Can shipping container restaurant stay afloat?
Wildflower – which briefly opened prior to lockdown – is back in business on the top level of Camden Town’s new-look Buck Street Market
20 August, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
IT’S astonishing what businesses are springing out of shipping containers – from indoor farms to steamy saunas.
But a fine dining restaurant, complete with thick-pile carpets, is the boldest idea to date.
Wildflower Restaurant has just reopened on the top level of Buck Street Market, a shiny new development a minute’s walk from Camden Tube.
The old block of market stalls, all trading at ground level, has been swept away. In their place, three storeys of food and ethical fashion, housed in 88 multi-coloured and recycled shipping containers.
It’s a far cry from the bohemian and straggly market I knew as a child, nearly four decades ago, and the latest phase in the redevelopment of Camden Market by Cypriot-Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi, who bought the lot.
Wildflower Restaurant is the flagship food trader at this new site and run by a young chef called Adrian Martin, who is a big deal over in Ireland.
In a cruel twist of fate, the restaurant briefly opened prior to lockdown – leaving the chef with a pile of bills but zero income.
Thankfully, Wildflower is back on its feet and offering a three-course menu at lunch (£30) and eight-course tasting menu every evening (£60/£110 with paired wine – 30 per cent off for the month of August).
We climbed the steps one evening to find the place, past traders selling Killa Waffles, Magic Falafel and Sunshine Hummus.
There’s a cocktail bar on the top level with new views out over Camden.
At Wildflower, a smartly suited waiter greeted us with “May I?’”, before squirting sanitiser into the palm of our hands.
Wildflower is a fun place to eat by virtue of the sheer incongruity of the concept. Fancy restaurants often have low, piped music and a stiff and starchy mood; here sounds waft in from the market outside, including vintage pop like Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.
We sank into our blue velvet chairs as the waiter talked us through a cascade of inventive dishes.
Highlights included a single, sparkling oyster with sorrel sauce and dice of cucumber; a chunk of tender lamb with a miso purée, braised turnip and sweetbread.
A few dishes needed a tweak or two, such as Hen-of-the-Woods mushroom with celeriac and slices of truffle – which I felt cried out for some textural crunch.
There’s a menu for vegans and vegetarians, too, all showcasing an ethos that focuses on wild ingredients and sustainability. Ice cream, for example, is infused with fig leaves or dandelion root.
Will it work? It’s certainly a bold move by Martin. Think Camden and you don’t think “fine dining”. But curious locals in Camden will benefit from this sophisticated option on their doorstep.
Camden (Buck Street) Market,
Camden High St, NW1