The Night Market
Camden Lock Market
If it isn’t obvious by now, I will take this opportunity to come out and just say it; I love the London food market scene. No matter how many good restaurants there are, there is just something that brings me back to them time and time again. There are not many things that beat spending a weekend taking a causal stroll through a market, enjoying the atmosphere, observing the people around and more importantly, picking up quality food along the way without breaking the bank.
It should come as no surprise then when I also confess that Camden is one of my favourite boroughs in London given that this is home to not one, not two but FIVE markets within a one mile radius of each other (these being the Inverness Street Market, the Stable Market, the Camden (Buck St) Market, the Camden Lock Village and the Camden Lock Market). I need very little convincing to make a trip up on an average day so when I found out that the Night Market was making a comeback to the Camden Lock Market, I cancelled all my existing plans (which consisted of re-runs and cutting my toe nails) and went on my merry way.
Opened in 1972, the Camden Lock Market has built a strong reputation as a vibrant collection of shops and market stalls and it attracts an impressive mix of street food traders serving up a truly international experience whether you are looking for a meze plate from the Middle East, a stir fry from the Orient or jerk chicken from the Caribbean, which is one of the main reasons that keep me coming back. The only downside though is that owing to its popularity, it’s absolutely heaving with other market goers on weekends and you don’t walk through the market as much as just go-with-the-flow. Stopping to observe what’s on offer at a food stall is near on impossible without causing some sort of logjam behind you which makes the overall experience a bit stressful. Going to the Night Market gives you reprieve from this situation as many of the population (i.e. families) find going out on a school night to be unfathomable. No complaints from this corner. High fives all round!
The Night Market, open every Thursday until the 29th of August, is a great night in the making with a few pretty cool things going on like a backyard cinema, ping-pong, live music and DJ’s. The main attraction (for me anyway) is the food though so let’s get on with the important stuff.
Being a frequent visitor to the market, I went with the expectation that the stalls would be similar, if not the same, as those which are regularly seen there and on initial observation, this thought held true. But boy was I wrong. In addition to retaining some favourites, there were also a number of fresh faces which had come to the party serving delicious eats such as Philly sandwiches, southern fried chicken and game meat burgers. I was in indecision hell but decided on a hollumi and falafel box from Ala Turko Falafel, a beef brisket roll from Smoke ‘n Roll and a piadina from Mr Piadina.
If you have been to the Camden Lock Markets before, you will definitely have seen Ala Turko Falafel as I swear the guys never leave. Day after day, rain or shine, you will find them offering you a sample of their falafel and hummus or grilled chicken. No chicken for me today though but no regrets. The hummus was good, salad crisp and the hollumi thankfully not overpoweringly salty. The falafel though had an interesting texture to it as it was a lot chewier than others I’ve had in the past. That’s not to say it wasn’t tasty but is a point of difference. The overall dish is best described as met expectations. It didn’t blow my mind but I would happily eat it again.
Moving on swiftly to get some protein, I hit up Smoke ‘n’ Roll, a new vendor to me who served up slow smoked beef brisket and pork shoulder with homemade sauces. How can a boy refuse? As I ordered my beef brisket, I had apprehensions as I noticed the meat had been sitting under a heat lamp and wondered if the meat would still be moist. This concerned was quickly quashed though as the meat was reheated on a hot plate with a sweet marinade which made it quite juicy. The nicely toasted roll was spread with a sweet BBQ sauce and distinctly tangy mixed berry mustard. Cooked onions were added to the roll rounding it out. The end product was good and at £3 for a half roll was great value. T loved it and I can see why but I love smoked meat and was a bit disappointed to find that flavour was maybe a bit lacking as I found the taste was dominated by the berry mustard. Still would go back though but will definitely request “sans mustard please” though I can appreciate the uniqueness of it.
Lastly, this brings me the highlight of my night; the piadina from the aptly named Mr Piadina. For those that have no idea what this is (like me), Google says it’s an Italian flatbread made from dough similar to that used for pizza bases which is subsequently filled with meat, vege and cheese. Put simply, it’s a bit like a quesadilla but with pizza dough. It was fantastic! I had mine filled with ham, pesto, cheddar, tomato and lettuce; not a groundbreaking combination by any stretch of the imagination but the produce all tasted of good quality. The ham, a lovely prosciutto, had an amazing flavour and was most importantly lean so as to only release a minimal amount of oil once toasted as a lot already comes from the cheese. Combined with the pesto, this was truly a winning mix of flavours. The secret to the dish though is in the freshly prepared flatbreads rolled right in front of you. The dough used follows the same recipe as that of conventional pizza dough but using only a quarter of the yeast so as to decrease the time required proofing but still allowing it to rise when cooked. Mr Piadina is a real winner and I can’t believe I didn’t know about these guys sooner. I’ll be making up for lost time.
Camden Lock Market, take a bow for doing something the other markets around you are not and capitalising on it. You’ve kept true to your already tried and tested recipe for success on the food and drink front whilst adding to the overall experience with the cinema and live music. An excellent idea all round and well worth a visit next Thursday (well, until the 29th of August anyway).