In a nutshell:
Woky Ko is one of a number of new, remarkably small restaurants and bars housed in individual segments of CARGO, a collection of converted shipping container (think Boxpark in Shoreditch and Pop Brixton in South London).
The menu is made up of flavours you might recognise, but each has been shaken up a little.
Woky Ko’s creator and head chef, Larkin Cen, made it to the final of MasterChef in 2013. After his success on the show, he quit his job as a solicitor to start his own foodie business. Following his first venture, Hokkei, a takeaway delivery service in Cardiff, Larkin opened his first restaurant, Cen, in the five-star Celtic Manor Resort in Wales a few years later, and Woky Ko is a more refined version of his original takeaway.
What are they cooking:
Plates arrive as and when they’re ready, which, is swiftly and in quick succession. Offering sharing plates, bao buns and bowls of rice and noodles, the menu is confidently short.
The dishes at Woky Ko are inspired by Larkin’s upbringing (his family ran a Chinese takeaway) and Hong Kong’s fast-paced food culture. It’s street food made with care and precision.
There’s no MSG and all ingredients are responsibly sourced.
What’s the room like/atmosphere:
The space seems impossibly small from the outside, more cupboard than restaurant. However, once inside, it feels perfectly cosy. All the wooden, minimalist furniture is bespoke, the open kitchen takes up a third of Woky Ko’s space, which leaves room for around 20 covers. It’s easy to forget that the open kitchen is right beside us, though, impressively quiet as it is. Instead, we relax to ephemeral, electronic indie tunes as we admire the custom woodwork and the pretty parasols that cover the ceiling.
Menu must-orders and misfires:
Larkin’s been bold, and opted to feature just one pudding on his menu. Lucky, then, that it’s a corker. The salted caramel ice cream bao was small but mighty: the warm, deep-fried bun was sugar-topped, donut-like, and stuffed with coconut ice cream and indulgent lashings of rich salted caramel.
The other stand-out dishes include the crispy duck rice noodle salad, where vibrant orange zinged through rich, decadently fatty meat. The seabass tartare was a dish of delicious contracts, too. Cut fresh, the sushi-grade fish is gently infused with citrus, thanks to its lime marinade. The soft slips of fish taste even more tender alongside chilli and crunchy daikon slivers.
With its quirky space, soul-warming and affordable menu, the charming proprietor and staff, Woky Ko is ideal for Bristol foodies.
Words by Rosie Sharratt, November 2016