With four bars, eleven food vendors and a huge roof terrace, Market Hall lets you rise up above Oxford Circus in the former BHS department store. It marks a change: the UK high street is no longer just about shopping; it’s about having a place to meet, eat and take a pitstop between the shops. It’s also about tempting those with the strongest Oxford Street aversion back to central and giving your partner a worthy hangout while you trawl the shops. Market Hall West End is generous on space; it’s the largest food hall in the UK. When we arrived, there was only a patch of savvy shops but even when the high-street mob descend we reckon they’ll still be seats for freelancers and dads bought along to carry the shopping bags to sink into.
The vibe is stripped back; not in the industrial-chic brass-knobs way Market Halls Victoria does it, rather in an industrial BHS with all the stuff pulled out of it and thrown in a skip sort of way. And that’s alright. It’s adorned with neon signage (‘Stairway To Food Heaven’) and hanging plants with a couple of pleasingly geometric bars in pale hues that you might size up to Instagram. My favourite is still Market Hall Fulham with its ‘To The Trains’ signage and ticket booth bars, but West End doesn’t have an old railway station to work with. It pleasantly takes over the site on which it stood without feeling phoney.
The dining line-up is a mix of well-known staples (Fanny’s Kebabs and Pastaio), restaurant off-shoots (Baozilnn and CookDaily) and new-comers (Pleasant Lady and Paradise Slice). Good Birds sated a continual craving for fried chicken and my ever-present mission to find the best burger in London. A huge chunk of Asian-style fried chicken is topped with smoked, spicy sambal and crunchy pickled veg dripping in peanut & cashew mayo. The balancing act of savoury and sweet cut through by the tangy red cabbage and spicy sambal is on point. I can’t think of many burgers that beat it; Beer + Burger, my Willesden go-to, ought to be worried. Satay-covered chips (Dutch-style – Skin on War fries) topped with everything on the burger were overkill to order alongside it but were without a doubt another winner from Good Birds. My pal went for slow-cooked smokey ribs from Hotbox, a must for meat-lovers after a generous portion of succulent, barbecued meat.
Find out more on MarketHalls.co.uk