Seen through the eyes of charming centenarian Bert Middleton, 1914 was ‘the year the bus came’. It doesn’t sound like much but previously, the harsh Peak District village of the title had been an insular place. With the bus, comes a beautiful stranger who recalibrates the horizons of the local men. But will she be swayed by the charms of the poshos at The Big House?
The likeliest comparison for this epic new BBC series is ‘Downton Abbey’. But on the basis of this first episode, ‘The Village’ will be a tougher but much more sentient beast. As we meet the pre-pubescent Bert, he and his family are poverty-stricken and miserable. John Simm is his usual gloweringly intense self as young Bert’s bitter, boozy, bully of a father. Meanwhile, mother Grace (Maxine Peake) holds the family together and Bert looks up adoringly to his big brother Joe.
But check the date. The outside world is about to impose itself on rural England in a devastatingly insistent way. Simultaneously dreamily evocative and brutally earthy, ‘The Village’ could become a Sunday night fixture with all the finesse of ‘Downton…’ and none of the distracting gloss.
Anyone with a social media account knows what a bao is by now: these fluffy white pseudo-sandwiches occupy more collective screen space than the aubergine emoji. The tipping point came last spring when street food trader Bao opened a dedicated restaurant in Soho and created the sort of queue you’d associate with Alton Towers. Twelve months on, Taiwanese snacks are now a full-on London food trend, and first to the punch in south-east London is Mr Bao, a pocket-sized restaurant from one of the owners of Miss Tapas, which serves better-than-solid Spanish food on nearby Choumert Road. It’s not just the food that’s on-trend – between the naked bulbs and functional decor, this looks exactly how you’d expect a buzz-surfing restaurant in a fast-gentrifying area to look. It’s becoming a tired aesthetic, but souvenirs from the Far East and an Asian-only beer policy add character. But how about them buns? The first thing to note is their size – they’re a good 50 percent bigger than you’d find in town, yet are similarly priced around the £4 mark. There are five to try, plus a selection of sides and gooey bao s’more for dessert. They even do brunch. Fillings focus on pan-Asian flavours: shiitake mushrooms with teriyaki and fried chicken with wasabi mayo and kimchi. Options like slow-cooked lamb with mint or prawn with guacamole reveal international influence. I tried the whole lot and found not a dud among them; every single ingredient – from zingy pickled bits to punchy dressings – mak