Gourmet Life: The word on the street
PUBLISHED: 11:37 18 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:56 18 October 2013
A new wave of enterprising chefs are taking high-quality street food to the highways and byways of the Cotswolds, Mark Taylor explains.
If your idea of street food is buying an undercooked hotdog from a chap wearing a ketchup-splattered apron on a street corner when the pubs have closed, then think again.
Last month’s Street Food festival in London attracted hundreds of high-quality mobile food and drink vendors from all over Europe, each one serving food as good as many top restaurants.
From the pink Swedish El Taco truck to the van selling seasonal low-country soups from Amsterdam, the two-day event brought a diverse range of street food served from a parade of classic vans, trucks and trailers.
Street food has never been more popular in the UK, with successful London mobile operations such as Pitt Cue Co. and Byron Burgers even morphing into fully-fledged restaurants and chains.
And now the street food scene has spread west to the Cotswolds, with a number of enterprising new businesses popping up across the region.
Cheltenham-based Will Spiers started his CamperVin mobile bar business in May but had been planning it for a year prior to that when he bought a vintage camper van and had it refurbished.
The bar, housed in a converted red 1973 bay window VW Camper, serves a range of premium wines, beers and spirits. Available for private parties and public events, the CamperVin bar is run by Will and a team with more than 20 years of experience in hospitality and events.
The CamperVin got its first airing at the Gloucester Tall Ships Festival in May and it has appeared at festivals, village fetes, race meetings, concerts and private parties throughout the summer. It is now gearing up for a busy autumn and winter, including Cheltenham and Chepstow races.
Will says: “My intention was to raise the standard of the serve at events by using the best products and serving from the best disposable glasses available as I’m not allowed any glass at the events I attend.
“The reaction to both the vehicle and my products has blown me away. I have always loved VW Campers and I knew they were popular, but the number of photos we’ve posed for is incredible.
“I’ve been delighted with how things have started and we have done some fantastic events and met some brilliant people along the way. It has certainly been a great privilege to be invited to run the bar at people’s weddings.”
Cirencester-based Baz & Fred’s was launched two years ago by friends Harry ‘Baz’ Henriques and Fred Hicks, who set about serving thin-crust Italian pizzas in a state-of-the-art pizza oven designed by sculptor Daniel Chadwick, who also owns the Woolpack pub at Slad.
The lightweight ovens replicate the cooking conditions of a full-size brick pizza oven, but they are 18 inches wide, run off a gas hob and are easy to set up anywhere.
The business has quickly expanded this year, with the mobile pizza trolley recently joined by a full-size catering trailer containing a kitchen with its own French rotisserie.
The Baz & Fred’s mobile trailer can serve around 100 people at a time and the menu features pizzas but also rotisserie chickens, porchetta stuffed with herbs, garlic and apple, and Mr Porky pulled pork baps with sweet BBQ sauce, coleslaw, baby gem.
Baz & Fred’s has become a popular fixture at weddings across the Cotswolds, including at Cripps Barn the wedding venue owned by Harry’s father Mark.
Harry says: “We do street food at sensible prices, all served from our vehicle and because the food is served on paper plates or in baps, we don’t hit our customers with china or cutlery hire costs, or waiting staff. Our mission is top-quality, simple and cheap.”
The Little Green Wiggly Machine is the latest project from chef Rob Rees and his Wiggly Worm charity which uses food to improve the health, well-being and self-esteem amongst vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
By day (Tuesday to Saturday), the converted Citroen van serves food to the locals in the Abbey Grounds at Cirencester but at night it is transformed into a ‘poverty pop-up’ feeding Gloucestershire’s less fortunate.
The food truck manager is chef Laurence Kapoor, who has taken inspiration from all corners of the globe to create his street food menus. A typical week’s menu might include Jamaican jerk chicken, Punjabi chicken curry, Malaysian beef rending or Moroccan lamb.
In the evening, the van prepares nutritious meals for homeless people and those in need of support in urban and rural areas across the Cotswolds. Wholesome dishes like fish pie, shepherd’s pie and korma curries are made using ingredients purchased with surplus profits and donations from the van’s daytime trade.
The truck aims to do three poverty pop-ups a month and possibly more during the winter. Rob says it will work alongside GPs and agencies working in the area and it will pop up across the whole of the Cotswold area. Partners like the GEAR project and the NHS Homeless Team in Gloucester will be key in helping the van to reach those who really need it.
Rob says he wanted to use the model for street food but combine it with the work of his Wiggly Worm charity to help the growing numbers of people in food poverty and working poverty.
“I wanted to take the idea of a charitable organisation still meeting its objectives and creating a sustainable business model and apply it to our wider work.
“As the winter approaches, many people are being forced into making choices between fuel or food. We are in the midst of a crisis that is dividing society and yet one that everyone can help solve.
“We have calculated the simple cost of just £2 to feed one hot meal. We hope that through donations, sponsorships and money created from our day trade we will be able to provide free nutritional hot meals to those who need it most.
“We believe there is a better way to give and support people with good food than just food banks. There is room and a need for both but this is our concept for getting fresher, well balanced nutritious hot food to those who really need it whilst having a double life as the coolest, tastiest street food in The Cotswolds.”
For more information on the businesses featured, visit:
This article is from the November 2013 edition of Cotswold Life.
For more from Mark Taylor, follow him on Twitter: @MarkTaylorFood