Article
20 comments

Baozi Inn, Chinatown, London

Baozi Inn

Baozi Inn

I’ve developed a slight obssession with Sichuan province in China: it’s culture, and especially it’s food. My research, in print and online, has shown it to be full of colour and flavour. I’ve met people from there and Westerners that have lived there, one claims that she has never been anywhere where people smile so much. Isn’t that a lovely recommendation? I had hoped to go there on holiday last year, particularly to Chengdu, but I couldn’t squeeze it in, so, that trip is on hold for the moment, but hopefully not for too long.

Baozi Inn

Baozi Inn

Until I get there, I’ve been keeping busy reading and trying the offerings from Fuschia Dunlop, the famed English chef who studied Sichuanese cookery at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China. She has many lovely books, one worth trying is Sichuan Cookery. I’ve also been indulging in the recent sudden crop of authentic Sichuan restaurants which have set up in London, most to my shame, I have yet to blog. Angeles in Kilburn and the Sichuan in Acton, have been around for years, but are now accompanied by Red & Hot, Bar Shu, Snazz Sichuan and Chilli Cool, wonderful additions. Chilli Cool and Snazz Sichuan are my personal favourites and are the ones that I recommend when asked. Bar Shu is the most high end of all of them, located off Shaftesbury Ave with the most expensive menu and the most formal service. It’s very good but I prefer something a little more low key and I’ve found that the others offer food of an equivalent standard in a more intimate, less formal setting, Chilli Cool in particular, I salute you.

Bar Shu have clearly recognised the oppurtunities at the lower end of the market, some Sichuan favourites are street food after all (Dan Dan Noodles is one), and so they opened Baozi Inn in Chinatown in 2008. Baozi Inn has had some good reviews and came recommended to me by fellow blogger, Lizzie of Hollow Legs. There’s frequently a wait, and I have little patience, so after a few aborted attempts, I finally ate there last week with some visiting friends and a fellow Londoner who used to live in Chengdu.

Green Beans at Baozi Inn

Green Beans at Baozi Inn

It’s a warm and intimate place, very cosy at this time of year. All wood and the occasional lantern, bare minimalism offering broad wooden stools and tables, it’s not about comfort here, but speed and efficiency. I was pleasantly surprised by the menu. The style is similar to Bar Shu and pictorial, but don’t hold that against them! It features traditional street dishes from Beijing and Chengdu like dan dan noodles, fragrant and hot pork noodles, peace and happiness noodles and Chengdu crescent dumplings with chilli oil or in savoury broth.

Cucumber salad & baoza

Service was brusque and friendly, and after a 10 minute wait we had a table. Surprisingly, there’s no wine on the menu, just beer. We chose some noodle dishes, some crescent dumplings in broth and with oil , some baozi and a couple of sides of cucumber and green beans.

Sichuanese Spicy Beef Noodles

Sichuanese Spicy Beef Noodles

The food arrived promptly, with the sides of cucumber and green bean dressed salads. These were fantastic, lightly and spicily dressed, we didn’t have enough. Shortly after the mains arrived: Sichuanese fragrant-and-hot pork noodles, Sichuanese spicy beef noodles, Chengdu dan dan noodles, Chengdu crescent dumplings in chilli oil, Chengdue crescent dumplings in savoury broth and some baozi. Large portions, we struggled to consume all, as in our hunger, we had ordered more than one each. Overall the food felt light, spicy and fragrant, fresh and very healthy, we were very happy with our choices. The baozi were light and fresh and the dumplings robust and wholesome in a delicious spicy chicken broth. Should I get a cold anytime soon, I know where I am going for my chicken soup!

Baoza

Baoza

I loved it. It’s a quick, cheap eat and great value for money, and all agreed, including my friend that had lived in Chengdu. She thought that it was very authentic and some of the best Chinese food that she’s had in London since she lived in Chengdu (she hasn’t been to alot of the other Sichuan restaurants in London, but I plan to take her). Rushed out as we were in, we weren’t offended, that’s what it’s about after all. I’ll be going back to try their baozi with millet porridge for lunch.

Chengdu crescent dumplings in a savoury broth

Chengdu crescent dumplings in a savoury broth

Posted by

I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

20 Comments

  1. Glad you liked it! I guess they don’t serve wine as it’s more about street food, and maybe the fear that people will linger over bottles of wine!

    I really loved their Three Sliver Salad. There seems to be a few new additions to the menu, I must go back soon, especially for their great lunch deal.

    Reply

  2. Om nom… I’m already craving those crescent dumplings. The red oil ones with garlic are so good, too, but I love the savoury broth ones where the broth is so clear yet flavoursome and there are even tiny little prawns in it :-)

    Just a note for interested readers, Bar Shu is going under renovation until at least April… so don’t hurry down there as you might be disappointed (but then there’s always Baozi Inn!).

    Reply

  3. I really need to get myself down there pronto! Thinking about going this weekend but I guess I’ll have to wait. The food looks amazing, I adore sichuan too and for the prices – amazing! Nom.

    Reply

  4. You make it all sound much nicer than when I went! I’ll have to go back to see if I was just having a so-so day, because I didn’t think the food was that amazing. I hope to be pleasantly surprised!

    Reply

  5. You have to be kidding, I ate here last week. The service was dreadful and the food nothing more than tasteless noodles in tasteless broth. Dumplnigs ok but no better than you can get elsewhere.

    Reply

  6. I had some pretty awful food (and a high tab) the one time I tried Bar Shu, and so I think that experience weighed heavily against Baozi Inn when I tried it last summer right after it was reviewed in TimeOut. Like you, I get impatient when faced with long queues, though I do like the idea of cheap, fresh, fast food.

    I’ve always found the baozi sold across the street from Baozi Inn to be a tasty snack, and they don’t require a queue. So for my baozi fix, I pick up a few of that shop’s dense-pork-filling baozi.

    I really like Angeles, though, and I wish only that it weren’t so inconvenient from where I live!

    Reply

  7. Helen, Emma, American in London – I’ve only been once, so maybe they lack in consistency, but, honestly, it was really good the evening that I was there. I thought it was great value for money.

    Emma – sorry you didn’t like it, we clearly had very different experiences, that doesn’t mean that mine is invalid.

    American in London – I have wondered about those baozi across the street! Thanks for the tip. I will be trying them. I was surprised at how expensive Bar Shu was, it seemed completely over the top. I much prefer Snazz Sichuan and Chilli Cool. I used to live a 10 minute walk fro Angeles! It’s far away now but I must make a trip back soon.

    Reply

  8. I still haven’t tried this place in spite of Andy living up the road. Thanks for the review- eventually I will drag him down there.

    Reply

  9. Ros – give it a go! I’d love to know what you think. I really liked it as did everyone I ate with but opinions seem mixed otherwise.

    Reply

  10. I loved Baozi Inn ever since it opened and it’s even better now they’ve added a few more dishes to the menu. Need to get back their to see how my homemade Fuchsia Dunlop recipe ma po dofu compare to theirs.

    It does seem to get some really mixed reviews though, as your comments show, which confuses me as I’ve eaten their maybe 6 times and never been less than really happy with it.

    Reply

  11. Pingback: January roundup! « eat like a girl

  12. The place was ok, but I don’t like the ‘service’ — a big problem in most Chinese restaurants. I also didn’t like the noodles dish — mushy and greasy — I wonder what happens in the kitchen…

    Reply

  13. Niamh, I’m curious to know if this was a vegetarian friendly place too – did you notice if they had vegetarian dumplings/noodles, etc? It sounds divine and my mouth was watering from your descriptions and photos. I used to go to a place like this in Melbourne when I lived there and I miss it sorely. Would love to know if you think it’s worth me checking out as a herbivore. :) Cheers

    Reply

      • I had a delicious egg & vegetable steamed bun followed by the most amazing eggplant in spicy ginger sauce on rice. They also said they can do mapo dofu with no meat and there’s plenty of greens (but no dumplings, unfortunately…)

        Granted not as much choice as you’d get in Melbourne… but still really, really good.

  14. This is really quite different from a lot of the other restaurants in China Town. Really tasty food, fast but not a little bit sloppy. I am slightly obsessed with noodle soups and the dishes here are fresh and fragrant. Another restaurant that is new-ish in China Town to try is Plum Valley on Gerrard St – very good dim sum.

    Reply

  15. Pingback: Farewell to 2009! Another year over [Part 1] « eat like a girl

  16. Pingback: CHILLI COOL (Bloomsbury) | HungryinLondon

Leave a Reply