Since the time I got hooked on chicken skewers in Thailand back when I had a traveller's spirit and a handy student overdraft, I've been a street food fan. Which is part of the reason I mistrusted Truck Stop (a collective "with 20 of the UK's best food trucks" popping up at Wood Wharf for six nights space throughout the summer) from the off.
Having morphed into a cynic with no spirit, my immediate reaction on hearing of the venture was to ask myself since when did something that should be served on a grubby curbside (or at least in a scummy area of London) get so commercial that it upgraded to designer bags, packed them and moved to shiny sea of soulless suits that is Canary Wharf?
Then I heard it was the new baby from the guys behind now deceased Street Feast (which I liked), had a pop up bar from Rotary (which I like) and was going to showcase some of the best examples of street food around such as Fishdog (like), Bell & Brisket (like), Anna Mae's (like) and... well you get the point. Negative preconceptions already on shaky ground, I followed the Jubilee Line all the way to the land of slick side partings and tightly-knotted ties, to find out if I could hold on to my skepticism.
Truck Stop is located behind Canary Wharf, in the bit of water that runs between there and Docklands. The 20 vendors (selling their food from a mismatch of old fire engines, ambulances and milk floats), duo of makeshift bars manned by Rotary, BBQ smoke pit and 'patch of grass' (we'll get to this in a bit) are all housed on a platform in the middle of the water accessed by a bridge.
People can either buy the £10 tickets (which get you £10 in Truck Stop Dollars on arrival) in advance or buy tickets on the door - which simply gain you entry without the dollar.
Because I actually ended up (spoiler alert) liking Truck Stop I'm going to get the gripes out the way now. Firstly it's a bit new looking. I know this can't be helped but it feels like the Disney version of Street Feast (which at least had the decency to look 'authentic' by throwing some dirt about, hiring smelly porta-loos with wonky floors and being in a yard in Haggerston). The most alarming factor of its newness is the fake grass - admittedly a step up from hard concrete in terms of comfort, but just wrong.
The second thing that annoyed me about Truck Stop was the money thing. I know they are not the first to charge for entry and then give you fake money, which gets you one drink or dish or whatever, but it's unnecessary and confusing. Why not just charge for entry if you have to, then everyone can just pay for food and drink with REAL MONEY LIKE YOU DO IN THE REAL WORLD?
Finally, the crowd's a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst waiting at the bar for round two of the delicious Rotary cocktails (more on that later) I chatted to a guy who had obviously taken off his suit jacket, tie and brogues en route from one of the towering office blocks above our heads, a girl in the artfully faded florals only found in vintage shops and markets; and a bloke from Romford.
From what we tried, the food lives up to hype. We ate a brilliant Fish Dog - a golden oblong of crunch filled with soft white flesh, dressed with vibrant pea puree and shouty tartare sauce served in a soft white roll; a springy lilac disk of pizza dough topped with goats cheese from Born and Raised; and a soft tangle of slow-cooked lamb and fiery spice from Baba G. We drank pints of cocktails mixed with the skill by the clearly talented team of Rotary boys and girls who entertained the waiting crowds with some highly entertaining mint-crushing skills and gin-shotting abilities. Other highlights include the waterside location (somehow Canary Wharf looks alright when you're not in it) and the toilets (urinals you could eat your dinner off and those fancy Dyson hand driers that feel like the future).
So against my better judgment and despite it having the audacity to be new, creative with currency and appealing to a wide audience, I liked Truck Stop. A lot.
The next Truck Stop is on 1st-2nd August at Wood Wharf, E14 5HQ