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Food hall concept goes lovingly large

09 January, 2020 — By Tom Moggach

The food hall offers a choice of 11 high quality independent traders

THE recipe for a food hall is simple: lease a cavernous empty building, install bars and pop-up kitchens then rent them out to your favourite street food entrepreneurs.

A company called Market Hall has launched three food halls in London since 2018, with plans for two more by the end of this year.

The latest, Market Hall West End, is located in the old BHS department store by John Lewis in Oxford Street. It’s their largest yet – 35,000sqft spread over three floors, with four bars, a rooftop terrace and 11 high quality food traders serving everything from a Malaysian beef rendang to three-colour dumplings.

This new venue is surprisingly discreet. The entrance is off a small road called Holles Street. You could walk right past if you didn’t know what was inside.

The food stalls are on the first floor, via a lift or grand staircase. The main bars are one floor up, where swathes of trailing plants help soften the industrial feel.

The atmosphere is upbeat. Hip hop and the buzz of conversation floats across the space. The shared tables are packed with local office workers, groups of young friends and curious tourists.

It’s impossible to try all the food in one visit, so this review is a work in progress.

You choose a stall, place your order and are given a wireless pager, which buzzes loudly when your food is ready.

For sheer novelty, it’s hard to beat the Chinese savoury crêpes at Pleasant Lady – a creation I have never seen in London before. The chef spreads the batter, brushes it with beaten egg, then tops the crêpe with ingredients such as chives, herbs and cumin-spiked lamb. She then folds it multiple times, creating heavenly layers of crunch and flavour.

The best stalls offer a sense of theatre. Gopal’s Corner is a venture from the team behind Roti King, the perennially packed Malaysian restaurant near Euston Station. I love watching the chefs stretch, slap and fold the elastic roti dough. They also use fresh banana leaves as plates, topping them with curries, rice and sauces.

I’m a huge fan of Pastaio – a group of pasta restaurants from chef Stevie Parle. Quality is superb and the menu sparkles with inventive touches. I couldn’t fault the vibrant green ravioli, coloured with spinach and stuffed with squash then slathered with Parmesan and a crumble of deep-fried sage leaves.

A brand new trader is Good Birds, serving superb rotisserie chicken and zingy sauces such as a Dutch-style spicy peanut sauce and smoked chilli sambal.

There are now thriving food halls in Lisbon, Berlin, Rotterdam and more. Brighton is due to get its first later this summer. The success of the concept reflects how we live in 2020. Spoilt for choice – and with ever-decreas­ing attention spans – you can eat well for around £10 and post the dish on Instagram while you’re at it.

Market Hall West End
9 Holles Street, W1G 0BN


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