Nud Dudhia & Chris Whitney, co-founders
Where do you get your inspirations for the menu? For example, the octopus nduja taco you've got on the menu today is pretty out there...
Chris: That comes from Nud literally thinking about food all the time.
Nud: I just think about ingredients, what's seasonal, how can we use it in an interesting way. We've got an unwritten mission statement which is to try and put things together that other people aren't putting together anywhere else. So why not put together an octopus and an Italian nduja sausage and see what happens, instead of just serving nduja as part of a charcuterie board like everyone else? We mess around with stuff – we made hot apricot sauce and a Guinness barbeque sauce and all sorts of weird lovely stuff, so we don't just fall into the bracket of “Tex Mex” It took us ages to put chips and guacamole on the menu. But the chips we make here with the blue corn so it makes them different.
What's your best seller?
Nud: The short-rib taco. Our business is basically been based on that one taco.
Where do you source your meat from?
Nud: We get it from a butcher in Cornwall who also supplies the Ledbury and other Michelin starred restaurants in London. Our meat is second to none. We source a specific amount of short rib from that butcher on a monthly basis and it's aged for 42 days. We have our own broth and stock too.
What's the secret to your short-rib?
Nud: We've got our own marinade – a secret, of course – that we rub in, then it's cooked low and slow for about 10 hours in the broth that we also sort of invented.
How many short-rib tacos would you say you get through on an average day?
Nud: When we're at Street Feast – where we also have a nomadic taco shack – we do 25 kilos of short-rib in a weekend. And we normally run short, too. We're notorious for running out of food but we hate wasting. We always end up going “let's cook this much, that will make us this much money” and we're happy with that, we're not greedy. We often get shouted at by Street Feast fans when we're packing up at 9 o'clock, they'll be like “where are you going?” and we're like “we're gonna grab a beer!”
Treat 'em mean...
Chris: Yeah - they say “can you not just sell some tacos with salsa in?” We're like: “no”.
Nud: But that gave birth to the idea at Street Feast: why don't we have a menu that changes throughout the night so once we run out of something, we'll start something new. For example we did 10 months at Hawker House and we only repeated one dish the whole time, and that was short-rib. Innovation is pretty strong at the shack. It's the same at Trip Space – we have a different menu every single night.
What's the one ingredient you couldn't live without?
Nud: Beef. And tomatoes, vegetable wise. And chillies and limes.
Food and dining has become a lot more socialised in the past few years with Street Feast or Chilli Bang Bang – do you think this has a big part to play in your success?
Nud: Definitely. I think the socialisation of street food comes from a wider understanding in our national culture of in the importance of authenticity in what we eat, in flavours, ingredients and provenance. People now care about eating amazing stuff and social media's pushed the abilities to share what you've eaten and bringing more people into the realm of what's going on in food. Alongside that you've got people like Jonathan Downey and Dom Cools-Lartigue from Street Feast creating these amazing one-off experiences where you can not only get food, but you can drink incredible cocktails too. They're bringing together something almost like a food rave, where all these people flock together. For the same amount of money at eating a restaurant, at Street Feast you can try six or seven different cuisines, drink amazing drinks and be somewhere where there's amazing tunes too.
Have you ever made anything that didn't work?
Nud: Weirdly lamb, we did this one lamb dish and I don't know if it was the right weekend for it or whatever, but it's the only time we've done something and gone 'ooh that lamb didn't sell that well' but everything else has flown out...
Chris: Well, maybe the sausages.
Nud: We'd made some really nice sausage tacos, really interesting and tasty. Very wintery – they were braised in beer and with fennel and they were good, but compared to the other tacos, I'm not really sure why they didn't work – there was a bit of a debate on whether people would associate them with tacos.
Where do you eat when you're not dreaming up tacos?
Nud: Rotorino, I've been going to it loads. It's awesome.
Chris: Tonkotsu East has got to be on the list too. We eat there about twice a week. Also a spot where I eat really regularly but I don't think gets talked about enough as it's amazing is Shane's on Chatworth up in Clapton – beautiful, seasonal British food.
What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
Nud: For starter I'd have a whole, massive crab and a spicy broth to dip all the bits in.
Chris: With fresh baked bread and pepper...
Nud: For my main it'd have to be something to do with a cow. Probably a whole rib of short rib with our chipotle rubbed on it. Then I'd just gnaw on it until the end of time.