As the sun went down and dark fell upon us, the bright, colourful lights of the Street Food Circus lit up the Cardiff night sky like a shining beacon of promise; promise that an incredible experience and insanely good food was waiting, patiently, to be discovered.
As I walked through the gates I had no idea where to start; overcome with a sense of giddy excitement and sheer awe of this heavenly food world – ‘like a kid in a candy shop’ one might say. First, I decided to do a lap around to get a proper feel for the place and carefully observe the options before making my precious choices.
There’s something about streams of fairy lights, a buzz of background music and big bold colours beaming across the backdrop of tall, towering trees that gave that kind of festival magic to the Street Food Circus. It reminded me of Bestival when I went back in 2014, with bunting made from all kinds of different coloured and jazzy-patterned strips and rags of material. Draped gracefully around the circus tent ropes and encircling a little cubby-hole of Asian delights, it gave that funky, hippy vibe to the place that says “yeah this is cool, this is different and this is a moment you need to live in”.
The cubby-hole itself, ‘Singha Street’, lay in the top-left corner of the festival and featured flashing, light-up palm trees at its entrance – also very Bestival-esque. Nearby tuk-tuks decorated with bamboo plants and traditional coloured umbrellas drew further attention, as excitable children scrambled around them, all waiting for a turn and a photo in the driver’s seat. There also lay a vintage van in soft terracotta and pale green and yellow, sporting an array of funky flower garlands across its windscreen; adding to the authenticity of this cute little corner full of colour and life. Inside, people sat on recycled plastic crates at pop-up tables, each with a different umbrella through the centre. Whether you were tempted by a thai-style roti from Brother Thai, sweet/spicy samosas from Purple Poppadom’s Tukka Tuk, cod bites & Thai green fries from Big Fish Little Fish, or The ‘Roald Dal’ from Gopal’s Curry Shack (photos at the end), you were sure to be in for a powerful punch of flavour whatever your choice. This, for me, is one of the beauties of street food: there are so many different cuisines and cultures in one place that it brings people together and lets them communicate through their shared love of really good food.
The rest of the festival offered a range of pulled pork delicacies, incredible seafood and some seriously good-looking tacos; but for me, it was high time for a pint. Much to my delight, they had several Pipes beers on tap – which you may recall me mentioning in my last blog. I went for a pint of the 6% Farmhouse Saison, which holds some fruity yet peppery tones whilst still boasting that lovely, strong ale taste.
Next to the bar stood Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, whose plantain chips I couldn’t resist and I have to say, were incredible. Plantain is such a simple yet effective ingredient we just don’t tend to use much in day-to-day cooking; but it’s actually full of fibre, vitamins A and C and is a really good source of Potassium and Magnesium. Surprisingly, even more so than its more common cousin the banana*, which, in my opinion, makes it totally worthwhile adding into your diet where possible. Anyway, back to the circus…
Now accompanied by one of my flatmates, Seadog’s famous Sakana Burger was our first choice of main meal: composed of crispy Haddock, spicy mayo, sweet soy and seaweed, it was truly a sensation. “One of the best burgers I’ve ever had” was my flatmate’s reaction – which, coming from a meat-eater (unlike me), is very high praise. The sweetness of the soy and the lightly-spiced mayo complimented the perfectly battered haddock; it was a dream.
My Crofters Street Food burger was stunning too: two chunks of grilled halloumi, hummus, aubergine, harissa onion jam and rocket; all wrapped up in the boss of all burger buns – brioche. I never would’ve thought of putting aubergine, onion jam & halloumi altogether but it worked an absolute treat, putting sweet and salty in perfect balance. Plus, I think there’s something quite satisfying about a burger so full of yummy goodness that you physically can’t put it down until you’re finished, bits dropping all out over the place – puts a smile on my face, anyway!
We were so full of burgers and beer after all that we just sat and soaked up the atmosphere for a while, people-watching as friends laughed and couples cwtched, all with beaming smiles on their faces. The Little Tipple Van to my right had started forming a queue and I could clearly see why on closer inspection, it’s so cute and small and it shells out prosecco – what’s not to love!
I have to say I was very tempted to choose another drink over a dessert, but ultimately ice cream always wins – and this wasn’t just any ice cream… this was Science Cream. I first spotted these at Abergavenny Food Festival and wrote a bit about them in my last blog, but I didn’t end up trying any for myself. Well, now was the time. I strode over to the stall, grinning from ear to ear as I proudly announced “I’ll have a Brown Butter Caramel ice cream sundae please!”. Watching the mixing and freezing process was just as entertaining as I remembered; vapour frothed out of the mixers as the liquid nitrogen was added, much as dry ice fills a theatre stage or steam billows out of an active volcano. My sundae ‘adorned with golden honeycomb & salted caramel sauce’ was then handed to me in a tub and at this moment, I did have to second-guess myself for a second, was I actually in heaven right now? Food heaven, most definitely. It was so smooth and sweet and just generally glorious. I will definitely be wandering down the arcades for another next time I’m in town!
And so came the end of another food adventure. It’s safe to say that Street Food Circus offered an incredible range of options even for the fussiest of eaters, all of them a delight to devour. It truly was a safe little haven in the middle of a busy and often stressful world. I absolutely loved it and will certainly be returning next time it comes around!
Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,
*sources: Live Strong, Nairaland