The Birmingham Street Food revolution starts tonight at the
Prince of Wales pub, Moseley
Street Food has become all the rage in London over the last
four years. Forget the greasy burger bar on the street corner, whose products
are downmarket. ‘Street Food’ is about top of the range food stalls that have
perfected a single dish. If you want to see the start of a big push to bring
this London phenomenon to Birmingham come to the Prince of Wales pub, Moseley,
tonight to taste Meat Shack – this guy makes the best hamburgers in the UK
outside of London.
But before we come onto MeatShack, let me go back two years.
Two years ago I was listening to a Radio 4 programme about a
new fad in London called ‘Street Food’. The programme started off next to a mobile
burger van in a pub car park in a dodgy part of East End of London – there were
about 100 customers waiting for this burger van to open, since it had been
blogged that this burger van sold the best burgers in London. The proprietor of
this stall had studied the traditional hamburger and had worked out the ideal
recipe for the bun, the relish and the burger itself.
Street Food was born!
In London there is now a thriving community of artisan
chiefs, who focus on one piece of food, perfect it and sell it, ready to eat,
from street stalls. There is now a lively blog and twitter community in London
debating the best ‘street food’ stalls, such that the street food markets can
have a regeneration efforts on shopping centres – the street food markets
attract hundreds of customers who use the local pubs and shops as well as the
food market. Indeed, I heard about one ‘street food’ market that rented the top
(8th) floor of a car park in Peckham – it attracted thousands. When
the market was finished, there was a party on this top floor to watch the sun
Now Birmingham has transformed itself over the last 8 years
as a gastro-city. Many thanks are due to the excellent work of Marketing
Birmingham who has led on this agenda. When I was Cabinet member for Leisure,
Sport and Culture in Birmingham City Council (2009 to 2012) I was keen to help
Marketing Birmingham, especially in growing the mid-range restaurant sector –
Birmingham has a thriving bottom and top sector restaurants, but a big gapping
hole in between. I believe ‘street food’ can plug this gap.
To explain a bit more about Meat Shack, has a piece by Mark
Laurie, Director, the Nationwide Caterers Association
The humble burger has gone through many transformations over
the years, from public enemy number one during the fast food explosion to
over-priced gastro pub mainstay. This simple beef patty sandwich never seemed
to live up to its billing, either over-priced, inedible or even downright
dangerous. Whether Rocket and Stilton or lips and ass-holes, it seemed no one
knew how to recreate this classic piece of Americana.
In the last few years however, there has been something of a
revolution, starting in London a couple of years ago, companies such as the
meat-wagon stripped back the gastro pub - gourmet fluff and started looking at
what made the burger so popular in it’s heyday of 1950’s America.
Old cooking techniques were re-discovered, care and
attention paid to sourcing the meat and the buns; trying every type of
‘plastic’ cheese, no stone went unturned.
Led by the Meatwagon, this burger renaissance has since led the street food
revolution in London, which has transformed the city scape with good honest
food done properly. It was only a matter of time until word got out.
I was chatting to one of the men responsible for bringing us
GBK a few months ago about what made burgers so irrepressible and we agreed. They have to be dirty, sloppy, greasy, guilty
pleasures! there’s nothing ‘nice’ about a good burger. It’s all about a great
combination of simple food prepared and cooked well. There are no pretensions
when you’re battling to keep meat juice and ketchup off your clothes.
Paul Collis’ Meat shack opened a few months ago with a
residency at Stirchley market, offering proper ‘dirty burgers’. It was the
culmination of months of research into the London burger scene, sourcing the
right local produce and practicing cooking techniques. After cutting his teeth
BBQ-ing at private parties the meat shack was ready to trade.
We’d been talking to him throughout the process,
recommending new burger joints, hearing of his new discoveries, discussing the
finer points of processed cheese (cheddar has no place on a burger and don’t
get me started on stilton!) and how to get it to melt into the medium rare
patty –true burgeracs let off the leash.
Now Paul has secured a new residency at the Prince of Wales
pub, arguably the most popular haunt for Moseley hipsters, with it’s tiki-bar,
urban beach and cigar shack, if the garden was a little bit smaller you’d swear
you were in Shoreditch. Resurrecting the ghosts of the underground restaurant,
the Meat-Easy with boozy cocktails and dirty burgers, this combination is just
what Moseley’s been crying out for.
Opening tonight, the Meat shack will be at the POW
Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. If you are looking for an alternative to the high
end Birmingham food fest at Colmore Row head down to the Prince of Wales, I’d
recommend a medium rare jalapeno or for the traditionalists, the classic dirty
cheese burger. To find out more about street food and
street food in the Midlands check www.streetfood.org.uk
Written by Mark Laurie, Director, the Nationwide Caterers