Local Focus – Hawker Yard
IN ASSOCIATION WITH YELP BIRMINGHAM
I’ll set the scene. It’s Friday evening around 5.30PM and I have been asked to go along to check out Hawker Yard, Birmingham’s newest street food haven located just by Chinatown/The Arcadian. The first thing that really stands out about this space is the fact you don’t have to mission all the way to Digbeth for a taste of the street food action that seems to be taking off all over the city. I am a huge fan of Digbeth Dining and the many other markets around the city but I find I have to be planning a whole night out to go and enjoy them. Not any more. With Hawker Yard being so close to town and The Bull Ring you can get your locally produced food/drink early on in your evening and still be close enough to other bars and clubs for it to not be a taxi back into town, especially if you are feeling lazy, or out with that person in heels… we all know one.
Upon arrival I feel like I have been transported back to a previous time living in east London, this is a seriously cool vibe and something that Birmingham needs a lot more of. A large scaffolding structure dominates the space with seating on two levels for diners with shipping containers lining the outside of the yard. These are temporary homes to many of street food vendors and bars pumping out some seriously good sights and smells. On this visit the traders were a varied mix of food types with Hillbillys Grill Shack serving up gourmet burgers packed full of meat meat and more meat, Pizza Traders with some of the thinnest and best looking pizzas I have seen in awhile, Masalla World bringing a mix of spiced and indian options and The Vegan Grindhouse catering to any veggie or vegan needs. I will say even though I am 100% meat loving myself the burger looked fully tempting, maybe a change is on the way.
After walking around and having a chat with the traders te thing that really strikes you is just how friendly this place is. All of the people serving the food are just lovely and are 100% up for having a chat and telling you a little more about what they do. For me this is just ideal. I think a lot of people may already be accustomed to the street food revolution that seems to be taking over the city but others may be approaching the situation in a more cautious manner. Here is my advice; go to Hawker Yard and enjoy some amazingly fresh locally made food from some of the cities best vendors, have a lovely time and tell your friends all about it after. You’re welcome!
Wanting to know a little bit more I got in touch with the people behind Hawker yard to ask questions about the vibe, future and plans of world domination, enjoy!
So Hawker Yard…..What’s the general vibe/what can people expect when they come down?
Hawker Yard is loosely based on the Hawker Centres of south east asia which were created in order to bring all their Street Hawkers off the streets and put them all under one roof with many stalls selling a range of inexpensive but quality food options. Its a little bit quirky, a little bit rough around the edges and a little bit industrial. And exceptionally pretty at night when all the lights come on! We’ve created a mini village out of shipping containers which can be utilised in whatever way we need to. We tend to have 4-6 traders at any one time with 2 bars – one for cocktails and one main bar with craft beers and the like. The general vibe is amazing, the feedback has been really positive and so far, everyone seems to love it!
What traders have you had at the venue so far/anyone exciting joining the party that you can mention?
Highlights so far would definitely be the visits from Burger Bear, firmly recognised as one of London’s Top 10 burgers and Manchester’s Dim Sum Su who came to serve the bao buns that won her a place at the British Street Food Awards. You can expect to see both of these street food stars back at the Yard before Christmas. For Halloween, East London’s Disco Picnic are taking over the place with their Airstream kitchen, cocktail bar and a guest appearance from Wing It. And if award winning visuals are your thing, Market Wraps will soon be visiting from Leeds. They’ve just won the coveted title of Best Looking Mobiler.
When are you opening times? We hear talk of lunch????
We’re currently in Phase 1 of a two phase project. At the moment we are open Thursday lunchtimes 12-3, Friday’s 17.00 to 23.00 and Saturdays 12.00 – 23.00. What’s really fascinating though is the different demographics on each day. We seem to be appealing to everyone and thats exactly what we want. Street food (in our humble opinion) needs to be accessible to all and that means more sites opening across the city which seems to be whats happening right now. We’re very lucky in that our site is very centrally located (just next door to the Arcadian and behind the Bullring since you’re asking;-) and we get a lot of natural footfall. Lunch seemed a natural progression – there’s no reason why streetfood should be just for weekends. London has it right in that sense, lunchtime markets pop up everywhere.
Looking ahead what are the plans for the future? Events? Takeovers? World domination?
Now that would be telling! But we do have a lot of plans up our sleeves for collaborations and takeovers. We’ve been blown away by the amount of requests we’re getting, not just for takeovers and collabs but for Christmas parties (cannot wait for the Xmas Trees to go in although the “we definitely need a snow machine” battle continues.) private hire and also wedding receptions! Also weirdly we keep getting requests for reservations like a restaurant! But in the immediate future its getting the site its “winter coat”, everyone needs one! Street food by its very nature is quick turnaround and not always in the most comfortable of environments. But we want to do things a little differently and a little bit of comfort never goes amiss.
Streetfood is such a huge part of the Birmingham food scene at the moment do you have any personal favourite vendors/events?
I think anyone who’s into food in Birmingham would be remiss to not mention Digbeth Dining Club. They are the stalwarts of the street food scene in Birmingham and really successful. Again, in our humble opinion, competition is always healthy in whatever area you’re in. It makes you up your game, the quality gets higher and everyone wins. We’re in a totally different area of town to DDC and we like to think we’re adding to the food scene in Birmingham overall rather than detracting in anyway.
At Hawker Yard we’re all about creating opportunities, we’ll work with anyone without any restrictions. When we move into Phase 2 we will be providing scope for the traders to have a permanent base but without the scary overheads of them moving into somewhere by themselves.
Other worthy mentions go to Taste & Liquor at Lab 11 who seem to have a good thing going on. The Lab 11 space, particularly their terrace, can’t be beaten on a nice day. And the goings on over at Regency Wharf look really interesting too. And of course, one of our founders created Brum Yum Yum and had the very successful Kings Heath Street food market. Sadly, thats temporarily on hold (& another story altogether) but they’re currently working on a new space so that should back sooner rather than later!
As for the traders, we really do want to support the “up and comers” and new faces on the scene rather than those more established ones that everyone already knows and loves but who may be tied up so to speak. If we had to pick a few to look out for over the coming months it would be The Spice is Right who have just made an appearance on The Hairy Bikers new show. And we’re especially proud of our latest find, the Raclette Brothers. They’re bringing their Alpine chalet to the Yard for a very cheesy winter residency, serving the classic mountain street food which consists of meat and potatoes smothered with gooey grilled French cheese. Comfort food doesn’t get more comforting than this!
Also look out for Masala World who bring fire and spice with their clay tandoor (the only one we know of in street food), Doghaus, a brand new outfit who are raising the sausage-in-bun bar way beyond anything you can find at the German Market, and The Good Wolf… All we’ll say is Korean Chicken Tacos!
What’s been on your personal menu today? Anything exciting? I work for a review site… love a bit of food chat!
As I’m writing this I’m on an early morning train back from london, I’d like to say something amazingly spectacular and foodie but it was a dry, hard Cumberland sausage sandwich with unbranded brown sauce (a criminal offence if you ask me). Disappointing. But the coffee was ok. ish.
But if you want me to be more foodie, we’re very close to the Bullring markets in Birmingham and naturally seem to spending a lot of time loitering around the fish market (as you do!) – current highlights are the freshwater crayfish with tail meat sweeter than any lobster and the cod cheeks – delicious!
Why not leave your feedback or Yelp love for Hawker Yard on its Yelp page here