Monday, 7 August 2017

Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall, Colindale

I'm not really sure how to go about reviewing a food court, or even if it's possible. Technically a collection of restaurants all using the same dining space, and sharing little else in common with each other than branded plastic bowls and plates, recommending (or otherwise) Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall is potentially no more useful than recommending "Soho" as an area based on the strength of meals at Hoppers and Kiln. Yes, if you go to Hoppers or Kiln, you'll have a great time. But what if you end up at the Breakfast Club? Nightmare.

So, this post comes with a disclaimer - I loved Bang Bang, but perhaps I was lucky with the stalls I ate at, and maybe not all are up to the same standards I enjoyed at the conclusion of a 21-stop(!) trip up the Northern Line to Colindale on Sunday. There's a part of me suspects very strongly though that I wasn't just lucky, and that picking your way through the myriad of options in this aircraft hanger-sized food court is one of the most enjoyable ways of spending your weekend it's possible to have.

First up, fried pork dumplings from Xi Home. The minimum order is £9.80 for 12 of the things, which seems like a lot until you start eating them and then realise it's nowhere near enough. Each had a good amount of pork mince and enough stock to occasionally fire a boiling hot squirt of liquid across the room when you bit into them, which was as hilarious as it was tasty.

Uncle Chilli specialise in Sichuan cuisine, which if you're not aware largely means two things - lots of heat, and lots of offal. The menu listed 'skewers' at £2 each, but instead of being presented with things on sticks like I was expecting, the slices of beef trip, pig stomach and beef brisket were served in a big bowl of soup, blazing with Sichuan peppers. The trickier bits of a pig - particularly anything involving intestines - will never have universal adoration, but this stuff is my own personal regional Chinese heaven.

Also from Uncle Chilli was a bowl of Century Eggs, hen's eggs treated to a mysterious process I think involving salt and ash which makes the yolk go dark green and the white turn transluscent amber. Doused in soy and garlic, they're a classic Sichuanese/Hunanese snack, and well worth ordering if you ever see them on a menu.

Soft, salty slices of belly pork, soaked in oil and soy sauce and topped with minced garlic, were similarly addictive. Many of the concessions at Bang Bang are offshoots of larger restaurants - One 68, for example, is run by Royal China - and if that's true of Uncle Chilli I really want to visit the mothership. Because these people are good.

Speaking of One 68, their dim sum is excellent - here piping hot siu mai of fresh, bouncy seafood, going very well dipped in chilli sauce...

...and silky cheung fun, bulging with big fat prawns and worth every bit of the £4 or so they cost.

Just as in Chinatown itself, it's impossible to not be tempted by the glistening, golden brown roast ducks hanging in the Four Seasons stall, and it's a pleasure to report they ate as good as they looked here at Bang Bang, with a nicely seasoned breast meat skin,and without a hint of dryness. Next to it on a bed of rice is pork belly, with a delicate crisp skin and expertly rendered, moist flesh.

And we weren't quite done yet. Pastries from Wonder Bake included somethings called 'Lava cheese tarts', an interesting cross between savoury and sweet that had a hot, molten filling. Oh, and the Pandan Egg tarts weren't bad, either.

So yes, maybe we were lucky. Maybe the ramen from Samurai Ryu isn't brilliant, or the Pad Thai from Little Thai Silk isn't worth the money. These are possibilities. But it makes sense that if the same people that curated the inclusion of Royal China, Four Seasons, Uncle Chilli and Wonder Bake also had the same standards set for their fellow stallholders then chances are it's all bloody good. In fact, the only reason Bang Bang may not be for everyone is that eating all this fantastic food does involve a rather fraught ordering process (order, pay, take wireless buzzer and then try and remember which of the 30 stalls it came from when it starts buzzing) and seating, especially during the hours we were there, is quite hard to come by - expect a gaggle of people to gather nearby whenever it looks like you're gathering your coat to leave.

But these are normal food court things, and hardly a reason not to visit. Even the journey, way up to the top of the furthest above-ground reaches of the Northern Line, seemed like a very small price to pay as we rolled home, happy and full, to our south of the river homes. Every Londoner should be happy that Bang Bang exists, but residents within reasonable distance should be absolutely over the moon, and planning their next visit as soon as possible. Indeed, new stalls are still opening, so it's only going to get busier - and better - from here. Happy eating.

Xi Home 9/10
Uncle Chilli 9/10
One 68 8/10
Four Seasons 8/10
Wonder Bake 7/10

Overall 8/10

Amidst the chaos of ordering I only managed to take a photo of one of the bills - from Uncle Chilli. Other prices are as above.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Good to hear good things! I really want to visit. There's a restaurant there called Golden Dragon who's speciality is dim sum which i want to try.

Plan is dimsum brunch at golden dragon then visit musem that's near then back for dinner in the food hall.