Little In Size, Big On Flavour: Our Night Of Filipino Dining In Hackney

Coming to London for the first time as an eager slightly naive country gal, Hackney Road certainly gave me a glimpse into the cultural hotspot that is Bethnal Green. Over the years, this East London thoroughfare has definitely grown in popularity with flourishing young crowds, recently welcoming BongBong’s Manila Kanteen. Once a humble street food vendor, the duo behind the Filipino small plates enterprise (and winners of Million Pound Menu 2019) now have a permanent home you shouldn’t just walk by.

BongBong's Manilla Kanteen | London Restaurant Review | DesignMyNight

The interiors of BongBong's are simple yet homely. 

The restaurant's casual exterior and yellow neon sign hanging up in the window easily be missed. Understated yes, but underestimated it should never be. Stepping inside, it’s welcoming and relaxed with plants adorning the walls, bamboo pots dotted on tables, wooden interiors and gentle lighting, aptly designed to take your mind out of the city. The casual layout of communal benches is something I highly value, dining among friends and fellow diners means sharing the smell of the tantalising menu as it’s cooked, making one another hungry... and a little jealous.

Keeping to its original roots as a street food concept the menu is a mix of small and large sharing plates of authentic home-cooked Filipino dishes. Sharing is the only way to go here, it would be blasphemy to order your own dish and miss out on trying the variety of flavours. The unanimous favourite of the night was the roast aubergine kare kare (£8.50), made up of aubergine, peanut, turmeric and coconut milk curry with peas, pineapple, roasted peanuts and lime. The peas gave it a feel of homemade comfort food with a subtle hint of heat from the chilli with every bite.

BongBong's Manilla Kanteen | London Restaurant Review | DesignMyNight

Too good to share? BongBong's plates are made for larger groups to dig in.  

As advised by the waiter (who had tried everything on the menu), the Adobo glazed cauliflower (£6.50) was definitely a close second. It totally transformed my view of cauliflower as a roast accompaniment... smothering it in a rich sticky glaze with lime aioli, nigella, sesame, spring onion and seasoning before cooking is the way forward.

To complete the feast, we ordered the generously-sized crispy pata (£12.50). This whole crispy fragrant pork hock came with spiced liver sauce, sarsawan dipping sauce, and a celery, radish and coriander salad. Honestly, in all its beige glory, this is the epitome of a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ dish. As soon as you dig the knife in through the crispy outer skin and tear the meat off the bone, the mouth starts to water. With its gentle seasoning, each bite is rich and textured, and served with contrasting dipping sauces; one tart, cleansing and spicy, and the other a rich, heavy (think beef gravy and hoisin) liver sauce.

BongBong's Manilla Kanteen | London Restaurant Review | DesignMyNight

Get the essence of Manila in the heart of Hackney with this quirky street food restaurant.   

The DesignMyNight Digest

Don’t let this restaurant's understated exterior fool you, take a second and give it a go. Why? Because BongBong's Manila Kanteen boasts a menu that's new, exciting and made to share with loved ones in a relaxed setting… plus it’s not far from popular East London bars like London Cocktail Club, Oval Space and Sebright Arms to dance off the evening of feasting.

Gagging for more? Check out our favourite London Asian bars and restaurants here