BaozInn, Soho

The Blurb

I never know whether or not to check the online feedback before reviewing a restaurant – I worry it might cloud my judgment – but it seems unavoidable these days because the Google page pops up as soon as you put the postcode into maps. So curiosity must have got the better of me because, on the way there, I find myself scrolling BaozInn reviews, which almost unanimously declare the food to be ‘excellent’ and the service ‘terrible’. 

There are reports of diners being ushered off their table after ‘only two hours’ (surely a decade in Soho time?) and ‘rude staff’. I presume the reviewers are tourists, given that Londoners expect, nay, encourage brusque service in the city’s dim sum restaurants. I mean, this isn’t LA. We’re not in Cafe Gratitude. Last time I checked, Siu Mai with a side of masochism was the Soho-ite’s go-to order. And we’re only a hop and a skip away from Wong Kei in Chinatown, an establishment whose entire reputation hinges on its absolute contempt for the paying guest. 

The Style

The interior is dimly lit and simple. It’s cosy, it’s busy, it’s cramped. The furniture is basic, it’s as though lingering isn’t encouraged. My suspicions are confirmed when I notice Chairman Mao looming over us from a portrait on the wall. In fact, he looks jolly and, at the risk of losing all journalistic integrity, with a flourish of his arm, he seems to be saying ‘Let them eat Dumplings.’ 

The Food

Which is fortunate… because that is why we came. The menu offers dumplings, skewers, noodles and baozi (a yeast-leavened bun, from which the BaozInn takes its name). And they recently launched a vegan dim sum menu which we’re keen to try. We begin with the Cucumber in Chef Special Chili Oil. Its cooling influence lingers well into the meal, a much-needed refresher amidst all the heavy flavours. Vegan Vegetable Fried Baozi are a highlight: pan fried green parcels are presented like ravioli, generously doused in a lip-smacking salty, garlicky, chilli sauce. The Vegetarian Dumplings are a beautiful purple colour with an enjoyably chewy casing – best consumed in one bite and dripping in sesame oil, they prove once again that the new menu is a sure-fire hit. And even though we aren’t in search of further confirmation, we find it in the Vegetable Dan Dan Noodles – drizzled with sesame, chilli and soy, they’re some of the best we’ve ever had.

Chilli salt squid has a crisp coating but is perfectly tender inside. And what’s left, once the squid has been demolished are crunchy batter scraps, which my husband devours with a spoon like an eight-year-old with a bowl of Frosties.

The Crowd

The place is teeming with people who remain convinced that Thursday is the new Friday. Don’t they know they’re missing Dragon’s Den? 

Our neighbouring tables constitute; a pair of sisters in their thirties who slurp noodles and passive-aggressively whisper about their inheritance. A future bride and her maid of honour who bitch about the rest of the wedding party whilst necking Prosecco and chicken wings. And a trio of Scots in their fifties who are absolutely sloshed and order enough Dim Sum to feed William Wallace and his entire army.

In a Nutshell

BaoziIn, Romilly Street, is a great place to grab some truly excellent dumplings or authentic noodles on a weeknight in Soho. If you’re a fun-lovin’ vegan (as in not the Deliciously Ella kind) and you’re looking for a place to eat really tasty food where you won’t feel like an afterthought, then this should be your go-to.

I’m also pleased to report that the service is absolutely charming. Yes, it’s slightly DIY, orders are made via questionnaire, which is fine if one of you loves filling out forms (there’s always one). It’s speedy and relaxed – the staff are friendly and attentive, so ignore the Google reviews. And let’s be honest, you wouldn’t care if the service was cold when the dumplings are this good and coming in piping hot.

The Details

24 Romilly St, London W1D 5AH

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