In the cultural wasteland formerly home to a Decathlon bargain warehouse, now reigns a utopia of freshly shucked oysters, fluffy Japanese buns, exotic vegan Mexican fare, tiki huts, trampolines and a rum shack.
It’s not a mirage. The hipsters really have come to Surrey Quays.
Canada Water’s Hawker House Street Feast popped up at the same time as its counterparts Dalston Yard, Dinerama in Shoreditch, and Model Market in Lewisham. The brains behind the street food market describe it as ‘tropical car park paradise’.
See, this is what happens when they pave paradise and put up a parking lot.
Hawker House (the indoor bit) and the Land of Bamboo (the outdoor expansion) is home to eleven traders with one slot for guest traders.
The set up is impossibly charming with a Cape Cop style weather-beaten seafood shack and a kitsch ‘70s diner among the stall holders. Stalls are spread out with ample alfresco chairs and tables and attentive waiters who clear away your rubbish and wipe down your table the moment you’re finished eating; it’s a slick operation.
Inside there’s more stalls and an upstairs area with pool tables and retro club lounges.
There are also, pleasingly, puns a plenty with Moister Oyster and Prawnography. The good-humoured owner – who runs both stalls – tells me he enjoys making things sound dirty. I imagine this is an occupational hazard when you make your living from shucking.
We were spoilt for choice when perusing lunch options, but strangely there was no coffee to be found on a Saturday early afternoon.
“But hipsters love coffee. And there are families here. Parents love coffee,” my friend objected.
As the shrill squeals of children on the trampoline pierced the air, we both glanced over at the Whiskey Bar and considered that perhaps a Sippy cup full of hard liquor is what parents love more than coffee on a weekend. Give the people what they want, as they say.
Leaving the day-drinking to the grown-ups, we decided to scope out the Rum Shack for mocktail options. I like non-alcoholic Pina Coladas. And if the bartender hadn’t been so offended by this fact, he might have discovered I also have a fondness for getting caught in the rain.
“This is a speciality rum bar,” he sighed, his Hawaiian shirt so ill-matched to his general mood, “but I suppose I could make a non-alcoholic Pina Colada.”
I spent years bartending so I also know how to omit one ingredient from a cocktail recipe, but at least Surrey Quays’ answer to Tom Cruise humoured us enough to ask us what colour cup and paper parasol we wanted. The drinks, served in a pastel pink striped cup paired with a sky blue umbrella, were utterly delicious.
Barkeep just needs to write a melody to go with them and he’s got himself a hit.
I was thrilled to see Club Mexicana represented at Hawker House; I’ve encountered this vegan Mexican joint before at Moveable Feast. The jackfruit tacos, which, somehow, magically, mimic the texture of pulled pork, were muy bueno.
The nachos were also exceptionally good. I really hate when nachos are just a mess of beige. Club Mexicana does the Missoni of nachos: a perfect rainbow of corn chips, cheese, avocado, red pepper, black beans, sour cream and sprinkles of coriander.
Meanwhile, we had a bun in the oven over at Yum Bun. Two in fact – twins. I went for chicken, my dining companion had pork. I have it on good authority this is one of the most popular traders and it’s not hard to see why. Said bun was perfectly light and almost dissolved on my tongue while the fillings were a crispy marriage of simple, tasty flavours.
We finished our feast with a liquid nitrogen vanilla ice-cream from Chin Chin Labs.
Apparently the Camden ice-cream brand was the first ice-cream parlour in all of Europe to use quick freezing nitrogen to make their super smooth, gourmet ice-cream. There’s something of a laboratory vibe to the dessert stand that lured us in; we sensed they weren’t wasting time making ice-cream the archaic way.
The ice-cream had an unmistakable silken texture and at the base of the cone was a pool of marshmallow spread. Like a Cornetto but less obvious.
You’d be hard pressed not to find something to titillate your tastebuds at Canada Water’s most exotic new foodie haven. If you like Pina Coladas and you have half a brain; plan your escape and get down there.
- Club Mexicana jackfruit tacos £10 (£5 each)
- Club Mexicana Nachos £5
- 2 X Yum Bun £8 (£4 each)
- 2 X Pina Colada £16 (£8 each)
- 2 X Chin Chin Labs Tonka vanilla ice-cream (£4 each) £8
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