I had been waxing lyrical about the British Street Food scene for a while and felt the urge to take the relationship to the next level. It was happening. Tonight, I was losing my Street Food virginity, I was going on a first date with a blue Guerrilla. With a full petrol tank I headed out of Wales and after the usual snarl ups at the usual places I was making good time. M50, M5 and the M6 whizz by, it’s a well-travelled route. Before I know it I’m off the M6 and I am now howling the down the A56, the adrenaline starts to kick in. I soon started to notice familiar places, names and businesses. There’s a chip shop on that road somewhere that I drove up to Manchester previously to just to try his food, it was good apparently but anyway. I pulled into Water street, passed the imposing Marriott on the right and pulled in on the left. I was “here” and whilst informing TGFG-HQ that I was here/there I noticed someone in Hi-viz waving at me as if to call me over. So I drove over and I was asked “you Greg” and with a thumbs up from me and a wave of the hand and a nod of the head I was invited to “Park it up there mate, just on the right, tuck it in close alright” What a thoroughly decent chap I thought.
I sat there in the car, craning my neck to see who was where. Immediately behind me was Mama K’s. A little to the right was Richard “Mr Shake Moroc and Roll” Flavours Found were instrumental and arguably the ones to blame for reigniting the passion for food that I had all but lost. To my left, bringing #LoveFromTheStreets it’s “mcrstreetfood”. Their old-school oil drum bad boy barbecues where just being lovingly brought to life. Arepa! Arepa! Arepa! were there, so were Manjit’s Kitchen, Fire and Salt BBQ and The Chaat Cart to name but a few. There was a gorgeous smell in the air predominantly of wood burning but as the minutes ticked by the smell of wood was being replaced by the smells of the various traders bringing their menu’s to life. Menu’s that had been the result of many a late night were being caressed and brought to realisation for the eager public amassing outside. I was still inside at this point, so without further a do I walked back out onto the street. Ecky Thump flowed from my mouth as my jaw hit the floor. Taken aback, I asked “where the hell did all you come from?” Like Hyperglycaemic Zombies, blank faces starring through you, in a state of detox. They needed to score and score pretty soon as appetites needed satisfying. A mumbled garbled message comes over the radio. The “Hi-viz crew” step aside and waves them in. A thousand bells around the City toll 6 times, it was go for main engine thrust and it was you’re clear for take off, god speed Guerrilla. Immediately in front of you as you walk in is Mama K’s. Good old-fashioned proper authentic Tex-Mex. I’m making myself dizzy trying to take in all the sights and sounds and smells. I’m bumping into people as they mosey around doing the same as everyone as they feast their eyes on the goodies being cooked. Now Street Food traders have impeccable taste. This is evident in the next beacon of light that is Madeleine Express, a gorgeous little Citroen H Van lovingly presented and standing proud, overflowing with devilish delights of the baked goods kind. I am momentarily distracted as the beautiful smell of fresh cooked dough mixed with a deep woody charcoal smell. There it is. Streatza’s wood fired, fire engine red mobile pizzeria. Like Fat-boy slim and Judge Jules, piping hot disc’s of delightfulness are spinning out of the oven and after a quick slice through its ” your order Sir?” Now next to Streatza were arguably one of the visual high-lights of the night. Like a field canteen kind of vibe going on The Moocher were going for it. Their wild, foraged and rare breed food was flying out. I felt really nervous and awkward, like a nosey git I was craning to see what they were doing. You know that moment when you do what it is you were trying to avoid doing happens well it did. Eye contact was made “this just got really awkward” Politely I smiled and said hi and hastily retreated in the direction of Yelp! An online/offline foodies community sharing thoughts on the local scene with the hipsters. Next to Yelp were Banh mi Booth, crispy dumplings and Banh mi. Traditional Vietnamese bread and gorgeous noodles. I was beginning to get hungry at this stage and thoughts soon turned to food. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was quickly turning into one of them. Before I lost all capabilities of rational thought, I wondered back to the middle of the venue and sort refuge at my chosen port of call. ‘sappening butt. I greeted Richard from Flavours Found with a very high level of familiarity and a somewhat traditional Welsh greeting. With that, what can only be safely described as Manchester’s version of one of the Bee gees, Richard turns around and says “ya alright? nice to meet you eventually” it was 5 months since we had our first conversation and besides countless correspondence we hadn’t met. I felt honoured to be finally eating what it was I had been waxing lyrical about all this time. The passion that goes into his food is reflected in the energy he has and will continue to put into his business oh and he is continually happy and smiling as a result of it. I was treated to what was to be a real box of fireworks, Chicken Bastilla, scented Cous Cous and Mezze. Street Food has certainly evolved. My taste buds exploded with delight as fork after fork past my lips. Strong Moroccan/ Middle Eastern flavours dancing in my mouth. No longer are you expected to eat sub-standard food. Not that I had any doubt of its relevance or importance in today’s social scene but Guerrilla Eats was the loving arm across the shoulder and the hug of reassurance I needed to confirm my suspicions. My Street Food journey was almost complete, there was one thing left to do or eat as the case may be. One last trader was on my list. I feel I must at this point in proceedings duly apologise to those at Guerrilla Eats that I failed to eat with. Your food looked amazing, there were queues everywhere. I saw lots of happy faces that night. The customers were enjoying it also. The time had come, I was ready, ready to pay a visit to a vendor who I had taken a shine to as soon as their little heads had popped out of the Street Food soil that had been nurturing them, helping them develop as a business. I had promised many vendors that one day I will eat at yours but that day is in the future and today was the day I was going to eat Fair Games food. It didn’t disappoint nor did Flavour Founds, but this? This was a first for me, I was about to eat game outside of the fine dining experience that I knew. How would it compare? I was too busy to reply to the”what’s it like, is it nice” questions. Discretion is the better part of valour I know but? 3 game sliders did just that, they went down faster than they should have. Being overzealous and trying to eat these bad boys was futile, you need to slow down I said to myself as I sipped my drink. Venison, Guinea Fowl and Pigeon cooked to perfection with equally perfect accompaniments to complete the beautifully conceived sliders. Outstanding was my verdict of the sliders. They were SO nice. Perhaps I should have ordered some more for the journey home I thought to myself as I skilfully removed any residue or evidence of the act I have just committed in public. I was stuffed. Complete euphoria, like waves of emotion washing over me I just stood there in awe of the spectacle that lay before me. So this is what it is like to lose your Street Food virginity.