In my hometown’s local mall, we used to have this amazing candy store called Mr. Bulky’s. Before I had money of my own to spend, I would wander the aisles, spending too much time dreaming about the 50 types of gummy candy, and aching with desire for a giant candy jawbreaker.
Once I had some cash at my disposal, I went straight for the candy store. Tiny soda bottle gummies were my favorite, and I definitely bought a jawbreaker once a year (which I would store in the freezer for safekeeping, because it took me months to get through).
I bring up my favorite candy store now, 25 years later, because there is a feeling of awe and wonder so pure wandering those candy-filled aisles that is hard to replicate as an adult. The feeling is a combination of indulgence and deprivation, endless possibility and that smug satisfaction of walking out with my very own (small) bag of hand-picked treats.
Fortunately, I can recreate all of those tempting feelings today in the adult version of a candy store: Dalston Street Feast.
I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that my eyes light up when I arrive at Street Feast, food stall upon food stall serving up the snacks of my dreams. Bars overflow with bubbly and cocktails, craft beers and tequila. Neon signs point the way to jerk chicken and burgers, ice cream and tacos.
The 30+ food vendors and bars are lined around several makeshift indoor/outdoor ‘rooms’ that are constructed with old shipping containers, garage doors and corrugated metal roofs.
Once it gets dark, the sprawling food playground is warmed by trash bin fires and heat lamps.
On a recent visit, we began by taking a slow lap of the entire space before committing to any single item. We took note of a drool-worthy lobster mac & cheese, a grilled cheese stall, an entire corner dedicated to meringue and a cozy looking gin bar.
Drew went straight for the BBQ ribs, sticky and sweet from Smokestak while I made a run for the YumBun stand, inhaling a shrimp bun in seconds. I washed it down happily with a Singha beer (the Singha stall has a secluded hang-out area above the bar if you and your crew want some privacy).
We stopped for a glass of wine at Street Vin, and did our best to wait patiently for our friends to join us. Once they arrived, we took it as a good opportunity for round two, which included short rib nachos from Breddos Tacos, and a giant cocktail to share that was literally held in a watermelon. It was actually delicious and given its size, we got our £15 worth.Round two complete, we wandered around the market, stopping to warm ourselves by the trash bins. While we loved our watermelon drink, it was a bit awkward to carry a giant hollow melon under our arms like a baby, so we quickly finished it and went back to sampling wines from Street Vin.
Mini round three was an order of halloumi fries. We thought these would be a riff on poutine, French fries smothered in cheese and gravy. Instead, these were actual pieces of deep fried cheese in the shape of fries. Sneaky but delicious. A pomegranate molasses cut the tang of the cheese, and with four people helping out, the ‘fries’ were devoured. (By the way, we cannot for the life of us, find the vendor online. It’s near the grilled cheese stand, though!)We wrapped up our visit to adult Candyland with an actual sugary treat. Drew and I shared an Eton Mess from Meringue Girls while our friends had a ‘chocomuffin’ which is basically a massive chocolate chip cookie baked in a muffin tin (genius!) and slathered in ice cream. Win win.
Our pockets empty of cash, we took it as a signal to head home.
Dalston Street Feast remains our best example of the food market culture in London. It’s seasonal (May – September) which gives it an allure that is hard to beat. The industrial space is so ingrained in us that any experience I have of artificial turf and bare lightbulbs now remind me of delicious food in an alley in Dalston.