Street-food champion arrives in Ilford

Mercato Metropolitano (MM) Ilford will finally open next month – five years after first being announced.

The wood-framed structure (pictured above during the construction) set in a disused car park in the town’s ‘cultural quarter’ offers street-food entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their cooking in a communal food hall – and is part of the regeneration of Redbridge borough in outer northeast London.

MM was launched in 2016 at the Milan World Expo and reached London a year later, opening first in a disused paper factory near Elephant & Castle, followed by a disused Victorian church in Mayfair and then Canary Wharf’s new Wood Wharf development. Ilford is the first site in the outer suburbs.

Among the stall-holders at the opening, on Thursday 11 July, will be 26-year-old local resident Arjun Manikandan, the first winner of the ‘dreaMM’ initiative, which awards a rent-free stall for three months and business advice to a first-timer.

He says: “Being from Ilford myself, it really means a lot to me that we will be able to be based in the new Ilford sustainable food market, and bring our authentic Kerala cuisine. People don’t really know about Kerala and its culinary values. Kerala is known as ‘God’s own country’ because of the naturistic beauty and culture of Kerala, in south India. It’s a beautiful place for a holiday, and hopefully people can experience a Kerala holiday through our food at The Malayali Project.

“Having never run a business before, we don’t know what to expect, but we know that the MM team will be supporting us all the way and that gives me confidence to say, ‘okay, let’s do this!”

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