5 days ago

This Is London 9-11-2018

22 BAOZIINN You need to

22 BAOZIINN You need to concentrate to find this lovely little Chinese place, which sells itself as the first provider of all-day dim sum, as well as other Cantonese street food. First you thread your way past the iconic French patisserie, Maison Bertaux, then step around the many thespians no doubt drinking on the pavement outside The Coach and Horses, turn right along Romilly Street past Kettners and there you have it: the ‘people’s canteen’, or Baozi Inn. Nothing modern about it, it is an old Soho townhouse with cosy dining spaces and Mao-style benches softened by red silk cushions. According some sources, ‘Bao’ means wrapping in Mandarin. In part this is my beef with dim sum – they are dumplings and buns and such like with tiny treasures of meat or other cunning substances inside. Burgers by any other (Asian) name! I did admire the rainbow coloured dumplings which arrived in a bamboo tower. Cute. But we gave up the experiment after one or two because to eat all of them seems to me like distractedly eating the contents of the bread basket in a French restaurant – and I mean before dinner. I can say that other diners ordered only dim sum, wolfed down the contents of their bamboo boxes from an entire table, declared themselves delighted and left. We were in the minority therefore to disdain so much carbohydrate. What I can wholeheartedly recommend are the many fish and pork dishes. King prawns in fragrant chilli sauce (£15.80) was plenty for two people and the fresh shellfish were shockingly covered in bright red chilli pieces – just as advertised, but beware! Steamed aubergine with fish-fragrant sauce (£11.90) was subtle and delicious. Pak choi with garlic (£8.90) was perfectly cooked. No dish was too greasy here. There were meat skewers, wantons in broth, noodles and spare ribs – something for every Chinese food lover and of course Baozilnn is already known. Several lone diners tried to squish into the first dining room as I stood in the entrance waiting for my table. ‘You want to book?’ asked the waiter. ‘No, we want to eat,’ came a chorus. ‘Sorry, we are full,’ was the simple reply. Good thing I had booked, I thought as I whiled away the short wait by reading a poster on one side stating ‘If you don’t eat chillies, you won’t be a revolutionary’ and a delightfully blunt food allergy notice ‘please be advised that food prepared here contains gluten, sesame seeds, sulphur dioxide, crustaceans, mustard, peanuts, celery, soya, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, nuts.’ That told us. The service chimes pretty well with the ‘people’s canteen’ theme. There is no kow-towing and some smashing of glasses etc at the bar – it’s busy. Some repetition is required when ordering, but that just makes westerners like us feel the venue is authentic. Besides, how much mandarin do we speak? None. When I told our waiter I was thinking of trying some Shaoxing rice wine, he said firmly, ‘You won’t like it.’ I had to laugh. I’m sure he was right. The sake (Hakushika Chokara, £8, 150mls) was lovely. This is a great pre- or post-theatre place – more atmospheric than the huge eateries along Gerrard Street and with better cooking. Just remember to book ahead. Sue Webster Baoziinn 24 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH 020 7287 3266 t h i s i s l o n d o n m a g a z i n e • t h i s i s l o n d o n o n l i n e

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