You have to respect anyone who actually chases their ambitions above and beyond just sending out a few CVs and sloshing back a few glasses of mid-priced overly acidic Sauvignon Blanc at another networking event. To look at your life, with a solid job and steady income and say “fuck it, i’m out”, takes balls that require a wheel-barrow for transport. Everyone thinks about it, everyone talks about it: “Oh yeah, recruitment is like totally just a short-term thing. What I REALLY want to do is move to Indonesia and become a scuba instructor.” Well, fuck me Mr Cousteau, please don't let me be the one to stand in the way of your dreams. Just this morning on the tube I had an idea about peer-to-peer medical services done over video chat. Doctors from around the world would log on whenever they were free and patients would be matched by language proficiencies. The video diagnoses could even be checked by a cloud of doctors for an additional fee. I thought about who to contact, how the business model would work etc. Am I ever going to do any of this? Come on, I can’t even get the motivation to change the batteries in the TV remote and just sit rolling them back and forth trying to eek out the last electrical drips.
My (convoluted) point is that to do what you love, in the face of all the responsibilities and financial difficulties is more than just impressive, it’s frankly fucking inspirational. That, in a nutshell, is why I love and respect street food so much. The only real difference between them and me (apart from talent, charisma and work ethic), is that they had the balls to throw in the towel and put it all on the line.
Lisa Meyer, the woman behind some of the best buns in London (careful), epitomises this story. While teaching in Japan, she took the chance to reconnect with her Japanese heritage (she grew up there and her mother is Japanese) and began learning more about Japanese cooking from her aunt who, usefully, is a chef. She returned to London, got a job in production and cranked out a few projects. Soon, like many before her, she realised that it wasn’t really what she wanted to do. In 2010 she started Yum Bun, began serving in Broadway market and in 2012 quit her day job. Awards and recognition have seen the buns accelerate over the last twelve months (winning British Street Food 2012 Best Snack Award and the People's Choice Award) and I have yet to meet someone that didn’t rave about them.
Currently Lisa is taking some time away from the streets and has opened a small shop on Featherstone Street alongside J. Downey’s Rotary Bar and Diner. The space is compact and although a bit rougher round the edges than its trendy neighbour, knowing where they have come from gives it part of its charm. The menu of traditional pork and mushroom buns have been expanded to include melt in the mouth ox cheeks and beautifully crispy deep fried chicken. £3.50 each or two for £6 is cracking value and avoiding ordering four
|Namban Chicken, tartare sauce, chilli dressing|
I tried all four buns on offer and, although the slippery, melting salty pork with sweet homemade hoisin and fiery sriracha hot sauce is still my favourite; the chicken was shockingly good. It was some of the crispest, moreish fried chicken I’ve had and makes some chicken-only places look a bit embarrassing frankly. Paired with tartare sauce (it works) and chilli dressing, I desperately had to fight myself not to order another
three one. The beef cheek was a huge punch of umami packed with anise, chilli and cinnamon flavours. The only negative I would say was the cheeks
were so soft that the texture along with the pillowy
buns was a little one dimensional. It comes sprinkled with peanuts however to give some crunch, and can't fault the flavours.
|Ox Cheeks, coriander, peanuts, cucumber|
Yum Bun haven’t been open long and so the crowds aren’t too big yet so I'd recommend going sooner rather than later if you don't like queuing. What was clear however was that there was still some confusion for diners in the Rotary whether they were allowed to eat the buns next door, or that there was food through the doorway. This is clearly stifling demand, and once this is better clarified and people become more aware of the little shop on the side street selling ‘those tasty chinese thingys’, its going to get awfully busy in there. I’d suggest trying to snag one of the few stools and sitting at the counter to eat. Failing that you can simply take them next door and grab a beer which isn't exactly a hardship. Lisa also has some plans to sell from a touring bus in the summer although plans were pushed back with this venture. Keep your eyes peeled though as she may be coming to a festival near you.
|Counter and kitchen|
I wish Lisa the best of luck because she perfectly encapsulates the street food spirit alongside Pizza Pilgrims, Bleecker St Burger and Burger Bear Tom. I can’t recommend these girls highly enough, they are without doubt my favourite non-burger street-fooders. Get over there and I guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a bank balance still fully intact. What more can you want than that?
Where: 31 Featherstone Street, EC1Y 2BJ. Tell: 07919408221. Nearest tube – Old Street
When: Currently open lunchtimes Monday to Friday 11:30am – 2:30pm and evenings Thursday to Saturday 5 – 10pm with plans to increase number of evenings soon.