Time Out says
Please note that since this review was published, this, the original site of Bun House, has closed. A new site has opened on Chinatown's Lisle Street. Time Out Food editors, July 2019.
Let’s start at the end. Because the best bun at Bun House is one of two dessert buns, which comes filled with dark chocolate and pig blood. Now before you go all eeeww! on me, you don’t actually taste the blood. It’s really there as a form of natural thickening agent, although it does add an umami-like depth, too. It’s sort of like having a warm cup of coagulated cocoa. In a bun. With a ‘just-up-to-the-middle-please’ coat of crunchy, golden coconut flakes. Which, of course, have been deep-fried. It’s the stuff of pudding pilgrimages. Even allowing for the too-faint hit of promised chilli (I mentioned this; they pledged, sweetly and sincerely, to fix it).
But what is this Bun House? Well, it’s not a restaurant. Not really. It’s an incongruously beautiful room with a busy takeaway counter and a sprinkling of first-come-first-served tables. There are a few alfresco numbers, too, for top dollar people-watching: this being the junction of Old Compton Street and Greek Street. Downstairs, a ‘speakeasy-style’ tea room is a-brewing.
To the buns. Not more bao, I hear you groan. No, not more bao. These buns are the Cantonese kind. Being steamed to order, they have the same pillowy, yielding texture as their Taiwanese cousins, but crucially come served ‘closed’. The downside of this is that the fillings are limited by what you can sensibly put inside, with textures coming in as ‘smooth’, ‘paste’ or ‘small chunks’. The upside of course is that each bun’s contents are a complete surprise – you match the hand-stamped Chinese characters with the board on the wall. It’s fun.
One came with syrupy chunks of pork and a gentle heat; another, billed as ‘cod and prawn’, had a nicely spiced filling – reminiscent of those fish pastes you put in retro sandwiches – and tiny, deliciously chewy shrimp. My favourite, though, was the northern Chinese-style lamb, which tasted – in a good way – like they’d put a chilli and cumin spiced skewer from Silk Road in a blender, then popped it into a bun.
But don’t get too blinkered by the buns. Two more star dishes are the ‘fries’ (which are actually deep-fried duck tongues, complete with crunchy cartilage) and the peanut-studded glass noodle salad, with its gentle Sichuan notes, if that isn’t too horrible an oxymoron. Oh, and don’t forget a portion of the tangy, crunchy daikon pickles – made with black and red vinegar, plus a dash of fish sauce – while you’re at it.
Final note: that other dessert. A disturbingly starchy, oozy, salted duck egg custard bun. Start at the end, end at the end.
A throwback to 1960's Hong Kong serving up gourmet takeaway Cantonese bao, with pickled treats, dai pai dong favourites, a-go-go records, fried duck tongues, glass noodles and ceramic seats, famous squirty runny custard bun with 100% squirty guarantee. Also pigs blood in chocolate! All day every day, come soon!
Users say (27)
Average User Rating
3.5 / 5
- 5 star:9
- 4 star:7
- 3 star:4
- 2 star:3
- 1 star:4
The star of the menu is the Custard with Salted Duck Egg Bun - oozing with creamy, rich yellow goodness. The umami was transportative. But at £2.50, you can get better buns from a patisserie in Chinatown.
The other buns are good but nothing to shout about. We tried the lamb, chicken, pork, fish and seafood and veggie buns. The lamb and fish stood out - you can taste the thai basil in the fish bun. Do not expect a char siew bun when you order the pork variety - go elsewhere. The chicken one lack the umami they promise that shoudl come from the miso.
We had the glass noodle salad - which lacks zest and the balance of flavour and frankly, rather bland. The lotush crisps was great. We ordered two portions of Duch Tongue fries - which was the other thing that's great in the menu selection.
THE SERVICE WAS RUDE, AWFUL, SULKY AND JUST PLAIN UNACCEPTABLE.
We were the first customers that walked in that day and they told us they didn't have anything. They listed coffee and tea on the menu but then said they don't have it. Unlike other better restaurants, they don't offer tap water.
Strangely when we were leaving, we saw another table having a pot of tea. Because the customer and the waitress shouted at us The Owner said it was okay to make tea for the other table which I found rather rude and discriminative.
But it's pointless to argue with rude service who do not take time to engage.
We might as well walk away and go to a different place and have a better time.
Don't come here. Save your money and your soul. The level of competence and value for money for their food is just gruesome.
We had a really bad experience at this place. When our bill arrived there was a a service charge of £6.50 on it, which we paid without grumble, but the waitress told us that the bill was wrong and that the service charge was actually meant to be just over £12.00. This was quite bizarre because we paid exactly what the bill said, but she was insistent that the bill was incorrect, and wouldn't let us leave until we handed over an additional £6.00, which we did despite realising this was some sort of bizarre extortion racket. We had the bill and pointed out to her that it showed £6.50 but she insisted it was a mistake and demanded more money.
It's a first for me to be told that the restaurant's own bill is wrong and that the service charge, which should be optional anyway, was understated. To be forced to hand over an additional service charge before we could leave the restaurant made us feel like we had been conned.
Service was very slow, with nobody coming to take our order for about fifteen minutes, despite the relative paucity of other customers. Cocktails were fine but absolutely not worth the hassle and expense of being held to ransom for a double service charge.
This is one of my favourite fast food spots in Soho. The buns are delicious and so cheap (only £2.50 per bun!!) with some delicious flavours. The fish bun is my fave. Always really nice staff and the food comes out so quickly! Not much choice on drinks and you can't order tap water but since it's such a quick eat it doesn't matter too much. It's always a fun experience and great to take people who live out of town for a guaranteed yummy experience (which isn't always the case when trying new places in Chinatown, it can be hit or miss!!). Not really a sit down restaurant sort of vibe but great for a quick bite. Highly recommended!
Really pleased we found this place by absolute fluke -- our destination was fully booked with wait list of 2 hours, we just wanted a quick bite and saw buns -- and so happy we did. We don't judge a place by how it looks, and to be honest anyone calling this 'hipster' obviously have not seen any HK films.... Now onto the food. We were expecting usual Chinatown ready made frozen buns with usual charsiu five spice flavour, and completely wowed by the porkiness and cured flavour of their pork bun. After one we decided to try the fish - also very familiar flavour yet new! The top flavour for us is the choc/pork blood custard umami bun -- amazing as it reminded me of home and how my dad used to cook his really popular dish. I guess everyone's tastes are different -- please do try if you have been to HK and Asian countries, you will completely understand what this place is trying to achieve. Cannot wait to bring friends and family here.
Whilst these buns are very photogenic and a cool idea, they don't quite set the world on fire. We had a range of ones to try: the pig's blood chocolate pudding bun was excellent! But the others were all just fine. Nice staff and a super location.
One for the instagram life.
Unfortunately real life isn't as amazing. While the buns were fresh and tasty, your are paying for the hipster decor when equally good buns can be found in Chinatown not 5mins away at less than half the price. Admittedly the custard buns were good, but not enough to entice us for a return visit.
Do not believe the Instagram hype - looks better than it tastes and far too expensive for what is essentially yumcha with a limited menu! Don't bother with the side dishes, costs even more than the buns! The buns were good, not great.
I was thrilled when they first opened, my favorite is the custard bun. Though they are a little pricier than places in Chinatown but not bad for Soho. It's definitely one of those things that's perfect for snacks. I would just go for the custard bun next too.
Great concept and amazing food. The buns are filled with a variety of exciting flavours, complimented by a great selection of sides and pickles. The lamb bun, duck tongue fries and prickly cucumber were all winners for me. The design is awesome too, a really cool space.
Could not recommend this place enough! If your looking for something quick and tasty this is the place to go. Also a really lovely place to chill in the centre of Soho. The interior is great and feels very top quality. The Bun's are really delicious and value for money with a great range of fillings. I personally recommend the custard buns if you have a sweet tooth, so delicious! You would need about 3 to fill you up therefore £7.50 is a good deal for a meals worth.
I absolutely love this place! I'm originally from Hong Kong, that's why I felt right at home. The steamy bamboo baskets, smell of steaming buns and I especially love the open set up with the big windows wide open overlooking the buzzling soho - good spot for people watching! Last of all, nothing beats their custard buns and did I mention it's made from salted egg? I'm definitely go back for more of that!
What a disappointment this place was.
I arrived around 6pm to find that it was more of a fast food kinda place with only a few tables (you can book for the tea room in the basement but it has a different menu). It pretty much filled up within 10 minutes of me arriving so it resulted in people hovering around for a table and watching you like hawks whilst you ate. There's also no table service so you basically place your order and are given a number so you collect your food when number is read out.
We tried all the buns excluding the chocolate and pigs blood one. They were all lacking in flavour and were just overall very underwhelming. We also ordered 2 sides which were the duck tongues and the noodle salad. The duck tongues were left untouched after our initial taste - they literally tasted like greasy batter and the noodle salad was just ok.
The tea room downstairs had interesting decor but I don't think I'll be returning there any time soon.
Lovely Restaurant!!! It brings my memories about old guangzhou. Lamb bun is great, and the fish bun is something that i haven't ever tried before and it's good~ custard bun seems great, I will try that next time~
I love a good bun, and these definitely put a bit of a twist on the usual bao you'd find elsewhere.
I got 3 bao, one pickle and a side and was fuller than I imagined.
The standout one for me was the fish one, something I'd never tried before but was glad I did!
Yummy and good value.
Couldn't recommend this place enough!! Such a lovely place to relax and eat delicious food in the centre of Soho. The interior is to a high standard and the buns are really delicious. Staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. You need about 3 buns to fill you up, which at £7.50 for a meal is good value for money. I personally recommend the custard bun's if you have a sweet tooth, so tasty!