The Mac Factory is not your average street food stand. Sitting slap bang in the middle of Camden Market’s trendy food court, it brushes shoulders with more burgers, buttermilk chicken strips and breadcrumbs than you could eat if you had an entire week to browse. But, while other stalls might offer hungry punters a range of tasty treats, the Mac Factory makes one thing and one thing only. As the name suggests, it is a monument to mac and cheese.
Founded in 2014 by Graham Bradbury, the business is inspired by the legendary mac and cheese vendors of New York and builds on that city’s “grungy” aesthetic and obsession with pasta. Bradbury himself started shifting mac and cheese via home delivery back in South Africa, before moving to London and working in a string of Michelin-starred restaurants. However, after becoming “inspired by the street food scene” that began booming across the capital at the start of the decade, he decided to sack off the quenelles and commit to mac full time.
Today, the Camden branch serves up six riffs on the classic creamy mac and cheese formula, all built around a staggeringly tasty foundation. This base is made from a basic bechamel sauce, infused with generous fistfuls of heady, sharp English cheddar. Bradbury reveals that he sources his cheese from Carron Lodge, an artisanal cheesemaker specialising in produce with a punch.
Cooked macaroni is also added to the mixture, as well as chopped parsley, salt, and pepper, before a sprinkling of mozzarella gives the sauce a satisfying springiness. The pasta is served al dente, with plenty of bite. But, as delicious as the Mac Factory’s building block undoubtedly is, it’s when the toppings are added that things really start hotting up.
The menu features numerous twists on the traditional Italian-American blueprint, including the pesto, mozzarella and tomato-topped “La Med Babe”; the beef chilli-laden “Hey Mac-Arena”; and the pungently heady mushroom, garlic and truffle “Super Mario”. At Bradbury’s suggestion, we opt to try a caramelised onion, harissa and chorizo-smothered “Posh Spice”, which turns out to be the ultimate antidote to the cold November air. Each item is served with a sprinkle of the Mac Factory’s signature parmesan and thyme crumb, packing even more flavour into an already explosive pot.
Check out our recipe for Mexican Street Corn Mac 'N' Cheese:
Clearly, the combination of ingredients already on offer is enough to get tongues wagging and tummies rumbling all over the city. But Bradbury and the Mac Factory have ambitions beyond the food court. After establishing themselves as a Camden Market stalwart, they are now keen to expand the cheesy empire, opening up new locations in Oxford and Putney. These ventures promise a more expansive look at what the rich tapestry of mac and cheese can offer, with Oxford already serving specialities such as mac and cheese-topped hot dogs, and Putney proposing to provide a breakfast menu and a vegan version of the stall’s classic recipe. It’s definitely a good time to be a mac fan in southern England.
Understandably, anyone not within easy reach of Camden Market may be experiencing pangs of hungry jealousy. For those who can’t pop over for lunch, Bradbury has a few tips. For starters, experimentation is key. He told us he couldn’t believe more people hadn’t eaten his short-lived “scallop and curry cream” flavour, which - while delicious - “nobody ate.” Perseverance, it seems, is key to perfecting the mac formula.
Secondly, and perhaps most excitingly for Twisted fans, Bradbury revealed that adding “as much cheese as possible” is at the heart of the Mac Factory’s success. It’s why, as he said, “people come (to Camden) specifically for the mac and cheese.” Even if you’re unpersuaded as to the deliciousness of the Mac Factory menu (and trust us, it is delicious) the license to add more cheese than seems sensible is surely worth celebrating.