Although the concept of street food has been picked up by many more official establishments like Dinerama and Shoreditch Box Park, Leonard Circus gives you the real thing: simple, no-nonsense market stalls that serve quality food at very affordable prices. Each of the locals has their favourite, and every weekday you’ll find people queuing to get a generous Turkish salad, a juicy Persian kebab or a fully vegan falafel wrap.
Karim is the owner of Falafel United, the first market stall we visited. He prides himself on his vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free falafel, for which he uses a special recipe. “I mix my spices myself, at home, which is what makes our falafel so tasty.”
“I mix my falafel spices according to a secret recipe.” – Karim
It’s fair to say business is booming for Falafel United. On a good day, his stand serves 300 people in two hours. Some of them travel for 15 minutes – all the way from Holborn or from Edgware Road – just to get their lunch here.
When it’s windy, though, the food market is closed. “It’s too dangerous: our stands would blow away.”
Karim will be opening a shop in Broadway Market soon, in addition to his street food stall in Old Street. It will be called Zeytoona. Having tasted his falafel, we’re convinced it will win the hearts of hungry customers everywhere!
Falafel United is open on weekdays from noon to 2.30pm.
Those looking for a healthy but filling lunch will love the big salads served by the ladies from Lalezar. This Turkish street food stall on Leonard Circus has been around for four years and is incredibly popular amongst those who live and work around Old Street.
The generous salads – either served with halloumi, spicy beef sausage, neither or both – are served in takeaway boxes with a mountain of fillings and sauces on top. Most customers sit down in the square or in nearby Mark Street Gardens to savour their meal.
The ladies who run Lalezar do their shopping themselves in the morning; the couscous and tzatziki are prepared at home. Every day, they need about two or three refills of the substantial buckets of salads they bring.
“It’s hard work, but we love it.” – The Lalezar ladies
Their favourite customers? They love all of them. “Real people with real smiles,” says one of the ladies who run the stall. “They just need to tell us what they want!”
Lalezar is open on weekdays from noon to 2.30pm.
At Old Street’s Persian Kebab stall, we talked to the owner Ali. Besides serving street food here on Leonard Circus, he runs a Persian Restaurant nearby, on Shoreditch High Street. He says: “I like working in the food stall. The customers here are friendly – and sober!”
Ali’s stall serves chicken and lamb kebabs with rice and salad. The food is tasty, and the service is fast and friendly. On a sunny day like this, you can easily see a dozen customers waiting in line for their favourite kebab.
“We respect our customers and they respect us.” – Ali
The Persian Kebab stall has been here for three years and – together with the other street food stalls on Leonard Circus – has become a significant player on Old Street’s street food scene.
The Persian Kebab stall is open on weekdays from noon to 2.30pm.
Which food stall is your favourite? Try them all on weekday afternoons at Leonard Circus, only a 2-minute walk from Point A Hotels Shoreditch.