Hollowed out bread filled with gorgeous stuff.
That, in a deliciously carb-laden nutshell, is the essence of Bunnychow, an awesome place that fully delivers when your dietary requirements are food that’s fast but great, cheap but quality and served with the sort of laid back vibe that provides a welcomely chilled respite from the frantic Soho streets outside.
1940’s South Africa was the birthplace of bunnychow – a ‘fast food’ that offered a convenient way for laborers to transport their lunchtime curries to and from the workplace – and for those of you still unsure as to what it actually is, get ready to be enlightened in a truly wonderful way; loaves of bread emptied of their soft, pillowy, freshly baked interiors and packed with a variety of traditional & innovative fillings.
Sound a little like carb-loading in the extreme? Look as though it could be heavy and leave you less marathon and more sofa snoozing ready? I promise on a stack of steaming, warm, savoury baked goods that nothing could be further from the truth.
Hollowing out the loaf means you end up eating around the same amount of bread that you would in a sandwich and if you think about the size of such standard lunchtime fare as that saviour of office workers everywhere, the Pret baguette for example, this feels like much less.
Roughly the height of a tin of beans and maybe a smidgen chunkier – probably still carrying a little Ross Geller holiday weight – the concept is simple and similar in format to many other London based eateries sprouting up all over the place in that your choices are limited but excellent and your meal is constructed in a few easy steps.
Pick your loaf, pick your filling, pick your side, pick your drink.
Oh, and get change from a £10 note. Remember the last time THAT happened in Soho? Do you?
No. Me neither.
Bread choices range from a standard white, which is probably the closest relation to the original South African dish, to wholemeal, with gluten free and brioche options also there for the picking. My gorgeous sister and dining companion for the night tumbled headfirst down the brioche lovers’ rabbit-hole falling in love with the soft sweetness of the bread on the way while I plumped for wholemeal which had an awesome-for-holding-in-the-delicious-contents-without-being-at-all-tough crust.
Filling wise, the ‘Chow gives you 5 bunnies to choose from; the classic Durban mutton curry or spicy chakalaka chicken, both of which come with tropical mango chutney & creamily cool raita; a bang-on-trend-for-the-carnivores pulled pork bunny smothered in Bunnychow’s own Piri Piri sauce; an equally-bang-on-trend-but-this-time-for-the-vegetarians cauliflower, chickpea & potato bunny with spicy Durban sauce and lastly, the choice of my starving sibling, the Full English.
Hmm, I hear you muse to yourself, I wonder if that’s anything close to what it sounds like…
…it is. Sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding, beans & a fried egg.
In a bread bunny.
I know. Sounds intriguing and according to the yummy noises being made by the usually ladylike V, it was pat-on-the-back-for-a-choice-well-made time. I headed straight for the chakalaka bunny which came topped with shards of crispy poppadom and we shared sides of stir-fried kale known as Borecole, and Geerly’s rice which was warm, sweet, fragrantly spiced and as always, the perfect partner to curry.
I would say I can’t even tell you how gorgeous this was but let’s be honest, that would make me one pretty flawed food writer. The chicken – pulled into generous, juicy shreds without a single scrap of fat & mingling beautifully with the flavours of ripe tomato – was the kind of moreish that makes every mouthful a treat to devour. The contrast of warm crust was quietly splendid against the soft meat & delicate poppodum while the chutney, which I could eat by the (table) spoonful was thick & sweet with the raita fresh enough to lift the entire rainbow nation of flavours.
The value of this place for a filling and packed-full-of-flavour dinner is wickedly good and unsurprisingly, it’s the reason Bunnychow has constantly found itself on ‘best cheap eat’ lists since it started food-trucking it’s wares in 2013 and then found itself a permanent Wardour Street home in 2014.
All bunnies are £5 or less, all sides are £1, snacks such as chilli biltong are £2…V and I demolished 2 bunnies, 2 sides & 2 bottles of water for under £15 and not only was the cost outstanding, we were never rushed or made to feel that it would be helpful if we could eat & pack a hasty retreat so that others could come in. There was a laid back buzz in the air and diners ranged from groups of friends to cheap-but-impressive-for-foodies date nights to businessmen making sure their ties stayed out of their overflowing bunnies.
Bunnychow’s motto is ‘if it tastes good, cram it in’, a sentiment I am somewhat familiar with given that it also appears to be my ethos for the relationship between all food everywhere and my very own fair tummy and I can’t deny that given the chance, I’ll be back again and again. Jack might have been a giant killer but I’m afraid this place is going to make a bunny slayer out of each & every Londoner lucky enough to dip into their loaves of goodness.