In our very busy city-dweller lives, it is rare that 6 people can come together to enjoy a nice meal and drinks without weeks of planning and diary-checking. Spontaneity almost always breeds a successful night out – and the surprise of being able to get three couples together for an out-of-the blue triple date still warms my heart even months later.
Because of the spontaneity of the evening, we didn’t do much planning on where to go to eat. Bam-bou is very central, just north of Oxford Street in Fitzrovia. Walking by it as often as I do (my office isn’t too far), I’ve always remarked at how busy it always seems to be. It’s not super-cheap and doesn’t have a lot of the buzz so many of the restaurants – whether deserving or undeserving – in London have these days, but with the crowds even on random weekdays were a good sign.
The food is Vietnamese-French, which I consider to be less Asian-fusion (such a dirty word!) in the restaurant sense and more of a nod to a not-so-pleasant piece of history, since France ruled Vietnam as a colony until 1954.
But that’s not so much to the point. On to the food.
By far the best starter we had was the duck roll. Coming out of the kitchen like little mini-burgers, the duck patty was almost flakey in texture, complemented perfectly with a fragrant plummy hoisin. Unfortunately we weren’t particularly impressed with the bland veggie summer rolls or the slightly too greasy calamari (though the spicy aioli served with the latter had a lot of pluck. I like that in a dipping sauce).
Mains across the table were made up of a combination of curries, pork skewers over vermicelli mostly reminiscent of bun cha and a lovely spiced duck with a salted plum sauce, which – despite having a similar description to our duck starter – couldn’t have been more different in preparation.
All of them were quite lovely too. The duck, though somewhat of a small portion for £15.50 (not including any sides or rice) was a bit steep, but expertly cooked. Loved it. The curry sauce was almost intoxicating, and the pork beautifully tender.
Most of the time, restaurants with a melting pot approach to Asian food are a dime a dozen and rarely anything to shout about, but Bam-bou breaks the mould.