Scotch eggs aren't from Scotland, which is a bit mad because of the fact they're deep-fried and called Scotch eggs. The Scotch Egg was actually first cooked up by the swanky London department store Fortnum & Mason in 1738 – you could win a pub quiz with that fact. Nowadays, many pretentious "foodies" wouldn't be seen dead scoffing a deep-fried ball of pork, dismissing it as a snack of choice for service station loiterers and pub dwellers only.
Undeterred by this misconception, Oliver Hiam and his pal Dominic hatched Scotchtails; a successful market stall that's turned the scotch egg into a cracking hit with intrigued tourists and street food connoisseurs alike – which is just egggggcellent (truly sorry)…
Rhythmic Clicking: What is Scotchtails?
Oliver: It’s the culmination of trying to make the perfect Scotch egg.
RC: Why Scotch eggs though?
Oliver: The Scotch egg is just a really interesting form. From the outside, it’s this mysterious, perfectly spherical brown ball but when you cut it open you’re treated to so many possibilities. Even the supermarket eggs are kind of magical. But they’re also a bit awful, aren’t they?
RC: A bit, yeah. How was Scotchtails born?
Oliver: We became obsessed with those dodgy supermarket offerings and found ourselves enjoying them despite how bland they were. We came to the conclusion that we could make tastier ones ourselves, so we started cooking them at home for fun and they turned out great.
RC: Who’s behind Scotchtails?
Oliver: Me and my old university mate, now business partner, Dominic Hamdy. In the early days, a bunch of our friends and family helped out at the stall too.
RC: What encouraged you to set up a stall and start selling your Scotch eggs?
Oliver: The whole street food trend was blowing up at the same time we were making our homemade Scotch eggs, and we wondered how difficult it could really be to start selling them. We started trading and we soon realised it’s a tough game to be in – a food business is one of the most difficult ideas to get off the ground. With a lot of perseverance and a bit of good luck we've managed to keep doing what we're doing.
RC: What kind of good luck?
Oliver: The success of street food is really dependent on a good location to trade from. We’ve been fortunate enough to trade from the right pitches at the right time. There’s loads of amazing food out there that struggles to reach people's mouths because everyone’s trying to sell their stuff making the market pitches really sought after. There’s only a handful markets in London that can sustain successful street food businesses.
RC: Have you ever thought of quitting?
Oliver: We considered packing it in at the end of last year when the weather got worse and less people were willing to brave the elements to buy street food. Our original pitch [Berwick Street] was great in the summer but wasn't consistent enough to return what we were investing into the business. Fortunately though, we were invited to apply for a stall at Borough Market after its development officer chanced upon us at a street food event in Hackney. Borough is such a vibrant and busy market that it's quickly become the perfect base for what we're trying to achieve.
“We’ve focused on proper ingredients: the egg is a Burford Brown sourced from Clarence Court chickens that have been bred so they have these deliciously rich, deep yellow yokes.”
RC: How often do you trade at Borough?
Oliver: Six days a week, but it's best to check our website for up-to-date trading times. We've been at this world-renowned market for a year now and it seems that every customer takes a real interest in the story behind our food. We make the eggs the evening before trading and fry them on site so they’re as fresh as possible, that level of quality control doesn't go unnoticed by our customers.
RC: Who inspires you and the Scotchtails project?
Oliver: Just anyone who is out there trying to make their business, idea or career happen outside the realms of convention. It's fantastic to see people using their drive to succeed. Food wise, the Honest Burger guys have done really well and there's a lot that can be learned from their ethos.
RC: What do you think makes your Scotch eggs stand out from the rubbery supermarket offerings?
Oliver: The word ‘gourmet’ gets thrown around a lot these days but essentially we try to make our Scotch eggs as good as they can be without being over the top and pretentious. We focus on proper ingredients: the egg is a Clarence Court Burford Brown from hens that have been responsibly raised to gibe them these deliciously rich, deep-yellow yokes. They are the best eggs I've ever tasted. Our delivery driver claims he delivers to the queen so it seems we're in good company. All the meat we use is free-range, and we hand-crumb each egg with a light, crispy panko crumb that's made from baked loaves of bread.
RC: But you don’t just deep-fry standard pork encased eggs, do you?
Oliver: No, we do loads of flavours. The ‘Traditional’ is our staple Scotch egg that uses Lincolnshire sausage. We also have a different special on every week – today it’s bacon and cheddar. We regularly use chorizo, black pudding and even cod. Oh, and we do a few veggie options too – vegetarian haggis is a current favourite.
“We’re trying to push the eggs into delis at the moment.”
RC: What’s the ‘tails’ part of Scotchtails all about?
Oliver: The foremost idea was to serve cocktails alongside the scotch eggs so each egg had a cocktail pairing. The business developed in quite a natural way and the scotch eggs outgrew this initial idea that started as just a bit of fun. We kept the name due to some sentimentality I suppose. It also has a great ring to it, don't you think?
RC: Yeah, definitely. With that progression in mind, do you think street food is outgrowing the traditional definition of what street food is? For example, you’d struggle to find a foie gras burger on sale on most British streets.
Oliver: The ‘street food’ term has almost been hijacked by restaurants with huge investments behind them. They just slap the term street food on anything they’re selling. But this only goes to show how much interest and excitement there is in real street food, which is only a great thing. People are more interested than ever in good quality, independently produced food.
RC: What’s next for Scotchtails?
Oliver: At the moment, we’re stocking the eggs in delis and independent supermarkets. We're trying to develop our product further whilst staying true to the values and ethos that define what we're all about – having fun and keeping things fresh.
RC: Sounds exciting…
Oliver: Oh, and we’ve also just completed a rebrand. Our new website has just gone live and we're really proud of what it looks like.