As you get older, street food might become less appealing.
You want the grub, but also accessible toilets, an absence of queues, comfy seats and shelter.
In its authentic format, I suppose the genre is the backpacking of the eating-out world. That may be why former Edinburgers, Ben MacMillan and Andrew Marshall, opened this slightly less spit and sawdust space, in a format that they’re hoping to roll out to other UK cities.
Of course, it’s a bit more anodyne than, say, the Capital’s original, The Pitt. The atmosphere is that of a box fresh food hall.
There are the fake plants that are becoming my bête noire, the prerequisite neon signs, as well as communal tables and benches, inside and out.
On my visit, the place was rammed and we couldn’t help wondering what it’ll be like during the Festival.
They’ve corralled an excellent selection of 10 vendors. The staff looked industrious, working away in tiny kitchens, without sideways rain. Among others, there’s The Peruvian, Antojitos and House of Tapas.
I visited with my posse, so table service was a boon. Here’s what we sampled.
What Le Duck? This duck specialist is new to me. The Auld Alliance (£10) was a clutch-able shammy of buttery brioche filled with soft shredded meat, pickled and crispy onions, a mild chilli orange jam and rocket. It was a quacker of a sloppy sandwich.
Fabbrica Pasta: This business is owned by Italian brothers, and my husband experienced their classic Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (£10). Every robust and springy thread was varnished in a rich Parmesan and Pecorino Romano emulsion and flecks of black pepper. When in Edinburgh.
Chix: The three-year-old nephew tried five tendies (£7.50) from this fried chicken vendor. I thought they might be a bit too sophisticated for him, but each was about the size of his hand and he relished the herby crumb. We hid the ‘classic’ dip, since it was too spicy. Maybe they gave us the wrong one.
Homies: My nine-year-old vegetarian niece went for the Margherita (£7.50 for a slice) from this Detroit-style pizza business, which I had bigged up to her after my recent visit. She silently chomped through the thick wedge, with its crusty edges and blanket of mozzarella and passata. They also have a restaurant in Waverley Market, but this is a nicer venue.
Bundits: “OMG” was the enthusiastic verdict from the 12-year-old niece. She tried the green squashy bao stuffed with sticky Korean short rib (£6.50) in a BBQ sauce and pickled red cabbage. I think she could’ve easily dispatched another two or three. A fan is born.
Junk: This lot were the European Street Food Awards 2022 winner and have a restaurant in the Southside. They offer dishes including a take on a Rueben sandwich or pork shoulder and paratha, though my sister went for the priciest option - the Le Fritta A’la Misto! (£14). There was a cardboard bucket full of lightly battered soft shell crab, coley, squid strips and scallops. Everything was yielding or crispy in the right places. The mussels had been removed from their shells, then battered, and popped back in again. Cute. There were also two padron peppers, a wedge of lemon and a chevron of harissa aioli.
SoftCore: I’d been tipped off about this ice-cream place, from the people behind Homies. It offers single scoops, cones or cookies, but we honed in on the sundaes. I snuck up to their counter to procure six spoons, and we shared the Caramel Crunch (£6.50), with beige dunes of miso and caramel soft serve, salted caramel sauce, chunks of honeycomb and crunchy milk chocolate beads at the bottom of the cup. The tropical Eton mess (£6.50) version featured a bright orange mango and passion fruit sorbet, rivulets of passion fruit coulis, bits of crushed vegan meringue, coconut foam and toasted coconut flakes. Oh my.
As we finished, a live musician struck up with some KT Tunstall covers.
“I can’t hear myself think”, I grumbled, and we passed our table onto the next diners.
Still, with the exception of the loud music and the not-particularly-comfy seats, this is a very grown-up (okay, old) way to experience street food.