Acklam Village Streetfood Market, Portobello Road

A Saturday at Portobello Market is an assault on the senses. Jovial shouting crowds, camera snapping tourists, soul music pumping from battered stereos on second hand music stalls, rack after rack of musty barbours, time-smoothed wooden oddities, a waft of ripe fruit mixed with the sweetly caramelised umami of a far-off simmering paella.

It’s a seemingly endless market which appears to sprawl and stretch with the gentle yet unstoppable nature of a dense fog, inhabiting whichever spaces it needs.

Other days of the week shift the focus of the market towards fresh produce or new goods, but it’s the eclectically British mix of vintage clothing, antique furniture, old records and brac-a-brac that always gave Saturday the unpredictable appeal of a jumble sale for me, even though food always played second fiddle – with stalls dotted around the main strip of Portobello road, there more as pit stops than destinations.

But with the addition of a new* streetfood focussed area called Aklam Market - squatting in the section of Portobello which always seemed to play host to the tattiest of the market’s wares – the balance has shifted, and Portobello seems to have embraced the foodie revolution happening elsewhere in the capital.

It’s amazing the difference a couple of pounds makes. The likes of The Rib Man, Big Apple Hot Dogs, Yum Bun, Smokestack and many more have proven that people are willing to pay a little extra for something that is truly delicious - even if we are eating it standing up. Where once we might have been offered frozen burgers, pukka pies and overpriced flabby chips, now we can get our hands on slow roast Cuban pork rolls, opulently moist salt beef and hand pressed dim sum.

And whilst the food offerings at Aklam didn’t quite nail the quality you’d associate with the likes of Street Feast in Dalston, where restaurant level food is dished out from nearly every intentionally decrepit stall, Aklam Market is a step in the right direction.

The burrito I bought was fresh, full of flavour and made with a real attention to detail (very finely chopped red onions and chilli lending bags of flavour rather than simple raw heat) that made every mouthful a balanced combination of flavours – rich and meaty, fresh and spicy, sour and zesty.

With it I drank a really tasty Czech pilsner I forget the name of. Something beginning with L? It had that caramel and spicy hop thing down anyway and worked great with the burrito.

For me Aklam has added another layer of interest to what was already a world class market, making a trip to Portobello something I won’t wait another two years to make.

 

 

*Aklam Market actually opened in 2012 but I haven’t visited for a few years. Finger on the pulse as ever.

 

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