Nottingham Street Food Club
*2018 update – I have upgraded the overall Street Food Club score to 8, mainly thanks to Homeboys always been present and excellent on each occasion I have been. Other vendors have been a consistently higher standard than on my first visit. Other enjoyable outlets have been Smiffys Smoke Shack, Smoqued, Taste of Korea and Secret Burger Club.
I got my tickets for the opening weekend at the Street Food Club (SFC) a couple of weeks in advance and it was certainly sold out a fortnight ago. Following the short trip up the Victoria Centre Clock Tower there was no indication of any system and anyone could have popped in which was surprising. It was probably a measure they would invoke if things got too busy but I expected a little more from an event I booked a ticket for, albeit for free.
It’s a compact but spacious room, the street food outlets line the outside with a central bar and tables filling most of the rest of the space. I ventured to the bar and was disappointed to find that Amstel and Heineken were the only beers on tap. I managed to get the last Freedom Pale Ale but there was little choice for the fans of “proper” beer. A decent range of spirits were available.
Onto the food, there are 4 vendors available and I believe these will rotate over time to keep things fresh. The one that’s had the most publicity is Homeboys, the brainchild of Nottingham’s former MasterChef contestant Pete Hewitt. Pete’s food is influenced from Asia, with their menu particularly Taiwan and Korea. There were 2 Bao available (£6 for 2). Bao are Taiwanese steamed buns, and in this case one pork belly one fried chicken. This was pretty much what I look for from street food, interesting small bites but packed with flavour. The chicken had extremely crispy batter and had plenty of a spicy mayonnaise sauce. The belly was the best thing I ate all day, a soy reduction and relish complimented the meat excellently. We also tried a kimchi pickled egg (£1.50) that was deep fried, it had a surprisingly strong taste of the chilli / cabbage. An excellent snack with a beer.
- Food: 8.5
- Value: 8
Juganaut sold Tacos, chicken and vegetable with a fusion touch. We had 3 in total – 2 chicken and 1 veg for £6.00. The chicken one was certainly tasty but I think I preferred the roasted vegetables, they had a spicier edge and were a bit more filling. The tacos themselves I would have preferred if they had been softer, they were the “soft” versions but had a bit of a hard edge. My only other criticism was the lack of choice, only 2 items to sample.
- Food: 7.5
- Value: 7.5
Suede bar have a booth serving up their pizzas under the name Death by Pizza. There is certainly a good choice, the one that caught my eye was the Ndjua sausage number at £6. You can tell from the picture that the base / crust was not great, a world away from the great street food pizzas of the Rustic Crust for example. The tomato sauce to tasted a little cheap but the toppings were all good, especially the roasted red pepper. As I gazed across the street I couldn’t help thinking I’d rather pay a couple of pounds more for a trip to Inferno or Oscar and Rosie’s.
- Food: 6.5
- Value: 6.5
The final of the four vendors is Numinums, a vegetarian and vegan specialist. Their menu was dominated by falafel as part of a flatbread or a mezze. We went for the mezze at £6, apparently £6 is the winning price point at the SFC. The takeaway container contained lots of goodness, a base of fresh salad, very good hummus and some grated carrot ‘slaw’. Topping all that was a handful of seeds, some olives, a pickled chilli and the falafels themselves. It was a tasty mix of things but nothing that was going to set the world alight. Good to see vegan options but with so few food stalls I would rather have had something a bit more interesting.
- Food: 7.5
- Value: 6.5
I really like the concept – though the irony of street food in a newly refurbished shopping centre, next to chain restaurants, is not lost on me. The atmosphere, like the Victoria Centre, was a little sterile and lacked the buzz of similar operations I have been to. Admittedly a solid playlist was employed that took the edge of being in a clinical, low-ceilinged box room..for a few minutes. More vendors would bring in more people so it is a shame that seems not to be possible with the space they have. I’d return for some Homeboy food but not much else would convince me to part with my all important £6.