Yes kids. Just like Harry and Meghan, you too can have it all. (Oh god, did I just say that – let’s have no political rows on here, it was just a joke okay). But come on, we know the dilemma. You fancy curry, your mate wants a burger. Do you fight it out in a food-lovers’ celebrity death-match or do you find a way that you can both get what you want without a food fight in sight?
I’d suggest the latter. And luckily, if you live anywhere near Leamington Spa you’ve got an easy solution these days courtesy of The Neighbourhood. When I first started writing this blog, a street food fest for people in my local area required a trip to Birmingham or waiting for an annual food festival to descend on and eat all the food.
No more people. The Neighbourhood is here.
If you haven’t heard about The Neighbourhood, you’ve missed out. Found in Warwick Street in Leamington Spa, this little treasure opened before Christmas, offering a street food market, event space, bar area and more.
Thanks to endless festive plans, it took me until January to pay a visit and I’m already kicking myself at having taken so long. If you’re expecting some cosy bar with candles on the tables and corners to snuggle into, be warned – this might not be for you. But if, like me, eating out for you is about conviviality, sharing, and most importantly, great food, then I think you’ll love it.
The first area when you walk in is dedicated to the bar area, though you can bring your food up here to eat (this is also the area you can take dogs into, I discovered). There’s plenty of drinks on offer, though I was more focused on the food, but be reassured this is somewhere you can go for a few drinks and a nibble rather than a full-scale feast.
If the feast is what you’re after, go through the first area and down the stairs and you’ll find what you’re looking for. The concept is simple. Find a table, order your food, then wait for it to arrive in all its glory.
The tables are in the middle, the resident food traders round the outside. Simply browse, choose a dish, and get eating. Of course, that sounds easier in theory than it is in practice by the time you’ve eyed up menus from the likes of Little Urban BBQ, Stripclub Streetfood, Fresh Rootz, Canoodle, That’s Mature Toasties, Phataphat Food and The Cookie Mumsters. The traders do set residencies so you’ll have different choices on different occasions – no excuse not to be a repeat customer.
Of course, the menus are never enough to make a decision when the food is right there in front of you. I estimate that mum and I did at least four laps of all the traders before finally agreeing on what we’d eat.
We started with some Korean Fried Chicken from Canoodle. A first for me, of course it became instantly apparently why people rave about these guys. Moist chicken, crisp crumb, a generous smothering of sriracha. In all honesty, I’d have happily done without the fries and salad but I get that they’re a great inclusion if you’re treating this as a meal in its own right.
Next up was something from Urban BBQ. We opted for a Classic Cheesesteak – 28-day matured ribeye steak, sliced and fried with cheese and onions then your choice from a range of toppings that take in everything from mushrooms and pickles and jalapenos to whatever sauce you like.
The normal presentation is to have your cheesesteak either in bread or with triple-cooked fries but we were picky and opted for a carb-free bowl of simple steak. Ironic, I know, given we had just feasted on fries and bearing in mind what we were about to tuck into, but give us a bit of credit. It was delicious – maybe not photogenic, but tasty.
I’d love to say I had room to try something from fabulous Fresh Rootz but I didn’t get to try this. Their veggie and vegan options looked amazing, from feta cheese parcels to Asian-inspired curry with rice, salad and pakoras. Alas, it’s one for when I return but I managed to snatch you a quick picture so you can see why I’m desperate to try some of it when I find where to catch them next.
I may have missed out on Fresh Rootz’ food, along with lovely-sounding Butter Chicken Poutine or Loaded Keema Fries from Phataphat Food, but what I did get my hands on was one of The Cookie Mumster’s no-holds-barred desserts.
If you’re someone who feels guilt for eating nice things, or thinks a dessert should be delicate, air-like and calorie-free, then don’t go near these. But if you understand that sweet stuff can be as sensual as some human encounters (you know what I mean) then these are for you.
We went for deep-fried cookie dough balls, choosing toppings of Oreo and milk chocolate sauce as well as ice cream. I’ve never had deep-fried cookie dough before and I imagine it could be my ultimate downfall. In fact, if you’re taking Death Row dishes, I think this is mine (well, dessert – I get a main course too right?)
I won’t go on. I think The Hood (which is what the cool kids call it) is great. It gives you the chance to feast on great food from independent traders in a fun, friendly (and under-cover) environment.
Whether it’s a quick bite after work, a fun date, a full-on feast, a night of drinks with the guarantee of some good food to mop up your beer or any other occasion, I reckon The Hood is the right place. And as ever, having somewhere like this in one of our small Warwickshire towns is yet more proof that yes, if we back our local places, we really can have it all.
We paid in full at The Neighbourhood. They didn’t know I write this blog.