Since opening last October, Belgrave Music Hall has earned a reputation for its food; a couple of hole-in-the-wall kitchens bookend the bar, dispensing relaxed, social media-friendly street food with the added benefit of having a roof over your head. Bearing in mind these credentials it was only a matter of time until they hosted a food event, and of course chubs over here was in there like a whippet.
We arrived there just after midday and the place was already busy – trendy Dads with three-wheeled pushchairs lingering after brunch, eager food bloggers, and regular daytime drunks; myself being a combination of the last two. I recovered from the devastating realisation that Ilkley Mary Jane wasn’t on draught any more, settled for a pint of Saltaire Blonde (Not a bad substitute), squeezed onto a bench and started strategizing how to eat as much as possible.
I’m not nosey or anything, but when you’re sharing a bench with strangers you can’t help but eavesdrop, which in this case helped me decide to start at Fu Schnickens (A brief tangent about the name: I’m as down with obscure-ish early-90s rap as the next guy, but I can’t work out the connection to Taiwanese street food. I bet I’ll kick myself when I realise). Fu Schnickens is in the business of serving up Guo Bao (£3.5 or 2 for £5)- steamed buns containing a choice of pork belly, panko chicken or glazed portabello mushroom. I went for the pork belly and chicken options, I’m sure as far as mushrooms go the portabello was wonderful, but I ain’t about that life. After the buns were steamed and the meat was fried to order, they were meticulously assembled along with pickled cabbage, sesame, cashew nuts and sriracha sauce. Ben (I think his name was Ben) told me that they’ve had to cease manufacture at one of the main sriracha factories because local residents were complaining about the chilli smell, talk about ungrateful. Having given up my seat to go and collect my order, I relocated to the roof terrace and spread my buns out on a picnic bench, just like your Mum does.
The chicken Guo Bao was great – the chicken was juicy, the chilli panko packed a real crispiness which contrasted well with the stickiness of the steamed dough, and Ben’s delicate touch with the sriracha and Japanese mayo (which I should have asked for more information about) proved to be just the right amount.
As good as the chicken bun was, nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow: probably the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten, and plenty of it. The buns weren’t small, and the slab of pork belly was sticking out either end of it. A lot of the fat had been rendered down and formed a chewy, caramelised crust on the edge, complimented beautifully by the hoisin sauce, and pickled cabbage and coriander was on hand to stop things becoming too rich, and I could happily have eaten a dozen of these. Luckily Fu Schnickens is a new resident at Belgrave, and will be serving Guo Bao from Patty Smiths burger kitchen on the regs.
After I finished gushing we went to the bar again, I got a Five Points Pale Ale and my friend went to Bundobust to order the Pav Bhaji (£6) I didn’t have chance to get a photo of his meal because he shoved his mitts straight into the box as soon as it was handed to him, and he’d finished half of it by the time we got a seat again. I managed to nick a bit though and I don’t blame him, the depth of flavour was something else, very warm and rich and spicy, with a really well-considered combination of spices. I also tried a bit of his Bundo Chaat (£4) which was a nice, almost sweet accompaniment to the rich and spicy main, with fragrant cumin and tamarind, cool yoghurt and crisp layers of samosa pastry interspersing the chick peas. Having treaded the boards of food pop-ups, Bundobust will soon have a home to call their own on Mill Hill, just behind Friends of Ham.
Shortly after this point I grabbed a slice of Silvio (£2, or £1 before 7pm) from Dough Boys and took a quick jaunt to town – having realised Valentines Day is approaching and I hadn’t made any of the necessary preparations. I returned from Poundland to find Belgrave even busier than before, pitched up next to some more strangers, and ordered a Dirty Burger (£4.5 or £6 with chips) from Patty Smith’s.
Apologies for the crap photo – it was getting dark in there by this point – but you can see the type of burger you’re getting here: Shiny, dripping and compact with no gimmicks. The patty is a generous size and the tangy chipotle mayo cuts through really nicely, if I had to offer any criticism, it would be that the lettuce (Little gem I think, which added an unneeded bitterness to the flavour of the burger) wasn’t shredded, so the juices from the burger and the tomato (also not needed, but that’s a matter of preference, not a dealbreaker) slid right off and got absorbed into the brioche bun, making it soggy and structurally unsound. For £4.50 though it’s miles ahead of anything else in its price range, and for another £1.50 you get a big portion of hand-cut, skin-on, twice (thrice?)-cooked chips, which were extremely good. Patty Smith’s has taken up residence in the far kitchen at Belgrave now, so go check them out.
While I was shoving all that into my gob, my friend had the Chilli Corn Chowder (£5) from Fish&, which was a huge portion, amusingly served in a hollowed out bread bowl. This was also the case for the Brooklyn Lager Steamed Mussels (£4), which looked and smelt amazing, but I didn’t get chance to try. In fact, I planned to come back on the Sunday and try offerings from the rest of the vendors, but being a genius I neglected to realise that the Street Feast was a one-day event, meaning I missed out on the amazing-looking Noisette Bakery too. Hopefully they’ll be back at the next one on March 8th though, I will be.
What did you think to the Street Feast? Favourite pop-ups? Who would you like to see there next time? What’s the explanation behind Fu Schnickens name?!