|Chicken and kimchee, a creative process at work, #Bibento|
|Pots of rice left to silently steam|
|Eerie calm before the storm|
What are our lunch alternatives? Mass produced Pret, Eat, Abokado (it's spelled avocado, fools) and their ilk, or worse - supermarket ready meals? Factory prepared and distributed from miles away? Low to mid-range chain restaurants such as Haz, Thai Square, Chilango et al? With their off-site precooked low-cost high-revenue menu items, lifeless and joyless?
|THE spot for... well... ANY pasta you fancy!|
|Whitecross at full throttle|
Ideally, of course, lunch is sensibly brought from home - economic, healthy and exactly to your taste. But what of those days where you weren't organised, got up late, simply empty-fridged before shopping day? You could enjoy some of the best and most varied cuisines in London, all in one place. And yes, street food markets are not exactly rare these days. But this market's edge is that it's very much on a residential street, small enough not to overwhelm, obscure enough not to be flooded with tourists, substantial enough not to be irritatingly hipsterish, old enough to still have something for everyone, even those who resent the prices - my grumpy colleague can't resist Holmesbake, the pie and mash stall once in a while... made from scratch daily, with heaps of fluffy potato mash, slathered with gravy from the generous portion of meaty pie, nestled within it. It's enough to make one seek an empty office for an afternoon nap!
What better than being familiar with the trial and tribulations of Bibento, the bulgogi stall, its many incarnations and its owner's Bogna's negotiation of its journey to its eventual direction. From Swedish soups, then Korean soups, to bibimbap, to tea, and finally here we are, a fusion Korean creation which has stuck and succeeded.
|Veggie sushi wrap from #Bibento|
|These babies speak for themselves|
|Yes, this is a tray of cream egg brownies!|
|That is one mo-pho|
Or talk politics and psychology with Stéphan of Whitecross Coffee, (pka Pitch 42), over a freshly ground, fastidiously prepared cup of flat white and a croissant, me ensuring I allow the testy office bods, gasping in the early morning queue for their first hit, to be served as we chat. A warm spot in my heart remains for long-standing servers - Harriet, who is finally a full time partner in the venture, embarking on its artistic redesign and branding; and still pining for Doug to come back - oh Doug, your effervescent charm could pierce any cynicism, and no grump could remain so in your presence! This is how you want your coffee - strong, flavourful and warming. Doug took care of the warming, even on the coldest days.
|The ceremonial apportioning - an 11 hour affair|
There are always new stalls popping up. Some make it, some don't. When one-item menu stall, The Shack Food Co, started out, I wouldn't have placed any bets on it lasting. Coming up the rear of hipsterish pulled pork revilval, Yan and his partner set up, with their facial hair and 80s semi-ironic retro tunes playing. They did fairly well - ethically sourced meat, freshly made sauces and salads, and just on the high end of Whitecross prices, but not overly so; they quickly sussed the foodie market had tired of the product, and managed to cunningly turn it around, with a fresh spin on Japanese chicken katsu curry with smacked cucumber, pickled chilli and rice. Beautiful, moreish, and they even do a double-meat portion for an additional £1.50. Dangerous.
Just beware of the belt and/or wallet unbuckling.