Mr Porter Eats
The Best Spots For A Speedy Lunch
Six restaurants to make a dash for when time is at a premium
Pó, Singapore. Photograph courtesy of The Lo & Behold Group
As delicious as it is to have a long, languorous lunch, it isn’t always possible to have two bottles and let the hours slip away. Sometimes we need something snappy. The problem is, a whole set of denigrating values comes with the notion of fast food. Words commonly linked to the term include insipid, low quality, mass produced and so on. It is enough to have you reaching for a bottle at 1.00pm. This snootiness is simply not always justified any more. There’s a new fast-food scene emerging, and speediness is even finding its way into the realm of fine dining. These days, if you pick your place carefully you’re as likely to discover a young, erudite cook pinning riffs on street food, as you are interminable tasting menus with price tags the size of Belgium. Dim sum, bao, posh sarnies and haute tapas are just a few highlights of the new wave that is washing away cheffy vanity projects. Wave goodbye to those blobs and foams and say hello to these goodies we can instantly enjoy.
Photograph courtesy of Kanada-Ya
Gekikara ramen: pork and corn fed chicken bone broth, spicy “tan-tan” minced pork belly chashu, wood ear fungus, spring onion. Photographs courtesy of Kanada-Ya
London has been ravenous for ramen for some time. So why does Kanada-Ya – with branches in Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Islington – stand out? Its mission is “authentic ramen”, and it differs from most fast-food joints in that its noodles are cooked to order, hand-pulled and available in firm, regular or soft. The cherry on the top of this exacting approach is the 18-hour bone broth that the noodles float in. And what’s even better is that these umami-swizzling bowls are all served at breakneck speed. Slurp quickly and leave feeling smug you’ve downed a pond’s worth of delicious low-cal food.
What to order: Tonkotsu, pork bone broth, chashu pork belly, seaweed and spring onions
What to wear
Meadowsweet, New York
Photograph by Mr Evan Sung, courtesy of Meadowsweet
Crab cakes. Photographs by Mr Evan Sung, courtesy of Meadowsweet
“We see Meadowsweet as an extension of our home,” say Mr Polo Dobkin and Ms Stephanie Lempert, the husband and wife proprietors of this Williamsburg eatery in NYC. Mr Dobkin has held a Michelin star for many years, so there’s a serious-looking tasting menu on offer. But alongside it, a beguiling “eggs & pastas” and “sandwiches & mains” section for those on the hop. Design-wise it is all whitewashed stone walls, streaming natural light and boxes of herbs at the door. The seasonal cocktails are a hit, featuring whichever botanicals have popped up in the restaurant’s mezzanine garden. A quick bite this may be, but you’ll leave feeling like you have been taking a breather in the Garden of Eden.
What to order: Fried chicken sandwich with black beans, avo, chipotle mayo and fries
What to wear
Cutler & Co, Melbourne
Photograph by Mr Earl Carter, courtesy of Cutler and Co.
Lamb arrosticini, garum, dried chilli and lemon. Photograph by Mr Jo McGann, courtesy of Cutler and Co.
Deep in Melbourne’s Fitzroy district is Cutler & Co, where chef Mr Andrew McConnell has created a bar menu of utter gorgeousness. Despite Cutler & Co styling itself as a fine-dining joint, the bar bites are perfect for a dine-and-dash crowd, seeking knockout food done quickly. From ultra-fresh seafood, to abalone sandwich wedges in thick hunks of squidgy white bread, it’s just the sort of food you can’t help but eat too quickly.
What to order: Jerusalem artichokes, comté, walnut sauce and red elk salad
What to wear
Photograph by Ms Kirstie Young, courtesy of Kauto
Crispy duck rice noodle salad. Photograph by Ms Kirstie Young, courtesy of Kauto
It’s not just the jasmine nashi martinis that are attracting legions to newly-opened Kauto in Bristol, it’s the food, too. The brainchild of local boy Mr Larkin Cen, an ex-MasterChef finalist, Kauto is his second Bristol opening after the success of Woky Ko, where his mantra was Chinese food made fast and healthy. People come for the shrimp and tiger prawn, lemon and pickled daikon bao and also Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) ramen – and we can’t blame them. Re drinks, think Japanese Nikka whisky, or try the local Psychopomp Woky Gin with nashi pear. One can hoover this all up in a thoroughly grown-up space of polished concrete and muted tones. Kauto is, by the way, named after a champion racehorse. Happy galloping.
What to order: Roast char siu, alkaline noodles, soy egg, umami broth
What to wear
Photograph by Mr Simon Lau, courtesy of Jagger
Jagger-Burger. Photograph courtesy of Jagger
Former Michelin-starred chef Mr Rasmus Oubæk wanted to revolutionise fast-food in the Danish capital. The result is Jagger, a place made specifically for breakneck eating and inspired by McDonald’s (but don’t let that put you off). You can’t book, you saunter to the tills, order, pay and your grub is served, pronto. Eating is done at long tables, from where the highly skilled Mr Oubæk can often be spotted in the kitchen. Burgers, spiced hot dogs and freshly battered chicken nuggets are order of the day. Take a seat among designer-types with children and the cool kids in Vesterbro, a district of tattoo parlours, dive bars and vintage shops.
What to order: double burger or veggie burger
What to wear
Photograph courtesy of The Lo & Behold Group
Barramundi salad. Photograph courtesy of The Lo & Behold Group
Po derives its name from “popo” after the Mandarin term for granny. It’s an homage to grannies not because it goes at granny speed, but because the menu is rich in the flavours of yesteryear. Mr Willin Low, one of the pioneers of the Modern Singapore restaurant movement is behind it and in keeping with his style, it’s all sleek interiors and an old-meets-new culinary philosophy. If you’re in a hurry, go for the small plates of salad, bean curd and char siew (barbecued pork). Set in the swanky Warehouse hotel, it ain’t cheap, but who can put a price on such pleasures?
What to order: charcoal-grilled Iberico pork skewers, 12-hour spice marinade, freshly grated pineapple and peanut dip