Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cheap Eats - The Bun Mobile

It's amazing to think that one day you can be enjoying a meal in the best restaurant in Brisbane (see post here) then the next enjoying a no-less-delightful meal sitting on a park bench.  This is what happened this week when I sought out, then chased down Brisbane's best loved mobile food van, the Bun Mobile.

Brisbane is lagging behind the other states when it comes to mobile food trucks, which have been infiltrating the suburbs of our southern counterparts for some time.  There are many who would say that the future of casual dining is on four wheels.  When you look around at the southern states, Melbourne and Adelaide are flush with entrepreneurs taking food out of fixed locations and to the masses.  Looking at the site there are around 80+ active mobile food trucks rolling around the streets of Australia, but only seven on the roll in Brisbane streets!

The Bun Mobile is perhaps the best known and most well loved of the Brisbane based mobile food trucks and I figured it was about time to chase it down and see what all the fuss was about.  To make it much easier to track, you can find out the locations of the Bun Mobile by heading over to their web site and look at their location calendar (link here).  Looking at the location calendar it's clear that the Bun Mobile mostly cruises the inner city suburbs, with West End and the Inner West seeming to get the lion's share of visits, but on the night we tracked it down, it was a little further afield at Manly on the waters edge.

Our visit was on a Saturday night and we were reliably informed that you need to get in pretty early to avoid disappointment, so we engineered our visit to coincide with the 5pm opening time.  Our visit also happened to align with the second shortest day of the year, so as we approached the the Bun Mobile on the foreshore of the bay, the sun was setting and it was a perfect scene with the mobile van appearing in the distance like a beacon of foodie hope.

The Bun Mobile does not have a huge menu, in fact it has three standard Bun options and a daily special, and there is also a dessert bun for those inclined.  Walking up to the Bun Mobile after parking nearby, I was struck by the simplicity of the idea.  Take a well loved food and take it to the people - simplicity and genius.  We had arrived a few minutes early and the Bun Mobile had just opened for business and surprisingly, we were not the first to order and a little queue was starting to form behind us.  While standing around waiting for our order, we could see that people walking their dogs and driving by were stopping to check out the bright blue and white van that found itself in their neighbourhood.

Once we placed our orders, the team at the counter jumped into action and it was only a few minutes before my name was called out and the freshly made buns were ready to be devoured.  We hungrily picked up our order, offered our thanks and wandered over to the nearest park bench to feast.

The first bun sampled was their signature dish, the pork bun which included twice cooked pork, hoisin sauce, sakura pickled cucumber and shallot batons.  The buns are handcrafted steam buns, much like those that you would get from an asian restaurant and are very sweet.  My first bite of the pork bun spoke volumes, suddenly I knew, I knew it all.  The pork was tender, the balance of flavours was perfect, the crunch from the pickled cucumber provided texture.  I knew that I had a masterpiece of cookery and simplicity in my hands and it was delicious.  I am glad that SC and I ordered one of these each, there is no way I would have shared this special treat!

The question is, where do you go from perfection?  The next bun we tried was the Wagyu bun with slow cooked Wagyu beef, butter lettuce, soy pickled shitake mushrooms and red dragon sauce.  The bun was nice, but it was never going to live up to that first taste of the incredible and delicious pork bun.  There beef was tender and cooked really well and the shitake mushrooms provided some contrasting texture but the sauce was not quite to my liking, it was just a little hot for me.  This bun was also massive, really big and after eating the pork bun first, we found it hard to finish off the whole burger between us.

Part of the reason why we had trouble finishing off the Wagyu bun was that we had also ordered the special which was grilled black angus beef, seared field mushrooms, crunchy lettuce, fresh horseradish cream and a black pepper jus.  While SC had started on the Wagyu bun to begin with, I had started to monster the black angus beef bun.  The angus beef was incredible and tender, it was in fact so tender, it was easier to bite through than the huge seared field mushroom that sat atop.  I really enjoyed the flavours of the earthy mushroom and beef, which combined wonderfully with the horseradish cream.  SC could see how quickly I was demolishing this one, so we swapped and it was her turn to try the angus beef.  SC also thought it was supremely tender, but didn't really like the mushroom flavour so much, so I was left to finish this one off.

After we had finished our buns, we were quite full, but I really wanted to see what a dessert bun would look like.  I wandered back over to the Bun Mobile in the fading light and proclaimed that the buns were so delicious that I had to try the dessert bun.  The dessert bun was quite simple in its construction, with a sweet steamed bun filled with berries and cookies, with some fresh cream added.  While the dessert bun was pleasant, I didn't really get the dessert and after a few mouthfuls decided that I was too full to finish it off.  The individual components of the dessert were fine, but I found mixing then with the sweet bun to be just too much.

When we first arrived and didn't know how big the buns would be, I joked with the team that I would have six buns to go.  This caused a bit of a laugh and a chat about the current record for someone eating buns, which sits at five in one sitting.  After gorging myself on just two, I find it incredible that anyone could sit down and eat five of these bad boys!

I was pleasantly surprised with the value that the Bun Mobile represents, with each of the regular menu items costing only $8.00.  You would easily get away with one bun for lunch or dinner and be quite satisfied.  The daily special runs just a little bit more expensive at $10.00 but still represents great value for such fresh and tasty food.  We didn't try the chicken bun with char grilled teriyaki chicken, slaw with julienne carrot and mint, with Japanese mayo and hosin sauce, so this would have to wait for another day.

This was my first real experience with a mobile food van and the team from The Bun Mobile were friendly and engaging and clearly proud of their little enterprise.  It's no wonder that this little van is creating such a stir in the Brisbane dining scene!  I think it's high time that Brisbane embraced the concept of the food van, after all, we have the perfect climate for sitting outside (even in the middle of Winter) and enjoying simple wholesome food.  We can't let Melbourne and Adelaide have all the fun, can we?


Like a beacon in the darkness, the Bun Mobile is ready to serve
The team in action, it doesn't take long to produce hot delicious buns for us to consume
What will it be sir?  I will have 6 of your finest buns, no make that 4, I'm on a diet
A beautiful setting for a dinner

The Bun Mobile on Urbanspoon


  1. I must say that the Bun Mobile is my favorite burger place in Brisbane. and the Pork is definitely the best!

  2. Lilz, yeah, I wish it came my way a little more often. I keep seeing this Chorizo special and every time I see it, its miles away!!


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