I’m on a wedding diet at the moment, but last night I went out to see my amazingly talented friend, Lucy Garrioch, do a one-woman show. Apart from being incredible to watch my friend up on stage, I also saw a lot of very old and dear friends and got a bit too carried away on the wine. The result? A horrific hangover today – I have also lots my voice from whooping so much.
So I fell spectacularly off the wagon when I remembered Dirty Burger have got a kind of secret food truck nestled within the building I work (but anyone can visit). I headed down there this lunch time to find a salve for my sorry state.
It’s located in a sort of archway/alley/back entrance to our building. It sounds glamorous, right?! But actually they’ve made it lovely with some festoon lighting and tables and chairs.
I went for a cheeseburger and crinckle fries [sic] (back on the diet now though – whoops!).
I took my guilty parcel back to my desk…
The burger contains pickles, cheese, bacon, patty (natch), iceberg lettuce and tomato in a brioche bun. It was pretty sloppy, as the picture tells, but also the burger was well-done. I prefer medium/medium rare. And it suffered for it – it wasn’t as juicy or satisfying. It was fine, sure, but in what is the competitive market of gourmet junk food it was disappointing.
The fries were crinkle-cut, perhaps in homage to Shake Shack (bleurgh). They were a unseasoned though and a bit “mum’s gone to Iceland”.
So perhaps not amazing but it has cured my hangover. Although I feel very guilty.
Dirty Burger food truck, Zetland House, 32 Paul Street, London EC2A 4HJ
I have acquired a Korean food expert in my family. She is an expert because she’s Korean. Well, she’s American but her parents are from Korea. I have acquired her because my brother had the good fortune of her agreeing to marry him. The first time I ever had Korean food, my sister-in-law (let’s call her Irene, as that’s her name), Irene’s mum ordered it for about 20 people at a Korean restaurant in LA. It looked like this:
Korean food in LA is good, but I had no point of comparison apart from Irene’s Mom’s cooking, which is excellent. If, like me pre-2005, you don’t know what Korean food is like it’s a lot of barbecued marinated meats, pickled vegetables, noodles, spicy sauces – that kind of thing.
In recent times, I’ve tried Bibimbap in Soho, which is alright for a quick meal. And then last week I went to On the Bab, a Korean place in Shoreditch that had been recommended to me by the great and good of Twitter. I don’t really feel that optimistic about Korean food in London as it’s not like there’s a booming Korean community here. Not that you need a massive community but it does seem to help, like the amazing Chinese food in San Fran or the Jewish food in New York. ANYWAY, on to On the Bab…
I went for a takeaway option, ‘cos I gotta work yeah? On the smaller-than-eat-in take out menu they do a range of dishes including bibimbap with bulgogi (a barbecued marinated beef), which I got. It took a pretty long time to arrive, but that means it’s fresh right? As I waited I was asked to go outside with all the other takeout gang. There’s no waiting area and the restaurant is pretty small, so kind of understandable and I was amiable about this because it was sunny. UNLIKE the huddle of ladies at the counter who muttered “Go outside? Us? He can’t mean us! Let’s just stay here,” because apparently they were too good for the pavement unlike me – pavement troll extraordinaire.
I eventually got my plastic bowl and scuttled back to the office. Here’s what it looked like:
My work buddy Kat looked over in disgust. “What IS that?” she said. “Um, barbecued meat, pickled vegetables, rice and a fried egg,” I replied trying to sound casual and like it was a nice lunch she should be jealous of. “Sounds RANK!” she said, turning back to her screen.
It wasn’t rank, but it wasn’t amazing either. The egg was ok – the runny yolk leaked pleasingly into the disk, the beef wasn’t without flavour but also I can’t really remember it being standout which says something. The rest was just vegetables so really, what skill is there? They were… nicely chopped?
Maybe I went for the wrong thing, maybe I am being a dullard snob, but I should be able to pick the national dish and expect it to be done with some flair. Especially as it cost me £10. It was just lacking… lustre. I think what London needs is a decent Korean restaurant, but I am yet to find it…
When I was 22 I went travelling around the world and was lucky enough to spend four months in Asia. What I wasn’t ready for when I got to Asia was the culture shock. I got incredibly homesick at times for people but also things. I was a typical western brat who missed the familiarity of things I knew. Everything in Asia seemed so alien.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a great time, but by the time we reached Vietnam, three months into our tour, we were craving a taste of home. And boy were we excited when we discovered banh mi. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich – a sandwich! I hadn’t had one in three months! – and it came in a French baguette-style loaf – again, bread! Amazing! Banh Mi is sold from lots of little stalls and carts on the road in Vietnam, along with the other Vietnamese favourite, pho.
So anyway, banh mi is more to me than a sandwich – it brings back to me all these lovely feelings of comfort while away from home, when I was feeling a bit scared and afraid (I know, I was a wimp!).
So recently I went to sample on of Great Eastern Street’s many banh mai offerings at Banh Mi 11. Accompanying me was the lovely Abby (Wanderlust & Bake).
There was a queue out of the door – both a good and bad sign – but it was moving steadily. Amazingly this place is just around the corner from one of my clients’ office, but I’d never heard of it before. And I was missing a gem!
There was a lot to tempt me, not least the yummy looking summer rolls. But I kept focused and went for a pork belly banh mi, which came with crackling and lots of yummy Vietnamese-style pickles and herbs.
The bread was lovely and fresh – the outside crust was crunchy but yielded under a bit, just like the ones from my memories of lunches in Vietnam. Inside the pork belly was soft and sweet with a generous portion of headily savoury crackling. The pickles and herbs gave it that lovely fresh and sweet kick that is so much part of Vietnamese food.
And all for under a £5. It was brilliant and I will certainly be going back. Wonderfully, Banhmi11 do take out for those who need lunch in a hurry.
Banh Mi 11, 101 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3JD
My lovely friend, Lucy, is returning to her homeland of New Zealand. I am Very Sad about this, for selfish reasons revolving around the fact that I like her and don’t want to not be able to see her on a bi-weekly basis.
The upside of her getting ready to leave is that she’s finished work and is footloose and fancy free, so she has been meeting me for lunch. We have made Salvation Jane our lunchtime hangout. It’s very close to my work and serves lovely food. That’s pretty much our criteria met!
SJ, as none of the cool kids are calling it, is the little sister of the brilliant Aussie cafe, Lantana. It was set up by an Aussie and very much celebrates the Aussie love of decent brunches and amazing coffee, as well as a friendly, informal atmosphere.
The lunch menu at Salvation Jane is quite brunchy, with antipodean-style corn fritters stacked with streaky bacon, fresh spinach and slow roast tomatoes served with a avocado chilli lime salsa and crème fraiche a sure-fire favourite.
Luce and I always go for their tart of the day with two side salads. They’re ever-changing and always bright, innovative and full of healthy flavour.
This was some kind of pesto and tomato tart, I think. It came with a potato salad with lots of fresh greens mixed in, and a giant-cous cous salad with roasted root veg. It was as delicious as it looks.
This tart is some foxy courgette number, served with a red cabbage salad and a butternut squash salad.
I’ve also had those pancakes, and they were a winner.
So not only now will I desperately miss Lucy when she goes home, but I will miss an excuse to pop to Salvation Jane for lunch every week. Luce: DON’T GO! Me ‘n’ the tarts need you!
Service: 2 (they always bring us something we didn’t order and then always add it to the bill!)
I move around with my job fairly frequently, being that I am freelance these days. I really enjoy the variety of moving to different offices, working with different people and also working in different areas of London. Having spent the last two and a bit years in West London, I am relieved to not have to schlep over there anymore. At the moment I am working for a content agency in Shoreditch, and am very much enjoying the range of lunch time options open to me. I’m a big fan of Whitecross Street Market on Thursdays and Fridays, especially Luardo’s van. YUM!
But one hot, sunny lunchtime this week I decided it was time to try Yum Bun. Yum Bun make gua bao (Taiwanese steamed, filled buns to the uninitiated) from a short menu with options for pork, chicken, salmon or veggie. You can also get a bento box, which comes with 2 buns, a handful of veggie goyza, miso soup and a salad.
I sidled up to the small shop front and joined a queue of Shoreditch hipsters. My lunch buddy, Simon, stood at my side and busily moaned about how trying new places always means queuing (he was NOT a fan of Meat Liquor). I had to say, after being the first in the queue for 15 mins with no acknowledgement from the staff, I was begrudgingly coming around to his way of thinking. Then I was called forward and placed my order and parted with the best part of £8 for a Bento box. Simon’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline and he muttered something about Tesco’s sandwiches. Simon is not a fan of trends. Well, modern trends. I don’t know why Simon is getting such a starring role in this blog post, it’ll only encourage him and he really does not need that.
Anyway, then I waited. There were probs about 4 people in front of me. I waited and waited. Simon left to go to Tescos. I waited. While I was there the staff behind the counter had tetchy exchanges, which always annoys me: dudes, if you have a problem with each other don’t show it in front of customers, yeah? Thirty minutes of pass agg staff and sighing later I was called forward. My buns were dressed and I was given a bag and off I trotted back to the office just in time for the end of my lunch break. Wicked.
I was now grimly determined to HATE those stupid, pretentious Taiwanese buns that stole £8 of my hard-earned money and an hour of my time. The service was crap too, I grumbled to myself in my head. “This is definitely going to be terrible and I’ll write a review saying it’s all crap and that’ll make me feel better,” I thought as I got to grips with my first bun, a chicken number with tartare sauce.
However, as soon as I bit into my chicken bun, I was filled with horror and disappointment: this bun was good. It was beautifully seasoned, with a delicately-balanced and nicely sharp tartare dressing. The buns were soft and chewy, like savoury marshmallows. “Great, now I can’t write an arsey review,” I thought, my resolve quickly fading. I’m nothing if not a negative person, guys.
I then was ready for my pork belly bun, with plum sauce. I knew it was going to be great, and this time I wasn’t wrong.
I get slightly unnerved by how much fat is on pork belly and what it might do to my arteries, but this was good. The pork was soft and pulled apart easily. The plum sauce was lightly smokey and pretty sweet. There was some salad in there too to give a bit of a crunch texture, and to bring it together so it was like those ubiquitous duck pancakes you get in all Chinese gaffs.
The veggie goyzas were lovely and crisp. The inside was a little insipid, but I often find that to be the way with veggie rolls. The salad was nicely dressed and acted as a nice palate cleanser after the pork. The miso soup? Could have done without it. I mean, it was fine and yeah, I did eat/drink most of it but it didn’t add a whole lot.
Would I go back? Probably not. There’s far too many other gems in Shoreditch to discover to worry about going back to the same place twice. I believe Yum Bun is a pop-up, which is perhaps for the best as they don’t really have a lengthy enough menu to keep people coming back, especially if they have to spend a good portion of their lunchtime queuing. Would I recommend it to you? Sure, go for it. Maybe avoid rush hours, but it’s a good, filling lunch-esque snack. Maybe on pay day, as it’s a bit steep for a regular lunch.