Eating Out: Going through Baker Street's fab food truck menu in short order
Baker Street Kitchen,
32a Montgomery Road,
RESTAURANTS haven’t just needed to be flexible in the face of lockdown and soft lockdown and half lockdown and whatever else politicians, who seem incapable of starting their homework any time before late the night before it’s due, can come up with.
They’ve needed to be contortionists, with the added circus skill of mind reading thrown in, to work out if they could or couldn’t open, and if they could open, how they could do it and what they could serve.
In the middle of all that, opening somewhere new is a bold move but Baker Street Kitchen has wisely kept things simple amid all the confusion to deliver a welcome bright spot.
A pop-up street-food stand is the latest incarnation of what was, until April last year, a bricks and mortar restaurant on Belfast’s Belmont Road, branded Baker Street but from the French Village stable that boasts sites across the city.
Now, Baker Street Kitchen has pitched up outside French Village’s catering operation in the east of the city as a food truck without the truck bit.
A deceptively simple takeaway that’s open from 12-8, Fridays and Saturdays, with a succinct menu, an automatic hand-sanitising station and exactly what’s needed right now.
There’s a burger, a hot dog, a couple of ways with chicken, things on mac and cheese, some of the same things on chips.
The brevity is to be expected, and it’s also encouraging. It’s not trying to cover all the bases, it’s trying to get a few things absolutely right, and it absolutely does.
One of those ways with chicken is a to fry it Korean style, so shatteringly crisp and slicked in a sweet, spiky chilli sauce, and burger it up in a soft bun with kimchi slaw.
The chicken hits the bullseye. It keeps its crunch on the short trip home – though no-one will judge you if you stand off to the side and polish it off there and then – is moist, and well set off by the sauce.
But it’s the kimchi that reveals a clear attention to detail. This isn’t just some vaguely spicy, kind of vinegary chunks of cabbage and other bits of veg. Hot, yes, sour yes, but it also packs that unmistakeable funk of fermentation, the pungent mark of the real thing.
The whole thing together is a marvel. And it comes from a commercial estate in east Belfast.
Sticky, sweet, smoky strands of beef from Bourbon short ribs sit on the soothing, blank canvas of mac and cheese – a mammoth portion for £7 – and only personal preference holds it back from reaching chicken burger territory.
It’s objectively delicious, perfectly conceived and executed, but I’ve never met a vat of this American barbecue staple that hasn’t been improved with a whack of heat or sharp or both.
The buffalo chicken that goes on to the loaded fries would have been perfect. Vinegar zing and pepper spice from the hot sauce, a bit more bite from a blue cheese mayonnaise, crunchy pieces of chicken, all dumped on a pile of thin, hot chips.
Those chips, some of which come in a syrupy, fragrant Bombay sauce, are the sort you could munch away at absent-mindedly before realising you’ve gotten through half your body weight.
The menu is snappy enough that telling you everything else on it won’t take up much space. A burger, a chilli dog, bang bang chicken. Parmesan and herb crust with your macaroni, or chorizo. Chilli beef on your fries, or curry sauce, or as they are.
It’s of a length to make it feel entirely doable. So I went back, for what can be best described as a grown-up Big Mac, and more of those fries, this time under a blizzard of Parmesan and a snowdrift of truffle mayonnaise. Oh, you learned Spanish during lockdown? Good for you. Me? I went through the Baker Street menu from top to bottom. Good for me.
French Mac burger £8
Korean chicken burger £7
Short rib mac and cheese £7
Buffalo chicken loaded fries £7
Bombay fries £4
Parmesan and truffle fries £4
Coke zero x2 £2.40