Our roving reporter Ellie Phillpots headed to the British Street Food Awards Wales and West a few weeks back, to sample the cream of local talent!
I’m a foodie. My favourite way to spend a summer weekend or evening has to be revelling in the atmosphere, concoction of smells, and myriad of tastes that food so considerately provides. Food culture is growing even bigger in the modern age. Sure, for centuries people have enjoyed its experiences – culturally, eating is a social event, one to be savoured with others. At the recent Street Food Awards, this relationship expanded to not just the people we choose to eat with, but also the vendors and chefs, each charming in their individual way.
Since moving to Cardiff, where I find everything so easy to photograph anyway, I’ve noticed my camera-roll and subsequently Instagram seeming to incorporate more food than ever before. It’s fair to say food writing; food photography, and of course, food eating, are becoming slight hobbies of mine, and Cardiff is the perfect location to indulge in this. So of course I was eager to attend when it was Wales’ turn to host the awards last weekend, after already loving sampling the Street Food Circus that is neatly nestled on John Street during every May and June weekend.
Even before I made it through the pearly gates of Heaven (otherwise known as the gates bearing a massive glittery burger and a sign reminding us it’s ‘British St Food Annual Awards – The Independent on Sunday’, the atmosphere was bubbling and merry. In I went, and was soon confronted with a bustling variety of street food stalls. From rustic pizzas to good old British mushy peas; Indian mango spiced lassi to mojitos; mini crème brulees and even vindaloo shepherd’s pie, there’s no way anyone could leave hungry or thirsty. The only hunger to be experienced upon finally exiting would be non-literal – hunger to stay for even more! But there were definitely plenty of cuisines to choose from.
Deliberating took up a big chunk of the day. I browsed between The Purple Poppadom; Ships; Patagonia; Slow Pig; Dirty Bird Fried Chicken; The Smallest Pizzeria in the World; Chucks; Cheeky Indian; the bar; Nelly’s Barn; Bristol Chai Guy and Wild Fig Farm, before eventually settling on the battered halloumi bites somewhat drowning in an array of sauces, from Dirty Bird Fried Chicken. As well as this stall’s delights, it did live up to the event’s promise of transforming a corner of Cardiff into Brooklyn. Must be the chicken, as I know that’s a popular food over in the Big Apple! And I wasn’t alone in thinking they were sublime – because DFC won Runner-Up in the overall category of the Welsh and South West leg of the awards. Very well deserved!
The actual winners, however, were Patagonia, whose head chef Jamie O’Leary enticingly describes their produce as ‘strictly beef, all Welsh, all local, with some Argentinean flair.’ You can say that again! I can confirm their classic steak sandwich was pretty sweet. (Literally savoury, of course. But a very sweet, good thing to experience. )
As well as Cardiff specifically, on a wider level the UK is gaining an even more positive name for food in recent years. Gone are the days when merely roast dinners and fish and chips spoke for the land’s eating habits – although nothing against them! Now, we’re home to the flavour of the world – and British Street Food Awards accurately embodied this. Which is why it also made sense for the Awards to tour the whole nation – stopping in Oxford; Cardiff; Scotland and Cornwall before the exciting Big Final in London from 25 – 27 September.
Food in this country is so good that Blighty now boasts even more Michelin Stars than Italy – once arguably deemed the universal food capital. To honour this, The Smallest Pizzeria in the World was a Cardiff sell-out! But from my time browsing the selection on offer in the Sunday sun, I can conclude food festivals and specifically the British Street Food Awards made this feat seem believable. Each vendor gave a fantastic effort – so much so, my consumption wasn’t restricted to the site itself! Of course I had to nab an iced Earl Grey (which contained so many mint leaves that security mistook it for alcohol) and 5 adorable tiny cupcakes from Bristol Chai Guy, who are so good they hopped across the border for the event, to keep me going during my walk home!
I couldn’t fault the day – a mantra clearly seconded by the crowds, whose enthusiasm showed no sign of relenting – and am looking forward to seeing the overall winners of categories such as Best Burger and Best Vegetarian in a few months’ time. Well done to all involved, and I’ll definitely be back – once my food baby subsides!
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