24 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5AH, United Kingdom

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This restaurant opened in June 2018, the creation of Wei Shao, who pioneered Sichuan food in London with Bar Shu.  BaoziInn (their spelling) notionally offers Cantonese food but with influence from Sichuan and Hunan, but there were also dishes on the menu from Zhejiang. Whatever the label, there are still plenty of numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chillies in evidence on the menu, so this is certainly not a straightforward Cantonese restaurant. There is a further branch nearby at 25 Newport Court, and another opened in Victoria Market Halls in late 2018.

The dining area is split into three small rooms on the ground floor, with further seating upstairs. The menu is quite extensive, with all sorts of dishes from different parts of China available. There was a short wine list with labels such as Apaltagua Reserva Chardonnay 2017 at £32.90 for a bottle that you can find for around £11 in the high street, Hoopenburg Pinot Noir 2015 at a highly ambitious £38.90 compared to its retail price of £6, and at Antoine Rodet Chatelet Haute Cotes de Beaune 2012 at £55.90 for a bottle that will set you back £17 in a shop. I drank jasmine tea, which came in a quite complicated arrangement with a little cup, a small teapot that poured tea like a sprinkler all around the table if you as much as looked at it, and a further pitcher of hot water that that required a little twist of the top followed by pouring in the opposite way to the natural one. Figuring all this out, and mopping up the table from the teapot/sprinkler, was certainly was one way of passing the time while the food arrived.

Xiao long bao (£9.90) is the Zhejiang dish that has been popularised by the Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung. The buns here did not have the neat 18 folds of the Din Tai Fung version, and the dumplings were just a touch firmer in texture than ideal, but the liquid pork filling was nice, and were served with the traditional vinegar dip accompaniment (13/20).

Less impressive was a pair of chicken skewers in caramelised sauce (£4.80), with uninspiring chicken that was a bit overcooked (11/20). Fried prawn balls (£5.80) were a tad chewy in texture, though the flavour was fine (12/20). Much better were cumin prawn spring rolls (£4.80), which had crisp pastry and tasty filling, with a gentle hint of cumin (14/20). Also good were Zhejiang pork noodles (£11.80), the texture of the noodles excellent, served with spring onions and spicy minced pork (14/20). 

Service was efficient if not exactly cuddly. The bill came to £45 for one person with just tea to drink. I ordered in line with the waitress’s advice, though in reality there was a lot of food across these five dishes, and four would have been plenty. If you drank wine then a typical cost per head would be about £60. This is a fair bit given the culinary ups and downs. Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed BaoziInn, indeed more so than my sole and pretty poor meal at Bar Shu some time ago. It was a little inconsistent, but the spring rolls and noodles were very good.

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