Age: Nine months. But for three of them – like everywhere else – it was closed.
Where exactly is it? Southwark Street, a few steps south of Borough Market, and conveniently near cosy historic haven the Boot & Flogger, as well as lively Flat Iron Square – like a more foodie Vinegar Yard – for a beer or cocktail after.
OK. So what goes on there? Famed for its Cantonese and Northern Chinese street food with Hunan and Sichuan influences, including silky dan dan noodles, dumplings, skewers and buns, Baozilnn has gained a useful following since opening in 2018 in Soho. They’ve now just launched a new menu in SE1 majoring in regional street food, classic and new dishes.
An aperitif? Absolutely: just before lockdown the owners also launched a sleek first floor cocktail bar. A chamomile negroni, other than taking an inexplicably long time to appear, was a perfectly balanced drink, the floral note present but not overpowering the triumvirate of gin, Campari and vermouth.
What should I eat? To start, their famous, and rather picture-perfect, three-colour glistening prawn dim sum: one plain, one with chive, and the last with watercress, the plump fish melt-in-the-mouth.
Packing more heat and umami were the slippery pork wontons. Crowned with spring onion and sesame seeds, a clear bone broth with dried flounder added a distinct intensity, not to mention a gingery moreishness. Elsewhere, single steamed scallops came heaped with chopped sweet garlic and glass noodles.
How about some meat? Try these two essential dishes for the carnivorous: first up, roast duck (main pic, above) smoked over cherry wood. Its skin yielded deeply crisp flavour, with rice, a hard-cooked egg and braised pak choi for that refreshing crunch. Even better were lamb chops coated, or rather slathered in cumin, charred and swimming in a chilli oil, the meat pillowy.
The interior? Fronted almost entirely by glass, it’s a quirky space furnished with old Chinese movie posters and traditional paintings, offset by exposed brickwork and brass hanging lamps. There’s an open kitchen, a small dining room, and lots of window-facing counter seating for solo diners. Upstairs feels more spacious, candlelit and with little touches of greenery. There are tables outside too, essential for socially distanced Covid dining.
What’s the service like? The staff were attentive and friendly, with the plates arriving in groups so the table wasn’t overwhelmed.
Do say: ‘Forget Borough Market, it’s all about the tangle of foodie streets behind it.’
Don’t say: ‘Where’s Roast?’
Dishes from £4.50. Baozilin is open daily at Southwark Street SE1. Follow @baozilnn_borough. More info here.