Street food focus: Market Halls Canary Wharf Cargo

The upmarket street food specialist’s third site is now open for business in the City...

You only have to read this month’s Big interview (page 14) to see that street food is one sector that is truly defying the downturn. And this remains the case even when thinking outside of the Boxpark as, as regular readers will be aware, Market Halls is also on the move.

With Giant Robot having sadly been decommissioned, one of its main capital competitors has spotted a gap in the market. Where the previous site offered a bird’s eye view of the area, however, Market Halls Canary Wharf Cargo is down at street food level, including outdoor seating overlooking the canals, right next to the exit to the equally new Elizabethan Line.

While this slightly more upmarket brand’s third site may not quite occupy the same space literally, it does from a business perspective. Like its Street Feast-run forebearer, the first thing you notice on entering is the large bar which is very much central to proceedings, perhaps reflecting the somewhat fluid nature of its regular clientele (as Market Halls says, each of its “destinations takes cues from the local area”).

The interiors are also appropriately slick, spacious and clean, with craft ales predominating at the pumps and large wine glasses at eye level as you order. The smooth edges are accentuated by the choice of music that plays during my visit, which includes Jack Johnson and the soundtrack to Mamma Mia 2 (I guess the original would have been a tad too edgy).

The traders (see box) are then housed at the other side of the bar, with a line-up that will be recognisable to those that have been to the small chain’s Victoria or Oxford Street outposts. In this case, though, familiarity breeds anything but contempt, as readers of our reviews of those two sites will be aware (the buffalo burger from Chick Chick Crew being my top personal recommendation). So, having already eaten at most of the other incumbents, I’m left with the slightly carb-heavy duo of Black Bear Burger and Pasta Evangelists.

From the former, I surmise that the most representative choice would probably be the Black Bear Burger. And while it may by on the face of it the most modest choice, it’s certainly more than the sum of its parts.

This joint’s unique grilling point, it subsequently transpires, is ‘simple, done well’, which, all credit to them, fits perfectly with my impression on dining. All of the ingredients are extremely well thought out and balanced, with the bacon providing as much texture as taste, the quantity of cheese meaning that you don’t require an upgrade, and the hit of chilli jam that brings up the rear leaving you with one last pang of satisfaction.

My only slight gripe would be that often, when you pay circa £5 for fries, you get a portion big enough for two. Well, at least it’s better on the waistline, if not the wallet, I suppose, though the burger itself came in at a competitive £9.50.

With plenty of room apparently left in the carb cabinet, I move on to the previously mentioned Pasta Evangelists. Having timed my arrival to just miss the lunch crowd, I am unfortunately informed that of the six dishes of offer, five have already sold out. While there is also a more fast-casual format on offer – the choice of six different pastas and eight sauces – I decide that the outet’s sales success is probably more of a reflection of their superior ability to put a dish together compared to mine than a slight on the remaining dish.

And I needn’t have worried as the Beef and Barolo Lasagne only leaves me wondering how good the other five choices must have been. The layers all meld together perfectly, with a chewy ‘burn’ to the side, all under a generous topping of parmesan. There is, it’s fair to say, a fair bit of competition for the attention of your taste buds, but the meat is still strong enough to thankfully be the predominate flavour. It may be the latest of the Halls traders I have tried, but it certainly isn’t the least and I resolve to return to try some of the other dishes I was so cruelly denied.

Bearing in mind that Kerb and Pergola also operate in the area, with this impressive addition, Canary Wharf now has a claim to rivalling nearby Shoreditch as the capital’s street food central. And with a clientele that should still be able to afford dining at this price-point, Cargo should prove to be a real bankers’ bonus.

The traders
Black Bear Burger – ‘Not your typical burger’
Basziinn – ‘Dim sum to die for’
Chick Chick Crew – ‘For chicken and veggie lovers’
DF Tacos – ‘The go-to taco fix’
Gopal’s Corner – ‘Delicious Malaysian street food’
Inamo Sukoshi – ‘Knockout sushi and fusion street food’
Le Bab – ‘Modern gourmet kebabs’
Pasta Evangelists – ‘Pasta that transports you to Italy’

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