In the coming years, there’s going to be a major need to reinvent our high streets. With online retail killing off a vast chunk of traditional / bricks-and-mortar retail, there’s a danger that city centres will fall into disrepair, become barren areas or, possibly, become endless parades of Subways, charity shops, and nail bars.
There is a Plan C, however, and that’s to reinvent some buildings as modern food courts. And, as demonstrated by places such as Altrincham Market (and its sequel Mackie Mayor, in Manchester), or the various Boxpark developments that have popped up across the UK, they work brilliantly.
They’re a chance for street food traders to take a safer step towards bricks and mortar, or for other new businesses, retail included, to get an opportunity to test an idea for a month or two.
There’s more than a hint of Singapore to Market Hall, London’s latest entrants in this type of business; modern day hawker centres that celebrate great food and sociable interaction. What’s more, Market Hall have revived two great London buildings.
The first, in the old Fulham Broadway tube station, has kept much of the original architecture and interior detail. The second, which opened earlier this month, has taken the old Pacha site opposite Victoria Station and turned it into something really rather special.
Spread across two floors (with a roof terrace to come next year), Market Hall Victoria can seat 400 people. There’s a bar on each floor and, dotted around the sides, food operations from some of London’s finest, many of whom are trying something new.
Acclaimed Hackney pub The Marksman, for example, are here as “bunshop”, offering savoury buns in the manner of British bao, while Euston’s ever-addictive Roti King are offering delicious Malaysian Tamil food under the banner Gopal’s Corner. There are also sister operations for Koya and Breddos, plus stalls from the likes of Monty’s Deli and Kerbisher+Malt and several others.
Open from breakfast ‘til late night, pre-train snacking, it’s a superb venture and so easy to get to. No wonder that, on my first visit, I ran into several freelance contacts enjoying a late lunch, excellent coffee and the free wifi.
I’m told – by one of the founders – to avoid Friday lunchtimes when they tend to be swamped by some 1600 would-be diners between 12 and 2 pm. Outside those times, however, I suspect Market Hall Victoria is going to be a popular choice for those of us needing sustenance and/or the occasional afternoon “office”.
There’s also more good news for 2019 with a third Market Hall opening in part of the old BHS store at Oxford Circus. If it’s half as good as this one, it’s going to be a cracker.