What are we talking here? Borough? Maltby Street. Netil?
Nope. While these brilliant places are food markets in the more traditional sense we’re talking about the new wave of ‘markets’ that feature numerous restaurants all under one roof that are currently sweeping the UK at an alarming rate.
Where do we begin? London venues Hawker House and Dinerama created a blueprint in the UK by getting together the best street food operators, sticking in a bar or two, and watching the magic unfold. Since then, similar - albeit more refined - takes on this approach have cropped up across the country, including huge pan-Asian food court Bang Bang Oriental in Colindale, Cutlery Works in Sheffield, Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor in Manchester, Duke Street Food and Drink Market and Baltic Market in Liverpool, and Market Halls in Fulham and Victoria.
Gotcha. But this is not a new phenomenon though...
Nothing gets past you. These markets, some of which are based on the hawker markets of Asia and others on the food courts of the US that have been around for ages - think New York’s Chelsea Market - have been growing in popularity in the UK for a number of years now. Their appeal is manifold. While the high street restaurant chains began to eat themselves thanks to high rates and rates, such markets started providing cheaper, less risky pitches, first for street food operators and more recently for up-and-coming restaurant concepts. The operators love it as they can rotate the traders to keep things fresh, and run the profitable bar element, and diners like this new-found freedom of not being tied to one brand or style of food when they go out for a bite to eat.
So why the chat now?
Because the food hall movement so far is just the tip of the iceberg. Instagram users standby this evening when the next one of its kind - Arcade Food Theatre in London’s Centre Point building - throws open its doors for a press and influencer evening ahead of its official launch on Monday 22 July. It’s a pretty big deal in the food hall world in that not only is it in 12,500sq ft, Grade II-listed space with six ground-floor kitchens, a coffee and bakery counter, three ‘conceptualised bars’ and an outdoor terrace , it also features ‘The Loft’, an ‘incubation focused mezzanine kitchen space showcasing some of the city’s most exciting emerging culinary concepts’. What’s more, there’s a really interesting and eclectic mix of traders, from bakery Pophams and burgeoning Italian brand Lina Stores to TŌU by TĀ TĀ Eatery and Oklava. It’s also going to be home to a number of new - or at least tweaked concepts - not least steak slingers Flat Iron’s Workshop test-bed restaurant; Pastorcito, yet another new brand from Harts Group; and Chotto by Chotto Matte.
Tip of the iceberg you say...
Oh yes. Hot on Arcade Food Theatre’s heels will be Market Halls Oxford Circus which, at 37,500sq ft will be the largest food hall in the country, with yet another set to open in Canary Wharf’s Cargo development in 2021. Then there’s Eataly, which is set to open its first UK food hall in London in 2020, and the 20,00sq ft The Market in London’s Bishopsgate, due to open next year with various street-food style kiosks and pop-ups that will change on a regular basis as well as a restaurant and wine bar. And let’s not forget KERB’s Seven Dials Market, which will open in Covent Garden with traders including Club Mexicana, Yum Bun, Square Root, Rice Guys and Ink, and Time Out Market, which is due to open a 32,500sq ft site split over two floors in London’s Waterloo in 2021.
Wowsers. That must be it though, surely?
Don’t count on it. Plans are afoot for developments in cities across the country so you can bet we’ll be hearing about many more soon. Even the French are thinking on getting in on the act over here. Big Mamma group, which has quietly opened two bijou and subtle restaurants in the capital - the 300-cover Circolo Popolare and its sister Gloria - is understood to be weighing up the potential for a London food market to add to the one it operates in Paris - La Felicità, which it describes as one of the biggest restaurants in Europe.
I’m off for a lie down
I don’t blame you.