London food hall magnate Market Halls has opened its biggest site yet, Market Halls West End, which will open on 15 November. The roster of traders includes roti canai, fresh pasta, katsu sandos, and vegan bowls.
The headliner is a second Gopal’s Corner, the wildly successful offshoot of Euston’s essential London restaurant, Roti King. Stevie Parle’s Pastaio — soon to open a new flagship at Westfield London in White City — and a new katsu sando opening from highly regarded chef Angelo Sato of Bermondsey’s Omoide are likely to be extremely popular.
Food hall favourites Super Tacos, Flank, Baoziinn, and Cook Daily are also on board, with pizza from Paradise Slice and barbecue from Hotbox. Jianbing specialists Pleasant Lady and would-be kebab gentrifiers Fanny’s Kebabs round out the line-up.
This is Market Halls’s third opening, following sites in Fulham and Victoria that have been through restaurant churn as kitchens and chefs adjust to a dining model caught between destination and captive audience, one that requires brand pizzazz as much as quality food. This line-up reads like it has been baked in and stress-tested: a selection of guaranteed hits.
This food also opens in a city with both a growing appetite for the model, and a growing understanding of the reality of spaces often airily characterised as “democratic” or “for everyone.” Where Market Halls Fulham and Victoria tested and proved a market, Market Halls West End comes on as a flagship. Arcade Food Theatre has opened below empty luxury apartments at Centre Point; Kerb has opened Seven Dials Market; Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall succeeded Oriental City in Colindale; Old Spitalfields Market’s The Kitchens, which opened in 2017, is right across the road from Time Out’s proposed food court site; Eataly is coming to Broadgate. There is momentum.
The cherrypicking gamification of otherwise distinct restaurants is appealing for diners; the reduced overheads and start-up costs and nominally guaranteed footfall are appealing for restaurants; most of all, though, a whacking great increase in property value is appealing for landlords. The flipside of this is how dispensable restaurants become to food hall operators when, in moving into such a space, brand presence takes priority over physical presence; how that property value in turn encourages speculators to raise prices and in so doing price out existing residents; turning potential community spaces into “theme parks of fashionable food” for the most privileged and well-off. As more and more food halls open in London that can’t, or won’t address this problem, this concern will become less and less easy to assuage with, “hey: it’s cool.”
More soon on Market Halls West End.