David Adamson gets battered at the Korean corn dog chain’s Northern outpost
Where: Unit 1A Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RG
Food/drink type: Authentic Korean Street Food
When: Sun - Thur 11:00 am – 8:00 pm // Fri -Sat 11:00am – 9:00 pm
Independent or chain?: Chain
Lit up in lurid yellow and blue, Bunsik has the futuristic glow of something you’d find in Squid Game, complete with mesmerising TVs on the wall playing K-pop videos.
In amongst the slightly unloved surroundings of Piccadilly Gardens, it looks as though a spaceship landed there one evening and has been doing a roaring trade ever since with no questions asked.
From outside the clean, faintly Americanised signage is strangely inviting, but not in the way of normal restaurants, almost closer to the hum of a massive computer server. Indoors, you feel as if you’re eating inside a fish bowl - safe, slightly airless and out of time.
This is a fun change from the cosy, sometimes coddling atmosphere of many modern eating experiences.
The main event
I joined the orderly queue (starting to snake out of the front door at 7.15pm on a Friday evening) and ordered what I thought would best illustrate what Bunsik is all about: the original corn dog (£4) with buldak mayo; the Dakgangjeong fried chicken (£4.90); and a mango bubble tea (£3.90).
The corn dogs are at first unnervingly uniform in appearance, and when lashed with the bright colours of the buldak mayo - a spicy, umami chicken mayonnaise - it looks almost closer to being a souvenir, like it seems a shame to break the perfect, rounded batter. I tucked in anyway.
The batter was crunchy, well-seasoned and had an addictively sweet edge to it. It served as the ideal foil to the pork sausage inside, which had a peppery tang to it that told me this may be street food designed to be unceremoniously and eagerly gobbled, but not at the cost of quality. As fast foods go I can’t decide if Bunsik would be perfect dainty first date food or a sure-fire way to show someone your true, greedy self.
A corn dog alone wouldn’t suffice for a Friday meal before some beers with friends, so the Dakgangjeong fried chicken was an excellent addition. For just under £5 to get a generous serving of sweet, spicy and sesame-laden chicken thigh that truly finishes off your appetite is almost an act of charity when compared with the pricing of other places.
While the corn dogs may feel slightly more like a gimmick to get people through the door, it’s the fried chicken I’d find myself regularly returning for, and would suggest that the remaining menu - the likes of cup bap (rice, chicken and vegetables with an assortment of sauces) - would be just as sure a bet.
Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, Bunsik doesn’t serve beer. It’s something of a shame, but I can see how one too many pints of Cass could turn this place from Blade Runner to the cantina bar in Star Wars.
I went for the mango bubble tea, the sweetness of which was a perfect tonic to what is unavoidably a salty, slightly heavy meal. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to the tapioca pearls that swim around the bottom of the drink - a strange hinterland between drinking and eating - but it’s a very refreshing accompaniment.
Even the most everyday of fast food places are now finding their prices climbing into the double digits, so to have the option of a quick, good quality turn in 'authentic' Korean street food that doesn’t leave you feeling fleeced is very welcome.
If you’re going to Bunsik for a ‘sit-down meal’ you’re going to the wrong place. It’s a well-executed example in good ingredients making straight-forward, unshowy fast food with the ring of something slightly novel and fun.
It looks like fast food from the future, and I’d certainly go back.
Original corn dog 8, Dakgangjeong fried chicken 8, mango bubble tea 8
Polite and speedy staff get orders out efficiently
We all know Piccadilly Gardens has an ambience all of its own, and Bunsik is an interesting, characterful addition
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
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