Friday, 17 July 2015

Street Feast #dinerama Shoreditch: Yum Bun, Breddos Tacos, Busan & Why I Won't Be Visiting Street Feast Again

For our annual visit to Street Feast, Jon and I decided to try out their new Shoreditch location for this Summer - Dinerama - rather than heading to Dalston Yard (you can read my reviews of Dalston Yard Street Feast in 2013 here and 2014 here). Our plan was to eat our fill of some of our favourites and peruse the years cocktail selection before being joined by a couple of our work and old university friends. While this blog post is more of an op-ed about this years overall Street Feast experience, shall we start with the bit we loved, the food? 
Busan Burger, Dinerama
First off, can we talk about a relative newcomer I've only just discovered, and I want to hunt down the truck to gorge on both their burgers and their other Korean Barbecue inspired delights? Busan recreates all of my L.A. Koreatown food obsessions in for form of ridiculously good looking (and tasting) juicy burgers and steamed pork belly buns. And, they offer the option of adding kimchee to everything. What there is not to like here? 
Dinerama Dinerama, Shoreditch
The new Dinerama arena for Street Feast in Shoreditch is in a pretty great location, slap bang between Liverpool Street tube station and Shoreditch High Street overground station, right in the middle of East London's foodie heart. New for me, used to the Dalston location are the upstairs decks that host a few more eateries, a couple of bars and plenty of tables and seating so visitors can bask in the sunshine with their eats. 
Breddos Tacos at Dinerama Breddos Tacos at Street Feast Shoreditch
One of the must eats for me after I fell head over heels with their tacos at Street Feast last year was Breddos Tacos. In the foreground here we have a deliciously moist nugget of fried chicken, suped up with a fantastically spicy mayo, homemade tomato salsa, coriander and a good slice of jalapeƱo. All the flavours were beautifully balanced, and there was a good amount of heat without it being too overpowering. Also, this may sound strange, but it tasted like a taco too; after getting so used to amazingly authentic tacos in Los Angeles, I get really disappointed when I bite into something beautiful that just does not have that fresh flavour hit. I was less excited by the fried fish taco I also ordered; there was nothing wrong with it, but it did not have that jump up and down excitement of the chicken. What can I say; past experiences with Breddos Tacos have set the bar of my expectations very, very high! 
Big Bar at Dinerama Southside Fizz at Dinerama
Something else that was an update for Dinerama were the amount of different bar options in the arena. We kicked things off with some simply mouthwatering rum cocktails (see my Instagram), then after grabbing a bite to eat moved onto these delicious Southside Fizz refreshers with elderflower and champagne from Big Bar downstairs. Later on we enjoyed punchbowls from the fancier looking upstairs bar (see my friend Eleanor's Instagram). While all these bars are a great edition for the 20 something Londoner, in retrospect I do wonder if they are part of why the atmosphere was so different at this years Street Feast, where in the past I'd become used to seeing families with children together on a weekend out. More on that in a moment. 
Street Feast's Dinerama Yum Bun at Dinerama Yum Bun at Dinerama, Shoreditch
Another bite I want to highlight was the soft, doughy pillow of goodness that was my pork belly bun from Yum Bun. Yum Bun was one of my very first Street Feast discoveries a couple of years ago, and I'm happy to report that their buns are just as fluffy as ever, the pork belly just as mouthwatering, and the whole bite still perfectly balanced with good amounts of crunchy cucumber and zingy spring onion to cut through the hoisin. If you've still never had one, what on earth are you waiting for? 
Street Feast's Dinerama, Shoreditch
While you all know I write the this blog to recommend things to people, and usually if I don't like something I won't write about it, on this instance I really felt like I had to say something because I am in the position with a platform to speak and be heard, where most of the visitors at Street Feast don't have that luxury. As I have enjoyed Street Feast so much in the past, I love and support so many of their vendors and it is something I truly look forward to every Summer, it actually made me really sad to write this post; I actually put it off for a good week and a half. 

All afternoon I noticed around the yard that Street Feast had changed; it had become slicker, glossier and nothing like the grassroots gathering we used to visit, and I'm not just talking about the fact they now have real toilets and bathrooms rather than porter-loos. I was curious to see a bouncer at the bar quite early in the afternoon before they'd started charging entry, so I asked him why he needed to be there so early. He told me, quite jovially in case there were loud, rowdy groups ruining it for everyone else. Fair enough, I took our drinks back to our table and thought nothing of it.

Later on, after the two of us had been joined by another (female) friend and we'd had a bit more to eat and drink up on the terrace in the sunshine, another one of our (male) friends was coming to join us, but he texted to say the bouncer would not let him in as there were 'too many men' already inside the arena. This was on a Saturday afternoon (before they had even begun charging for entry), with the arena no where near as full as it could be at capacity (Street Feast post a lot of heaving photos on their Instagram), where all there were around us were mixed groups of guys and girls, sitting around eating, drinking and chatting. Jon, who had been at Dinerama with me since it opened headed down to see what was going on, and came back with the same answer, there were apparently 'too many men' and that was all the bouncer was saying. I headed down, wondering if perhaps our friend would be allowed in accompanied by a girl?

After being told that my friend (so the bouncer clearly did remember us from our cheerful conversation earlier in the afternoon) had been causing trouble, I was again told he could not let our friend outside in because there were 'too many men' already inside. Okay, I thought. If there is a policy on this, fair enough. I asked him when he thought he would be able to let more guys in (reasonable question), he told me to go away or he'd throw all of us out. I tried to ask the same question again, but in the end gave up, fetched the others and we left to find our friend still outside and head to The Diner.

Now, I can understand if events like Street Feasts across London need admissions policies. It is most likely there are limits imposed on them by local councils as regards to their licensing, but I also believe that these should be publicised. Street Feast has turned from a small grassroots street food event into a massive business all year in several locations across the city, which many people travel to visit each weekend. All they list on their website are their opening times, full capacity (without gender distinctions) and that entry is free before 7pm. It is therefore fair to assume that if you are a single male traveling across London to meet two female and one male friend already inside the event, that if it is not full you will be allowed entry. If that is not the case, I really think Street Feast should advertise it.

Londoners get a bad rap for being miserable and anti-social on the underground and the like, but anyone who has lived in the city for any period of time will tell you that that is simply just not true; they are actually a pretty reasonable and generous bunch. There is an argument that many London clubs and bars have similar policies, which is true. But how many bouncers have you come across have simply refused to answer reasonable questions on how long the wait will be and threatened you with eviction for simply asking? I emailed the press contact at Street Feast that evening for comment on their admissions policy so that when I wrote about my experience at Dinerama this year I could have an answer for my readers on any concerns they might have about admission if they were traveling from afar to the event (I came from Kent), but I have not yet received a response.

The whole incident really upset me, because aside from putting the dampener on the whole afternoon and that I love and support so many of Street Feasts regular vendors, it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I am very upset that I don't think I will be able to visit a Street Feast event again, because I was really upset by everything that happened that afternoon. I also know that I am not the only blogger who has written that while they have loved Street Feast in previous years, this Summer when they've questioned a claim from the organisers and their staff, they've had responses that have made them feel like they don't want to return.

As I said, I do not like writing negative posts on this blog, and it took me a while to decide if I was going to address our experience at the event. However, I feel the lack of transparency at the event is unfair on everyone who is planning on visiting one of the Street Feasts this Summer. Because I am incredibly lucky enough to have a platform from which to be heard, I believe that I should use it as other people may have wished to speak out, but do not have a way to make themselves heard.

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