Pitt Cue founder Simon Anderson has opened Market Halls in Fulham this week. It is the first of three halls of its ilk planned for London by Anderson, inspired by the hawker markets of Asia, housing 10 food vendors, a bar and a coffee shop.
One of the main principles of Market Halls is that it takes iconic but disused buildings and allows them to be enjoyed by the community again. Market Halls Fulham is housed in the former ticket hall of Fulham Broadway Station, a Grade-II listed Edwardian building that has been empty for six years. It still has the original shopfronts and ticket office in place from when it was in operation, but each shop is now filled with a food trader or a bar, and the central hall has been transformed into a communal dining space for 200 people. The original features, such as the ‘To the trains’ enamel signage still exists, but the traders’ units each have their own branding, giving the space a contemporary feel.
The driving force behind the project comes from founders Simon Anderson and property, leisure and retail investor Andy Lewis Pratt, but given the nature of the project the roll call of restaurateurs involved is impressive. Seb Holmes of Farang; Asma Khan of Darjeeling Express; and ex-Club Gascon chef Claude Compton are among those checking in at the ticket office each day.
Open from 8am until late, Market Halls has an all-day offering, but its real pull comes from the traders handpicked by Anderson. The line-up is impressive, featuring off-the-moment favourites such as Yard Sale Pizza; Hot Box smoked and barbecued meats; Ahi Poke; and Butchies sustainable fried chicken. More interesting, however, are the venue’s new and “exclusive” brands - Farang chef Seb Holmes’ new concept Thima being one. As at Farang, the food is Thai, but Thima offers small plates and a host of new dishes (as well as some old favourites from his Highbury restaurant). Not to be missed include dishes of chilli seabass salad with sour fruits, peanuts, mint, coriander and mandarin; and ‘gai prik’ boneless chicken pieces with sweet scotch bonnet and fish sauce glaze. Asma Khan has also launched an exclusive concept at Market Halls called Calcutta Canteen, which veers away from her usual more complicated Indian cuisine and focuses instead on authentic street food such as chicken kati rolls; vegan puchkas; tangra garlic chilli prawns; and Bengali steamed yoghurt.
The Halls are open from early morning and coffee from Press Coffee is served from what used to be one of the old ticket office booths. For later in the day, a bar serves local beers, wines and a cocktail menu, and traders sell their own drinks, too, including coconut water from hand-cracked coconuts at Thima.
And another thing
Despite Market Halls Fulham’s impressive appearance, it isn’t the biggest of its type set to open this year. Anderson’s biggest planned project is for one in the former BHS building on Oxford Street, which is set to become the biggest food hall in the UK. Rumour has it that he has set his sights on York for a regional opening, and he intends to open between 10-12 in total.