Meat and whisky, jazz and smoke; the sound of friends meeting and the smell of chilli will hit you long before you see it. Tucked away down a quiet street in Hackney is an industrial unit quite unlike any other. Hawker House plays host to the latest version of the popular nocturnal nomadic food market, Street Feast. EastLondonLines headed over to escape the freezing winter air and sample the delights on offer.
Passing through the dark entrance of the reclaimed warehouse, we suddenly emerge into a vast, brightly lit hall which is effortlessly hip. Still dazzled by the sudden light, delicious and tantalising fragrances appear from all directions: smokey, spicy, sweet and meaty. There’s a sense that many a culinary delight can be found under this one roof.
Surrounded by people conversing and consuming, the din adds to a fantastic atmosphere; one which attracts between 2- 3000 people over the course of a weekend. Long tables line the hall and there’s scarcely room to see the food stalls that border the area. Music from the emergency decorated, retro DJ booth enhances the festival atmosphere.
Moving into the second hall is an altogether gentler affair. Mood lighting and, at times, piercing jazz set the tone to accompany the wine and whisky bars, but still being surrounded by revellers, space is at a premium. Seating is erected above the stalls with leather sofas and wooden desks set close to the ceiling to add to the more intimate setting.
It’s high up in the rafters that warming shots of Woodford Reserve Bourbon Hot Toddy arrive to provide the perfect antidote to a cold winter evening. Food swiftly appears in the form of Short Rib Tacos consisting of 10 hour slow-roasted chipotle beef short rib, Woodford Reserve molasses, bone marrow salsa and hot sauce from the nearby BreedosTacos stall. Explosively flavoured and extremely tender, it proves extremely difficult to eat with any dignity, but satisfying nevertheless.
Next up is a sample of five Chilli Sliders from the Slider Bar with an aged patty, five chilli compote, Monterey Jack cheese, aioli and bacon salt. Packed with tangy and smoky flavours, it’s disappointing to find the experience over in a few mouthfuls – a full size burger could surely fill one’s stomach for several days.
A Gold Rush cocktail of Woodford Reserve, lemon and honey is well recommended to accompany any dish, as is the Foxglove Californian Zinfandel which is rich, full and spicy and goes down alarmingly easily.
An enormous Caritas Torta of pork shoulder, achiote, orange zest and spices is the highlight of the evening. Again, very hard to consume without getting covered in it: it’s a conversation killer, but worth it. The meat is tender with unexpected and refreshing hints of balsamic vinegar to keep you on your toes, while a bag of Woodford Reserve glazed, slow barbecue rib tips actually proven to be the tipping point of decadence. So overpowering is the BBQ sauce, they are impossible to finish and to describe the state of one’s sauce covered face and fingers would be most humiliating.
Finally, a mixed pot of sea-salt caramel, whisky and candied orange, cherry and praline ice-cream from street food stall, Sorbitiumices, provides welcome, cooling relief from the meat and whisky, as the night comes full circle.
But there’s one hidden surprise: Picklejack shots. A measure of Jack Daniel’s Single barrel chased immediately by a shot of smoked jalapeño pickle juice. Certainly one for the brave as they’re a bit of an ordeal, but they’ll definitely banish any booze and food induced sleepiness.
Hawker House is open until 2am, and the dance floor provides a perfect opportunity to work off all those delightfully consumed calories with draught beer from the Meantime and Camden breweries flowing from various bars around the main hall.
Street Feast is definitely the place of the moment to catch up with friends or relieve the tension of a week’s hard work. Everybody here seems relaxed and content. Staff are friendly and engaging, more than happy to advise on the best liquid accompaniment to every food offering.
With two weeks left of its current cycle, Street Feast is planning to re-open again at Hawker House in February. Previous venue locations have included Haggerston and Dalston, with future events planned to cover North, South and East London.
Hawker House, 38-50 Pritchard’s Road, London, E2 9AP
Every Friday and Saturday, 5pm-2am, until Saturday December 14.
£3 on the door between 7pm and 11pm, free entry outside those times.
Find out more online at www.streetfeastlondon.com
Keep up to date on twitter @Tweat_Up and @StreetFeastLDN or follow the hashtag #HawkerHouse