After purchasing earlybird tickets months ago for the Halal Food Festival, I honestly couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into what was on offer! Shakerfries, MIL, FIL and I all headed down to Tobacco Docks on the Sunday afternoon, having starved ourselves for most of the morning. It was a warm sunny day, and the smell of grilled BBQ meat and rich aromatic spices wafted through the window on our way to the car park, immediately fuelling our eagerness to get out and explore.
Going with the whole family was great in that we now had the man power to try at least 4 different things! We did a round of the stalls to gauge what was available before making a calculated decision as to what each of us should order.
I was after the fully loaded brisket burger from the Amoricana stall, a new company serving South American style burgers. It consisted of a 9oz beef patty topped with 24-hour smoked pulled brisket, tomatoes, lettuce, jalapeños and cheese. The presentation was good, and despite the burger heaving with fillings, it’s packaging meant that I was able to eat it with minimal mess. It’s a shame they weren’t more generous with the brisket topping, as the smoked taste of the brisket really came through and was essentially the best bit in combination with the BBQ sauce. The burger bun was a bit chewy and probably would have tasted better without being toasted, and the beef patty was tough and overcooked. Overall, I felt the flavours in the burger didn’t come together, resulting in a flavour that my tastebuds didn’t fully understand. Although the concept of a South American style burger is really appealing, I think for £9.50 the overall taste needed some work. The Meat and Shake company was a couple of stalls down, where they served a burger entirely filled with slow cooked pulled beef, and I wish I had been there too to compare. To accompany my meal, I had a freshly squeezed raspberry and lime pink lemonade from The Fresh Lemonade Co. next door., which was cool, tangy and refreshing. Saying that it was £4 which was a bit…ouch.
The two stalls with the longest que’s were the HS & Co. stall, and the que for Meat Rack, so we immediately waited in line. The HS & Co. is based local to me in Stratford, and has been on my radar for the last few months. They had a chicken wings stall where they were deep frying wings in a crispy batter and topping them with one of three flavoured sauces: BBQ, honey and chilli and hot chilli. We oped for the honey and chilli option. The batter was crunchy and the chicken was tender. The sauce was EXTREMELY sweet, and the taste of the chilli didn’t really come through. It costed £5 for 5 wings which wasn’t terrible given where we were, however I felt that had the batter was a bit more salty and flavoursome, the chicken and sauce would have complemented each other a bit better. The philly cheese steak from HS & Co. really impressed me and was probably the best thing we ate all afternoon. The bun was extremely soft and fluffy, filled with fried onions and small chunks of tender well seasoned steak, and heavily drizzled in a smooth melted cheese sauce (this was the best bit as the cheese they used was quite mature). Extra sauces were available at the side, and fries came with the bun as part of the £8 meal deal. The presentation in the cones was a nice touch too, and made it easy to consume. After this experience I really want to visit the restaurant and try their steak and starters.
ShakerFries waited in the Meat Rack que for what must have been half an hour. He got a ‘She’s so hot’ burger with a 4oz lamb patty cooked medium, with mature cheddar, jalapeños, tomato, escarole leaves, Homemade Coleslaw and a rather soggy onion ring all topped with the meat rack hot sauce. The burger was served with a small side of chips with the total cost being around £7.75. Soggy onion ring aside, the flavours in this burger were explosive and incredibly pleasing to the palette. The homemade coleslaw was what set this burger aside from others, as it added a creamy sweet taste to the spiciness of the hot sauce and jalapeños. The brioche bun was soft and light, and although the patty could have been bigger, the meat was cooked to perfection and was juicy and flavoursome. We also had an Oreo milkshake, which was a bit too heavy and creamy for my liking, and a mango milkshake, which was lighter and more thirst-quenching. I think overall it was worth the queuing just to have a ‘taster’ to know whether it’s worth driving to Southwest London for. I would be happy to take a trip to try something else on their menu.
Other interesting food stalls included Inito (serving indian burritos), Big Apple Hot Dogs and YakiMaki Sushi Burritos. For those with a sweet tooth I was excited to see The Datery, with their beautifully presented hand made dates dipped in Belgian chocolate, and Apple Blue Patisserie, who made our wedding cake just three months ago, and were at the festival showcasing their tarts and pastries (which I plan to review next month iA!). Additional highlights at the festival included a shisha lounge on the Ground floor by HS & co., Qawaali for entertainment and eating competitions in the cookery theatre.
Overall I really enjoyed the festival. It would have been nice to see a more extensive range of cuisines showcasing other than your standard Indian, American and Middle Eastern, but I still think I managed to find a fair few restaurants that I would like to visit properly in the future, and I took the food which I ate as a ‘taster’ rather than the experience you would receive in the actual restaurants. It was a nice family day out, and although it was a bit pricey, I enjoyed the experience. Next on the hit list is the London Muslim Lifestyle Show which is taking place next year!