A Vegan’s Review of Bundobust Street Food

Bundobust Liverpool

A few weeks ago, I was invited to my local Bundobust street food restaurant, newly opened on Liverpool’s vibrant Bold Street, and try out the vegan options there.

Needless to say, I was very excited, because if you know me well you’ll know that Indian food is my jam.

Having spent two months in India a few years ago, the cuisine brings back many happy and exciting memories for me. Up until this point, Mowgli has always been my favourite place to eat Indian food as its the closest any UK restaurant has come (in my opinion) to creating real, authentic, south-Indian street food that takes me right back there.

However, I was all too keen to see if Bundobust would become a new favourite.

Bundobust: Thank you please

For those who aren’t familiar, Bundobust is a small Indian street food chain rapidly on the rise. It’s first restaurant was opened in Leeds, where it became a fast favourite for its casual dining and craft beers, and soon later, a Manchester branch followed.

Based at 17-19 Bold Street, Bundobust Liverpool sits high above the street’s daily hustle and bustle, making it a great spot for people watching. It’s interiors are light and spacious, with sprawling tables and wall prints creating a very laid-back dining style – just how street food should be.

The walls are dotted with colourful prints with some of Bundobust’s own slogans and mottos, and they even have one side dedicated to a special ‘merch’ stall, sort of like a street bazaar, which is a cute touch.

Vegan food at Bundobust

When it comes to ordering vegan at Bundobust, all of their options are marked clearly with a ‘V’ making them fairly easy to spot. However, with so many of the dishes having quite exotic-sounding names and ingredients, choosing your meal can take some time, as you pore over the menu and decipher the description of each one.

Not to worry, though – this was a small gripe, and one that’s easily forgotten once you’ve placed your order and are waiting excitedly for your food to arrive. Bundobust’s staff typically recommend 2-3 dishes per person, as the food is served as small plates, reminiscent of tapas or what you’d find at an Indian street stall. Christian and I ordered three dishes each, and we even tried a couple of the mocktails as it was a hot day and we needed something refreshing.

On the whole, I was impressed by the presentation of each dish; the variance of the spices and flavours, and the use of traditional Indian spices which you often don’t get from your typical Indian takeaway. Though the dishes didn’t all reach the same level (for me personally at least), each one was strikingly different and it was nice to see some real variety.

I’ll go through each dish that we had below. Christian also ordered the Egg Bjurji, which was kind of like a curried scrambled eggs. He really enjoyed it, despite not really being into Indian food. However for the sake of interest I’ve decided to just focus on my review of the vegan options.

 

Bhel Puri

The Bhel Puri is described as “a crisp & crunchy street food classic”. Samosa pastry, puffed rice, peas, red onion & tomato tossed in tamarind chutney and topped with pomegranate seeds.

All of this sounded great to me on paper, but in the end this dish was my least favourite. This is probably down to it not really feeling or tasting like a proper ‘dish’ but more like a snack or an appetiser. The samosa pastry was more like crunchy noodles and the addition of the puffed rice made the whole thing almost like a savoury spiced granola. The best way I can describe it is like Bombay mix, but fancier (and of course much fresher). This sort of thing would be great as a table snack, but not as part of a main meal.

Saag Chole

This dish was definitely the best thing I ordered, and I’d dare to say one of the best things on the menu! On the menu it sounded simple enough – chickpea and spinach massala, served with puri bread. But the curry itself was more fragrant, more flavoursome and more warming than what I could possibly have anticipated. Every single spoonful made my tastebuds sing and dance, and the perfectly balanced spices warmed my whole body as it went down.

As well as that, it was paired with puri bread – my absolute favourite bread in Indian cuisine (though probably the least healthy, ha). Not too dissimilar to chapathi, puri is fried in a bit of oil and heated gently on the stove until it puffs up. The result is a very light and doughy but yet still slightly crispy bread, which has a flavour all of its own. It’s perfect for scooping up curries with, and goes down all too easily as I can attest! In India, I would spend many a mealtime shovelling down piece after piece of this bread whenever it was available.

Saag chole vegan

 

Raghda Pethis

The Raghda Pethis is described on the menu as “India meets the North of England”. It’s made of spicy mushy peas with a potato cake in the middle, topped with more of those turmeric noodles, tomato, onion & tamarind chutney.

At first sight, this is a dish that might make you roll your eyes a little when you see its a fusion of two cuisines. As cute as it often is, these things rarely work out well (though there are of course some exceptions). However, the mushy-pea lover in me was just too intrigued, so I had to try it.

My verdict on this dish is that it was okay. It was tasty enough, though the mushy peas themselves were a little bland. When you reached the potato cake in the middle, things got more interesting, and if you took a spoonful that perfectly caught a layer of all the toppings including the tamarind chutney, the flavours really did start to sing.

Overall, this was a tasty and clever little dish, but next time I think I’d forgo it in favour of trying something more exciting.

Vada Pav

The Vada Pav is known as “Mumbai’s favourite burger”. It’s a little spicy fried mashed potato ball, served on a brioche bun with some red and green chutneys on the side.

Now, this was one of Chris’ choices and isn’t actually labelled as a vegan option. However, the mashed potato ball itself is actually vegan – its only the brioche bun that isn’t.

This kind of confuses me, because when something can be made vegan by one simple little tweak, why wouldn’t the restaurant think to do that in the first place? I feel that Bundobust could offer a regular sourdough bun in place of the brioche, for vegan customers. Or, simply swap out the brioche bun altogether, so that everyone can enjoy it, without the knowledge that anything was missing. I’m not sure if this is just an oversight on Bundobust’s part, or whether they really are married to their brioche buns. But either way, bear in mind you can order the burger without the bun, if you’re vegan and you’d like to try it.

Now, onto the review of the bun itself. I felt that the spice blend in it was really delicious. It wasn’t spicy at all; just the right amount of fragrance and flavour, and some subtle hint of more exotic spices that I’m nowhere near familiar enough with to try and name. However, after a few more bites the potato can start to feel sort of dry and claggy, so I can’t even imagine how one would get it down with the addition of bread!

If there was something to moisten it up a little – a sauce or a chutney, perhaps – that would definitely send it down the shoot more easily. Unfortunately, the two chutneys that arrive with it aren’t great for this, as they are massively spicy (even for me, and I like a bit of spice). If you love spicy foods then this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but they’re still not moist enough to give the burger what it needs.

Overall, I’d suggest that Bundobust replace these chutneys with something more saucy that’ll help keep the potato moist, and less spicy so that everyone can enjoy it.

Okra fries

Finally, the okra fries! It’s safe to say these are also one of the winners on the menu, as they go down so easily and are SO moreish!

Pieces of okra fried in a chickpea batter and seasoned with black salt and mango powder, these little dudes really do hit the spot and are a perfect accompaniment to whatever else you’ve got going on – be it curry, samosas, bhajis or even just an ice cold beer.

Be warned though, they are rather salty, so you’ll find it very hard to stop eating them, and will likely be gasping for hydration afterwards. #worthit.

Vegan okra fries

As well as the food, Christian and I also tried two of the mocktails on Bundobust’s menu. Firstly the Bundocrush – grapefruit & cranberry juice and rosewater, topped with soda. Though I liked the slight tinge of rose flavour to this cocktail, we weren’t too bowled over by it as it was quite bitter from the grapefruit juice. That said, it’ll definitely hit the spot if you fancy cocktails that are on the dryer side.

But the Mango Lopez? Oh ho ho, that was a different story. Made up of mango, pineapple, coconut & lime, this is a drink that’ll SERIOUSLY quench your thirst and make you feel like you’re on some Caribbean island. Neither of us could get enough of it, and I’m sorry now that we shared one instead of ordering one each. If you find yourself dining at Bundobust, this is a drink that simply MUST be on your order!

Eco-friendly dining…?

One thing that does bug me quite a lot at Bundobust is their use of ‘bioedegradable, compostable cutlery’.

If you’ve eaten there before, you’ll know that all of Bundobust’s dishes are served in disposable pots, and the tables adorned with disposable cutlery. At first glance these items all look like they are made of plastic, but they are actually made from plant-based materials, which Bundobust claims are all completely compostable.

I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, this is a restaurant. Why the need for disposable cutlery at all? There is a kitchen in which food is made, so surely there must be a place to wash and dry dishes. I believe that all restaurants should be doing their bit to reduce waste, and surely this involves re-using cutlery. The vibe at Bundobust might be street food, but that doesn’t mean we have to take a throwaway mindset. I believe that using disposable anything indoors is a waste, particularly when there is an easy reusable option available, and so Bundobust’s decision to use compostable cutlery really confuses me.

Secondly, there is the issue with the cutlery actually being as eco-friendly as we think. Though many plant-based disposable cutlery made from materials such as potato starch or corn claim to be ‘compostable’, this has proven time and time again to not be the whole truth. In reality, such materials only break down when taken to a composting facility and exposed to very high temperatures. This is not achievable for the average home composter, and perhaps not even for a business, unless they have arranged for their waste to be collected and taken to such a facility.

Even if Bundobust have such an arrangement, one can only imagine the huge amount of waste they are creating by throwing away their cutlery every day, and how this could be easily avoided by simply using reusable steel cutlery instead.

I really hope that the restaurant reconsiders this aspect of their business, as it’s incredibly wasteful and unnecessary.

 

EDIT 30/07/19: Bundobust responded to my review via Instagram and offered an explanation for their use of disposable cutlery. Here is what they said:

“We do send all of our plant waste to an industrial composting facility, and we’ve calculated that on the scale we use dishes, it’s more eco friendly to use Vegware across the board than to constantly have a dishwasher using energy, water, and chemicals to clean non-disposables, which have a limited shelf life due to wear and tear and tend not to be recyclable.”

I’m not sure how true this is on a ecological scale (and couldn’t begin to calculate it), but I’m really grateful to Bundobust for taking the time to respond to this and for making their use of vegware a strategic decision.

Final thoughts

Overall, I think Bundobust is a great place to go if you’re looking for somewhere laid-back to enjoy a fresh and varied bite.

The casual interior and atmosphere would make it an especially popular hangout for students, busy professionals on a lunch hour or even for a calm, relaxed first date.

The dishes are colourful, vibrant and flavoursome, and even though I can’t vouch for everything on the menu, I daresay it’s a great way to experience authentic Indian street food.

Will I go there again? Probably, at some point in the future. But my preferred choice would be a restaurant that doesn’t needlessly throw away their cutlery. Other than that, I’m down.

What would I order next time I go? For me, the saag chole and the okra fries would still be firm choices (and should be for you, too). Other than that, I’d be keen to give the Tarka Daal, the onion bhajis and Massala Dosa a try.

Oh, and a Mango Lopez too. Let’s not forget that.

Bundobust mocktails

Have you guys been to Bundobust before? What did you think? What did you order? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

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