London street food: The 30 best traders in the capital

Ailis Brennan

It’s not just London's fine dining hotspots that make us the envy of the food world – it's time to hit the streets.

The capital’s street food culture has boomed in the last ten years: London's markets have even begun to act as a breeding ground for the next big thing in the bricks-and-mortar restaurant world, with many of the city's recent casual dining success stories starting out as humble street food stalls.

Street food isn't just affordable – it offers the chance to support foodie entrepreneurs, discover new cuisines and maybe find the big names of the future.

To celebrate all this, we’ve picked out 30 of the best traders in the capital, in no particular order. By no means is this list exhaustive, and we’ll be updating it with new favourites regularly – do keep checking in to see if you find any more vendors to tick off your list.

From burgers to jian bing, vegan kebabs to haggis toasties, these are some of the best street food traders in London.

Club Mexicana

We’re starting off this list with a vegan offering – not because vegan is trendy, but because it’s very, very good. Meriel Armitage’s Club Mexicana offers meat-free versions of Latin American classics: tacos are filled with baja to’fish (tofu cooked in seaweed to give it a fishy flavour) and jackfruit carnitas. It’s now a permanent resident at London’s first vegan pub The Spread Eagle, but you can still find Club Mexicana at street food markets.

Dinerama (EC2A 3EJ), Netil Market (Wednesday to Sunday, E8 3RL). Permanent location at The Spread Eagle (E9 6AS), clubmexicana.com

Pleasant Lady

Not only is jian bing the ultimate Chinese street food, but it’s also a pretty good hangover cure. The crepe-like pancake is cooked fresh on a hot plate, before being filled with egg, spring onions, herbs, crispy wonton strips, a nutty sauce and a choice of meat fillings including chicken and iberico pork. You can find such a treat at either Pleasant Lady’s hole-in-the-wall hatch on Greek Street, or at its slightly roomier stall in Old Spitalfields Market.

23 Greek Street (W1D 4DZ), Old Spitalfields Market (E1 6EW), @pleasantladytrading

Sub Cult

Sub Cult has been playing the long game in the London sandwich world, serving its New York-style subs at street food stalls five years before clinching its first permanent shop in June. Its full-loaded and quirky flavoured rolls include the Subterranean, which comes filled with portobello mushrooms, truffle mayonnaise and stilton, and the Sub Marine, made with slow-cooked pork, marinated squid, salsa verde, crackling and scallops.

Brockley Market (Saturdays, SE4 1UT). Permanent location at 82 Watling Street (EC4M 9BX), subcult.com

BBQ Dreamz

Not content with impressing London street food fans, Filipino food concept BBQ Dreamz went on to charm primetime TV viewers earlier this year, when it won investment on BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu. Having traded at KERB sites and Brockley Market over the years, it’s now gearing up for its first bricks-and-mortar venue. Satay curries come laden with pineapple, coriander, peanuts, spring onion and more, while sticky adobo chicken wings pack a punch. One of its signature dishes is traditional lechon kawali, a crispy pork belly dish which is cooked in a sous vide for 24 hours.

John Lewis Roof Fest (Until September 29, W1C 1DX), bbqdreamz.co.uk

Oli Baba’s

Love cheese? Love fried stuff? Of course you do. Oli Baba’s knows the feeling, and that’s why it specialises in halloumi fries: deep fried, chip-like sticks of the Cypriot squeaky cheese. The portion comes drizzled with pomegranate molasses, za’atar yoghurt and chilli honey, before being sprinkled with sumac, mint and pomegranate seeds. Elsewhere on the menu you’ll find more Middle-Eastern inspired treats, including fattoush salad and toasted pita sandwiches.

Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF), Netil Market (Friday to Sunday, E8 3RL), olibabas.com

Mother Clucker

Mother Clucker is more than a chortle-inducing name – it also rules the roost when it comes to London’s fried chicken scene. The street food stalwart started serving its food from a converted US ambulance at the Truman Brewery back in 2013, and since then its tea-brined, buttermilk soaked and twice battered fried chicken has earned quite a fan base. Dishes include its signature chicken tenders served with lime mayo and hot pepper sauce, and the Cluck Bun, which sandwiches chicken strips in a brioche bun with iceberg lettuce, cheese and more lime mayo. You can now also find Mother Clucker at a permanent restaurant in Exmouth Market.

Flat Iron Square (Monday to Saturday, SE1 1TD), Hawker House (Friday and Saturday, SE16 7PJ), Truman Brewery (E1 6QL). Permanent location at Exmouth Market (EC1R 4SD), motherclucker.co.uk

Monty’s Deli

Cured meat fans: Monty’s Deli has a trick or two up its sleeve for you. The first is its house-cured pastrami, and the second is its melt-in-the-mouth salt beef – firmly among the best in London. Choose to get one, the other, or both stacked high inside one of its reuben sandwiches with Swiss cheese, mustard, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on toasted light rye. Monty’s Deli recently announced its bricks-and-mortar Hoxton site was sadly due to close, but it still runs two market stalls in the capital.

Old Spitalfields Market (E1 6EW), Market Halls Victoria (SW1E 5NE), montys-deli.com

Baba G’s

Baba G’s has been trading in London for over a decade, with its signature dish offering a spiced-version of a UK street food favourite. Its “Bhangra Burgers” fuse the practised patty and bun combination with an array of Indian-inspired flavours – for example, its lamb jalfrezi burger tops a spiced patty with mango pulp, mint raitha and onion salsa. Baba G’s also found success on My Million Pound Menu, catching the eye of Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar. The team has since opened its first permanent restaurant in Camden Market, where its street food stall also still trades.

Pop Brixton (SW9 8PQ), Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF), Vinegar Yard (SE1 3QU). Permanent location at 724 Stables Market (NW1 8AH), bhangraburger.com

The Athenian

(@jakesfoodbible )

Street food in Greece is all about the souvlaki: spit-roasted meat, pulled or shaved off the skewer, squeezed inside a fluffy grilled pita with yoghurt, tomato, red onion, parsley and chips – yes, chips. The Athenian champions the Mediterranean-style kebab at its growing number of sites across the UK, having begun as a small street food stall. Pick up souvlaki wraps filled with pork, chicken, halloumi or ground lamb and beef, and load it with a selection of sauces and oregano-dusted fries.

Boxpark Shoreditch (E1 6GY), Boxpark Wembley (HA9 0JT), Tooting Market (SW17 0SN), theathenian.co.uk

Dumpling Shack

Before it bagged a coveted spot in the revamped Old Spitalfields Market, Dumpling Shack would open at Broadway Market every Saturday to queues of fans waiting for its famously fabulous dumplings. It now serves them up everyday in Shoreditch, and the quality has persisted. Dumpling Shack’s shengjianbaos are its most lauded dish – pork and leek pan fried soup dumplings which ooze brothy goodness – but spice nuts should head for the dan dan beef noodles or prawn wontons served swimming in chilli oil.

Old Spitalfields Market (E1 6EW), dumplingshack.co.uk

Koolcha

(Tim Atkins)

Koolcha came to London’s street food scene via quite a different path than most. The Boxpark Wembley spot is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai, whose impressive CV includes the likes of Jamavar, Gymkhana, Trishna and more. Koolcha is his casual dining concept that serves up curries, biryanis, grilled sandwiches and stuffed kulcha breads either to eat in or take away at the north London food court. The grilled paneer tikka sandwich for £5 is a particular steal.

Boxpark Wembley, (HA9 0JT), koolcha.co.uk

Mother Flipper

No relation to the aforementioned chicken fryers Mother Clucker, Mother Flipper’s naughty name is a front for some even dirtier burgers. This KERB favourite leaves “no patty left unturned” in its quest to provide you towers of flavour-filled fast food, with a menu encompassing every ingredient of your burger-filled dreams. For the full experience, get the Dirty Barbie: two beef patties slathered in American cheese and barbecue sauce, topped with “candy” bacon and onion, both of which have been fried in maple syrup.

KERB Gherkin (Thursdays, EC3A 8EP), KERB West India Quay (Fridays, E14 4AZ), Brockley Market (Saturdays, SE4 1UT), Victoria Park Market (Sundays, E9 7HN), @motherflipperuk

Biff’s Jack Shack

Guilty pleasures don’t have to be made of meat, especially when Biff’s Jack Shack is serving “filthy AF vegan junk food”. This animal product-free food vendor specialises in deep-fried jackfruit, a south Asian fruit that has a meaty texture when cooked. Try a portion of jackfruit “wingz” first, which come with their own bone-like sugar cane spear at the centre, before moving onto the Samuel Hell Jackson burger: a jackfruit patty topped with chipotle slaw, jalapenos, American “cheeze” and more.

Boxpark Shoreditch (E1 6GY). Permanent locations at EAT 17 (E9 6DA, E17 9NJ), biffsjackshack.com

Flank

This street food stop may be named after one cut of meat, but chef Tom Griffiths certainly doesn’t stop there. Get to grips with nose-to-tail eating at Flank’s stalls, where the burger is made with a mixture of flank (obvs), brisket and short rib. Alternatively enjoy 16-hour smoked brisket on a buttered Afghan naan with dill pickle, chilli sauce and kewpie garlic mayo.

Old Spitalfields Market (E1 6EW), Market Halls Victoria (SW1E 5NE), flanklondon.com

Bread Ahead

(Steven Joyce)

This Borough Market favourite has a flourish with flour, and its baked goods have wooed all of London, with shops now to be found in Chelsea and Soho. Its London Bridge bakery and stall continues to be the warm centre of its operation, however, with foodies still flocking. Its bread is understandably legendary and a take-home must-try, but for a grab-and-go sweet treat, it’s tricky to beat Bread Ahead’s doughnuts. Regular flavours include chocolate, vanilla cream, raspberry jam and praline, with fillings famously overflowing.

Borough Market (Monday to Saturday, SE1 9DE). Permanent locations at 249 Pavilion Road (SW1X 0BP) and 21 Beak Street (W1F 9RR), breadahead.com

Horn OK Please

At first glance, odd name – it’s a slogan often seen on the back of vehicles in India inviting cacophonous honking. It does, however, give you a taste of the bustling streets that inspired Horn OK Please’s vegetarian street food. Top of the bill is the moong daal dosa: a lentil flour dosa is cooked to order and filled with a spiced potato filling. It’s served with chana chaat – a a chickpea salad made with sev, pomegranate seeds and yoghurt – which also accompanies its handmade samosa.

Borough Market (Monday to Saturday, SE1 9DE), Southbank Food Market (Friday to Sunday, SE1 8XX), hop.st

Mama’s Jerk

Mama Charlotte is the mama in question here, the late grandmother of Mama’s Jerk’s founder. It’s her tried, tested and much-loved Jamaican recipe that you’ll get a taste of here. It’s slathered over chicken, which is left to marinade for 24 hours, before the meat is chargrilled to order and served up inside handmade dhal puri roti wraps. Order with a side of sweet deep-fried plantain and lashings of Mama’s mango mayo and hot pepper pickle.

Deptford Market Yard (SE8 4NS), Pop Brixton (SW9 8PQ), Street Feast London (SE13 6LS), mamasjerk.com

Kappacasein

It’s easy to make a cheese toastie, right? Kappacasein takes the hot sarnie game one step further and makes its own cheese too. This street food vendor is actually a dairy from south east London, which serves up one of the best toasties in the capital at its Borough Market stall. The secret is its own Ogleshield cheese, perfected by owner William Oglethorpe for optimum, flavourful melting. It’s mixed with Montgomery cheddar, leeks, garlic and onion, all pressed between two slices of Poilâne bread.

Borough Market (Monday to Saturday, SE1 9AA), kappacasein.com

What the Pitta

A lot of us have had kebabs we’d rather forget – but What the Pitta is a guilt-free experience. This street food vendor offers completely vegan kebabs, made doner-style but with grilled pieces of spiced seitan. The ‘babs come either in a box with chips, or wrapped up in fresh bread with soya tzatziki, homemade hummus, salad and chilli sauce. Alternatively, swap the soya for homemade falafel with all the trimmings.

Boxpark Croydon (CR0 1LD), Boxpark Shoreditch (E1 6GY). Permanent location at 89-91 Bayham Street (NW1 0AG), whatthepitta.com

Katsu Wraps

London loves a chicken katsu curry – but why confine the Japanese fried meat to one dish? Katsu Wraps takes the crunchy, panko-breadcrumbed chicken and wraps it up in a globetrotting meal the approximate size of your forearm. Packed with a mountain of salad, hummus and chilli oil, the katsu chicken is served in a burrito-like folded tortilla of all things – it shouldn’t work, but it really, really does.

Petticoat Lane Market (Monday to Friday, E1 7TP), Broadway Market (Saturdays, E8 3RL), katsuwrap.co.uk

Burger & Beyond

Prepare to get messy – you’re going to need a napkin or five on hand to tackle one of Burger & Beyond’s impressive patties. One of the burgers on the menu at its stalls is appropriately named the Hot Mess, and serves a 45-day aged beef patty with pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, dripping with chipotle mayo. Alternatively, you can take on the B.B.B., which contains two slices of American cheese, crispy bacon, pickled onions and burnt butter mayo.

Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF). Permanent location at 147 Shoreditch High Street (NW1 8AB), burgerandbeyond.co.uk

Nonna’s Gelato

Nonna’s Gelato is pretty good at keeping its cool, but prepare to get hot under the collar for its exciting flavour combinations. Inspired by her nonna’s (grandmother’s) legendary gelato recipe, owner Sophia serves up the classic Italian dessert with some contemporary twists. Regular flavours include salted toffee apple, Kentish cobnut and a ripple made with dark chocolate and Hackney-hailing Five Points Porter. You can find them not far from the brewery at Broadway Market on summer Saturdays.

Broadway Market (Saturdays, E8 3RL), @nonnasgelato

KraPow

Baba G’s might have triumphed in its episode of My Million Pound Menu, but also competing was Northern Thai-inspired street food stall KraPow. The stall is named after its signature dish: KraPow Moo is a stir fry, popular for its comfort food credentials. Pork, basil and chillies are fried in soy, oyster and fish sauces, served over rice and topped with a fried egg. Alternatively, get yourself some gai tod, a crispy fried chicken dish dressed chilli, garlic, lime, fish sauce and rice wine vinegar.

Street Feast Model Market (Fridays and Saturdays, SE13 6LS), krapowldn.com

Kolkati

It’s not just in Mexico and the Middle East that they know how to wrap it up – Kolkati proves that Indian food can bundle it up with the best of them. This Camden Market trader serves kati rolls: flaky paratha flatbreads which are cooked in ghee and rolled up to hold a variety of spiced up ingredients. Fillings include masala chicken and paneer, which come drenched in lashings of coconut and coriander raita, as well as tamarind and date ketchup.

Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF), kolkati.com

Deeney’s

Scotland isn’t overly known for its street food culture, but Deeney’s has different ideas. These sarnie purveyors offer a hangover-saving twist on a classic Scottish ingredient – meet the haggis toastie. Deeney’s Macbeth sandwich mixes the divisive offal sausage with cheddar, caramelised onions, rocket and mustard, and toasts it until gooey. Add bacon for a Hamish Macbeth or choose vegetarian haggis for a Lady Macbeth.

Broadway Market (Saturdays, E8 3RL). Permanent locations at 330 and 360 High Road Leyton (E10 6QE, E10 5PW), deeneys.com

The Cheese Wheel

Few street food vendors in London beat this one for theatre. If you’re not already excited by the prospect of hand-rolled bucatini and fettucine pasta with toppings like wild mushroom, pancetta and truffle puree, maybe the cheese wheel will do it. Every portion of pasta here gets a good swirling while still hot inside a 40kg, partially hollowed wheel of grana padano, leaving a coating of melted cheese behind.

Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF), cheesewheellondon.com

Only Jerkin’

Only Jerkin’ is so keen on putting Caribbean flavours into its dishes that it even injects an unexpected one into its frying batter. The chicken nuggets at this KERB favourite are made with a ginger beer batter, triple dipped for frying and flavoured with jerk seasoning. Pair them with jerk fries and sauces such as chilli mango aioli, or get them sandwiched in coco bread for the Only Jerkin’ burger.

Camden Market West Yard (NW1 8AF), KERB St Kats (Fridays, E1W 1LA), KERB King’s Cross (Thursdays, N1C 4AA), onlyjerkin.com

Luardos

This Mexican street food van has been trundling around London since most vendors were a mere twinkle in their founders’ eyes. Since 2007, Luardos has been serving up tortas, tacos and burritos bursting at the seams with quality, fresh ingredients in either one of its two vans – one called Jesus, one called Mary. Its carnitas burritos is a particular draw, stuffed with pork that has been slow-cooked with fennel and orange.

Brockley Market (Saturdays, SE4 1UT), Whitecross Market (Monday to Friday, EC1Y 8JL) , luardos.co.uk

Bian Dang

Foodies all over the world love a bit of fried chicken, and the Taiwanese are no exception. This east Asian version is typically flattened into thin strips before frying, and Taiwanese lunch box specialist Bian Dang marinades its chicken in garlic and soy first before coating it in sweet potato flour for crunch. The KERB trader also serves up boneless fried pork chop or crumbed oyster mushrooms, all boxed up with rice, pickles, stir fried vegetables and a marbled tea egg.

KERB Gherkin (Thursdays, EC3A 8EP), KERB St Kats (Fridays, E1W 1LA), biandang.co.uk

Black Bear Burger

We don’t know about you, but we could always do with another burger. Over at the Shoreditch location of Boxpark and Street Feast’s Canary Wharf haunt Giant Robot, Black Bear Burger serves fully stacked patties with enviable gusto. The signature offering is a real bear hug of a burger: an aged beef patty is topped with American cheese, onion jam, pancetta bacon and garlic mayo.

Boxpark Shoreditch (E1 6GY), Giant Robot (E14 5AR), blackbearburger.co