London to get 19 new street food courts with first-time buyer homes attached
A new 15,000sq ft food court — one of 19 new food courts planned across London — is set to transform a vaulted Art Deco former bus depot opposite Victoria station.
In September the space, which for 14 years was the home of Ibiza nightclub offshoot Pacha, will become an indoor market with coffee shops, hot food kiosks and produce stalls.
The food courts, from Canary Wharf to Kensington and Oxford Street to Walthamstow, according to new data from commercial property consultants Cushman Wakefield.
Gone are the days when street food meant a man in a van in the corner of a car park selling greasy doner kebabs. The 21st-century food courts are run by corporate operators, with major players including Eataly, Boxpark and London Union.
Developers are also tapping into their growing popularity: food courts are part of the mixed-use schemes at Battersea Power Station and Wembley Park, accompanying new homes and offices.
EAT IN PECKHAM
“The growth of London’s food courts has been quietly building for some time, with operators typically opening in areas of regeneration where land is cheaper,” says Thomas Rose of Cushman Wakefield.
“Landlords are looking to experiment with their sites, bringing something that will bring in the community and add a certain focus to the area.”
Unlike a department store food hall these courts sell street food out of kiosks and cafés to be eaten on the spot. Large, canteen-style seating areas and entertainment encourage customers to congregate and create a social hub, Rose explains.
Food courts offer a permanent home to local start-ups, provide jobs and serve nearby residents and workers. Abandoned spaces or derelict buildings that had become antisocial are given a new lease of life.
Peckham Levels is housed in a disused multi-storey car park near Peckham Rye train station. It opened in December last year and now has seven hot food kiosks, two cafés and three bars spread over levels five and six.
The rest of the shell is home to creative start-ups, art studios and design workshops. Live music rings out across the 90,000sq ft concrete block which is painted in vibrant oranges and pinks and has become a major meeting point in Peckham.
Among the bustle, Woody Pyke has created a serene spot. Pyke opened LevelSix, a yoga studio and organic restaurant, last December with his three business partners.
“Our aim was to create an accessible café where you can eat well without the need for everything to be slapped between two slices of bread,” says Pyke, 26, who was born and bred in Peckham.
He wants the yoga classes to be accessible, too. On a Tuesday classes cost £5 — lower than the going rate for yoga in London — and there are discounts for students and Peckham Levels members.
The team at LevelSix runs yoga workshops plus a healthy meal for carers and local college kids and works with the youth homelessness charity Accumulate, which provides temporary accommodation for young people who can’t go home.
“Our next big project is to start a partially sighted class,” Pyke says. “Yoga is seen as having a wealthy client base; we want this space to represent the community of south-east London.”
In a bid to reduce air miles, Pyke buys his fruit, vegetables and herbs from local growers at Peckham’s Glengall Wharf Garden.
Peckham Levels was created by Southwark council, operator Make Shift and Carl Turner Architects. All young businesses that take a plot must sign up to the Community Investment Scheme and dedicate at least one hour each week to local projects.
Other vendors include Khamisi McKenzie, co-founder of chicken wing kitchen Drums & Flats, who grew up near Peckham Levels.
BUY A HOME IN PECKHAM
Studio flats and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are on sale in The Catcher Building in Rye Lane overlooking Peckham Levels. Prices start from £308,000 up to £740,000.
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It’s possible to get a one-bedroom apartment in Peckham in an ex-council block or post-war building for £250,000, while Foxtons has a funky flat in nearby New Cross for sale at £285,000 with exposed-brick walls and marble and stone floors.
A three-bedroom house in the heart of Peckham will start from £650,000.
FIVE DISTRICTS, FIVE FOOD COURTS
Food and drink entrepreneur Jonathan Downey of London Union runs night food courts or “food raves” in Shoreditch, Canary Wharf, Lewisham, Canada Water and Dalston, with 70 per cent of all traders living in these five districts.
“A fledgling street food scene had sprung up in the wake of the global financial crisis, but I would describe it like ‘eating a burger sat on a spike in the rain’,” he explains.
“It has evolved since then and there’s better food, nice loos, cover overhead, more seating and entertainment. These spaces are being invested in, giving nomadic street food traders a permanent home with thousands of people to serve.”
Dalston resident Matt Harris, 31, owns chicken wings joint Thunderbird at Dinerama, the night food market in Shoreditch.
A wannabe Nascar driver, he toured around the US in his early twenties and came back with a love of barbecue food and a desire to do it better and faster.
He now has a kiosk at Dinerama, another at Street Feast’s Giant Robot “rooftopia” in Canary Wharf, and is planning to open three more sites in the next 12 months.
“Dinerama is like a student union. You go along by yourself and you’re guaranteed to bump into someone you know. It’s one of the best nights out in London and then on a Sunday families comes down,” says Harris.
Dinerama offers free entry to students who live in the nearby university halls and runs sessions teaching healthy cooking skills to people in the borough, in collaboration with the charity Made in Hackney.