Any Tuesday night, you could be walking up Shaftesbury Avenue and find yourself a bit peckish. Actually it happens more frequently than you would assume. As you venture into Soho, you are bombarded by so many choices that it’s nice to have a little guidance now and again. I did.
I was invited to a party at Bunnychow to sip some Whitley Neill Gin-based cocktails – a brand I had not been privy to before. What was Bunnychow though? I had no idea.
I soon learned that the Bunnychow craze took Durban, South Africa by storm in the 1940’s when a large community of Banias Indians migrated there to work on the sugar cane plantations. A new food emerged that was quickly adopted by an entire country. Now, it’s found its way to London.
It migrated to Soho via a food truck of the same name, then a pop-up in Shoreditch, and now a permanent home on Wardour Street. Technically, it’s a vegetable curry in a large scooped out bread roll. Now, no longer purely vegetarian, chef Finn Baird has included a few other Bunnychow options, including chicken, mutton and beef. There is even an award-winning Breakfast Bunny with all the bits that make up an English Breakfast crammed into a brioche roll.
One is supposed to grab it with both hands and stuff as much in one’s mouth at one time as one can. We were very polite and ate it with a fork and knife.
Now it was time for some gin-sipping – more specifically gin with a Durban connection, as well. It was expected of Johnny Neill to go into the family business. Lucky for him that business was in the gin trade. He is now the eighth generation of a family tree that includes the original founders of Greenall’s and Bombay Sapphire.
His wife hails from Durban and that got him thinking of how he could combine his love for his wife’s country and gin. Distilling the South African fruits of the Baobob Tree and Cape Gooseberries and blending them with the other botanicals traditional in gin, Whitley Neill was born.
We were treated to several tasters, including the Smoked Ticktocktini*! It left us with a warm feeling as we headed to find dessert down the winding streets of Soho.
You could very easily miss it. There is only a tiny gold plaque with the words, Basement Sate, on the wall next to a staircase leading down. There you will find Broadwick Street’s grooviest cocktail & dessert bar.
Chef Kelly Nadjarian is the wizard behind the curtain – baking the parfait patisseries to sit along side Pierre-Marie Bisson’s creative cocktails.
We were able to enjoy their Menu Degustation, a specially curated set of three desserts & three cocktails that is only given on Tuesday. The rules are that you must eat them in the precise order instructed. Ours went like this:
- Dessert: Pistachio cake with a strawberry cream
Cocktail: Homemade red fruits syrup, lemon, scotch, Suze and ginger ale
- Dessert: Blackcurrant macaroon with a blueberry raspberry and violet mousse
Cocktail: Scotch, elderflower, lime, and Laphroaig
- Dessert: Dark chocolate tart with a raspberry and dark chocolate cream
Cocktail: Rye whiskey, bitters, homemade red fruit syrup, homemade vanilla and tonka bean syrup
Everything else on the menu looked luxuriously decadent but we felt we had had enough for one Tuesday night in June.
*Whitley Neill’s Smoked Ticktocktini
20ml x Applewood and baobab smoked Red bush and Manuka tea infused a Noily Pratt vermouth
50ml x Whitley Neill Gin
A dash of Baobab and cape gooseberry syrup
5 drops coriander bitters
Cape gooseberries to garnish
All stirred together over ice and double strained into a chilled martini glass. Garnished with cape gooseberries.
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NB: I was a guest of both Bunnychow and Basement Sate.