Food & Drink

How food halls got cool

Forget sad burgers under shopping mall striplights. A new wave of food halls are collecting London’s wildest dishes under one roof

In a time where everybody has their own dietary requirements, favourite cuisines and gastronomic quirks, it’s unsurprising that food halls – where lots of smaller vendors are gathered together in one communal dining space – have come into their own. Of course, the concept isn’t completely new – the market at Camden celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, Borough has been a Mecca for foodies through the decades, and pioneers, such as Petra Barran, founder of Kerb (which, incidentally, is bringing new life to Thomas Neal’s Warehouse at Seven Dials, complete with cheese conveyor belt, this autumn) might scoff at us calling this a ‘trend’.

This ‘trend’ is made more noteworthy because of the number of London chefs and hot restaurants getting in on the action. And because, instead of being relegated to old car parks and dilapidated buildings, food halls are taking over the swankier city centre. The hustling street food trader is still there, of course, but they’re mixed in with stalls from places that usually garner epic queues – in Victoria’s Market Hall you’ll find Gopal’s Corner from the people behind cult classic Roti King at Euston, and Super Tacos, by Breddos’ Nud and Chris. Watch this space, as a third Market Hall opens near Oxford Street this autumn.

Meanwhile, newly opened Arcade, at the bottom of Centrepoint in Tottenham Court Road, boasts offerings from the Harts Group (Barrafina and El Pastor) in the form of Pastorcito, Selin Kiazim and Laura Christie (AKA the dream team behind Oklava), and Flat Iron, whose Workshop serves up special cuts and new dishes. Plus that katsu sando by Tou (from TaTa Eatery) that’s been driving Instagram mad.

Also with its elbows out for the shopping crowds is Italian export Mercato Metropolitano, which after opening its first outpost in Elephant and Castle, is now opening a second in the old St Mark’s Church on North Audley Street, Mayfair, soon.

And that’s not to mention new food-focused squares like Vinegar Yard and Flat Iron Square, both near London Bridge, and Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross, as well as Bang Bang Oriental’s vast marketplace in Colindale dedicated to all foods Asian, and the meat- and dairy-free zone at Brick Lane’s House of Vegan.

And while it was perhaps open-air street food markets that kicked things off, the combination of roofs (for the inclement British weather) and hot-ticket food offerings, as well as something to suit all tastes and budgets, makes these shared tables the democratic banqueting halls of the 21st century, where whoever you are, you can dine like a king.

Pick & Cheese at Kerb Seven Dials

Anyone who’s eaten at Camden Market’s Cheese Bar will understand how their passion led to this – a sushi-style cheese conveyor belt, for when one slice isn’t enough.

Baba G’s at Vinegar Yard

Served in a naan-style bun with an onion bhaji, you can get your favourite curry in burger form. Lamb jalfrezi is a classic, but go for the double naga if you’re feeling bold.

Tou at Arcade London

Don’t call this a sandwich. Oh no, it’s so much more. The Iberian katsu is the one ’grammers’ go head-over-heels for, but, we say, overlook the ox cheek and eggy tofu versions at your peril.

Gopal’s Corner at Victoria Market Hall

Others might try, but so many fail to meet such deliciously doughy greatness. Roti canai is the legend. Use it to mop up daal, chicken kari or beef rendang. Perfect.

Pastorcito at Arcade London

Ultimate mini-bites of baja fish tacos, grilled cheese and mushroom, slow cooked pork and pineapple – washed down with margaritas. Obviously.