92 Burton Road, Sheffield , S3 8DA
Perfectly manicured moustaches, glassless spectacles and any number of horrendous cardigans worn ironically. All this and more will greet you on a visit to Sheffield’s ‘night-market’, Peddlers.
Based in abandoned warehouses in the Kelham Island quarter on the first Friday/Saturday of every month, it houses all manner of street food, ales, cocktails, music, art and craft. Without doubt, this is a hipster’s paradise. However, it would be a severe disservice to this enterprising setup to say that you have to be trendy to take a peak.
Take me for example. A thirty something Dad of two with a mortgage and a dodgy knee. Hardly the epitome of cool. Yet, here I am about to tell you how much I enjoyed myself whilst also probably sampling some of the best street food imaginable!
Upon arrival in Burton Street you are drawn to the normally innocuous outer shell of the market by the crowds, the noise and, most of all, the aromas. There is a real buzz surrounding you as immediately you’re thrown into all manner of food trucks, trailers and stalls – serving macaroni cheese (or Mac’n’Cheese to trendies!) to Pad Thai to Steak Sandwiches to Waffles. There is something for everyone on one corner or another.
The trucks which house the food emit varying degrees of theatre from them too which only adds to the atmosphere. The Clawhide hut with its distressed wood panels, open fire ovens and macho smells – very appealing to a man of my simple tastes. The neon, child-like adornment of Wallace & Son’s converted van and their home cooked gyoza which smelled incredible.
Not being outdone, we visited Nether Edge Pizza Co. and their wonderfully theatrical outdoor pizza oven. The meat feast we ordered a perfect combination of fresh dough cut as thin as you like with a crispy exterior. Couple this with the saltiness that can only be achieved through a good meat feast of salami, ham, a good smear of cheese and a local real ale (albeit flat and underwhelming this time) and it was an excellent beginning to the evening.
Around another corner and a concert band playing out of a steel shuttered warehouse to a crowd of deck-chair based students is a wonderful juxtaposition between steel city industry and classical resonance.
After another pint of local pale ale served out of the back of a converted horse box (a much better offering than previous) and a make-shift canteen with its own resident DJ it was time for the star of the show. A street-food from Beijing by Mei Mei’s Street Cart perfectly sold to me by the description, ‘eaten for breakfast or a late night snack with a few beers’; basically the Chinese equivalent of a donner kebab. And yes, before you ask, kebabs can and will be eaten for breakfast!
What was delivered to us however was a much more delicate and finely balanced food than any kebab ever consumed. Put simply, the Char-Su Jian Bing was one of the most pleasant things to enter my mouth all year! No jokes please.
A thin, savoury crepe that was filled with coriander, spring onions, chili, succulent pork, hoisin and wanton could have been a soggy mess in the wrong hands. What originated was a delicate, fresh, delicious, umami foodstuff. Each bite gave way to new flavours that hung around on your tongue for as long as you would like to remember, all of this before you reached the savoury pork and crispy wanton centre and the different dimension of flavor and textures that were you were alerted to. It took me to a bustling street all neon lights and commotion in downtown Beijing…and back again, which is surely the point of very good street food.
After this crescendo, our night was drawing to a close and we could only manage a round of cocktails (supplied with wavering success) and a once around the arts and crafts stalls which proved fruitless.
It will however be remembered as a thoroughly enjoyable night of eclectic music, booze and food. The juxtaposition of old industry meeting new opportunities is obviously part of the appeal but it has long been a bugbear of mine that very few ideas such as this present themselves in Sheffield. As such, I am able to live with the fact that I was 90% older and 100% more unstylish than the other revelers in a bid to experience some culture in a city that has previously been slow on the uptake. Here’s hoping Peddlers is a sign of better things to come!