You need big bowls when you go to Big Bowls because you end up with a big bowl of takeaway when you leave, writes Michael Holland.
I was born and bred in SE16 so I love it when a new restaurant opens Downtown. I love to see the area evolving and staying alive with small, independent businesses popping up in these troubled days when even the big department stores we grew up with are falling by the wayside. Big Bowls is one of the independent traders that are leading the way now and keeping Rotherhithe alive. Owner, San the Man did 5 years serving street food in Canada Water to earn his spurs, and all what he learnt out there on the street he has brought into this new venture.
And San isn’t stuck in any traditional, restrictive culinary rut, but sells what the customers want. So that means you can have a sirloin steak cooked the British way but with Japanese noodles, or you could go for Vietnamese pho with Chinese style pork, because in Big Bowls they do not stand on ceremony and that is why it was bursting at its Asian-Rotherhithe fusion seams on the Friday me and Kay were there.
We liked Big Bowls as soon as we walked in. There was a nice feel about it, and as the night went on that feeling got better and better. It’s a family run place. Tick. The decor looks good in there with a mix between minimal and arty. Tick. He sounds like me when he talks. Tick. Tick, Tick. We gelled. We talked pork, we talked steak, we talked noodle, we talked where can I get some booze because it’s a BYO, and San directed me to the convenience store conveniently next door.
And so, with a bottle of red for me and a cola for Kay we awaited the arrival of our orders while discussing demented relatives and Big Brother. First up was Pork Dumplings. Very nice, with different hot or mild dips, but there were five dumplings! Not a good number for sharing, but we worked it out amicably. There was only gonna be one winner…
So, round two, still smarting from my pork dumpling defeat in the previous round I went for the Prawn in Ramen Noodle Soup, ‘with extra chilli, Mr San,’ I emphasised. Kay ordered Chicken Katsu Curry -‘No chillies!’ She stressed.
When my main course arrived I knew it would be impossible to finish. And it was obvious to see why the place is called Big Bowls. This was a big bowl, babies could be christened in it, kids could learn to swim in it, and this big bowl was filled to the top with fat prawns, fresh herbs, vegetables and hot, spicy deliciousness. Within two mouthfuls my eyes were watering, my nose was running and I’d lost the power of speech. ‘How’s your soup,’asked Kay. I was trying to say, ‘Lovely,’ but just a wheezy gasp of hot air passed my lips.
After managing to bring the soup level down by two inches I could go no further and the remainder was boxed up to take home.
When I could speak again I asked after Kay’s chicken dish and she gave it top marks. So, by unanimous decision, Big Bowls is a winner.
Big Bowls, 95 Elgar Street, SE16 7QW
Daily: 12 – 3pm & 5 – 10pm
0207 252 2003 – www.facebook.com/bigbowlslondon
Pork Dumplings 5.00
Chicken Katsu Curry with Rice 7.50
Prawn Ramen Noodle Soup 8.50
Photos: M Holland