Stacey Black samples the wares of Bun Fiction – the radical sandwich-makers who are going against the grain.
Vegan food. These words usually conjure up visions of a limp green salad, or the most exhausted of all vegan dishes; smashed avocado on toast – but the guys at Bun Fiction have bigger, dirtier ideas than that. They understand that everyone needs a decent helping of truly filthy comfort food, and they’re more than willing to provide.
Founder Harry Ferguson-Wallace began the business last year, selling sandwiches across Bristol from a bicycle trailer he built himself. Although originally not a vegan endeavour, after a winter break from trading, he decided to transform the business to an entirely plant-based venture with a bigger set-up. Harry wanted to demonstrate that vegan food “isn’t always just lettuce”, and has since created classics and fan favourites using mock meats. Since the team took over the kitchen at Kong’s on King Street in early autumn, it’s been a hugely successful move. The selection of gourmet sandwiches on offer is the perfect match for Kong’s bustling and lively atmosphere.
My dining partner and I wandered over to Kong’s on a freezing cold Thursday evening, where we found the bar full to the brim with people having a post-work drink, or already tucking into the vast array of sandwiches on offer. Even though it was positively arctic outside, we were warmly met by one of the co-founders, Nathan Barrett. He wasn’t on duty that evening, but enthusiastically guided us through the menu anyway.
We chose one of the long tables in the centre, so as to have the perfect vantage point for people-watching. My partner and I ordered a frosty cider and a refreshing pale ale respectively, and began to peruse the menu.
Nathan expertly talked us through his favourite dishes, and to say he’s passionate about good food is an understatement. He’s spent a lot of time eating out at many restaurants in Bristol – for research purposes, I’m sure – and he’s built up a clear idea of how he’d like Bun Fiction to serve its customers.
I started ordering before he’d even finished his tour of the menu, and went for the ‘Teriyaki Honey Bunny’. Of course, this would be paired with fries, Nathan told me, and so I ordered mine to be paprika-dusted. My partner chose the barbeque seitan ribs, served with coleslaw and an extra side dish of seitan gravy.
Our order arrived quickly – plates balanced skilfully on the arms of co-founder James Hallas – and we made short work of the sandwich. A huge cloud-like ciabatta bun, stuffed with strips of seitan so tender it melted in my mouth, and piled high with toasted chunks of broccoli, pickled daikon, shichimi togarashi and delicious red miso mayo. While my dining partner was distracted by the remnants of the sandwich, I tucked into the ribs. Succulent slices of seitan, smothered in homemade barbeque sauce so sweet and sticky, it may be the best I’ve ever tasted. Remembering I also had a huge portion of fries to address, I happily dunked them into the gravy, three at a time. Satisfyingly crispy, and seasoned to perfection, these were the ideal addition to an already-impressive meal.
“I could drink that gravy,” was all I could make out from my partner at this point, as he practically spooned it directly into his mouth. The seasoned gravy was smooth and not too thick, and was surprisingly meaty-tasting. It didn’t last long.
My jeans feeling decidedly more snug, James was back to ask how our meal was. After a conversation about how important it is to make use of the incredible array of local produce, it was clear to see just how passionate about good food James is.
He insisted we try the seitan ‘chicken’ wings, and after a weak attempt at resisting on our end, a huge takeaway bag of the deliciously crispy morsels accompanied by a variety of sauces arrived at our table.
Enjoying the big success, there’s no slowing down for the team at Bun Fiction. As well as the addition of Sunday roasts (they sold 100 portions in two hours on launch day!), they have plans to expand into the festival scene. They’re also looking into setting up a wholesale branch of the business which aims to supply mock meats to other traders and restaurants. Friendly, enthusiastic and offering an exciting lineup of gourmet sandwiches, make sure you head to Bun Fiction for your fix of plant-based comfort food.
13–15 King Street
0117 9257 877