Gabriella pops up in Shoreditch to discover how Box Park is evolving.
You probably know the basics – with an original site in trendy Shoreditch and a newer offering in less trendy Croydon, Box Park offers short-term opportunities for restaurants to ‘pop-up’ in converted shipping containers.
The Box Park business model allows new and established eateries to rub shoulders with local offerings and intriguing start-ups. It also means that there’s an ever-changing menu on hand for foodies.
We head east to the original Box Park in Shoreditch. Unlike its south London sibling, the Shoreditch site features retailers selling a mix of fashion and art at street level, with the food and drink housed mainly on the park’s upper deck.
It’s quiet when we arrive. It’s still early in the day and with our visit clashing with Glastonbury, you sense some of the Box Park regulars may well be in a Somerset field wondering whether to catch Hot Chip or Jeremy Corbyn.
None-the-less, there’s a nice mix of locals and tourists with couples, groups and families with donut-glazed children enjoying the July sunshine.
We’re here for Box Park’s newer offerings and we start off at What the Pitta! – It feels odd to tuck into a kebab in the early afternoon however What the Pitta! is very different to the usual kebab shop fare.
There’s breads, olives and cold mezze to start, however the real draw seems to be the mains, which include vegan doner for the more virtuous east Londoner, and a doner and chips Box – which appears to be the hangover cure of choice for many in this part of the world.
We tuck into their signature chicken doner, washed down with the obligatory craft beer and fruit cider. The doner is a real delight: freshly cooked strips of chicken smothered in hummus, wrapped in the eponymous pitta and served with fluffy cous cous and crunchy salad.
It really is a more than generous lunch but one of the beauties of Box Park (alongside free wifi) is that there’s always something else to sample and being intrepid Foodepedians we dutifully head to Poptata – which promises to take fries to the next level.
It certainly delivers. Poptata’s menu breaks down into three sections: Classic (chips), Cheesy (chips and cheese), and Loaded (chip piled high with everything you can think of). You can customise your order with a huge array of sauces from the everyday ketchup and barbecue to the more exotic whisky-based cocktail sauce
We opt for Lucifer – Cheddar and Red Leicester a devilishly hot chilli sauce, and Portobello which comes with yet more cheese and a generous heap of sticky caramelised onions.
And these chips are good. Seriously good. Polish off a whole plate even though you’ve literally just eaten a giant kebab good.
When you first start reviewing restaurants, you think it’ll all be about trying to analyse the symphony of flavours in some sort of veloute. Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for the simpler things in life. In this case kebab and cheesy chips.
That’s what Box Park’s good for. Especially when the sun is shining. There’s plenty of choice and a suite of restaurants that is constantly evolving, it’s not pretentious (by east London standards) and is pretty cheap (by east London standards). All the staff we encounter are friendly and knowledgable and you can imagine it’s a place where it’s very easy to pile on the calories and consume some units chatting to friends as the day quickly turns to night.
Box Park is increasingly imitated but in a world of cheeky young upstarts it’s still well worth a trip east, or south east to sample the daddy of London’s pop-up food world.