Who would think that eating food, in a warehouse, from a truck could be such a delicious and creative dining experience? Food writer, Zenn Wong, attended Street Food Cardiff’s first ‘Depot’ event and gives us the low-down on all things foodie.
With the aggressive rise of restaurant chains such as Nando’s and Wagamama in recent years, it’s easy to miss out on independent eateries, even more so for street food vendors who often don’t have a fixed location. However Street Food Cardiff is on a mission to change this. Organised by Something Creatives, the crew behind the well-loved Milgi cocktail bar/restaurant/art space, Street Food Cardiff is a Welsh independent street food collective that organises pop-up food markets in collaboration with independent vendors.
The innovative company launched their first Street Food Cardiff Warehouse evening on the 4th October. Being an ardent fan of street food and independent eateries, I decided to pay a visit to the pop-up event held in The Depot, a converted warehouse near the city centre – and I was not disappointed!
Upon arrival at the venue, I was greeted by what I could only describe as a somewhat surreal display – stacks of cardboard boxes and huge floating white balloons all marked with “FRAGILE” tape, setting the mood for what was to come in the actual market. Once inside, the warehouse was dim; purple-tinged lighting, light (odourless) smoke and charming installations of food trucks, wooden tables and benches, as well as the centrepiece, a massive artificial “tree” made from thin planks of wood, created a somewhat magical atmosphere.
Although, the enchanting interior was nothing compared to the fantastic array of food offerings I had come to sample. The food trucks present were Chucks (burger bar), Dirty Bird Fried Chicken, Haute Dogs (gourmet hot dogs), Bar 44 (Spanish tapas), Doughboys (wood-fired pizza), and The Brûleèe Bar (créme brûlèe). To drink, there was a variety of craft ales and cocktails available, as well as a bourbon bar.
At 7.30PM, an hour and a half after the start of the event, there was already a sizeable crowd tucking into food and drink, and queues had formed at the various trucks. My first order of business was to try some of Bar 44’s hand-carved Jamón Ibérico (£6), sourced from Los Pedroches in southern Spain. The premium ham that had been cured for 36 months was cut straight from the leg by the friendly vendors, and had a smooth texture and rich taste. To accompany the food, diners were also able to order Spanish wine and Sangria from the truck.
While I was snacking on the ham, the long queue at the cheeky Dirty Bird Fried Chicken, along with the groups of diners sat around the truck caught my eye. After an excruciating wait of what must have been thirty minutes, I managed to get my hands on an order of the truck’s signature buttermilk fried chicken along with sides of fries and coleslaw (£5, £6.50, £7.50 for two, three or five pieces of chicken à la carte, £8 including the sides). The tasty, wonderfully seasoned chicken was the highlight of this meal, crispy on the outside, but moist on the inside.
For dessert, I headed to The Brûlèe Bar, operated by two lovely ladies. I opted for a scoop of artisan vanilla ice-cream (£2) to go with my Big Apple créme brûlèe (£4). The rich and creamy vanilla créme brûlèe, speckled lightly with vanilla beans, was torched to order and had a layer of hard caramel, topped with spiced baked apples, airy whipped cream and crunchy cinammon bits. The vanilla ice-cream was just as decadent and creamy, matching perfectly with the créme brûlèe, and was served generously to boot.
By 9.30PM, perhaps owing to the unexpected volume of hungry visitors, several trucks had run out of food and thus had shut for the day, disappointing some latecomers hoping to get a taste of Cardiff’s street food. I was unfortunately too late for Doughboys’ pizza, Chucks’ burgers – a fellow student I bumped into at the event gave a rave review of them – and Haute Dogs (though the amiable cook at Haute Dogs gamely posed for a photograph). But if anything, this has only raised my excitement to head down early for the next Street Food Cardiff event!
Next on my list? Haute Dogs’ The Portland (which includes Coca-Cola cooked onions and Coca-Cola popping candy in its list of ingredients, £5), Bar 44’s Hamburguesa Negra (a soft shell crab burger with a squid ink roll, £5.50), Chucks’ Chuck Me burger (classic burger with grass fed black beef patty, £6), Doughboys’ Magherita pizza (£6), Dirty Bird’s Dirty Hippy (a fried halloumi burger, £5), as well as The Brûlèe Bar’s The Chocado (chocolate créme brûlèe with whipped cream and cookie crumble, £4). Too much? No worries, just be sure to bring some friends to polish off the food.
The next event will be the official launch of the pop-up, on the 31st of October, 6PM till 11PM with a more extensive list of vendors. It will be held at the same location, The Depot along Dumballs Road, but expect it to be bigger and better!
More information can be found on Street Food Cardiff’s website (http://www.streetfoodcardiff.com), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/StreetFoodCardiff), or Twitter (https://twitter.com/streetfoodCDF).