For some, spring’s South Asian streetfood market on the Southbank is the highlight of Alchemy; if not the sole reason for the multi-arts festival to exist. Persist over the eleven-day run, and it’s possible to eat treats from all over India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka – who could resist?
It was at Alchemy that I first met Mark Wright; at that stage, yet to assume his rightful role as Rola Wala’s reigning monarch and main man. The beetroot and paneer dal wrap he flogged me from his then-‘Tava Wava’ stall was both delicious and portentous – giving me a glimpse of things Mark would go on dish up from his now-renowned ‘twisted Indian’ kitchen.
That’s the beauty of street eating; the chance to meet the artisans and upstarts destined for greatness and hitch a ride with them as they embark on the journey. And few relish its rewards more than Petra Barran, founder of the KERB collective whose markets have introduced many to a whole new way of dining – or at least, to a host of new and exciting lunch options.
This year, the running of Alchemy‘s eleven-day food market has been kicked to KERB’s capable hands, guaranteeing a gourmet almost-fortnight whose cup runneth over with rice, spice, and all things nice. Edibles so hot they’re cool from the likes of Papi’s Pickles, The Peckish Peacock, Dosa Deli, Kothu Kothu, and Horn Please will surely sate your stomach, but also expect food for thought and feasts for the senses. It’s not all about snacking yourself silly, see – the streetfood stalls are just one of the delicious discoveries the Southbank has in store for the spice-starved.
Whether competition is fierce or non-existent, there’s no doubt that partaking in a spot of carom allows you to train your brain as you strain your stomach. A few rounds of ping pong or table football, meanwhile, are excellent appetite-enhancers – each energetic bout affording you at least an extra anda roll, or perhaps a small samosa.
Where any game’s concerned, it’s a winning idea to insist that the loser buys the beers – in this instance, I’d suggest an innovative blood orange-infused IPA from KERB’s rather hip Hop Bar. Cocktails curated especially for Alchemy take titles and inspiration alike from the countries celebrated: Afghani Shakes, Nepalese Iced Tea, and Sri Lankan Spiced Punch amongst their number. And, be you a chai, soda, or lassi-lover, it shan’t be hard to find something soft to slake your thirst.
Then there’s World of Zing’s pop-up Daru Bar and Gallery; serving abundant examples of the company’s barrel-aged and batched, punch-packing signature drinks – all of which employ rather refreshing flavour combinations like Persian lime and nori, or blackberry and tamarind. The arty will appreciate Natasha Marks’ immersive on-location exhibition, featuring fragrant works inspired by the colours, shapes and sheer natural beauty of spices; whilst those whose minds are more science-inclined will get all hot under the collar over Dr. Fiona Russell and Pritesh Mody’s chilli-led masterclass, aptly entitled ‘Let It Burn‘.
With that little lot going on, Alchemy is going to be one hot event featuring some very cool players.
What to look out for from the Kerb corps…
— Adam Davison (@_adamdavison) April 23, 2015
— Horn Ok Please (@Horn_Please) May 29, 2014
— Kothu Kothu (@Kothu_Kothu) March 19, 2015
— IceKitchen (@TheIceKitchen) May 1, 2015
- KERB’s market at Alchemy runs from Friday 15th – Monday 25th May, open 12-8pm Monday-Thursday, 12-9pm on Friday, 11am-9pm on Saturday, and 12-6pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.
- To read an interview with Rola Wala’s founder Mark Wright, click here
- To read about last year’s Alchemy festival, click here
- To read about more South Asian-style May events in and around London, click here