Need Street

I’m a fries purist.

I don’t generally like things on my chips other than salt, vinegar and sometimes a dip ON THE SIDE. I never understood the joy of cheesy chips, even at 3am after a night out in my student days. 

Recently I was confronted with a menu of tasty sounding food; burgers, wings, cauliflower bites and fries … covered in toppings. Toppings I had never considered. I never thought I’d be converted to the way of the covered chip, but the mix of flavours and textures on offer was better than any beige nightmare I’d seen on the streets of Cardiff.

Need Street Food started life as Feed Hot Dog Co, purveyors of gourmet hot dogs. You may have seen them at Love Southsea Market and other events in Portsmouth. Now located in a lovely new pub, The Merchant House, the menu has been expanded to include a range of street food but the ethos is the same; a social enterprise where every time you order food you’re funding a life-saving meal to a child in need. Need supports Plump’d, a UK charity fighting child hunger by supplying Plumpy’Nut, a nutritious peanut paste which is used to treat emergency malnutrition in countries such as Syria and Yemen. So far they have been able to fund 8,919 packets of this life-saving supplement. 

My companion is a carnivore and I always try to provide a balanced view wherever I go to eat, but he was willing to split some vegetarian food with me. After agonising over the menu, we chose the Hanoi Hangover Fries and Vegan House Dog. I popped up to the bar to order, grabbed some drinks and then spent the next few minutes openly staring at everyone else’s orders going past. Everything looked amazing. It was a busy Saturday night and the orders seemed to be coming thick and fast but lucky for us they serve food until 9pm. 

Our food came in two black baskets lined with thick greaseproof paper and presented in an unfussy but very appetising way. Love for the food was evident but this definitely wasn’t the place for precisely placed pieces of garnish. We tucked in immediately and … 

Oh. Those fries were good.

Hot with spicy sauce, crispy fries, salty peanuts and singing with the fresh lime I had squeezed over the top. 

They took me straight back to my time in Vietnam; bowls of steaming Pho and fresh noodle salads. I could not stop eating them and when the lovely guy serving us brought a knife over I had to tell him how good they were. That’s when he told us about Need’s charitable side and seemed so happy to get genuine compliments about the food. I think he was possibly the owner? If you’re reading this sir, WELL DONE! As a vegetarian, I am rarely spoilt for choice and that vegan hot dog was so good my friend claimed he wouldn’t have known it wasn’t meat. The pickles…the deep and rich caramelised onions …. the soft but slightly charred bun … it all came together beautifully and I immediately regretted sharing my food. We ate everything so quickly we didn’t manage to take any pictures, but head over to their Instagram for some luscious pics. 

I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu, the Kentucky fried cauliflower and Side Chick burger are next on my hit list. For you meat eaters I reckon the Burnt End Fries, Tokyo Dog and Merchant Burger all sound delicious. Finally, everyone is welcome on a Sunday for the Sunday Roast Club. Choose from 5-hour smoked blade of beef, chicken with Madeira gravy or a tasty Vegan option served with veggies and roast potatoes until they sell out. You best be quick! 
By Danny Alexander