Chinese cuisine is not just Chinese, as The Art of Dining co-founder Ellen Parr and Pete Kelly of Background Bars found out on a recent trip to Asia. “When you look across the regions you get a huge range of food, from Middle East-inspired dishes brought in via the Silk Road trade route, down to the southeast Asian-style cooking brought in along the tea route into Yunnan,” says Parr. “It’s incredibly varied and diverse.”
The pair’s creative culinary pop-up Lucky & Joy will bring this regional cooking to Bethnal Green from August 1 until September 30, spotlighting dishes such as cumin-dusted lamb ribs (£7) – a recipe from northwest Muslim China – bang bang chicken salad from Sichuan in southwest China (£8), and red braised whole bream (£12) from Hunan in the mountainous south of China.
The pop-up will be set under a railway arch on Cambridge Heath Road, and its vibrant flavours will be served up alongside Lucky & Joy’s signature pink lighting and kitschy floral decor, while a barbecue just outside will turn out succulent pork ribs (£8.50) and Chinese lamb burgers (£6), paired with wines from young local London producers whose vintages have been selected specifically to complement the spicy cuisine.
In an adjoining arch pop-up bar The New Leaf, courtesy of The Art of Dining's sister company The Art of Drinking, will create a neon-lit space inspired by the bustling bars of Beijing’s hutong alleyways. A rotating cocktail list devised by Kelly will draw on exotic Asian fruits and spices – particularly notable are the Togarashi spiced yuzu sake slushee and the Lucky Donkey (vodka with a coconut oil wash, homemade lemongrass and ginger syrup, coriander and soda) – while among the highlights of its grill-cooked bar snack menu will be the Bao bun and Tornado potatoes (£4), and the BBQ aubergine and tofu, kaffir lime and lemongrass (£9).