Bunnychow, Soho Review
Foodie Brighton was kindly invited to try Bunnychow in the heart of Soho, London. As my friend Emillie and I both work nearby and always need lunch we politely obliged.
We arrived bang in the middle of mid-week lunch rush hour at 13:00 but the cafe was quiet. Inside there is a couple of small window tables and then the rest of the space is bench seating with a counter and kitchen space at the back. Whilst open for breakfast, lunch and dinner until late it started out as a food truck and this cafe definitely feels more suited to the lunchtime grab and go trade.
We were warmly greeted by Kalp who introduced us to The Bunny concept and its South African roots. He explained how the original bunnychow was a fast food dish consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. Created in Durban in the 1940’s out of a necessity to serve migrant Indian workers at sugar cane plantations a hearty lunch. The team have developed their own recipes and flavours around this concept.
The menu is kept quite simple without too many options which helps the indecisive like me. From the menu you choose your bread, meat (or veg) filling and topping to complete your bunny. Each bunny is £6, sides are priced at around £3 and drinks can range with an interesting selection of soft drinks on offer. There was none of the fizzy drink fast food staples which was refreshing to see and they now offer alcoholic mixes too if you were looking for a boozy meal.
We decided to order a Bunnychow each. I went for the Matcha Green Tea bun with Chakalaka Chicken (great name!), whilst Emillie picked the Pulled Pork in a Charcoal bun – Happy and we both had a fennel slaw on top. Emillie asked about the naked bun-less option but didn’t want to miss out on the full experience. Sensing our deliberation Kalp helped us out by adding to our order a veggie naked with coriander slaw for us to try. We opted for the meatball and spare rib sides and to wash it all down a cucumber drink for me and a coconut one for Emillie although we ended up preferring each others’.
We sat down and the food didn’t take long to arrive. A waitress brought it over along with some additional condiments including a spicy sauce and a barbecue one to go with the ribs. The food came in takeaway boxes (not the metal canisters seen in the photographs online – I didn’t think to ask why) but the bunny packaging didn’t disappoint. As you can see below their takeaway box is very cool and original – I loved it – no cheap orange styrofoam over here. We tucked in straight away.
Interestingly the naked veggie dish looked and tasted very different to our bunnies so in some ways you would miss out in ordering this but it did taste great. The various fillings; slaw, salad, and veggies were separate but the flavours worked really well and weren’t too overpowering. It was like a healthy but filling salad.
The bunny itself was exciting and I enjoyed eating mine but our main criticism of both the mains we had was the amount of seasoning, they were very strong. My chicken one was edible but had a real kick. We finished it but sadly Emillie’s pulled pork was just too over-bearing to finish. It had a very strong cardamon flavour and this didn’t appeal to either of us. Whilst we both love pulled pork ordinarily, Emillie avoids spicy food so this didn’t help her enjoyment of the Pulled Pork or Chicken bunny.
I, on the other hand love spice and enjoy food that really packs a punch when it comes to favour but I agreed with Emillie and found it hard to finish. Instead I ate around the filling finishing the charcoal bread which had a light coating of the pulled pork sauce. In terms of flavour they lacked elegance. The bunny packaging does stipulate a ‘Little Loafs Big Flavours’ tagline so this intense flavouring may be traditional to the Durban original but for us it felt like a flaw and one that could be easily corrected so more people can enjoy.
The buns were great and I loved the pairings on offer – charcoal for the health benefits (a recent food trend, if a bit of a fad!) and green matcha was an unexpected option. They outsource these buns to a local bakery who have bake them for Bunnychow using a custom mould shaped a bit like a tin of beans. The buns hold their shape and rigidity perfectly and despite my doubts I was able to chow down on my bun and meat filling simultaneously without it going too soggy or without the sauce overspilling or seeping through – major bonus.
The sides were a nice accompaniment and good to try but not necessary to fill you up at lunch or to get a bunny chow experience.
If the meat fillings were a little softer and subtle in flavour I think the bunny would be awesome and more popular. Alternatively they could try offering a mild or strong version for customers to choose from which is how burrito places like Benito’s Hat handle personal preferences. If this was improved in some way then it would definitely be a lunch place I would return to more regularly. I often spend a small fortune on lunch but the lunch space is a competitive market. Having said that, I regularly want to avoid the likes of Pret, M&S, Eat and sometimes get a bit stuck on what to try instead.
Bunnychow is a very good alternative and is a standout concept to help differentiate from the wraps, hot pots etc. If you want to try something new and break up the sandwich monotony I recommend it but if you’re not a big fan of super strong flavours select the Veggie, Meatball, and Chicken (in order of strength) unless you’re really intrigued and like to freak out your tastebuds in which case go big with the pulled pork. It is reasonably priced and a place I feel deserves to do well. Added bonus is if your visit is anything like ours then you won’t have to queue out the door to get it. It also played some excellent music with The Thievery Corporation and Cat Power on it the background.
I dined as a guest of Bunnychow but as always, the words and thoughts are my own.