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London food walk: markets and munchies

Posted at 8:45 am, May 19, 2012 in Food & Drink, Fun London

Food Walk MapStuck for something to do this weekend? Head from Aldgate to London fields and eat yourself silly along the way.

Let’s start our Sunday food stroll with a classic. Tubby Isaacs, on Goulston Street just by Aldgate station, has been selling cockles, mussels and jellied eels for a few years short of a century. Grab a bowl of eels laced with plenty of salt, pepper and chilli vinegar, then carry on up the street, left on to Middlesex Street, and up to Petticoat Lane.

Petticoat Lane Market still attracts a crowd of bargain hunters: you’ll find that The Thai Van, with its spot-on red curries, offers a welcome retreat from the crush around the piles of discount underwear. While Petticoat Lane isn’t quite A-list enough to lure the street-food big-hitters, round the corner on Brushfield Street, the revamped Old Spitalfields Market suffers from the opposite problem. Part of  Norman Foster-designed glass canopy keeps out the rain but it also kills the vibe, although Pilpel, a stall at the northern end of the market, does a sabich – an Israeli mishmash of houmous, aubergine and egg in pitta bread – that’s worth the trip alone.

Leave Spitalfields and head to Brick Lane, where the weekend sees a rainbow parade of food carts come out, serving nearly every cuisine imaginable. If you’re looking for some seriously good Bangladeshi tucker, head to Cafe Mira at No 50: the standout dish is the delicious lamb samosas. Just off Brick Lane, the Sunday UpMarket at the Old Truman Brewery must offer London’s most eclectic dining experience. Here you can find momo dumplings from Tibet, arepas (thick cornflour tacos) from Venezuela and stews and salads from Lithuania, Burma and Ethiopia, among others. But we’re most fond of the pancakes: go to the okonomiyaki stall for a savoury Japanese number and follow it up with sweet apam balik from the Malaysian Pancake Co.

Getting back on to Brick Lane itself, at No 152 you’ll find the Boiler House Food Hall. You’ll be spoilt for choice here, but don’t miss the bhel puri (spicy, fruity puffed rice with pomegranate seeds) from Indian street food specialist Horn OK Please.

It’s just a short walk from here to the top of Brick Lane, but you’ll pass some of this city’s best street-food vendors on the way. Big Apple Hot Dogs outside Vibe Bar (Sundays only) has deservedly gained a huge following; the Rib Man’s pork rolls are sensational with a dollop of his trademark ‘Holy Fuck’ sauce; and the Sundia stall must be the only place in the UK specialising in vegan West African cuisine. Further north is the Columbia Road Flower Market (Sundays only), where you can graze while you browse. Lee’s Sea Foods at No 134 sells lovely little pots of deep-fried tiger prawns and calamari with thousand island sauce. And if you’ve got any room left at all after this belt-busting promenade, get some oysters shucked at the stall at Jones Dairy Café at 23 Ezra Street, before walking off your multiple meals with a stroll past Hackney City Farm and up Broadway Market, finishing at London Fields. Matthew Lee

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