Three boys with a piping hot hole-in-a-truck available all-day on Berwick Street. They did not happen to be “models” (or pimps) but a fine purveyor of Neapolitan pizza called Pizza Pilgrims. The “Pilgrims” are Thom, Jamie and Louis. English. They has, recently, scoured Italy in search of the perfect pizza and came back not only with a series of cool clips on YouTube but pretty strict ethos of pizza making. Their dough is made fresh (overnight for it to rise); their loose San Marzano puree has a good depth of sweet acidity; their cheese – Mozzarella – tastes decent and produces loveable stringy-ness. Their price range is between £5 and £6. All pizza is prepared by order (hence a little waiting time).
My “Pilgrims” experience was thoroughly likeable. Pizza Bianca (£6) – Napoli salami + cherry tomatoes – benefited much from the cushion-y base and the melting mozzarella. The just cooked and juicy cherry tomatoes added a refreshing depth to the flavoursome construction. That said, I wish the crust were a little thinner, making room for a little more topping. Pizza Margherita (£5) was also pretty spot on for taste and texture – milky, gummy cheese and sun-kissed tomato sweetness. Yet (again) I wish the crust was not as chunky so that the pizza could hold more of those delicious flavours. After two pizzas (I think one and a half is the right amount for lunch), I can also taste that there is so much love, passion, commitment and research going into these pizzas. And while I didn’t fall head over heels with the offerings, I can tell that within the 3-mile radius at least Pizza Pilgrims dash out the best, most authentic and most considered products.
BAHN MI 11
Bahn Mi is – apologies for being unable to come up with a less dull description – a baguette-based sandwich with Vietnamese fillings, dating back to the Colonial time and meant to be taken as snacks. The offerings by Bahn Mi 11 (stapled at quite a few market locations around London and having caught the eyes of Jamie Oliver in his TV show Union Jack) were pretty big and excellent, while the price varies between £4.50 and £6. Imperial BBQ (£5) was not just great but had already become my (and TOB’s) addiction. I loved the filling of zingy and crunchy root vegetable pickle and pork slivers that had been doused in caramel and lemongrass. The generous bush of coriander leaves left citrus-y burst, and the chilli a little tinkling sensation. You can also adjust the level of heat, too. Fish Q (£6) was also pretty immense. The herb and spice marinated fluffy cat fish had good dimensions and a stronger-than-usual taste (for fish).
Apart from the tasty filling, it is also noteworthy that the baguette by Bahn Mi 11 was very commendable, too. The crust was thinner than your regular French baguette; the inside was more airy; and what’s best was that Bahn Mi 11 scooped out quite a bit of the white bread sponge (inside) making room for more filling. This made the ratio of meat and carbohydrate brilliantly satisfying (for me) and the flavours pleasantly balanced. Portion-wise, one is pretty enough for lunch, though I don’t mind finishing two <3 <3 <3
Yoobi prides itself for being the first temaki (AKA hand roll sushi) bar in London. Luckily, it also takes pride in getting the products and the ambiance quite right. The flashy, glimmering cube-like temaki island formed the centre of this quirky space of brown, cardboard-box-like and angular design. You order your hand rolls at the counter. There were three prices – £3.20, £3.60 and £4 – across 8 filling combinations. The inspiration of these fillings was taken from Tokyo to Rio to New York. That said, it struck me as there was a lack in variety of fillings on offer because three of the combos were tuna, three others salmon and the other two vegetable.
Despite all the criticism and doubts, I enjoyed my rolls at Yoobi. Spicy Tuna (£3.60) was deep-filled and meticulously pieced together. The cubes of tuna came across in my mouth as very fresh; the rice had lightness and acidic subtlety (a pleasant surprise for correctness for takeaway sushi!); the nori oozed gentle seaweed fragrance and did not turn unbearably wet by the rice; the creamy spicy sauce had decent kicks; and the crushed croutons provided joyful crusts. The same enjoyment applied to Cured Salmon (£4) with sesame dressing (I think) and nashi pear. Again there was great quality fish coarsely chopped to carry the sweet, velvety dressing. The pear batons were juicy and cleansing. I also liked Tuna Tartar (£4). This was (again) good quality Spanish tuna carefully marinated (in soy sauce I think?) it turned into a marvellous Cola colour and paired simply with sesame seeds. Avocado & Asparagus (£3.60) with carrot, spinach and white miso sauce did not result in the same spectacle. I found the shredded carrots slightly dry and the taste of everything did not jump out. All in all, Yoobi delivered (and I hope they will be able to keep up the consistency when the place is packed). The rolls I had were fresh and lovely. They also distilled my doubt and fear of having takeaway sushi to an extent. That said, you will need at least three to feel an impact of eating.
GOLDEN GATE CAKE SHOP
Compared to all the above, Golden Gate Cake Shop looks very dodgy. The ludicrously cheap price tag – and the fact that all tourists will stop for a picture with those toxic looking cakes on display – also makes a stop at this place very questionable for proper foodies. When I saw their Ham and Egg Bun, I assumed straightaway the egg would be from carton and the ham a piece of Chinese Spam. I also knew that their massive char siu puff was made from cheap cut of un-organic pork and suffered some artificial (but edible) colour enhancement. But, all this did not stop me from going to the place for years.
Golden Gate Cake Shop brings about some nostalgic memories, with the price tag that reminds you of third-world countries. (Nothing there costs more than £1.50)!! Here I found many very good bites among the not-so-great ones. Chicken Curry Bun (£1.20) boast a cushion-y, mildly sweetened bread with a dry chicken and potato curry filling. There was enough flavour from the filling to get me going until the bun was gone. The same story for Char Siu Puff (£1.20) which contained a lot of sweetened pork. The flake-y pastry was also acceptable done and a lot less greasy than many “proper” restaurants nearby in Chinatown. Custard Bun and Kaya Bun also had a good taste but not an awful lot of filling; Sponge Cake was correctly fluffy but needed a touch more of sugar; Tuna Onion Bun did not kill me. The selection of sweet pastry was delightful, especially the one with glucosic lotus seed paste and musty, salty century egg filling!!
So, if you are looking for great quality stuff of organic provenance, this is definitely NOT the place for you. But, like me, you need a dirty but tasty cure and a calorie-worthy bargain, it is not likely that you will dislike Golden Gate Cake Shop ^_^
PIZZA PILGRIMS + BAHN MI 11
Berwick Street (Porn Alley End/Next to Yauatcha)
38 Lexington Street
Tel. 0208 123 6601
GOLDEN GATE CAKE SHOP
13 Macclesfield Street
Tel. 020 7287 9862