Review: Street Food Circus, Canton

Words by Christopher Colbourn

Images by Christopher Colbourn and Shannon Worsey

I try to keep to a pretty strict food budget (I view meals out as ‘entertainment’) but when I’m out for the day, trekking back to Roath to make lunch is an unappealing prospect. With the dwindling remains of my maintenance loan in mind, I try to put my budget before my belly and look for some frugal-ish on-the-hoof food. The obvious choice would be a supermarket meal deal but David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have effectively shamed me into avoiding excess packaging when I can. Street food it is, then. Luckily for me and anyone else trying to reduce their carbon footprint, Cardiff is home to a variety of street food hubs and popups, the latest of which is the Street Food Circus, having recently rolled into Canton’s Old School Yard.

The yard is playing host to a rotating cast of vendors, so your mileage may vary, but there is a handy guide on the Circus’ Instagram page to help you plan your visit, along with some positively filthy pictures of some of the food on offer. I visibly deflated upon seeing that Mighty Softshell Crab’s tempura battered treats had come and gone by the time I visited, so don’t count on being able to eat something you’ve had your eye on for next weekend. I had to take a rain check on Two Anchors’ (deep breath) Cedar Plank Fire Roasted Salmon with Kimchi Butter and Korean Slaw in a Brioche Bun as well, but I did visit their usual location at Sticky Fingers later this week for a shrimp roll I can heartily recommend.

The crew of my beloved Early Bird Bakery- whose brick and mortar store can be visited on Woodville Road- put in an appearance, bringing with them a selection of doughnuts and other indulgent baked goods, because after all the good you’ve done supporting local businesses, you can afford to be a little bit naughty.

Castle Arcade’s Science Cream brought their wonderfully theatrical liquid nitrogen-chilled ice cream, great to cool off anyone that starts to wilt in the sun, but they faced stiff competition in the form of the Circus’ craft beer and cocktail offerings.

My experience wasn’t entirely positive, however. Though entry to the circus is free, you can expect to pay around £7 at each stall, so if you want to sample a few dishes, the best strategy is to bring a few friends, establish a bench as base camp and build a buffet from your picks. The music emanating from the craft beer bus’ speakers contributed to a summery, music-festival atmosphere, but there wasn’t really anywhere to sit away from it, so it dominated the walled-in space more than I would have liked. I appreciate that the Circus filled in an otherwise empty and underused space in the neighbourhood but it felt a little cramped; the tightly-packed throng of picnic tables in the centre forcing me to go around the edge of the yard to get to different vendors, negotiating a path through the queues on my way.

Thinking with my wallet again, and regretting that I missed Green Man, I did wish that there was more to the festival than just the food. You can spend a whole weekend at Glastonbury or Green Man and never see a single band if you don’t want to, but if you don’t fancy any of the vendors’ offerings on the day you visit the Street Food Circus, there’s nothing else for you. On the bright side, if you do get bored, the Circus’ Canton location is just a stone’s throw from the Chapter Arts Centre and not in a field in the middle of nowhere like a music festival.