ig Zuu is “gassed”, he says. Why? Because, with two BAFTAs under his belt, the rapper and broadcaster is back with his hit TV show, Big Eats. Series four — on Dave from September 25 — comes with a new look: Zuu will no longer tour the country in a food truck, instead settling down in an Essex mansion.
Guests — Match of the Day pundit (and former Arsenal star) Alex Scott, comedian Sarah Kendall, and broadcaster Jonathan Ross among them — are welcomed into his kitchen for a plate of something vibe-inducing.
The format, Zuu tells the Standard, has come about after three series on the road. He says he feels like he’s “proved himself” and now’s the time to take stock. He must be thrilled to return? “I feel really proud and privileged to carry on making the show,” says Zuu. “Making just one season was great. Four is crazy and it’s testament to the support we’ve had. I’m excited to switch it up and elevate what we’re doing. I think my food knowledge has increased one million per cent.
“It felt a bit like we had to prove ourselves at first. Exploring the UK was wild — we visited Hull, the Isle of Man, we went out and found people. Now we’re a bit more established. The celebs come to us. And hey, we’re here, me and the mandem, inviting people into the house and immersing them into our Big Eats world.”
Big Zuu’s pop-up will be in town for two days in October
/ Big Zuu’s Big Eats
Zuu will again be joined by friends Tubsey and Hyder and their usual antics haven’t diminished. The best of these might be trying to find a halal butcher in rural Essex, a proposition that irrefutably provides promise. “There are skits and funny moments just as before,” he says. “I beat Mo Farah in a sack race.”
While guests are treated to Zuu’s food — mic down, he’s an accomplished chef — they too are invited to cook. The Manchester rapper Aitch was served hefty tower of chicken wings; he served jam on toast in turn. “You can’t chat to my chicken wings,” Zuu says. “They are better than Morley’s. Aitch actually loved them.”
Though the eight-part season is on the pass, Zuu is staying busy, with a pop-up at London hotspot Maison Bab over October 5-6 — here’s hoping his death row meal of Sierra Leonean okra soup, followed by chicken nuggets and potato smileys features — and the launch of a new sustainable water brand, which dropped earlier in the year. Don’t worry. He still finds the time to eat out. Here are Big Zuu’s 10 biggest eats in London, in his own words.
This is classic South Korean food: fried chicken, rice cakes; it’s old school and traditional, super cheap, and right in central London. It’s halal, too, and as a Muslim, that’s important to me. But what I love most is that it’s quick and easy. I’m in Soho all the time, so it suits me perfectly.
10 Golden Square, W1F 9JA, mukbang.uk
This is a fresh pasta joint. It’s quite bougie, but nothing too extreme. I love the menu because it’s not too big and you can just roll in and chill. It’s Italian, but not hardcore Italian, and every time I try to find something new. I like the Covent Garden original because it’s a relaxing space — really beautiful. A big shout out to the egg yolk handkerchiefs.
39 William IV Street, WC2N 4DD, bancone.co.uk
Aimé Leon Dore
Aimé Leon Dore
It’s a super cool New York import, this place. Very chic and a bit hipster. I go in for coffee and chocolate croissants and there’s always a vibe. I think Aimé Leon Dore is a bit of a niche hotspot, though. It’s very Soho; very celebrity meeting spot and connected. I like the clothing shop adjoined to it because I can go in for brunch and do a bit of shopping in one go.
32 Broadwick Street, W1F 8JB, aimeleondore.com
Soma is really, really cool. I love these guys. It’s a low-key, late-night bar. The opposite of Simmons, which I do love, but you’re not going to catch me drinking in there all the time. Often, I just want a quiet drink, and Soma is hidden behind a random black door. I like the Indian-influenced cocktails, but they do the classics well too. Oh, and they play old school hip hop, so there’s always a great buzz.
14 Denman Street, W1D 7HJ, somasoho.com
Eat Tokyo is my favourite Japanese restaurant in London. I know it’s a group, but my local is in Golders Green, so that’s my go-to. I think it’s good fast casual food. Good sushi, excellent chicken teriyaki and rice. They make a lot of the food in front of you and it’s a fun atmosphere. There’s always a queue, but I call ahead and say I’ll do a minimum spend, so I can avoid that. Good tip, right?
North End Road, Finchley, NW11 7PH, eattokyo.co.uk
There are so many amazing Turkish and Kurdish places in North London, especially on Green Lanes. Everyone has their favourite. We usually go to this one in Finchley. I love Gokyuzu, because it’s consistent, they do everything you want, and the restaurants are massive. I think it’s a place for big groups and parties, because it’s affordable and so delicious. I love how generous the food is, too. Order a mixed grill and you get salads, endless bread, dips.
1 Leisure Way, N12 0QZ, gokyuzurestaurant.co.uk
Reyhood is a traditional Iranian kebab place. It’s meat and bread, that’s it. But the bread is made on a pebble oven, the traditional way, and it’s made to order. So that’s the main thing. And then there’s the meat, which arrives on a big sharing plate with onions, herbs, lemon. I love the koobideh — lamb kebabs. It’s where we go after watching the football.
1023 Finchley Road, NW11 7ES, reyhoon.uk
I go here for the manakeesh, the Lebanese flatbread. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven, flavoured with za’atar, and it’s incredible. There are versions with chicken and lamb shawarma, too. Kamil is in the middle of nowhere, on an industrial estate, which makes me love it even more. I have fond memories of Lebanon and this reminds me of that. It’s proper genuine stuff.
7 Standard Road, NW10 6EX, 020 8537 1218
I love Malaysian roti. So flaky and fluffy. I only go to the original in Euston and it’s worth the massive queue because it’s unbelievable. I really think it’s the best roti in London. And the curries, fish, chicken, lamb, are so powerful and beautiful too. I also really rate this place because it nurtures talent — chefs there have gone on to do their own thing, and that’s important.
40 Doric Way, Euston, NW1 1LH, rotiking.com
It sounds random, going all the way to the New Kent Road to a local joint, from far north of the river, but I have to mention this place. It stays open to 3am but I bet you any money it’ll be busy whatever time you go. I love how simple it is: just a half chicken and rice. But it’s all in the seasoning, and the fact it’s just a tenner. If I ever find myself hungry, and it’s late, I drive all the way down there and then sit in the car to eat it.
173 New Kent Road, SE1 4AG, lebanesegrill.co.uk