The London dining scene is set to receive an exciting injection of new blood this year when three abandoned buildings will be transformed into food halls. They will have more than 50 bars and eateries between them, including branches of well-known London restaurants and street food traders.
The project is the brainchild of Market Halls, a group of UK-based, community-minded property investors and restaurateurs. It aims to turn unloved public spaces with special architectural or historic interest in Fulham, Victoria and the West End into places that can be enjoyed again. From the general aesthetic of the building to the choice of traders, each Market Hall branch will feel connected to its area. It will be designed to integrate with the local community through events programmes and schools outreach.
Market Hall’s first site is due to open in the spring and will be housed in the ornate and well-preserved entrance hall of the Edwardian Underground station in Fulham Broadway, which has retained the former ticket hall from the original 1880 station. It will open with ten kitchens, one bar and seating for 180. The second venue will open in the summer, and it will see the transformation of the Victoria’s Terminus Place, with its Edwardian baroque exterior, into a three-storey market hall. It will have 14 kitchens, three bars and seating for 300.
Market Hall’s flagship venue will open in the autumn and will be situated just off Oxford Street in part of the former BHS building. It will feature a mix of local producers, retailers, restaurants, street food vendors, four bars, event spaces and a demo kitchen. Market Hall West End will be the largest food hall in the UK and its opening will coincide with the planned pedestrianisation of Oxford Circus. The three sites will be as environmentally sound as possible, with plates, bowls, glasses and cutlery replacing the disposable tableware that have become synonymous with street food.
“Food halls are nothing new of course, but we want to create permanent dining hubs that work for the community, something we haven’t seen yet in the UK,” says Market Halls CEO, Andy Lewis-Pratt. “The majority of buildings we are working with were originally designed as bustling cultural or commercial hubs, but for whatever reason have been lying empty. We wanted to bring these sites back to life and make them useful spaces for the community, places that cater for locals, workers, families and visitors alike.”
Along with Simon Anderson, director of restaurants and operations, Andy has spent the past year visiting sites around the world for inspiration, including New York, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and the UK. “Food is the new rock and roll and we’re providing the perfect stage,” says Simon.