Bringing a host of different food offerings under one roof is one way of both expanding a city’s food repertoire, along with satisfying the public’s growing appetite for casual food.
Belfast’s St George’s Market has long held its place as a food destination in the city — a melting pot of fresh suppliers and pop-up stands offering on-the-go sustenance for the thousands who flock to it at weekends.
However, there’s also an increasing demand for that mixture of food and drink, along with a later closing time and ‘nightlife’ atmosphere.
Common Market has joined a couple of other spots in the city attempting to blend a selection of decent food spots with a full bar.
While destinations like Mackie Mayor in Manchester can surf on the backdrop of a grand listed Victorian building, Common Market calls the former Arnott’s fruit warehouse, close to Dunbar Link, home.
It’s a roomy affair — a few tables nestled on the left, dozens of long benches and tables in the main area, a large bar towards the rear, and a selection of pop-ups and food vendors towards the right.
If you’re a regular reader of this column then you’ll know where I stand on the burger. It’s long been resigned to the list of things I’ll stay away from on a menu.
It’s often reduced to a dense, overground puck of meat, flavoured with all sorts, and buried in a heap of deep-fried accoutrements and greenery.
That’s not the case with Baps by Freight, I’m pleased to say. It’s all about the LA-style thin ‘smash’ burger on this occasion. Two patties of ground beef are flattened to mere rumour around the edges, leading to both a large surface area and a resultant Maillard effect – browned, crisp and savoury.
It’s a well-balanced burger, enough fat to lean ratio, rich, shards of dark, mottled, edges, permeated by a hit of acid from the accompanying sauce, pickles, and wrapped up in oozing American cheese.
It’s a tenner. But it’s a tenner spent well.
Al Pastor focuses on a Mexican street food, and offers up a range of dishes, including the spit-roasted tacos from which it gets its name.
They are punchy, rich and smoky, with contrasting sweetness coming from well-charred pineapple.
There’s been a renaissance in the humble chicken burger of late — a focus on Korean or Japanese-inspired versions which lean towards big crispness, technique and texture.
Hey Chick’s Korean-style offering ticks a lot of the boxes. It’s crisp, savoury and moist (thanks to the dark thigh meat over breast), cut by the fat and acid in the slaw and softness of the potato bun.
You also have something of the familiarity of potato-based stalwart Oui Poutine. It’s normally found close to the ‘Big Fish’ at Donegall Quay.
For poutine, the focus isn’t necessarily on crispness of fry, but the unctuousness of potatoes lovingly drenched in savoury umami-rich gravy, topped with chewy, clean dairy bites of cheese curds.
Ball and Roll focuses on higher-end hot dogs, along with a raft of specials, while Lasa is a pop-up Filipino restaurant which has its main restaurant in Comber.
It was another I didn’t get a chance to peruse on this occasion, but there’s a lot to like about the menu. It’s firmly on the list for the next encounter.
And for the sweet options, there’s Moon Gelato, offering up a wide range of Italian-style ice-cream flavours, including chocolate espresso and pistachio.
Pricing on the guest beers seems a touch on the lofty side, so sticking to something familiar on draft is likely your best option.