Lunch in the park
Spring mornings spent in back-to-back meetings in air-conditioned offices mean that when it comes to lunch time, all you feel like doing is leaving the building, grabbing something from a nearby cafe and eating it outside with the sun on your face, preferably whilst sitting on grass or gazing into water. In King’s Cross there’s a rich diversity of spaces in which to do just that, including the steps overlooking Regent’s Canal towpath, a bench next to the fountains in Granary Square, or the quiet patch of grass in Gasholder Park. Camley Street Natural Park is the place to eat a sandwich next to a pond, but you could also take a breather on a bench in St Pancras Gardens. In terms of what to buy, there are take-away beef burgers with rosemary fries from Honest Burgers, reuben on rye sandwiches stuffed with meat and pickles from Kiosk outside King’s Cross station, coffee and sandwiches from Notes Coffee, slices of vegetarian moussaka from Foodilic, or rotis with spinach and cheese from the legend that is Roti King, situated west of the British Library. Oh, and go via Yumchaa’s King’s Cross branch in Granary Square on the way back for muffins and a chai latte.
A food market isn’t just a place for eating — it can change the identity of a space, and encourage connection and conversation between people. For example, when have you ever taken a sample from a stall and not ended up talking to the trader about how it was made afterwards? Or when have you reached the front of a street-food queue and not struck up conversation with the person grilling your cheese? So as the weather improves, take a long lunch-break and follow your nose towards pizza or barbecued meat from one of King’s Cross’ many food markets.
So, where to go? On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at KERB Market, you have to try the jerk fish fingers and fries from Only Jerkin, the pulled, smoked and spiced lamb Raan burgers from Indian Street Kitchen, or a halloumi souvlaki pitta from Kalimera. At Canopy Market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, either buy a bulgogi sandwich from Korean traders, BAP Foods, or a mozzarella rice ball from street food veterans, the Arancini Brothers. If your tummy can manage a stick of ricotta cheese wrapped up in fried dough, then something from Casa Cannoli is the finisher made for you.
Al fresco restaurants
Finding places to dine outdoors in King’s Cross is surprisingly easy. Around Granary Square, Caravan is the obvious spot to set up outside for the evening with several glasses of New Zealand sauvignon blanc and a sharing plate of grilled sea bass with red coconut curry. If you’re not into divvying up dinner, head to the terrace next door belonging to Granary Square Brasserie, great for a simple prawn cocktail, fresh yellowfin tuna and a delicious cocktail. Around the corner, the mighty King’s Cross outpost of the modern Indian restaurant, Dishoom, has tables outside for drinking Kalamansi Smashes and arguing over the last bit of black daal. If you’re meeting a client, book a spot overlooking the canal outside The Rotunda Bar and Restaurant and let the wine and steak fuel your ideas. Wander further up York Way to The Skip Garden Kitchen to try out a barbecue feast with lots of friends. On King’s Boulevard there’s a choice of chairs for lounging outside the Mediterranean wine bar and restaurant, Vinoteca, or garden seats outside Granger & Co, where you can order tuna tartare or shrimp burgers from Bill Granger’s East Asian-influenced Australian food menu.
Street food collective. Business incubator. Kerbside trader supporter. If you haven’t come across the ‘curated crew of talented traders’ started by Petra Barran in King’s Cross over five years ago with the aim of ‘making cities taste great’, then I can only hope you were living abroad.
In that short time, KERB has expanded from a cluster of trucks to a force of over 80, trading at private events and lunch markets as diverse as The Gherkin, Camden, and London Bridge. In fact, if you were to call to mind five of your favourite dishes, or dream up a fusion of three great cuisines, there’s a high chance someone now makes it at a KERB Market.
From charred sweet potato fries to mushroom arancini, quesadillas, Kothu roti, fried chicken, burgers, hot-smoked pastrami buns, okonomiyaki, vegetable curries, salads, barbecued meat, meatballs, fruit sodas, tea and crumpets, ice cream and waffles. Got all that? There’s also vegan sushi, poke, cheesy pasta, tacos, pizzas, corn on the cob and jackfruit burgers.
Since 2012, the KERB committee has hosted regular parties combining music and grub from around the world, organised a panel discussion looking at some of the most significant issues facing street food and cities today, and published an accompanying app which also included tales from some of the top traders.
Recently, KERB invited Hawker Chan (Chan Hong Men), from the world’s first Michelin-starred street food operation in Singapore, to make 200 portions of his famous soy sauce chicken rice. KERB’s head of markets, Ian Dodds, said it was “an honour to host [him here]. We also hope this builds a wider conversation about the growing quality of street food in London.” Fingers crossed the food star returns in 2019 for a repeat performance.
Good news for those bad at keeping track of their diaries. Canopy Market — the quality food and design market that has been running one weekend a month under the West Handyside Canopy near Granary Square — is now open every weekend from Friday through Sunday! Old-timers will be pleased to learn that coffee from traders For The Good Of The People, Canelés from Babelle and Bread Ahead’s legendary doughnuts will still be on offer. If you’re new to Canopy Market, expect a varied roster of local craftspeople and designers selling postcards, linen, baby clothes and illustrations, alongside burgers, British bakes, charcuterie, vegan curries, craft beers and cocktails and live music.
This article first appeared in the spring 2018 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.