Page 10 - MarketTimesApril2016
P. 10

  Street food is hot on Exmouth Market
HOW times change. Once Clerkenwell in the London borough of Islington was a den of iniquity, infamous for its brothels and the Dickensian setting where Fagin and the Artful Dodger taught Oliver Twist how to pick a pocket or two.
These days it is the height of sophistication and the haunt of hipsters.
Young professionals now live in swish apartments in what were once print works and watchmaking establishments.
And Exmouth Market, which was once a hustling bustling hub where traders wheeled barrows and sold apples and pears, has reinvented itself as a street food market par excellence.
The transformation hasn’t happened overnight. The old market died out some time ago after the locals moved out and the area became a centre for media types, designers of high-end furniture and architects.
Andy Griffin, senior street trading officer for Islington borough council, said the opportunity to relaunch the market in Exmouth Market, its traditional home, arose after the council pedestrianised the street.
Louise Brewood, a florist who had got together a group of like-minded people to revive Broadway Market in Hackney as a community initiative, decided to try to do the same for Exmouth Market.
Several of the traders she persuaded to give it a go still stand there. David Robinson, who runs Spore Boys, which specialises in mushroom- based dishes including risottos, is one of them.
David has turned his love of foraging for mushrooms and cooking into a business, and has even written a children’s book about mushrooms.
He said: “It must have been about 11 years ago. It was originally Friday and Saturday when I started, but Saturday wasn’t a good idea and Louise gave it up after about 18 months.”
It was the time when the street food phenomenon was gaining momentum but the fledgling market didn’t take off as Louise had hoped, so the council took over its running.
Andy said: “The operator left but the traders were still there so the council decided to take it over.”
As the hot street food scene flourished, Exmouth Market became a popular attraction in trendy Clerkenwell every lunchtime from Monday to Friday.
The council has tried introducing other lines like fruit and veg and flowers, but only street food works.
Rent is cheap at £45 a week and the young professionals who work in Clerkenwell are
Jonathan Colhoun has a loyal customer base for his slow cooked meat dishes on Exmouth street market. He is pictured on the left with his assistant, Peter Barratt, on their stall called Meat Head
Market Times • April 2016
happy to queue for their favourite, freshly cooked lunch.
And the choice is impressive. Exmouth Market is relatively small and every pitch is taken, but the council still allows restaurants to offer street food outside their premises, and more and more are taking up this option.
Andy said: “This is a centre for good restaurants and the food offer is top quality, including those traders who came from Broadway.”
There is Thai food, Indian, Turkish, Ghanaian and one of the longest queues is for Moro, a well known restaurant that now sells street food at lunchtime.
The quality is always excellent. Jonathan Colhoun, who runs Meat Head selling his slow cooked meats in delicious chilli sauces, soon has queues at his stall. And Osman Cengil,who began his own street food business specialising in Turkish food eight years ago after working in the hotels and restaurant trade, has found Exmouth Market a good place for a family business.
Lloyd Mensah, who has been selling his Ghanaian food from day one on the market remembers Louise fondly.
“This is a good market and the people are friendly,” he said.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for this trendy London food market. Trade took a hit when The Guardian newspaper moved its staff from nearby Farringdon Road to St Pancras some years ago.
But there are still plenty of people working in Clerkenwell who have found a taste for lunchtime street food.
It’s all a far cry from the market that Charles Dickens would have known, but street food is hot in Clerkenwell.
Andy Griffin is senior street trading officer for the borough of Islington and manages Exmouth street market

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