I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but on Friday night I found myself at one of those clapped-out warehouses I love to complain about. It was situated, rather alarmingly, on a Bethnal Green backstreet. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Hawker House.
Pho bills itself as London’s ‘first specialist Vietnamese street-food restaurant’, a brazen lie that’d shame Shia LaBoeuf himself. But they are amongst the first of London’s restaurants to make Vietnamese food truly accessible, which is definitely a good thing.
Camden isn’t much of a foodie paradise. I can only assume that those who reside there don’t actually eat, they’re all too busy dying their hair ironic shades of neon and clumping about in ten stone shoes to notice the calls of hunger. I guess they starve, in the end. A sad tale. If they do take time out from their frighteningly-cool lives to have a bite to eat though the Camden folk go to Naamaste, because it’s the only decent eating establishment in the area. And because cool people like Indian cuisine.
Islington restaurant John Salt caused quite a stir when it opened under the tenure of Chef Ben Spalding – who made people lick actual bricks for some reason. He then left in a hurry, and was replaced by Pitt Cue’s Neil Rankin, who, it is claimed, was somewhat of a charcoal grill/big pieces of piggy meat hot shot. He’s since upped sticks, and been replaced by this gravy loving chef-man.
Shoreditch’s brand new foodie extravaganza the Urban Food Fest has been billed as much more than just another food festival. There’s live music, make-up artists and caricaturists as well as a bar for a few pre-dinner drinks as you peruse the dinner options.
These days Londoners love a good pop-up. Nothing makes a London dweller happier than the thought of eating food in a converted shack, out of a van or on a street corner. It is a very cool thing to do, you see. Very chic, as they say, before, all being well, they are punched squarely on the nose.
Anyhow I digress, here’s a pop-up and it’s actually quite good. It’s called Yalla Yalla, an annoying name if ever there was one.
Yalla Yalla serves Beirut Street Food. And it’s in Shoreditch. And it is indeed housed within what looked to me like a warehouse of some sort. There is also shisha, and a wine stall. I know, so far it sounds positively hideous but do bear with – it’ll turn out alright in the end.
The menu is a condensed version of Yalla Yalla’s full grown restaurants, with a few mezze bits and bobs and main meaty dishes of what are essentially poshed up kebabs. There are also wraps and lemonade, which a positively delighted chap told us he had made himself. He really was pleased about this.
I wasn’t expecting much from the food, I’ll be honest. I’m judgmental like that. But I was wrong, oh yes very wrong indeed! We tried the Chicken Shawarma (grilled thin slices of marinated chicken, grilled tomato, sumac, parsley and red pepper salad) and Lahem Shawarma (same as above, but with lamb). Both of these were very impressive, actually. Portions were gigantic also, so come hungry.
Atmosphere wise it is undeniably cool, and on a Monday night was heaving so clearly a hit with the Shoreditch bunch. Give it a try, it’s here for the summer.
Gluten Free? Lots of options have been designed with gluten free folk in mind and the staff do know their stuff, but I would recommend heading to one of their proper restaurants as the pop-up only serves a condensed version of the full menu.
186 Shoreditch High Street
Looking for the perfect place for your Sunday Roast? Of course you are. Well the Old Red Cow isn’t perfect, but you could do a lot worse in the capital.