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Sunday, 19 May 2013

WestEndGirl Eats - Street Food Cartel

Earlier this month I went along to the Street Food Cartel at SWG3 after reading rave reviews about the last event. Street Food Cartel are a pop-up dining experience who also showcase some of the best local bars and restaurants who are "inspired by the bold flavours of the street". I've previously blogged about Smoak's barbecue delights, who were featured at March's SFC event and, from what I've heard, went down a treat.

Last week's event featured Scoop, who use fresh Scottish produce to create diverse and global-inspired dishes. It also played host to the Spanish/ Mexican culinary treats of Lupe Pintos - yes, the same Lupe Pintos that run the deli on Great Western Road. The last event was a total sell out so I made sure to reserve my ticket to this one so I could pop along and see what all the fuss was about.

On arrival at SWG3 (where the event was held), I was impressed. The venue had been transformed into a unique dining space complete with authentic food truck (indoors) and makeshift tables. I really liked the whole 'cartel' theme of the evening, with complimentary cocktails being served in bottles wrapped in brown paper bags and the fact that the event was being held in a converted warehouse in an empty street (if you didn't know what was going on in there, you'd walk right past it). The Boy and I were greeted by the very friendly and cheery bar staff and about ten minutes later we were shown to our table. 

Music was provided by the Scratch and Sniff DJ's who's funk and soul offerings got my stamp of approval. The only thing was, we were seated right next to the DJ booth, meaning we couldn't hear or speak to each other while we were eating. We ate our food silently and let each other know what we thought of each dish via hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. Not ideal on a night out with your boyfriend!

The menu offered five dishes from each guest restaurant and a variety of beers, cocktails and wines. Intended for sharing, we decided  to pick two different dishes from each resturant so we could sample the different flavours on offer. We were told that the dishes would arrive in no particular order and it was the two choices from Lupe Pintos that arrived first. Ever the fairytale lover, I had selected the Three Little Piggies which consisted of pork shoulder, pancetta, chorizo and butter beans served in a bowl like a stew. This came with 4 small pots of sour cream, guacamole, sweet onions & jalepenos and sweet onions. The Boy had opted for Lupe's famous beef, chorizo & chipotle chilli which came with the same sides.

The Three Little Piggies were delicious, a hearty and flavoursome stew that I would have happily huffed and puffed and blown a house down for some more of. The meat was tender and well-portioned and the flavours complimented each other really well. The chilli was equally tasty, with big hunks of tender cooked beef instead of the usual minced variety. Overall the dishes from Lupe Pintos were filling (in a good way!) and very tasty. We were ready for round two! Ding ding!

From Scoop's menu The Boy ordered the confit pork belly, smokey chorizo (we were all about the chorizo that night), black pudding & chickpea stew. That sounded delicious when reading it off the menu but was actually a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the portion size was decent and there was plenty meat to be had, but it didn't taste very memorable. Plus, there was no black pudding to be had on the plate. I had the Thai haddock and prawn cakes, served with prawn crackers, a shredded herby salad and prik nam pla. These were good, I got 4 fat cakes served in a crumb coating and the prawn crackers tasted lovely.

We skipped dessert (although the cinnamon sugared churros were mighty tempting) and called it a night. The lack of proper ventilation and spices used in cooking was resulting in watery eyes all round. I loved the smell of the food when I came in, but I didn't want to sit and inhale it all night and the steam from the meal preparation grew thicker as time went on.

All in all, I'm a bit on the fence with this one. I like the idea of Street Food Cartel in theory - a pop-up dining experience giving people the opportunity to try new and exciting dishes from the best of local cuisine. As a big food fan, I love this concept. I also loved the variety and quality of food on the menu (particularly from Lupe Pintos) and the staff were awesome and very welcoming. However, I wasn't a big fan of the price. Paying a fiver each before you even order any food was not very popular, and it was clear from those sitting around us that this was not well-received. I got the impression that many of the diners thought they were paying a cover charge to come and taste some sample-sized portions of excellent local food. Yes we got to taste some excellent local food, but only after paying to get in, and then paying for each separate dish. It all added up and paying twice for my dinner isn't something I want to make a habit of. I like Street Food Cartel's vision, and really want it to work (and as their events are all sell-outs, I'm sure others do too) but I think a re-assessment of the pricing is in order. Also, the noise and ventilation issues made the experience a little less enjoyable than it could have been.

I don't know if I would go back to SFC right away, but I would keep an eye on things to see how things are progressing and then maybe return in the future. 

Did you go to Street Food Cartel? What did you think? What was your favourite dish?


  1. Hi!! I just stumbled across your blog, you're so cute! This food looks delish! I love that the street food thing is taking off, i hope it reaches the status it has in america, i'd love my own little food truck :) x

    1. Aw, thank you missus! I know, I really like the street food concept too - I'd love to see more trucks over here :) x