Summer is my favourite season. In my childhood, June marked the beginning of long school holidays and trips to the seaside; two pleasures I eventually bade farewell to, as erratic work commitments replaced the reliable routine of academic terms. Even ice cream, my lifelong addiction, has nothing to do with my love of the hot season; I’m up for eating it all year round, so it’s no summer specialty to me! The reason why I love this particular time of the year is much simpler: I’m a sucker for late sunsets. They’re the one thing that makes summer nights truly magic; so bright, warm and beautiful, I just can’t bear the thought of spending them indoors.
Back in Northern Italy, country villages like the one I grew up in are preparing to host their own traditional summer events. The English expression that best defines them, “countryside festivals”, is far too sophisticated to describe their folksy atmosphere; often held to promote seasonal produce or celebrate religious recurrences, they’re mostly a chance to eat, drink and be merry with your gang. Wine and beer flow liberally at all times, and barbecues sizzle with loads of comfortably greasy food – my favourite part of the shindig. Picture juicy ribs and chicken legs, strictly eaten with your bare hands and paired with grilled polenta; heavenly heaps of fried calamari; handfuls of crispy chips, fresh from the deep fryer and always a tad too salty, but all the more fulfilling for that.
While I miss my country feasts, London’s street food events are doing a great job of making sure I don’t get too homesick or bored. The city offers plenty of outdoor food festivals in the summer months, but this year, the fun started early for me: over the past two weeks, I already discovered a lot of praiseworthy street food traders. Here are the top three dishes I tasted so far, and why you should keep an eye out for them.
1. Club Mexicana‘s vegan tacos
How I discovered them: Club Mexicana catered at Nuffnang UK’s first birthday party, held at Netil 360 Rooftop – the stunning setting for the first two pictures in this post. If you work remotely, you can enjoy that same view all week round, with a £17 All Day Pass that includes high speed internet.
My experience: Discovering vegan tacos almost felt like a blind tasting. I’d never heard of wheat meat or jackfruit before – and yet, I merrily sampled every taco filling on the menu, as if the time I bit into a pretty canapé and discovered it was made with blue cheese had taught me nothing at all. Good job I took the plunge: Club Mexicana’s tacos were a revelation, comparable in satisfaction with the fish tacos I had at Death by Burrito. Only that, instead of tequila-battered fish, these had black beans and healthy avocado slices. Whoever said that all good things in life are either illegal, immoral or fattening clearly had no idea what they were talking about.
Where you can find them: Club Mexicana are regulars at Netil 360, but they also hold a popular supper club series. Check out their Facebook page to learn more about upcoming dates.
2. The Frenchie‘s duck confit burger
How I discovered it: The Frenchie had a stall at City Pantry’s Summer Street Food Festival, launched last Thursday, and open this week and next week (Wednesday to Saturday) outside West Kensington’s Tesco Superstore. Traders rotate on a weekly basis, and there’s a 2 for 1 offer on cocktails between 6pm and 7pm – just in case you’re unsure where to go unwind after work!
My experience: If well-cooked meat is the bare minimum you’d expect from a duck confit burger, The Frenchie goes above and beyond the call of duty, delighting diners with a particularly inspired choice of bread. Forget the classic baps and rolls: this is actual, dangerously addictive brioche bread, guaranteed to leave you craving for more. Just imagine combining the softness of a brioche bun, the delightful milky sweetness of its crumb, with the taste of juicy duck confit and the decadent crunchiness of scratchings. Don’t just take my word for it: this burger is well worth a try, and you should get yourself one right now.
Where you can find it: The Frenchie are a busy bunch: they trade at the City’s Whitecross Street Market from Monday to Friday, South Bank’s Real Food Festival from Friday to Sunday, Broadway Market on Saturdays, and Camden Lock Market on weekends.
3. Brookes and Jones‘s cakes
How I discovered them: Brookes and Jones’s bakes were my dessert of choice at City Pantry’s festival. I set my eyes on their stall as soon as I got there, and immediately decided I wasn’t going to leave without tasting at least one slice of cake.
My experience: I said I was determined to take a slice of cake home with me. To tell the whole truth, I actually had two! The matcha and white chocolate cake tasted every bit as lovely as it looked; perhaps a little too sugary for my buds, but still remarkably good. My personal highlight, though, was the pistachio and raspberry loaf. The strong taste of pistachio in the sponge made for an unusual, glorious twist on classic cake batter; a pleasure that ended far too soon. I’d love to get the recipe and make it again (and again, and again).
Where you can find them: Brookes and Jones sell their bakes at Hackney’s Village Green Market, every Sunday.
Note: I attended Nuffnang’s birthday party and City Pantry’s Street Food Festival as a guest. All opinions are my own.