I hate going to Shoreditch. There, I said it, you can go ahead and crucify me but I’m not taking it back. It’s just not really my cup of tea. I’m not one of those ‘creative types’, I don’t have a thing for organic, fair trade, no one died in the making of this brew coffee because I don’t actually drink the stuff, and I most certainly do not have a beard. I’d rather not be a cool kid and continue rooting for Tooting any day, though I have heard our little part of London has be called the new Shoreditch once or twice!
Cliches aside, I hate traipsing over to hipsterville because getting from my ‘new’ Shoreditch to the current version is just a bit of a pain. The Overground and I are not exactly friends after the trials and tribulations of commuting to Hackney Central everyday, and I’m not overly fond of those big red vehicles either. This is why it pains me to hear of new restaurants opening there all the time; however, what really irks me is if they survive the opening hype and turn out to be quite good. Like Rök.
Until recently I was what you called ‘bun-loyal’. My allegiances were clear, I was a devotee of the classic bready, preferably brioche, burger bun. As a self-confessed burgerholic (rewind to Burger Wellington 2012 and 2013 where I demolished 10 burgers in 14 days) I have no choice but to be a fan. After all, the bun is one of the three fundamental components of a burger, without it it’s just meat and 3 vege.
But lately there is a new bun that’s caught my eye… I know it’s been delighting fans for centuries but only in recent years has it become mainstream. I would credit, or blame depending on which side of the bun you’re on, David Chang for making it cool and London’s love of a trend for making it a craze. Of course, I am talking about the Hirata style steamed bun also known as bao or mantou.
I’ve already admitted that I’m rather terrible at booking restaurants in advance. This probably surprises a lot of people because I am quite an organised person, even pedantic at times, so this must be my exception that proves the rule. I often start out with good intentions and try to book something a couple of weeks in advance, but I either A: have so many options that my food FOMO and plate envy kick in and I can’t decide, or B: have whittled down to a shortlist only to find that they are all booked out and I am back to square one.
This is where the new app ‘Uncover’ can come in and save my bacon. Basically made for people like me, it lets you know which of those hard-to-book restaurants have tables available on the day. Yes, you read right, on the day which means you don’t have to guess several weeks in advance whether you’d prefer that upmarket dim sum place or the new swanky French bistro. I thought my last working day of 2014 was worth celebrating, we had no plans so I decided to download Uncover and test it out…
My earliest yum cha memories involve Sunday lunches with my family at one of the many Chinese restaurants along Courtenay Place in Wellington.
They were usually gluttonous affairs; though there were only five of, us, we each had our favourites and would not be satisfied without ordering our dish. Sometimes this was easier said than done… there were the days where you got seated at a dud table the servers never came past, or perhaps you would be next after a huge group who took everything, or worst of all, that particular restaurant didn’t even serve the dish you were craving!
Then fast forward some years, though I’m not exactly sure when it happened, yum cha became cool. The monopoly Chinese restaurants had was eroded by trendy places serving jazzed up replicas for twice the price and at night. You didn’t have to wait until weekend lunches to get your fix of steamed dumplings… you could indulge at dinner time with a drink far less cleansing than jasmine tea.