Gastro Day – Dumplings, coffee, pastel de nata, scotch eggs and a crab bao!

The brief for Gastro days is simple – walk from place to place (you will burn more calories and therefore eat more), eating with zero boundaries and just be on a mission to satisfy your culinary appetite. Memories will be made as a result from learning about new flavours, street vendors, restaurants and seeing parts of London that have been unfamiliar territory in the past. What’s there not to like and if you have a finite appetite please look away now!

First up we visit John Li’s deservedly popular Dumpling Shack in the School Yard of Broadway market. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main market they have their own stand where the dumplings are hand made and cooked right before your eyes. (£7 for 4 and they’re so good I ended up eating 8!).

Just look at Baker Yee in action!

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Man in action John Li:

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The dumplings are invariably Xiao Long Bao inspired (Shanghainese soup dumpling) and were irresistible. The pork inside was seasoned perfectly and a cube of gelatinous stock is packed into the dumpling before it’s pan fried and steamed. The result is a crispy base and a steaming hot soup filling encased in a thick, chewy dumpling skin.

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Condiments of chilli oil, sesame and vinegar are added with a spring onion garnish. A combination of all of them makes the dumpling even more evocative.

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My first bite was messy, some might say amateurish as biting into the dumpling caused an explosion of soup juices all over my trousers! My other attempts were less hooligan-like as it involved piercing a hole in the top and letting the juices flow out before trying again. Of course nothing was wasted as the soup is where all the flavour is at. They’re also quite big so a ‘one bite’ mouthful might be a challenge!

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Grubstance Rating: 4/5
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Opens every Saturday 10.30am onwards until they sell out (usually by lunch!).
School Yard
Broadway Market
E8 4PQ
London
Closest tube/train station: London Fields

 

The next pit stop invariably involves coffee but before we do so a cheeky little scotch egg from Finest Fayre is the order of the day. Other treats are available from savoury pastries to pies.

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I couldn’t decide to opt for the chorizo or the black pudding, but these problems are also solved by going dutch! On the left you have the black pudding and on the right you have the chorizo. Sadly though, despite looking meaty and delicious I wasn’t charmed by them as they were dry as well as insipid. The dollop of chutney thrown in couldn’t save them either as they reminded me of the jarred Doritos salsa you could buy from your local supermarket – this isn’t a good thing.  After one mouthful each they went straight into the bin.

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Grubstance Rating: 1.5/5
Broadway Market
London
Closest tube/train station: London Fields

 

Next up Climpson and Sons (est. 2005) right in the heart of Broadway Market which is also the flagship cafe of the artisan coffee roasters of Climpson’s Arch.  The coffee here is superb, creamy, flavourful and quite fruity.

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The pastel de nata for sale here are from Taberna Do Mercado and are a rudimental thing to order. (It’s simply pastry art). The centre is an oozing, creamy, decadent filling – the pastry crisp and flaky like no other nata I’ve had before. If you like pastel de nata this is one to include in your top 5!

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Grubstance Rating: 4/5
67 Broadway Market
London
E8 4PH
http://www.climpsonandsons.com
Closest tube/train station: London Fields

 

A stroll down from Broadway Market through Regent’s Canal into towards the South of the river its thirsty work so a stop-off to Monmouth in Borough Market is elementary. It’s always good and come here for what I need to quench my coffee thirst.

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Grubstance Rating: 4/5
2 Park Street
The Borough
London SE1 9AB
http://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk
Closest tube/train station: London Bridge

 

Walking from place to place will build up the necessary appetite for lunch and there’s no better place to get your soft-shell crab bao then Fish! (est. 1999) in Borough Market. As the name suggests it specialises in fish  which is sourced locally from the market and in Bermondsey too. They have a vast gin and wine list with a focus on white of course. There lovely 360 views of the market and a nice bustling atmosphere.

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We go for the soft shell crab bun (£15.95) which comes with Asian slaw, jalapeño creme fraîche with a side of chips.

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How impressive does this beast look? It was equally as impressive to eat too. The batter so crispy it hits you with rude health but what’s magical is the natural umami crab flavour it holds within. The lightly toasted brioche acts as a vehicle to sandwich the fresh slaw nestling on top of the crispy crab and the jalapeño creme fraîche is almost tartar-esque providing some nice contrast.

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Devour power!

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Grubstance Rating: 4/5
Borough Market
Cathedral St
London
SE1 9AL
http://www.fishboroughmarket.com
Closest tube/train station: London Bridge

 

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