This is a really happy day. I’m so thrilled that I’m actually sitting here grinning like a loon as I write this, having just this second got home from Bang Bang Oriental. It opened this weekend and I was there like a shot.
Bang Bang Oriental, you see, is the replacement for Oriental City which was one of my favourite sources of East Asian food in London.
“When Oriental City closed, I cried.
You probably think I’m exaggerating, don’t you? But on the day the food court sold it’s last bowl of laksa we drove all the way home from a holiday in Scotland… and I insisted we go straight to OC so I could say farewell.
I ate. And then I cried.”
I can’t quite believe it’s been nine years since we lost Oriental City given that the hole in my culinary heart has never healed. Since then I’ve been raging against the unnecessary closure (from what I gathered, investors buying the site insisted on vacant possession, thus killing a thriving community and culinary centre, but then pulled out of the deal at the last minute) and have watched successive projects to rebuild and reopen the centre come and go.
This time, I got my hopes up as plans for a modern newly built centre seemed more solid.
Today, I was able to see for myself and it was so exciting.
Bang Bang Oriental is a little more bling than its predecessor – designed by architects Stiff + Trevillion, the first floor food hall is a soaringly high-ceilinged cavern with huge windows to one end and skylights in the roof letting in tonnes of light. There is seating for 450, a vast improvement over the quickly-filled seating area in Oriental City, and there are over 20 kiosks arranged around it offering food from a range of East Asian cuisines. Downstairs is home to Golden Dragon, a flagship restaurant that opened last week and can seat 300.
We arrived early, around 11.30 am and many of the stalls were not ready to trade for another half an hour or so. I’ve been told the opening hours will be 10.30 am until 9.30 pm, so I imagine as the vendors get used to their new kitchens, everything will be up and running much earlier going forward.
I felt quite emotional placing my first order at Cafe La Viet – a portion of 4 pork-filled Cha Nem (£4.50).
After that I had a pork-filled bao (£3.95) from Taiwanese Street Food.
Pete shared my Vietnamese spring rolls before ordering a nasi goreng (£7.80) from Coconut Tree.
I finished with a still-warm-from-the-oven cheese tart from Wonderful Patisseries. We also bought a medium sized cheese cake from them to bring home.
How was it?
We really enjoyed our lunch and I know I was grinning with happiness for most of the time we were there. I would have eaten more if only to be greedy but I decided to be sensible as I’m sure we’ll be back before very long at all! My favourite was my first dish, those crunchy spring rolls were so damn good! The Taiwanese bao was not what I expected – deliciously soft pork and some crunchy lettuce but no peanuts, no coriander, no pickle and a bao that very quickly collapsed before I’d eaten very much. The cheese tart was lovely, but next time we go I’m sure the rest of their range will be available, which I’m keen to try – we could see them hard at work in the kitchen but not much had come out of the oven by the time we left.
Prices were certainly higher than Oriental City days – in some cases significantly so – but not beyond what is reasonable in today’s economy and still very fair. Portions were varied; Pete’s nasi goreng was excellent but quite a lot less generous than what he used to enjoy at Oriental City whereas I thought the four spring rolls were really good value.
The mix of kiosks is a little different too. I would say there are more Chinese options (though with a lot of variety, everything from dumplings to roast duck, Sichuan to dim sum and even the dishes of a Hong Kong cha chaan teng). Japanese food is better represented with kiosks serving sushi and tempura, ramen and gyoza, yakitori grilled meat, katsu curry, eel on rice and classic bento boxes. Alongside these are a Thai, two Vietnamese, a Malaysian, two bakeries, a cafe and a bar for alcoholic drinks. I have read that there will also be a Korean stall but we didn’t spot it today – there are only a couple of kiosks not yet taken so perhaps it will be in one of these.
I like that the site has been designed with sustainability in mind – there is a bio-fuel cylinder that will use food waste to generate energy, and crockery is permanent rather than disposable. There was a hiccup with the smoke / fire detectors that resulted in alarms screeching for the first 20 minutes we were there, but staff reassured customers that we didn’t need to evacuate and succeeded in silencing it as quickly as they could.
I’ve given the permanent menu prices above, but note that food hall kiosks are offering a 20% discount to all customers until 24 July. Please confirm this yourself before placing your order.
Bang Bang Oriental is located at 399 Edgware Rd, London NW9 0AS and shares a car park with Morrison’s supermarket. It is also handy for a number of local bus routes and a twenty minute walk from Colindale tube station.