls. Our favourites are the Happy Ending (stop sniggering at the back), with its south-east Asian flavours and fresh coriander, and the exceptional Seven Samurai. Picture a lightly toasted brioche generously filled with sweet, succulent lobster meat, the crunch of Japanese cabbage, a lick of Japanese mayo, some finely sliced spring onion and a final sprinkling of shichimi (‘seven spice’). A seriously moreish, unashamedly decadent sandwich.
- 26-28 Binney Street, W1K 5BN
- Price: £7.50 take-away, £9 eat in
Sometimes, only proper grab-and-go food will do. But if we have to look another egg and cress sandwich in the face, we may just implode. What we want is comfort and spice, at a decent price. Oh, and we don’t want to wait. Well then, it’s off to Wahacito we go. This take-away counter (right next door to the Charlotte Street restaurant) will build you a burrito while you wait. They’re all good, but our favourite is the one with the terrific slow-cooked Wahaca pork pibil in the middle. Add this to fluffy rice, homely beans and service with a smile, and you can just about forget your cares for a few moments.
- 19-23 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RL
- Price: £6