If you’re taking a vacation in London, you may not want to take a couple of hours at lunchtime to sit down and eat formally. Or perhaps it’s important to economise on your travel budget. London’s street food scene offers something for everybody.
You never know quite which food trucks or stalls will be where. They come and go, and that unpredictability is part of the excitement of the street food scene. But there’s a huge variety of food, from English traditional standards like steak pies or bangers (sausages to the uninitiated), all the way to Korean fusion burgers (which come with fiery fermented cabbage with chilli).
At King’s Cross, Eat Street has an ever-changing roster of food stalls at lunchtime each day, from belly pork steamed buns to Japanese Tonkatsu, handmade traditional pizzas to fresh burritos. Granary Square is a great place to eat lunch, with hundreds of tiny fountains playing, and while King’s Cross isn’t a standard tourist location, it’s only a five minute bus ride from the British Museum. It’s not in one of the most touristy parts of the capital, but if you’re headed to Paris by Eurostar, or just arrived from France, Eat Street is only a couple of minutes from the terminal.
On the South Bank, just behind the Royal Festival Hall, the Real Food Market happens from Friday to Saturday. Over 40 producers sell their wares, including a good number of street food stands — Indian wraps and samosas, Korean style burritos, you name it, they’ve got it. You can also buy traditionally produced cheese, Spanish ham, British charcuterie, and fine jams and preserves to take away. This is the closest food market to Tate Modern, and easily accessible by the bridge over the Thames from Trafalgar Square or Westminster — a five or ten minute walk.
Alternatively, head further east on the same side of the river to find Borough Market, open for lunch every day except Sunday, though it’s at its best from Thursday onwards. Carnivores are well catered for; Spanish deli Brindisa serves a popular chorizo sandwich, there’s salt beef from Northfield Farm and pork pies from Ginger Pig. Vegetarians can find falafel, cheese toasties, or omelette. Wander down to the riverside or the garden around Southwark Cathedral to consume your picnic.
In the West End, Berwick Street market provides an alternative to fast food on Oxford Street or a restaurant meal in Soho. It’s open all week, though choice can be limited on Mondays, and usually has a choice of pizza, Vietnamese baguettes, burritos, burgers, and Indian snacks.
This is a whole new generation of street food. But London’s traditional vendors haven’t all given up, though the renowned Tubby Isaacs whelk stall is, alas, no more. You can get takeaway pie and mash with the traditional green ‘liquor’ (don’t be scared, it’s only parsley gravy) or eat in at Goddard’s, in Greenwich, while Manze’s in Tower Bridge Road has jellied eels — definitely an acquired taste. In autumn, you can still find vendors roasting chestnuts on their barrows as they’ve done since Charles Dickens’s days — they move around, but there’s usually one somewhere near the British Museum.
Paris has always been considered the gastronomic capital of Europe, but as far as street food goes, London is certainly coming up in the world.