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The Nottingham Street Food Club

23 August 17 interview: Bridie Squires

If you’ve recently returned to Notts after an ends hiatus, you might be wondering what the bob has been going off upstairs in Viccy Centre. Tat shops and the like have been replaced by a mega food area, and although a couple of joints haven’t managed to wangle their way into discerning local purses, there’s one gaff that looks like it’s sticking around for the count.

Nathaniel Wilson of the Mimm Collective has traditionally delved into whacking on club nights, manning an art collective, and running a clothes shop in Hockley. Now he’s onto the new and tasty endeavour that is the Nottingham Street Food Club, and since the project is in full swing, we thought it was time to sit down for a chat with the bogger...

photo: Thomas Comery

How did the idea for Nottingham Street Food Club come about?
I saw different organisations up and down the country doing a similar thing, with independents rotating on a weekly basis: places like Digbeth Dining Club, The Trinity Centre food court in Leeds, street feast markets like Dinerama in London. They invest in the local community; it allows people to trade there affordably and it gives people the versatility to delve into it.

We did a food stall down Sneinton Market, again at Broadfest, and supplied the street food for Hockley Hustle, so the guy who got us the Mimm shop asked us if we wanted to take the space in Victoria Centre for a street food court. Some people find it hard to grasp the idea of it being inside, but it does happen elsewhere. You’ve got bigger versions of this in places like Lisbon and Madrid.

How does your work with the Mimm Collective tie in with this?
When we started, we ran the Nottingham Independent Creative Community events at Nottingham Contemporary and we used to have about fifteen to twenty market stall traders. The ethos, and how it carries over, lies in supporting that independent community and the local scene.

Mimm and Nottingham Street Food Club are separate entities, but the music we play and the nights we’re gonna put on here in the future will be quite similar to what Mimm represents. It was a natural progression to have an opportunity like this put on our plate by Victoria Centre; they wanted to bring in the more independent side of things. You can see that the chain stuff isn’t really working at the moment.

Why do you think that is?
There’s no personality, there’s no identity, and it’s just carbon-copy stuff. You need to have individuality. Each of the traders here bring their own menus and when you pay, you’re supporting them and getting good, affordable food. That’s got to be a positive feeling. People might not look at it like that, but my incentive to come here would be to eat good food and put money in the pockets of locals.

What I think you’re going to see in the next five to ten years are these big corporations shifting to independent traders. In a way, they’re benefiting from it, and so are the independents. Independents are getting a bit more control over the situation because the corporations want that coolness. One of the fastest growing markets in the UK now is independent business, so I think you’ll see similar stuff in large footfall areas. That’s what you want, really.

The Hockley vibes, out in full force...
People who might not necessarily wander down there can be introduced to a different mind-set this way. We’re spreading that Hockley mentality over here, and we’ve got a bigger demographic. Families, OAPs, young people... there’s such a wide range. The crowd changes all the time but, generally speaking, on Friday lunchtimes you’ve got the Hockley crowd coming up, then there’s the office crowd in the evening, and on Saturdays it’s rammed with families: loads of push chairs, loads of kids, which is always good to see.

Who’ve you had in so far, and what are you looking for when it comes to stall holders?
Something unique. Something that potentially fuses different cultures in one food. For example, Chef Jugz has got the Thai-style chicken filling in the Mexican taco [Gai Yang Chicken Taco. Gerrit. - Ed]. It’s about keeping it simple but interesting; the idea of this place is for people to come and sample a bit of everything.

Right now, we have a core group of stall holders. There’s Pete Hewitt from Homeboys, our resident headline guy. Everyone goes to Pete; his katsu chicken burgers are really nice. We’ve got Clean Cut Kitchen in at the moment too, that’s Antonio’s [Vendone, Suede Bar] new health-food venture. He’s opening on Derby Road in a few weeks, so he’s been promoting it at Street Food Club before he moves. I really like the new protein box that Clean Cut Kitchen are doing where you can build your own meal.

G from Chef’s Cottage is untouchable when it comes to jerk. Then you’ve got Taste of Korea with their spicy chicken; Smiffy’s Smoke Shack who do a platter of loads of different meats; Numinums falafels are great for vegans. Vietcentric is a new place down Sneinton that’s just opened, it’s a Vietnamese cultural centre that does cooking classes, and Kim there does this salmon in banana leaf... I had three of them last week. All our traders provide amazing dishes.

You’ve got some nice beers and cocktails behind the bar, too...
I picked the Island Record IPA beers simply because of my affiliation to Jamaica. We got Heineken on draught because they have more than 100 different beers, so when we do all of the cultural music and food fusion nights, we can cater for each one. A lot of the spirit companies we went for have quite prominent street-food backgrounds.

You did a collaboration with Southern Comfort recently…
These drink companies are sponsoring what we’re doing, and are putting money into the pocket of the live musicians who play here, so they’re getting paid properly which is nice. Every two months we want to try and have a Funk and Soul Food theme with Southern Comfort or another Deep South-type drink.

Then we have Jazz and Gin, which we’re going to get Yazmin Lacey to curate. We plan to do Rum, Wing and Ting too: a Jamaican-style theme with an emporium of different Caribbean rums, and each stall trader creating something inspired by the West Indies. Next up will be Triple B: BBQ, Bourbon and Blues, so we’ll get a local blues band in, plus loads of different types of bourbon, and each trader will have their own take on the BBQ side of things.

It’s all about fusing the culture with the music, food and drink. Away from the club nights that we put on, this gives me the opportunity to put on music that I really enjoy. The club nights are great but my passion is live music and it’s nice to put all of that into place here.

Sounds like you’ve got it sorted…
Bringing people together to eat is such a nice feeling, and seeing so many different types of people tapping into this... I didn’t anticipate any of it;  the amount of families, the amount of older people. I thought it would be just us guys, but it’s nice to see that it’s all so different.

It’s interesting going from running a small, independent shop to running this and having loads of employees. That’s challenging in itself, but I like doing new stuff. That’s what excites me about this place: being able to try new things and learn every day. That’s the most important thing, isn’t it?

If you’re an independent who’d like to get in touch, hit up [email protected]

Nottingham Street Food Club, INTU Victoria Centre, NG1 3QF.

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