Woky Ko, Cargo @ Wapping Wharf: Review

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If I were asked to describe Larkin Cen’s new restaurant, Woky Ko at Cargo, Wapping Wharf, in two words, it would be easy. “Highly instagrammable”. Larkin – who found fame as a MasterChef finalist and now also heads up his own restaurant at Newport’s Celtic Manor – opened Woky Ko on October 28th this year. Offering casual Asian dining with a menu that revolves around smaller sharing plates, baos and larger rice/noodle dishes, we were intrigued to see what it was all about…

It may not have been the most conventional choice for Sunday lunch, but plenty of other diners had obviously been equally intrigued – and many more popped in to check out the menu while we were there (it may make sense to have a copy of the menu pinned to the window, to make it easier to see what’s on offer). Inside, the ceiling is festooned with paper parasols and trailing ivy in autumnal colours, with the floorboards and wooden panels along the front of the counter both in a matching light grey, in contrast to the stark white walls.

 

woky-ko-cargo-interior

 

Each of the plain wooden tables is adorned with a potted bamboo plant, the obligatory sriracha, and a surface that explains my earlier two word description.

 

woky-ko-cargo-table

 

After ordering from the pretty short drinks list (Coke, coconut water, one of three beers or one of five wines – apparently teas are to follow), we started the tough task of deciding which of the small plates (which you can see listed on the Woky Ko website) we were going to try, managing, somehow, to narrow it down to five. Everything, we were pleased to see, is cooked freshly to order (and with no MSG included), with the chefs clearly visible as they sliced, diced, steamed and fried their way through the day’s orders.

Food is ordered at the counter, and each dish arrives at your table as and when it’s cooked – a lovely relaxed way for us to dine on a lazy Sunday!

The triple cooked crispy beef (£6.95) had a beautiful crunch, without the excess of oil and greasy batter that you find in many Chinese restaurants. The padron pepper Russian roulette luckily gave us a nice mild one, and the sticky coating on the beef was far more sweet than sharp, but not excessively so. We’d have liked a bit more for £6.95, but maybe that’s just us being greedy…

 

woky-ko-cargo-crispy-beef

 

We absolutely loved the homemade edamame spring rolls (£4.45), the fresh beans lightening the pastry and adding something a little different in the way of texture. The pastry itself was fantastic too: just crisp on the outside and without the oil having soaked right through – these spring rolls felt far healthier than those you’ll find at your average Chinese restaurant.

 

woky-ko-cargo-spring-rolls

 

We also ordered the salt & pepper squid (£5.95), served with a mirin aioli. The squid itself was cooked faultlessly: lovely and tender with a crisp, non-greasy batter. I couldn’t really detect the mirin in the aioli, which tasted predominantly of the lemon zest grated on top, but it was fresh and tasty. There was a little too much salt in the squid’s batter for me personally too…

 

woky-ko-cargo-squid

 

We’d heard great things about Larkin’s bao, and so we had to try one each while we were there. We weren’t disappointed either. The steamed buns themselves were perfect – soft and pillowy yet sturdy enough to transport their contents from our plates to our mouths.

The braised pork bao (£3.95) was my choice: tender, shredded braised pork drenched in a sweet hoisin ketchup and joined by thin matchsticks of tart green apple that proved a surprisingly good pairing.

 

woky-ko-cargo-pork-bao

 

As a fan of both all things spicy and fried chicken, the Korean fried chicken bao (£3.95) was a no-brainer for Chris. It was seriously, seriously good. The chicken itself was perfectly cooked, the addition of kimchi gave a lovely fermented flavour, along with the Gochujang slaw, which also packed a bit of a punch! This was by far his highlight of the meal.

 

woky-ko-cargo-chicken-bao

 

So…a few niggles, but we visited during soft launch period – it’s only to be expected. Prices were a little higher than we were expecting, but the food was tasty and it was great to try classic Asian dishes with Larkin’s little twists. We’re looking forward to revisiting once the full menu is on offer – and we’re hearing good things about the salted caramel bao ice cream sliders that he was, at the time of writing, trialling for the dessert menu…

 

3 Responses to Woky Ko, Cargo @ Wapping Wharf: Review

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