Former MasterChef finalist Larkin settled for the unlikely location of a shipping crate inside Bristol’s food hub, Wapping Wharf, for his first restaurant venture. Despite now being one of four restaurants in the chef’s award-winning repertoire, Cargo has maintained its allure as the original (and dare we say it, best).
Dishes at his tiny, no-frills Asian bao and noodle bar are cooked to order on woks and bamboo steamers in the open kitchen at the back, while diners sit cheek by jowl on wooden benches – though given that Cargo specialises in Hong Kong street food, that’s as it should be.
Familiar Asian classics with a modern (often Korean) twist are the order of the day. The menu is divided into sharing plates, bao steamed buns – nicely pillowy and filled with Korean fried chicken, crispy duck, braised pork, crispy shiitake mushrooms or aubergine – and made-to-order noodles or rice. Dishes are notably fresh-flavoured: lunchtime brings good-value specials, such as crispy duck noodle salad and aubergine green curry rice bowl, while popular sharing plates include salt and pepper squid with lemon aioli and seabass tartare. Children are also catered for with a couple of playful serves – a noodle board which comes with fortune cookies or crispy chicken bao with fries – and can eat for under a fiver.
Pudding hasn’t been disregarded either, happily, with a fun twist on the restaurant’s bread and butter offering having been given a sweet spin. One of the signature soft bao comes filled with coconut ice cream and salted caramel. Uncongenial? Surely. Delicious? Absolutely.
Excellent service is another plus with the busy staff eager to please and keen, as well as being knowledgeable about the menu and its limitations. If you have special dietary requests simply ask and they’ll be quick to tell you what’s possible.