What: A large Chinese restaurant just outside Borough Market. Baozilnn launched in Chinatown back in 2009 as a basic but tasty restaurant that specialised in spicy Northern Chinese street food - including the eponymous steamed buns - and the odd Sichuanese dish. It was a breath of fresh air a decade ago when non-Cantonese Chinese restaurants in Chinatown - and indeed elsewhere - were few and far between. Within the last few years the brand has expanded significantly, opening concessions at Market Halls sites in Victoria and Intu Lakeside as well as a bricks and mortar site near Chinatown on Soho’s Romilly Street.
Who: Baozilnn is owned by Sichuanese restaurateur Shao Wei, whose portfolio of restaurants also include the more upmarket Ba Shu and Baiwei. Venturing outside Chinatown has seen Wei look to make the concept more mainstream: the original site in Newport Court is much the same, but the new openings have been designed to be more approachable for non-Chinese diners with tighter menus that combine an eclectic selection of dim sum with a smattering of more obvious Chinese dishes.
The food: Baozilnn London Bridge specialises in Cantonese-style roast meats including duck, crispy roast pork and char siu (going forward, the plan is for each restaurant to have a speciality). This is available over rice and noodle as well as in a ‘special set’ with pancakes and Hunanese and Sichuanese style condiments. Alongside siu mei the bafflingly-large menu - there aren’t an excessive number of dishes on offer but the laminated A4 booklet runs to over a dozen pages - lists Baozilnn staples including jiaozi dumplings; cloud ear fungus in pickled chillies and vinegar; red braised pork belly; dan dan noodles; and shredded chicken in special red oil. Also new for the London Bridge site are enormous soup dumplings and a more extensive range of Cantonese dishes.
The vibe: Billed as the group's flagship, the 120-cover restaurant is spread over three floors with an open kitchen housed on the ground and a cocktail bar and lounge area on the first floor. Like the other bricks and mortar venues the site looks unmistakably Chinese, but is a little more stripped back and restrained than its older siblings with a premium feel inline with its rather more spendy menu.
And another thing: Wei is fast becoming one of the UK’s most prominent Chinese restaurateurs with two further sites set to open over the next few months: one at Market Hall's upcoming Oxford Circus site and another in as yet undisclosed location in Camden.
34-36 Southwark Street, London