We’re lucky to have the British Street Food Awards hosted in our home city of Portsmouth. The awards are split into regions where local food traders battle it out for a spot in the final. Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth is the location of the south heats and for the second year running, we went to check it out.
Two popular Pompey street food vendors made an appearance this year, our friends Earth to Oven and Nosh Box who have just opened a permanent location next to Natty’s near Commercial Road. We were excited to try their food again but also keen to try the out-of-towners who we hadn’t heard of.
British Street Food Awards
The British Street Food Awards is well organised and this year, sponsored by Cobra beer. The concept is simple, you get given a voting token as you enter and you can purchase a range of small and larger dishes priced between £5-10 from around 13 different traders. There’s also a bar, artisan coffee from the popular Bubblehead Barista and an array of picnic benches to sit on. The vibe is fun, despite the good ol’ British weather we experienced on our first day and Gunwharf Quays makes a great location for events like this. Wanting to try it all, we visited every day during the Bank Holiday weekend and shared a dish from every vendor. Here’s the lowdown on who was there, what we tried and most importantly, what we thought.
Earth to Oven
Located in Petersfield but often trades in Southsea, Earth to Oven have been one of our favourite food vendors since they started in 2020. They use quality, seasonal ingredients and a huge amount of love and effort goes into their food prep and imaginative menu – and you can tell. Their loaded flatbreads are some of the best foods I’ve ever tried and they will always win my vote. We thoroughly enjoyed the carnivore – ale glazed local free-range shredded port, rhubarb and apple sauce, smoked wild garlic, pickled cabbage slaw, toasted sesame seeds and crispy British habas fritas.
Konro aka Smoking Lobster Events
We tried three dishes from these guys; the surf & turf (char siu pork belly, Szechuan tiger prawn and pineapple salsa), the sticky char siu aubergine and the krabsu (crispy sushi rice, IOW brown crab & smoked chilli sauce, masago, shredded nori and sesame) and they were all great. Like Earth to Oven, the quality of the food was exceptional with some really interesting flavour combinations. The surf & turf and aubergine were served in a soft brioche hot dog bun with a number of toppings and sauces all bursting with flavour. After our first bite, we quickly looked them up online and found out they are part of the Smoking Lobster group which has a handful of popular upmarket seafood restaurants on the Isle of Wight. Konro won the judge’s award which was very well deserved.
La Roulotte By Magica
Two young French men with a passion for fine foods, who were also very friendly! We were disappointed to see no queue at their food truck (sometimes the people of Portsmouth can be very unadventurous when it comes to trying new flavours!) because the level of detail that goes into their gourmet sandwiches is insane. Taught by some of the finest Michelin Starred chefs, Guillaume Gillan and Jean-Charles dream of one day opening their own award-winning restaurant and they certainly have what it takes. We enjoyed the ox cheek, 3 garlic, lobster ketchup and the Coronation chicken, mango & fennel, both sandwiched between different types of bread.
As you can probably tell, the above three were our favourites. We loved their inventive menus, their bold flavour combinations, the quality of their ingredients and both the taste and presentation of their food.
Local favourites Nosh Box specialise in brunch-style buns and tater tots. We loved their Coronation-themed menu and we tried Charlie’s a cheeky pickle – a sausage patty, posh pickles and onions in a homemade muffin. We asked for a sample of their homemade bacon jam too and we found it all very flavoursome. The perfect hangover cure!
I love proper Neapolitan-style, hand-stretched, wood-fired pizzas and the ones from Soul Pizza were fantastic. A great doughy base, lots of cheese and heaps of flavour with added truffle oil and spicy chillis. I wish we could get pizza like this in Portsmouth!
Down d’ Islands
If you had asked me what food you’d find in Trinidad and Tobago I’d have absolutely no idea. So, it was a pleasant surprise to try their ‘doubles’, the traditional street food in their home country. Doubles are made up of fried turmeric flatbreads with spiced chickpeas simmered with authentic Trini herbs & spices and topped with cucumber chutney sweet tamarind sauce and scotch bonnet lime sauce. Yum, I felt like I was on holiday!
Self-proclaimed “next-level mac n’ cheese” is a pretty bold statement but I’d agree with them here. The mac n’ cheese was decent, a generous portion and included tasty toppings like pesto and chorizo. The mac n’ cheese balls were beautifully fried and made an indulgent snack to accompany our Cobra beer.
I didn’t eat many momos in Nepal but my brother lived off them! These Nepalese steamed dumplings made the perfect street food snack and those from Filili were swimming in tasty sweet Gochujang BBQ sauce with a hint of chilli and others, in creamy masala sauce with cashew vegan cream. A modern twist on an Asian classic.
The queue for Bhajis LND’s naan wraps was never-ending, probably because we Brits love naan bread but also because they are pretty darn tasty. We enjoyed the chickpea naan wrap with pineapple and mango sauce with a sprinkle of hot chilli. Messy is an understatement.
Usually found in world-class sports stadiums, Gamekeeper specialises in venison burgers. I wanted the halloumi but I let Carlos win this battle and we ordered the venison burger with blue cheese and caramelised onions. It was very tasty and you could tell the ingredients were decent.
Specialising in South African food, the curry from Potjie was full of flavour. We had halloumi and aubergine with fragrant cape Malay curry sauce and yellow rice. Mix it all together and you have the perfect street food lunch! The great thing about this curry is that it travels and keeps well (unless you have chips of course).
I love samosa chaat so I just had to order this traditional Indian starter. This one was huge, with a thick chickpea curry sauce which I could have eaten by the bucket full. Fragrant, spicy and with a good mix of textures, we really enjoyed this.
Previous winners of a British Street Food award, we tried Mr Noodle’s vegan togarashi-battered cauliflower wings. The portion size was generous, although there was a little too much batter for our taste – personal preference! The katsu-flavoured dipping sauce more than made up for it.
Another vendor with a huge queue, LJs Hugs have won the People’s Choice award three times now so they’re off to the British Street Food Awards finals in London. Think chicken and chilli with rice or chips. A filling portion and reasonable prices.
Wow, what a weekend! Bellies full to the brim and mind set on the gym, we had a fantastic time at the 2023 British Street Food Awards in Gunwharf Quays and we cannot wait until next year. It’s well worth a visit and you can easily spend the whole weekend sampling some of the best street food found across the South Coast of England. If you need a break, head over to Brasserie Blanc for a glass of vino – which we also enjoyed!
Living life, loving street food!