Special Report: The joy of beer, burgers and batter

Peddlers Night Market: Lar Eade-Green enjoying fish and chilli onion rings
Peddlers Night Market: Lar Eade-Green enjoying fish and chilli onion rings
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Thousands of gourmet takeaways consumed as the latest Peddler Night Market street food festival focuses on the city’s post-work get-togethers

A 60 metre length of a city centre backstreet became Sheffield’s burger, beer and batter hot spot last weekend when 5,000 people ate over 3,000 gourmet takeaways at the latest ‘Peddler Night Market’ street food festival.

“We think it’s just nice to eat on the street,” said co-organiser Jordan Roberts. “It’s nice to get back to basics, to have your food in your hands and just get stuck in rather than being sat down in a formal restaurant.”

The Friday Peddler focusses on post-work get-togethers, said Jordan’s colleague Ben Smith, and as dusk fell, hundreds of bearded and woolly hatted creatives from the Cultural Industries Quarter formed queues for battered halloumi, venison burgers and channa masala.

“It’s usually a younger crowd on Friday night, then on Saturday we get a family audience, because on a street it’s easier to bring buggies and let the kids run around,” said Ben, also head craft beer barman at the Hop Box. (Names are important for hipster takeaway vendors: The Hip Hop Chip Shop, for example, or the Cow Boys burger bar).

Sheffield’s Peddler Night Markets began last October with 950 customers, and since then attendance has doubled for every market, at two month intervals. The Peddler has a bulk road closure order for Arundel Street to allow a limited number of markets over 18 months - the next official one is on May 1 and 2, but Jordan confusingly plugged that there may well be ‘sandwich’ events in between.

“Not events selling sandwiches, but events sandwiched between the Peddlers,” he clarified. These will be at local landmarks he can’t possibly reveal around the city centre, he added.

The alternative location is all part of the allure, said Ben. “We’re in the CIQ so we want to share those creative influences, and there is something about a grimy city fringe area that makes it slightly more cool. People will come and seek you out in an odd location, they want to find you and once they’ve found you they’ll really enjoy it. We’re also demonstrating that there is life outside the retail quarter, the city is not just about High Street brands.”

The idea of gourmet street food is growing around the UK, he added, with the cost of setting up a bricks and mortar restaurant prohibitive in straightened times. Peddler publicist Heather Gilberthorpe admitted that it was something a bit different for Sheffield, but should succeed given how ‘passionate everyone seems about food’. Never mind Bangkok and Mexico City, in addition to Sheffield, she said: “There are already really good regular street food markets in Norwich, and Newcastle.”

“We’ve been looking into something like this for the last couple of years,” said Ben Smith. “We felt Sheffield doesn’t really have the street culture it should for a city this size.”

Peddlers Night Market: Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson of Manjit's Kitchen

Peddlers Night Market: Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson of Manjit's Kitchen

Another attraction, he said, is that the buyers have a very direct interaction with the chef when they’re only a yard away across a smoking griddle, so you can support local traders and discuss provenance over the hissing fat. (Equally if your thrice cooked chips actually turn out as burnt potato sticks, you can quickly let the frier know).

Apart from food and drink there was also an art market with real live artists at work, and music from local DJs and bands.

Ben and Jordan would of course like to see more such events, and feel that street food should go hand in hand with Sheffield’s desirable destination strategy. “But a loosening of the bureaucracy would be good,” Ben said.

The darkness fell and the foodie queues continued to grow. Jordan twirled his moustache and said: “We want to make this ex-industrial street something brand new for a couple of days. And then pack it all down again.”

We’re in the CIQ so we want to share those creative influences

Peddlers Night Market: Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson of Manjit's Kitchen

Peddlers Night Market: Manjit Kaur and Michael Jameson of Manjit's Kitchen