Hull’s Trinity Market has had a hard time of it over the past few years. I’m old enough to have known the days when the market hall was so jam-packed with butchers and fruiterers and the usual whatnot that a couple of dozen stalls spilled outside into Trinity Square.
The only place I remember to eat back then was the self-styled ‘Bob Carver’s Quality Fish Bar’, which was a wooden frame, canvas-covered tent with a sawdust floor. Inside, legendary local chip-meister Bob would fry up fish, chips, mushy peas and patties for grateful bargain-seekers while the irresistible aroma of hot fat wafted through the city centre.
I still think of the smell and atmosphere in that tent every time I pass the place it stood and, more than anything else, it reminds me of how Hull used to be. (It also amazes me that it never burnt down; who in their right mind operates a deep fat fryer in a tent?)
Since that time, the market has endured a sad and ignominious decline. The outside stalls disappeared and the inside market was reduced to the point where hardly any decent stalls were left. Much of the market ended up housing a fairly horrible pub-cum-nightclub thing. It was proper grim and felt, frankly, like the market had minutes to live.
Fair play, then, to Hull City Council, who took hold of the place and found money for a significant and sympathetic refurbishment. While it’s currently finding its feet and there are still some stalls to find tenants, the market is a victory; clean, tidy, welcoming and intelligently run.
Old stallholders have been re-integrated but there is now a determination to create a modern food court. Several new ventures have already moved in, which has had the pleasing effect of boosting the food concerns that pre-date the refurb.
Unlike namesake Trinity Kitchen in Leeds, the market isn’t solely about the latest food trends. It’s more like a smaller scale Kirkgate Market or, more accurately, Grainger Market in Newcastle. There are some modern food stalls but also plenty of old school sausage roll and curd tart options to keep the OAPs just as happy as the graphic designers and marketing types who now litter the place of a dinnertime. I spent an enjoyable week having my dinner in the market every day and discovered there are already enough things to eat to have something different every day for at least a month.
Day one, I tried pizza in a cone. Not a concept I was previously conversant with but, thanks to the delights of Cone Queen, I’ll gladly be having it again. If you’re not sure, its pizza dough formed into a cone, filled with tomato, mozzarella and whatever other filling you desire and oven-baked.
It’s honestly much nicer than you’d expect and, at around £3, a fun way to shut the kids up for a while. I particularly like the way the melted mozzarella strings slap into your chin every time you try to take a bite. A quite hilarious design flaw.
You won’t be surprised that the Falafia sells falafel but you may be surprised to discover how tasty they can make veggie food. £4.50 bought me a couple of freshly made falafel with spinach and salad and garlic and mint yoghurt in a beetroot wrap and it was only after I’d scoffed it that I realised it was meat-free. Colourful, tasty and probably better for you than it has any right to be.
Shoot The Bull started as a street food operation before they took up permanent residence in the Old House pub round the corner from the market. They’ve now takes a large stall which offers a range of dishes as well as doubling up as a bakery.
A little more expensive than the other stalls (£5-£6 for mains) but you get very good ingredients in their burgers or piled-high flatbreads or – as I had – Chinese style confit duck with plum sauce and Asian coleslaw in a brioche bun. Everything is covered in micro-herbs and lovely drizzlings so the extra quid or so all ends up on the plate.
My favourite, though, is Alessandro and his Italian bakery. The Sicilian stallholder offers an overwhelming array of cheap, generous and delicious dishes. There’s pasta, pizzas, cannolis, calzones and, best of all, arancini and panini.
The arancini is £2.50, as big as your fist, crunchy, nicely stodgy and a cracking faceful. The paninis (meatball is good, if you’re brave you’ll have the lunatic kebab meat version) are £3 and as long as your forearm. Yes, it’s unsophisticated and probably unhealthy but I sat in Trinity Square with the sun on my shoulders, merrily scoffing an Alessandro’s meatball panini and – for the length of my forearm – all was right with the world.
Trinity Market isn’t finished yet. It’s a work in progress. They need to get some more stallholders (vegan and Indian street food coming soon, apparently) but they’ve been granted a drinks license and plan to hold events inside, so that should attract more ventures. Given, though, that it’s only currently running at around 70 per cent capacity, it’s enormously encouraging. The market feels like 2018 is trying to drag it forward from the 1950s and it’s made it as far as the mid-90’s. I’d quite like it to stay there; a charming time capsule where you can get good grub. Another big win for Hull.
Trinity House Lane, Hull HU1 2JA. 01482 334477. The market is open Monday to Saturday, 7.30am to 5pm. Food stall times vary.
Drink selection 2/5