London’s weather might be mildly summer-some rather than totally tropical, but the return of the Alchemy festival means things are really heating up on the Southbank. Now in its eighth year, the annual event is a cultural celebration of all things South Asian – delivered via a jam-packed programme of music, art, poetry, theatre, literature and (and not least) food.
Of course, it’s the latter that matters most to me. It’s not that I’m not a culture vulture, it’s just that my appetite for all things edible always comes first and foremost. And, with the spicy, stellar, 27-trader-strong line-up at Alchemy’s 12-day food market spanning India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, I can’t wait to get stuck in.
Hungry? Hold your horses – don’t mooch the market until you’ve checked out my guide to the tastiest traders below.
MEET & EAT
WHO? Rola Wala
WHAT? Naan sliders – soft, scorched bread pucks topped with new spins on classic curries, chutneys and crunchy sev sticks. Their small size is to your advantage, meaning you can eat more.
WHO? Horn Please
WHAT? A merry melange of Indian vegetarian street food, from channa chat to bhel puri via potato-stuffed dosas and top-notch kati rolls. My tip? Opt for a combo box.
WHO? Indian Street Kitchen
WHAT? Dude food meets Desi khana. Items like raan burgers, dhaba steakatis and tikka tacos rove the globe with inclusions like home-made wasabi mayo – expect the unexpected.
WHO? Dosa Deli
What? DD majors in South India’s answer to the crepe (try the Mysore masala version), but bits like skewered medu vada bites and Tamil vegetable rolls are worth equal attention.
WHO? Baba G
WHAT? These big fat burgers are a real meal. If you think you can handle the heat and the hugeness, go for a Naga Delhi Double plus a portion of pachos (poppadom nachos).
WHO? Khao London
WHAT? A fusion version of khao sway – that superbly-slurpable, creamy coconut broth that’s as popular in Bengal as Burma. Delve into its depths and discover noodles, meat, and all sorts of other treats.
WHO? Bun Kabab
WHAT? Pakistani street food. Don’t miss the dish that gives the brand its name: a bun kebab comprises a spicy battered patty, salad, and chutney, all housed in a deliciously squishy roll.
WHAT? A London duo’s take on the paratha wraps the pair discovered whilst travelling in Kolkata and brought back to the UK… plus knockout okra fries on weekdays.
WHAT? Mumbai-style, vegetarian eats. Try a Mumbai sandwich – a tasty toasty laced with fiery green chutney and chaat masala which definitely counts towards your five-a-day.
At Alchemy, the drinks are as desi-cated as the food. Each and every weekday, Happy Hour runs from 5-7 – perfect for a post-work Punjabi Pimms, Nepalese Rum Collins, Beavertown IPA, or just a good old pint of Kingfisher.
Less inclined to get very merry? The softs are as sexy as their boozy brethren: think Square Root Pomegranate Rose Soda, on-trend almond milk mango lassis from The Peckish Peacock, or Chaigram’s icy-cool masala chai. The whole lot gets a hearty Thums Up* from me (*I suspect the much-loved Indian colas will also be much in evidence).
- The Alchemy food market is open daily until 29 May at Southbank Centre Square, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
- For information including daily timings, click here
- For more information on the full Alchemy Festival programme, click here
- For my guide to classic and modern Indian drinks, click here
- To read more about Indian street food traders at KERB Camden Market, click here