Not the cute, long-eared kind but the hot, tubby kind. Yes, I’m talking about bunny chow. I don’t know how ‘bunny’ comes into it, but bunny chow (or ‘bunny’ for short) is as South African as Chicken Tikka Masala is British, and nothing to do with rabbits. Bunny chow was created by Indian immigrants living in Durban in the 1940s, as the poster on the toilet door of the eponymous fast food restaurant Bunnychow informed me. It consists of a hollowed-out half-loaf of bread, filled with curry, and topped with a bread lid. The bread loaf is smaller than your average loaf, but still big enough for it to be common for two people to share a single bunny. Though we only found this out after we had ordered one bunny each!
The eatery is a fun place to be. Bunnychow’s warm colours and vibrant posters take your mind away from the grey coldness outside. You can learn to speak Durbs while you wait for your order. The menu was simple and stuck to the South African theme, and as well as hot food you can also buy biltong (cured meat) to take away. The food was well-priced, at £5 a bunny. I was offered tasters, and opted for the Veggie and Durban to try, and ordered the Chakalaka (with chicken and nachos) and Durban (with mutton and coriander relish) fillings, as these were the only two outstandingly South African in name, the fourth option being Piri-Piri Pork. For drinks (£2.50 each) we had two non-alcoholic cocktails: a Green Mamba (cucumber, mint, lime, elderflower, juniper berries) and an Invictus (allspice, cinnamon, star anise, chilli, lime, ginger).
The cocktails were incredibly refreshing – I could have drank a jug of the stuff. But there is something amiss when the most memorable part of a meal are the room decor, drinks, and the container the bunnies came in. It was a pity that the brioche type of bread – there are 3 types to choose from – had sold out, because the filling was quite salty and needed some sweetness for balance. The bunnies did not taste special – unlike Indian curries, these curries had no heat and were not as exciting as they sounded. The dessert of South African pudding (£2.50), though it had a local twist in the type of milk used and the substitution of corn for rice, was similar to an English rice pudding and did not look too appealing. Those who welcome the change from the usual cold sandwich – er, haven’t they heard of a toastie? – are comparing bunny chow with the wrong type of street food. It’s humongous, and I found it more challenging to eat than a burger. Nothing like the dainty sandwich, and in fact, we were given knives and forks. This culinary trend is worth hopping on the back of, but difficult to stay on the back of.
Find Bunnychow at 74 Wardour St., London, W1F 0TE