Was Sam Allardyce drinking a pint of white wine when he was secretly filmed destroying the final remaining iota of faith in English football?
That’s the question being discussed on the single narrow table up against the wall of Exchange Avenue, the tiny little street in the heart of the Old City leading from Corn Street to St Nicholas Street on one side of St Nick’s Market, where lunchtime diners can’t help but share banter over rows of sticky gyoza.
Yes, gyoza; part steamed and part fried Japanese dumplings, served alone, with sauce, or on a bed of rice at Eatchu, a street food stall clinging on to the the main hall of St Nick’s.
Eatchu is the brainchild of Guy and Vic Siddall who have a passion for Japanese food after eating it on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka. Having tested their tasty tidbits on the streets in pop-up markets around Bristol, they’ve finally settled on a permanent spot.
In keeping with the street food vibe, all the food is still cooked on the, erm, street, under a gazebo using portable gas canisters.
However, there is a small seating area hidden inside behind the stall, with wicker lanterns and tiny origami paper cranes hanging from the ceiling.
We chose the single bench outside, mostly because we didn’t realise there was an inside.
Two portions of gyoza – pork and garlic chive, and chicken and nori butter (£5 per portion) – were swiftly dispatched from the pan into takeway boxes lined with a bed of sticky rice and pickles (£1.50 extra) and topped with a firm, hard-boiled shoyu egg (£1), pickled in soy sauce, mirin, spices and water, and kept in glass jars on the counter more usually seen containing pickled eggs in spit and sawdust pubs.
The gyoza were glossy and soft from the steam on top, with a brown toasted base which added a nice little crunch. The pork filling was succulent and well seasoned, the chicken good but on the drier side. Both portions came with a cap full of soy and rice wine vinegar for dipping, which cut well through the grease of the fried dumplings.
Among a choice of eight sauces and toppings, we took the miso mustard mayo, rayu chili oil and enoke mushroom, as suggested by Vic. A shake or two of seaweed furikake and shredded spring onion added a little extra punch, bringing the food to life and spreading a splash of colour for that first bite with your eyes.
The preparation at Eatchu is swift, efficient and with little fuss. The steaming food is knocked back just as quickly – depending on your chopstick skills – in true street food style: on a shared table among the passing trade squeezing down the busy market streets around the Old City.
Our last scrapings of rice are accompanied by some final musings over the ex-England manager. A pint of wine? Nah, Big Sam’s more suited to John Smith’s out of a champagne flute, it is agreed as the boxes and chopsticks are popped in the bin and we go our separate ways.
Eatchu, The Old Mess Room, Exchange Avenue, Bristol BS1 1JQ