Some of London’s coolest restaurants started life on the streets. From established names to brand new openings, we take a look at seven of the best permanent eateries that began as vans and stalls
For years London has been the epicentre of the great British street-food revival. From its bustling traditional food markets (Borough, Broadway and Berwick markets being noteworthy highlights) to its outdoor, pop-up culinary extravaganzas (Dinerama in the Shoreditch district is a particular delight), the city’s has seen all manner of gastronomic delights draw the focus of food lovers away from bricks-and-mortar establishments. But what comes after street-food success? Bricks and mortar, it seems.
We take a look at the success stories of the street-food scene, from some of the first brave chefs to move from vans to restaurants to three of the most recent vendors to swap stalls for solid walls. Whether it’s a cheese-obsessed eatery that began life as a food truck or a dumpling restaurant that evolved from one of London’s most popular stalls, these are the restaurants that London’s in-the-know foodies are eating at.
Pizza Pilgrims’ three-wheeler food van gained a cult following in London, and in 2013 founding brothers James and Thom Elliot were among the first street-food vendors to venture into bricks and mortar. The pair travelled across Italy to learn the art of perfect pizza and the proof really is in the tasting: theirs are up there with the best Neapolitan-style pizzas anywhere in the UK, if not the world. Soft, chewy bases are piled high with delicious toppings in simple combinations that let amazing ingredients shine. As well as the original Soho branch on Dean Street, the brothers have since opened six more locations in London and one in Oxford.
Pizza Pilgrims, 11 Dean Street, London W1D 3RP, +44 (0)20 7287 8964
Meatliquor began life as Meatwagon, a humble food van in a Peckham car park. It soon became famous for its gut-busting chilli cheese fries, alcoholic milkshakes and dangerously good burgers. Its first location, in Marylebone, was a no-reservations venue that saw foodies queuing for what felt like hours just to sample its legendary burgers and signature Dead Hippie sauce. Since then, Meatliquor has opened eight further locations in London and several outside the capital, making it one of the street-food scene’s most impressive success stories. To get your burger fix, head to the latest opening near King’s Cross, and be sure to order a side of buffalo wings.
Meatliquor, 6 St Chad’s Place, London WC1X 9HH, +44 (0)20 7837 0444
The Cheese Bar
The Cheese Truck serves some of the best grilled cheese sandwiches around, and its non-mobile spin-off, The Cheese Bar, is just as unmissable. The menu is surprisingly expansive for an establishment focused on a single ingredient sourced mainly from small, artisanal suppliers. Typical dishes include Marmite Malakoff, a deep-fried cheese ball served with romesco sauce; blue-cheese raclette served with salt beef; and, of course, a range of grilled cheese sandwiches. For the finale, try the Devon blue ice cream with poached pear and honeycomb or opt for the cheeseboard of the week.
The Cheese Bar, 93-94 Camden Stables, London NW1 8AH
Ramen is the street food of Asia, and Kanada-Ya has become one of Japan’s most popular ramen bars since it opened in 2008. It recently followed up its successful launch in London in 2014 with a second branch, just off Piccadilly. The menu includes mouth-watering truffle ramen, made with Kanada-Ya’s celebrated pork-bone broth, chashu pork collar, spring onions, porcini truffle paste and white truffle oil, alongside delicious small plates including seared chashu pork belly and Japanese fried chicken. Visit to discover a true taste of Asian street food in London.
Kanada-Ya, 3 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4DL, +44 (0)20 7930 3511
When the smokehouse meat specialists behind Smokestak made the move from street to table, they wanted to do it properly, and the stylish Shoreditch restaurant offers over 100 covers. Which is lucky, because the fans who queued and queued when Smokestak was portable are still turning up in their droves now it has settled down – and with good reason. The menu is packed with delicious dishes, from the smoked brisket bun that made Smokestak famous to vegetarian and fish dishes good enough to tempt the most committed carnivores. If you do eat meat, we highly recommend doing it here. From crispy ox cheek with anchovy mayo to pastrami with a side of pickles, you won’t be disappointed.
Smokestak, 35 Sclater Street, London E1 6LB, +44 (0)20 3873 1733
Another of London’s street-food success stories, The Ugly Dumplings stall serves up its fried and steamed dumplings at some of the capital’s best food markets, and last summer it found a permanent home in Soho. Using fresh, seasonal British ingredients to create all manner of Asian fusion flavours, the Ugly Dumpling menu features ‘street food classics’, including pork belly, aromatic duck and satay chicken, alongside ‘new favourites’ such as cheeseburger, mushroom and truffle, and miso cod. There’s even a selection of sweet dumplings, with pecan pie, apple pie or blueberry fillings, to round off the experience.
Ugly Dumpling, 1 Newburgh Street, London W1F 7RB, +44 (0)20 7287 5536