When will appetites for eating out return?

Fun and informal Camden Lock venue is among those awaiting the return of diners in pre-pandemic numbers

Thursday, 20th January — By Tom Moggach

The Black Cow

Dishes are simple but unusual at The Black Cow

IN Camden Market, it’s the million-dollar question – when will the crowds come back? Before the pandemic, nearly 30 million people paid a visit each year. But right now, it’s eerily quiet and the traders are toughing it out.

The sprawling market has changed hugely in recent years, ever since the whole site was bought up by Cypriot-Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi back in 2014.

The latest upgrade is Hawley Wharf, an epic new development which incorporates the buildings destroyed by fire a few years ago.

It’s an impressive feat of architectural design, stretching along the canal from the famous bridge in Camden High Street towards the Kentish Town Road.

One section is a new home for shops and stalls for food and drink. Set over four storeys, it’s an intricate jigsaw of ramps, bridges and terraces that look out over the canal.

The top floors are described as rooftop pavilions, where top Irish chef Richard Corrigan is finalising an ambitious new project that’s currently under wraps.

Hawley Wharf also includes flats, a basement cinema, offices and Hawley Primary School.

The Black Cow is one of the new food traders, offering a Middle Eastern twist on the American steak house.

It’s the first solo venture from Shiri Kraus and Amir Batito, two young chefs with a flair for hospitality. “We speak the same language – and not just Hebrew,” says Shiri.

Their vibe is fun and informal – this is food to share and eat greedily with your hands. Their venue is on the first floor and feels more an open-plan restaurant than market stall.

Perch at the long counter alongside the open-plan kitchen, where you can chat to the chefs as they sear and sizzle in the Josper grill.

Steaks arrive fast, in a waft of flaming herbs. Prices are keen – just £13, for example, for a 6oz onglet. I used the nicely charred slices to mop up the fragrant slick of herb oil.

A side of corn on the cob is cleverly done – sliced in four lengthways, roasted, then served on a bed of whipped feta with a salty almond crumble.

I try a lovely cauliflower dish, too – the florets slathered with a thick spicy bechamel made with Gruyere cheese, finished with a dusting of Egyptian dukkah spices.

These are clever dishes – simple but unusual, and visually striking. A spiky artichoke is split lengthways, for example, the heart anointed with chermoula and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese.

After my meal, I wandered around the maze-like space, which is chock-a-block with decent food traders. There’s Cantonese roast meats, Malay curries, Afghan dumplings and many more.

This is a destination for locals as well as tourists and well worth a visit in its own right.

It will be intriguing to watch this space evolve this year, as word slowly spreads.

The Black Cow
1 Water Lane, Camden Lock, NW1 8NZ

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