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Chef Liam Watton is str-eats ahead with his food festival

By Heather Large | Weekend | Published: | Last Updated:

It’s a food phenomenon that’s changed the way we eat.

Yes, chef! – Liam’s bringing Digbeth Dining Club to Shrewsbury

Street food has never been so popular with diners loving the chance to sample quality dishes from around the globe without leaving the country.

Now some of the finest vendors are descending on Shrewsbury as the award-winning Digbeth Dining Club makes its debut in the town.

Since 2012, the popular street-food destination has been tempting the tastebuds of people from across the Midlands.

Yes, chef! – Liam’s bringing Digbeth Dining Club to Shrewsbury

And, in a new venture, it will be bringing 10 of the country’s finest vendors selling everything from wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas to traditional Belgium waffles to Severn Social in Shrewsbury.

The monthly event, which starts today, has been instigated by Severn Social’s executive head chef and street food enthusiast Liam Watton.

“I’ve enjoyed Digbeth Dining Club as a customer for many years now and the moment we took on the Severn Social venue I knew a street food event would be perfect there.

“Never did I imagine it would involve something as prestigious and amazing as Digbeth Dining Club.

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“It all happened when I got talking to one of the traders Dan Batchelor of Flying Cows, who does the best street food burger.

Street food is big news

“At Severn Social we’re all about our street food burgers so I was getting advice and we ended up doing a collaboration event in January when I cooked three items and he cooked three items and people got to try them all.

“It went really well and he put me in touch with the managers at Digbeth Dining Club and it transpired that they had been wanting to do something in Shrewsbury for a long time but had never been able to find a decent venue,” the 35-year-old from Broseley says.

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Liam, who is also executive chef at another Shrewsbury venue, House of the Rising Sun, said he believed the event would prove a hit with the town.

“It’s quite a unique concept for Shrewsbury, although there’s the food festival, that’s more of a formal event. Shrewsbury does have some great independent restaurants but they do stand alone.

“This is an event which is bringing 10 specialists of their food under one roof. What I like about Digbeth Dining Club is that in the way they select the food vendors – it’s based simply on the quality of their food.

There's lots of different meats on offer

“It’s an all encompassing event with arts, crafts, and entertainment. It’s got a very family friendly vibe.

“We are trying to make it the best event it can be, it should be a really good event,” explains Liam.

He says a popular misconception with street food is that it’s in some way inferior – but he tells us that traders are very passionate about what they are serving and are dedicated to spending time and money to ensure their food is of the highest quality.

“Take something as simple as a burger – people might expect it to be greasy, heavy and made with the cheapest meat but you will find these traders are bucking that and are using the best quality produce. The food is absolutely fantastic and that’s why it’s popular,” Liam says.

In recent years the number of street food traders and events up and down the country has soared and Liam believes there are many reasons for the movement’s growing popularity.

Sweet stuff – waffle on about dessert

“I think the appeal of street food is that there are no expectations of you. When you go to Digbeth in the evening you see people who have just come from work wearing a suit and you might see people all dressed up for a night out who are getting food and a few drinks first.

“You see all age ranges and all social classes. The atmosphere is welcoming and it’s more like people eat on the Continent. It’s a very social environment, you’re not just sitting down at a table with the people you came with.

“Another great thing about street food is that is brings together all these different tastes and flavours from all of these different countries,” he adds.

Among the traders scheduled to appear at Severn Social Dining Club today is Baked in Brick, which was named the Best of the Best at the British & European Street Food Awards.

A good grilling – some of the enticing street food

It was founded by former University College Birmingham student, Lee DeSanges, who has made a name for himself cooking barbecue chicken tikka wraps and pizzas in converted Mini Coopers.

Other traders include south Birmingham-based hot dog extraordinaire Fat Snags, Dick’s Smokehouse specialising in authentic, slow cooked barbecue meat and Dim Sum Su, which offers Cantonese and Chinese bite-size food.

They will be joined by Pimp My Wings, serving up fried chicken with a range of sauces, Street Souvlaki offering Greek cuisine and Leave It To Esmie, which will be tempting customers with Caribbean-inspired delights.

For those with sweet tooth options will include the award-winning Urban Cheesecake and Bournville Waffle Company, which sells these treats with unusual toppings from their lovingly-restored Mustang caravan.

On the day there will also be an array of craft beers, drinks and cocktails as well as entertainment for all the family.

Jack Brabant, co-founder of Digbeth Dining Club, which was crowned winner of the UK’s Best Street Food Event for 2013 and 2014, says: “We are so excited to be coming to Shrewsbury for the first time.

Would like to eat – Severn Social in Shrewsbury

“Shrewsbury has always been a town that we’ve admired and we know that the people have a real appetite for street food.”

Severn Social Dining Club will run from 12pm and 9pm today with further events on May 19, June 16, July 21, August 25 and on a date to be confirmed in September.

“People can come to Shrewsbury and under one roof, taste food from all four corners of the world. Hopefully if it all goes well and people embrace it, we can bring it back on a permanent basis next year,” adds Liam.

  • Tickets cost £2 and can be bought on the door or in advance at https://ticketlist.co.uk/event/102271/severn-social-dining-club
Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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