What happens when the owners of London institutions The Ivy and J Sheekey open a restaurant serving Asian influenced food in Fitzrovia? My guess was that Bam-bou would be bustling, packed with celebrities and just a little bit intimidating. I was right on one count. Bam-bou was packed when I ate there on Wednesday night with my friends Claire, Mez and Jo. Luckily though the restaurant did not come with the attitude that I was dreading.
Seared scallops and pork belly
Bam-bou is set in a restored old town house and the restaurant itself is spread over several rooms including one which is devoted solely to serving as a cosy looking bar. We ate in the downstairs dining room which is welcoming with lots of dark wood and carvings giving it the feel of Asia in colonial times. Tables are closely placed and the waiters end up squeezing behind them to deliver menus and a jug of tap water. Service was friendly although occasionally forgetful.
A large plate of prawn crackers is placed on the table, although when we get the bill they prove to be anything but complimentary (£3.75 for prawn crackers in my book is highway robbery). At this stage we are oblivious to that fact so we munch away and search through the menu which contains a mixture of Thai, Vietnamese and Chin
We start with the Har Gau dumplings (£5.75) and the crispy soft shell crab (£6.25). Everything is beautifully presented on wooden trays complete with star fruit garnishes. This is Asian food with a makeover. Looks aside, the dumplings are a little on the wet side, mine slips out of its translucent wrapper as I try in vain to scoop it up with my chopsticks, however the blush pink shrimp and pork filling is tender and tasty. As for the soft shell crab, the batter is a little heavy but the crab itself is very moreish.
Mains arrive accompanied by little bowls filled with fluffy Jasmine rice and various dipping sauces. The green curried chicken with tiger aubergine and pea shoots (£11.75) is creamy with a slight hint of chilli. I would have liked a more spice (this is Westernised food) but otherwise the curry is rich and comforting. The peppered beef fillet has a subtle flavour thanks to the kow choi and shao xing wine that it has been cooked with but the portion size is a little meagre for £14.50. The best dish we order is the seared scallops with pork belly and perilla leaves (£14.25) . The pork belly glistens with fat while the plump scallops provide the perfect foil to the strong flavour of the pork.
Soft shell crab
Being the big spenders we are we accompany our meal with a bottle of the house sauvignon blanc which is a Llamera from Central Valley in Chile (£16.50) it has a delicate citrus tang that works well with the Asian flavours of the food.
When we booked we were told that we had only two hours at our table, since we decided to forgo dessert the time limit was no problem but I do hate the feeling of being forced to leave a restaurant rather than being able to linger for as long as you want. Bam-bou is not a bad option in Fitzrovia, but I think that it tries to cover too many bases and so ends up producing a rather Westernised version of “Asian” food. This means that the food is pleasant enough but it is not particularly memorable either. Go here if you are a fan of no surprises style eating.
Details: 1 Percy street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1DB (Ph 020 7323 9130) Tube: Tottenham Court Road
If you liked reading this you might be interested in nearby Roka for stylish Japanese food or if you really want to eat at a restaurant that offers a mix of Asian cuisines Banana Tree Canteen is an option.