Melissa Blease takes a little trip around the world as she samples the street food and the international cuisine available right here in Bath
Our collective tastebuds have been awoken to the delights of far-flung flavours and inspirations gleaned from across the globe. Party menus based around far-flung flavours are trending in Bath this year. Leading by example, cosy Argyle Street bistro Chez Dominique is flaunting fully-French flavours on its festive menu, with turkey only available for those that specifically request it, and for a small supplement.
The turkey option at the lovely, lively and stylish Circus Restaurant in Brock Street, meanwhile, comes in Italian-inspired saltimbocca rather than roast format, while dishes such as cauliflower, cumin and white lentil fritters served with bahara-roasted romanesco, and a dessert of pineapple served with lychées, pawpaw and mango and jalapeño meringue, prove just how popular our taste for the exotic has become. But such a trend is most definitely for life, and we’re not all sitting down at a restaurant table to indulge.
In 2017, authentic, cross-continent street food (as in fast, freshly prepared, non-assembly line, wallet-friendly, grab’n’go grub) hit the Bath streets in a big way.
Now highly regarded for being one of the earliest ventures to both awaken our senses and change our habits, the Thai Hut opened as a pop-up venture in Green Park Station in 2015 and, having established a firm fan base and a massive reputation for greatness, has since taken over a permanent chalet specialising in authentic, affordable, freshly-cooked Thai food from pad Thais and penangs to massamans, loads of veggie/vegan variations, sticky rice and nibbles such as Thai chicken skewers for just £1. You can scoff on the hoof, at a picnic table, or take your grub away for later, and even the heartiest dishes don’t cost more than £7. Mouthwatering street food from Seadog
Also on GPS territory, JC’s Kitchen – a more recent addition to the Bath street food scene, cooking up fabulous Filipino flavours – offers the kind of food that, let’s be honest, you’re never going to attempt to make at home (or if you do, you’re unlikely to make it as good as this.) Menus are largely based around free range chicken (lechon manok rotisserie roasted, to be precise), but belly pork features too, alongside meat-free specials. Create your own combinations dished up from huge simmering cauldrons and pots, served on sourdough flatbreads with spuds, spicy bean rice, salads, coleslaw, sauces, etc. Service is fast, friendly and theatrical, too – presented with flourish.
“The beef chilli is the stuff of legend among hungry office workers, but absolute beginners should opt for the signature club sandwich laden with salad”
Meanwhile, over in SouthGate . . . If you’ve cruised along the main SouthGate drag at lunchtime, you’ll have seen the eager queues for food at the LJ Hugs pagoda. Music, action and food served on the street here is loud, proud and Cajun, through and through (although the company itself, established in 2013, is based in Somerset.) The beef chilli is the stuff of legend amongst hungry office workers, but absolute beginners should opt for the signature club sandwich, laden with salad and your choice of sauce from a selection that includes piri piri and maple.
But we can’t talk about Bath’s street food revolution without paying a visit to a tiny little booth on the edge of Kingsmead Square. Niraj Gadher opened Chai Walla – which specialises in meat-free Indian fast food – as a pop-up experiment almost a year ago. The venture proved to be so successful that Niraj has recently opened a second pop-up on Bristol’s Stokes Croft. So why is Chai Walla so successful? Just one nibble of Niraj’s richly caramelised samosas, or one slurp of his velvety, comforting daal will answer that question in seconds, while going for broke – however, even a main course here won’t set you back more than around £6 – and ordering, say, samosa chaat (chickpea curry crumbled with samosa, topped with crunchy noodles and dotted with tamarind sauce), or a falafel wrap stuffed with all manner of saucy/salady options gives even the most committed packed lunch addicts more than enough reason to step away from the Tupperware.
But while restaurants that serve so-called “street food” as part of their formal menu shouldn’t have any place in this feature, there is one venture that has managed that crossover point very successfully. Hoba Kebabs, found in Kingsmead Square during December
At the age of seven, Noya Pawlyn and her family fled southern Vietnam as a refugee during the 1970s conflict. Now living in Bear Flat with a family of her own, Noya’s instinctive feel for recreating the dishes of her homeland led to her inspirational idea to host pop-up supper clubs at a tiny café around the corner from her home. Since hosting her first pop-up in 2013, the events proved to be immensely successful; places were often fully-booked months in advance.
But as of this month, we don’t have to wait quite so long to sample Noya’s vibrant Vietnamese cuisine, as she’s opened her own restaurant on St James’s Parade. Noya has created an environment that’s as warm, welcoming and sociable as her previous informal supper club – and anybody who has eaten their way around, say, Saigon, or Hanoi, or Da Nang, will know that not all real Vietnamese street food has to be eaten on the actual street; cafés, teahouses, noodle bars and restaurants offer eat-in and takeaway services. Noya plans her own takeaway service next year.
Until then, an advance booking only supper club service offering a tasting menu based the food that Noya loves to cook will be offered from Thursday to Saturday evenings, and lunch served from Monday through to Saturday.
While Bath may not be known for a city that starts revolutions, these tasteful folk serving up their fresh, international cuisine to growing numbers of appreciative customers, are most definitely taking to the streets.