Promoting choice, independent businesses and bringing foodies closer together in social spaces, the rise of the food hall and communal dining is a trend that looks set to continue says Joe Food 

I remember attending my first Peddler Market in the summer of 2015, back when it was a far more understated affair taking place on Arundel Street with a handful of local food traders, some live music, and (rough estimate here) a couple of hundred punters milling around a cordoned section of road.

Despite the relatively small scale of these early events, it was clear that the organisers were onto something; there was a palatable sense of inclusivity and community lending to a good vibes feel as punters bonded on pavements and long dining tables over the food and drink on offer.

Fast forward four years and Peddler is now nothing short of an institution in Sheffield – a monthly showcase of rotating traders, musicians, clothing, arts and crafts, and much else besides. A busy weekend might see a few thousand pass through the doors at 92 Burton Road, while their spin-off event Veg Out unites the city’s vegan community and shows that eco-conscious, plant-based eating can be just as exciting as a carnivorous diet.

The rising popularity of street food traders – now something of a given at events ranging from festivals to weddings – and the desire for wider choice, casual forms of dining, and new cultural eating experiences has led to the rise of the food hall, naturally taking off first in the capital but quickly spreading its hype to major northern cities. This rise has of course been buoyed by endless social media opportunities to share a variety of exotic or gluttonous dishes on feeds, and if to confirm this, a quick search for the hashtag #foodhall on Instagram will return a total of 110,000 public posts; whereas #streetfood returns a cool six million. That’s a lot of #foodporn to scroll through.

Last year, Sheffield saw the arrival of Cutlery Works, providing 14,000sqft of retail space split over two floors and hailed as the north’s largest independent food hall. Situated a stone’s throw from the home of Peddler, the venue has become a popular weekend destination that buzzes with activity right up until its 1am closing time on Fridays and Saturdays. During the week workers in the area can be seen taking a break from the drab surrounds of the office and hosting morning meetings there, showing such social food and drink hubs can help provide a spark of creativity or serve as the perfect networking venue.

The most recent addition to the local food hall scene, Kommune, has brought excitement to an area of the city centre that has been in need of renovation for some time now. The old Co-op department store in Castle House, closed for over a decade, underwent a £3m revamp and has united independent food traders, retailers, and creatives on the ground floor where you can enjoy a wide variety of world cuisine, purchase a book or zine from La Biblioteka, select a take-home craft beer from Hop Hideout, or browse The Viewing Room art gallery. Upstairs a tech hub will serve as a social working space and an incubator for start-ups, putting faith in the symbiotic relationship between communal dining spaces and local creatives.

Food Hall, a relatively older kid on the block, was one of the first city centre spots to combine dining and local community support – with a firmly entrenched ethos centred on the belief that everyone should have access to fresh food and company. Since opening in 2015, the volunteer-run cafe operate a pay-as-you-feel policy, and as well as providing a welcoming space for social eating – not to mention superb coffee – the organisation actively involves itself in a range of initiatives to promote cohesion and tackle important issues such as homelessness, inequality and exclusion.

Since coming under the charge of Events Collective three years ago, Sheffield Food Festival has strived to celebrate the inclusive, wide-ranging dining experience facilitated through the boom in street food events and community-focused food halls. Bringing thousands together through a mutual appreciation of food and drink and providing a vast platform for socialising between friends, family and strangers alike, the aim is ultimately one of using good food to create a closer sense of connectedness between people and the spaces they live in.

 

Five of the biggest food halls/markets around the world

Harrods Food Hall
London, UK

Harrods department store has been an acclaimed institution since it first opened in 1834. A huge allure to the department has always been its enormous food hall. There is an vast range of bites available from several restaurants and even more to take home from their state of the art boulangerie, patisserie, fromagerie and charcuterie.

 

Grand Central Market
Los Angeles, USA

This Los Angeles food market is steeped in history. The venue has continuously reflected the changing food trends in downtown LA and has evolved alongside them. Spanning over 30,000 sq ft with over 90 food vendors, it’s revered as a cultural food haven.

 

Time Out Market
Lisbon, Portugal

In 2014, the editors of Time Out Lisbon took on an ambitious endeavour: to transform a historic city market into the world’s first food and cultural market. The risk proved successful and has seen visitors flocking to the market ever since to sample offerings from their award-winning chefs.

 

Markthal
Rotterdam, Netherlands
While Markthal might be renowned for its stunning architecture, it’s not just the impressive exterior that has made it into a worldwide attraction. The venue boasts a carefully selected variety of local and national businesses which all place an emphasis on quality Dutch dishes.

 

Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne, Australia

The Queen Victoria Market has been dubbed one of the best food experiences in the world. Feeding into their reputation, they even have a dedicated Ultimate Foodie Tour which allows food lovers to indulge in their finest bites while learning about how they earned their title.