BBQ Dreamz have had quite a ride.
Collectively, they’re made up of Filipino-born Lee Johnson & his partner Sinead Campbell. In 2014 they decided to open a Filipino street food stall, were spotted by the BBC, thrown into the fiercely competitive show My Million Pound Menu (which they won, securing a tidy 350k in funding), held a pop up in MeatLiquor serving – of all things – a ten-course tasting menu, and now at last have opened their own permanent restaurant.
And, as you’d expect, they’ve called it Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen.
It’s in a Bethnal Green space that they’ve filled with a hodgepodge assortment of plates, glasses and lamps which the pair have collected over the years, so as to resemble a homely, welcoming “proper Filipino canteen” rather than a sterile chain. And it certainly does have a comforting, easy charm to it; the space is filled with pot plants, shells, interesting little light fixtures, and huge illuminated frames hung on the walls.
The menu shows off the BBQ Dreamz hits they’ve perfected in the street stall, including their famed, crispy-yet-meltingly good Lechon Kawali, which is pork belly that’s been marinaded in cider vinegar & star anise for 24 hours before being deep-fried, and served with a radish & coriander salad. You’ll also find their zingy adobo-glazed cauliflower; and their rich satay duck heart skewers with spring onion & lime. The newer good includes a roast aubergine kare kare (Filipino curry) with pineapple & roast peanuts; plus garlic-cured beef with nigella & fried egg; and for dessert, some banana & cinnamon spring rolls with purple yam ice cream.
The drinks list is kept fairly simple, with a trio of cocktails including a Calamansi Collins made with the calamansi fruit (it’s a citrus hybrid ubiquitous in Filipino cuisine) as well as some export-strength Filipino beer, and a few wines on tap.
And if you happen to go there on a Sunday? You can experience one of the more amazing elements of Filipino cuisine: the kamayan. It’s a family-style sharing feast, in which they’ll lay down bananas leaves on the tables, a cover them with mounds of steamed rice, taro & coconut milk laing, lemongrass prawn, pork & ginger skewers, and more. You’ll be encouraged to eat with your hands, and quite literally get stuck in.
It’s the stuff that Dreamz are made of.
NOTE: Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen is open for lunch Tues-Sun (12-3pm) and dinner Thurs-Sun (6-10pm, bar till midnight). You can find out more, and book a table, HERE.
Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen | 460 Hackney Rd, Bethnal Green, E2 9EG
Looking for a good cocktail joint nearby? Satan’s Whiskers is right around the corner…