Choosing to eat outdoors in London is a pretty bold move. Rain is likely, if it’s not actually raining it’ll be too cold, and if the sun does manage to shine you’ll forget that it’s still too cold and that fake Ray Bans aren’t as warm as a coat. But a few blue extremities never (permanently) hurt anyone and there’s a warmth about Urban Food Fest that makes you wonder why we ever bother with restaurants and their clearly unnecessary walls and roofs.
A bleak car park in Shoreditch is brightened with over a dozen food trucks and stands each Saturday. There’s variety enough to satisfy even the most jaded London food fanatic – South Africa, Peru, Portugal, Italy and France’s cuisines were all represented on my visit – and the line-up of vendors changes every week.
As the lucky and gluttonous guests of Urban Food Fest we got to try a LOT of food, and there was only one dish I didn’t feel upset about not finishing. Highlights were a sweetly rich meatball stew hidden in a hollow loaf of bread from Bunnychow, simple but perfectly prepared Peruvian chicken skewers from a charcoal grill, a toastie that oozed endless salty stilton and tangy chutney and a juicy venison and chorizo burger topped with gorgeous pear and chicory relishes from Got Game.
You can’t base a good night out on food alone (though in my opinion it’s also impossible to have a good night out without it), and the atmosphere is what makes this place. Everyone’s happily nicking tasters off their friends and getting gently merry on cider as the sun goes down, and the inevitable queues don’t seem so bad when there’s an enthusiastic stallholder at the end of them.
It’s still Shoreditch, where there’s an unwritten but universally abided by ruling that drinks should never sold at bargain prices, but the food is great value, and you can easily eat and drink too much for less than £20. It’s cheaper than a pub garden and chirpier than a restaurant terrace. Never before have I felt so fond of a car park.
Urban Food Fest
Saturday evenings until June 21 2014, Euro Car Parks, 162-175 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HU