Reading Tweets from the queue on the opening night was how I first heard about the Long Table. I was sat in Lahore Kebabhouse, a much warmer environment from which to ogle at the bizarreness of London’s food scene. We’re people really queuing up, in the cold, on a Friday night to get into a market? Fast forward a couple of weeks and the Missus declares that her birthday gathering is taking place at the same market. Despite my best efforts to get the earliest train up to London, I find myself queuing a warehouse in Dalston, with the hipsters and the foodies, in the cold, on a Friday night.
Fortunately, we’re a good natured lot, buoyed up by the prospect of what lies within. I’m left to muse over a few thought; I continue to draw parallels between London’s burgeoning pop-ups and food event scene with the underground dance music movement I was a part of about a decade ago and secondly, the ability of Twitter to motivate Londoners through a love of good food and drinks currently seems to far exceed it’s capacity.
But the last thought is dispelled as the queue moves fast and in less than thirty minutes a day-glo bibbed security dude waves me through into an unevenly surfaced yard, surrounded on all side by the sort of brick warehouses that are liberally dotted around Dalston. I’m transported back to the ‘rave days’ again, except this time the very last thing a committed raver would want, Food, is the star attraction.
It’s not so huge a space as to be big enough to lose people and as if to prove this I quickly bump into the birthday girl, she’s clutching a Lucky Chip cheeseburger which she offers to share. It’s delicious and much better than the over laden Sheen special I had on my last visit to their normal pitch. Their specials are fun, but perhaps a bit too messy for my liking, the Cheeseburger is where the real action lies.
I think about doing a quick recce and returning to what takes my fancy, but I get about five steps before the falling for the pig head’s stew from the St John Bread & Wine stall. I have a real love for cheap cuts, offal and simple stews. It’s just the tonic, fatty hunks of meat, slices of tongue, crispy crackling and pearl barley in a tasty broth are cut through by a pickled carrot garnish and served on a generous bed of buttered sprout tops. Heady stuff!
Recce abandoned, I decide to eat my way around the market until I’m full. I can’t resist the jolly chap at the House of Umami and his pile of Oysters, in seconds he is presenting me with a freshly shucked oyster – it is deliciously smooth with a creamy texture and lovely taste of the sea. I could eat half a dozen of these – but I have bigger, somewhat porky fish to fry.
Living out in the sticks during the week means no instant gratification of food cravings and sometimes you just a get a big old itch. Today that was a Big Apple Hot Dog shaped itch, so sadly I had to hot foot it past The Ribman, skip past Lily Vanilli and her delightful cakes, even market founder Nuno Mendes with his confit salmon broth and L.A. Sueño and their epically mustachioed, taco serving proprietor both had to wait. On through the billows of steam billowing from Yum Buns and past the band until I arrived at my destination – the Big Apple Hotdog cart. Usually to be found on Old Street, just east of the big ugly roundabout, Abiye’s super fine Dogs are a proper treat for sausage lovers (me). Quickly armed with the signature Big Dog, a huge pork and beef sausage seasoned with marjoram, garlic and black pepper. I dress mine with fried onions, deli mustard and a little dash of The Ribman’s Holy Fuck Hot Sauce, suffice to say if you haven’t partaken of one these Dogs then you need to seek them out.
Thoughts turn to sweet things, on recommendation from Chloe, our coffee expert and hopeless chocaholic, the missus goes for an Absinthe hot chocolate from Columbia road artisan baker Lily Vanilli – a warming mug of rich velvety liquid chocolate, finished with a dash of absinthe. It is sublime. I’m already planning on replacing my usual hot choc tipple, whisky with a dash of Pernod.
I’m heading back to the St John stall for a round of mince pies. Their signature Eccles Cake displays their deft hand with fruit, spice and pastry and the mince pie more than lives up to their reputation. The pie is simply stunning, best mince pie I’ve eaten. My day off next week has already been pencilled in to go and order a dozen from the restaurant.
By now the band is in full swing and people are even singing along to a few numbers, the party is set to go on into the wee hours, but for the Missus and I, it’s time to head home and reintroduce blood to our feet and cranial cavities. It’s been a great evening and we haven’t even checked out half the food on offer. Come with a buddy and I reckon with a bit of judicious sharing you could easily put together a tasting menu of the best street food that London has to offer. Wrap up warm and don’t worry about the queues, they don’t last long and us foodies are a friendly bunch.
The last Long Table of the year takes place this Friday 16th December at Abbot Street in Dalston – nearby stations are Dalston Junction and Dalston Kingsland. But if you can’t make that there’s already rumblings of something of this ilk taking place again in 2012. So that’s all good then. Follow @TheLongTableAS on Twitter for news.
To see all the event photos visit my gallery here.