BaoziInn Romilly Street
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A Chinese street-food restaurant in Soho.
It’s all about the buns at BaoziInn (all one word; their spelling, not ours). Specifically, the barbecue pork buns. At this basement Chinese street-food restaurant, the emphasis is on bao(zi), and the buns were as they should be: soft and fluffy on the outside; deliciously warm, sweet and sticky on the inside.
Other highlights: a chilli pork steamed bun made of bright pink beetroot juice dough, which had just the right amount of heat, and the Chinese vegetable bun made of green spinach dough, which was a refreshing veggie option. Some light and crispy vegetable jiaozi (regular dumplings), dipped in salty soy sauce, also got the thumbs up.
The intimate ambience at this Romilly Street branch of BaoziInn (not to be confused with its much busier Chinatown cousin on Newport Court) makes it a good choice for a romantic dinner. Upstairs and downstairs are both dark and cosy, disguising any imperfect chopstick skills and blocking out the noise of Covent Garden, and on my visit, smooth, old-school Sinatra was playing over the sound system. If you’re dining in a group, make a beeline for the six-seater table that’s in a private nook – it’s by far the best spot in the house.
Other dishes – beef spare ribs, mushroom noodles in broth, black sesame cake – were all fine, but not great, which is a shame because I get the feeling the kitchen is trying to branch out. Take a date for pre-theatre beers and bao, and you’ll do very well here. Repeat: it’s all about the buns.
Baozilnn -人民公社, meaning “people’s canteen” has been brought to you by Barshu group, which, twelve years ago, caused a sensation on the London restaurant scene by opening Barshu Restaurant, a real game changer responsible for putting Sichuan food firmly on this city’s culinary map.
Based in a converted corner town house, the restaurant is arranged over three floors and divided into five distinct dining spaces. Large Georgian sash windows flood the ground floor with light. Each room combines traditional elements, such as Chairman Mao-themed artwork, Asian lanterns and decorative shutters, with contemporary touches ¬– sleek slate floors, exposed brickwork, aubergine coloured walls, light oak wood tables and benches and bright red upholstered leather dining chairs.