It’s finally arrived!
June! The start of The Evening Standard’s long awaited Food Month and hyped Night Market! This new tribute to food boasts over 400 events across London, while the Night Market brings together 50 of London’s most popular and diverse food stalls to one location, all in the name of summer!
I came here with my mother for her birthday treat (aren’t I a great son!). But before that, we began with a stroll through Holland Park to visit the tranquil Kyoto Gardens, where scavenging squirrels and exotic birds roam. Weather wasn’t great but we were still able to take some great pictures.
Then, after a fancy walk down Kensington High Street and through the beautiful vistas of Kensington Park Gardens, we finally arrive at the grand yet guarded entrance of the Night Market. Once through the mundanities of security, there is this huge breath of fresh air as you step into a transformed London with wide greenery, Westfield’s expansive open air cinema, gleaming white canopies and a white bricked road leading to Food Oz. The whole venue looked fantastic!
Who needs scarecrows, lions or an Emerald city when you’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle of busy food stalls bellowing the beautiful smells of cooking? If that’s not enough, enjoy a Mexican band, make a phone call in a psychedelic phone booth, dine in a room filled with multi coloured umbrellas hanging from the ceiling or listen to some “sick” tunes booming out of the DJ corner while sipping on Cobra beer (they made their presence known, trust me).
Go deeper and you find familiar shop faces such as the renowned Patty and Bun, The Cheese Truck, Bad Brownie and more. But the main event for us was as we reached the centre point of the market. Making appearances in Delicious and Olive magazines, The Evening Standard, The Independent and beyond, we found Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Edge a little closer however and OMG it’s Zoe herself! Serving customers in nonchalant fashion, completely unaffected by her aura of fame. We were able to shake hands and take pictures with her. Of course remembering to buy something too!
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
What we ordered was the large mixed platter so we could sample many of her celebrated dishes, this involved the grilled plantain, spiced bean stew, fried chicken, beef suya kebab sticks, tilapia fillets and Okra fries. All were very cleanly cooked, fresh and visually stunning. We especially loved the okra fries which were so well seasoned and battered that I completely forgot I was eating a vegetable! However, from personal experience of tasting Nigerian food, I found a noticeable lack in punchy flavour leaving me slightly disappointed in all honesty. BUT since we’ve never tried Ghanaian food at restaurant level this was still a memorable experience, great stuff for a restaurant that started as a food stall!
Back to the market and how we found the next restaurant was purely based on coincidence. While queuing for Patty and Bun to top up on our shared Ghanaian platter, we were randomly discussing what to order on the menu with a gentleman behind us. While engaged in light chit-chat, he casually mentions the restaurant he works with in this market and that it is Peruvian. The word triggers curiosity in my mind as I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try Peruvian cuisine for months. What better a time than an event like this? Offering to take us there, we spontaneously follow this stranger to his tent called Pisqu. I notice the word ceviche (the only word I can barely associate to Peruvian cuisine) on the menu and ask what it is. He replies that this is the national dish of Peru containing seafood. I was sold and bought it immediately – trying the national dish had to be done!
I was handed a small plastic pot of what appeared to be a fruit cocktail, my heart sinks ESPECIALLY after paying ten pounds. However, never judge a book by its cover foodventurers, because the moment you open this little plastic pot your nostrils are suddenly acknowledging with attention the imminent excitement of this dish. The vibrancy is clear as the colours jump out of the pot living up to the meaning behind the name of Pisqu. Take a mouthful… and WOW is the first word that springs to mind. The texture of the raw chunked fillets and mussels are fleshy like the cuts of smoked salmon, at the base is creamy sweet potato along with small pellets of edamame beans. Why Edamame? Because Pisqu is influenced by the cuisines of Japan as well as China and Spain. Pooled together with classic Peruvian flavours from the tiger’s milk and aji limo formed a marinade packed with piquant flavour, complementing the dish to make a beautiful concoction overall. I vow to visit their base when I have the cash!
As we leave the Food market, we are very pleased with our experience. If you’ve read my post on Tapas Brindisa, you will have seen my mini rant about the Carnaby Street Food Market and all things wrong with it. Even though we only sampled two restaurants and the prices were high here, THIS is how a food market should be done, with space, atmosphere, genuinely good food, entertainment and good memories. Kudos to Evening Standard and the Creative Directors Grace Dent and Tom Parker Bowles.