What's the draw
As the latest site to be launched from the Chinatown cult favourite, BaoziInn's new London Bridge premises is bigger – and might just be better – than ever before. The flagship restaurant, located across the street from Native and Casa do Frango, finds itself in good culinary company in the Borough area and boasts an impressive 120 covers spread across three floors. The expansive menu does some dexterous spreading of its own across a landscape of classic Sichuanese and Hunanese dishes through to a litany of the siu yuk-style roast meats you'd find hawked on Hong Kong's busy streets. That's not to say BaoziInn's completely forgotten its Newport Court dumpling roots: dim sum literally means "touch the heart", and you'll find plenty of opportunities to get emotional about the loveable jiaozi and wontons here.
What to drink
Mull over the menu with an ice-cold pint of Asahi; you'll need it. That crisp and refreshing lager will provide you with a little clarity of mind before you start worrying about how many dishes you can order before the server starts to look at you as if you're a convict on the lam jonesing for a portion of cumin-dusted lamb chops. Beer does an admirable job at extinguishing the flames of BaoziInn's spicier dishes but it's the Hakushika Chokara sake – a dry and fruity junmai with a savoury finish – that pairs best with the umami-rich menu. Chase a Sichuan spring roll with a sip of that fermented rice beverage to experience a food and bev combination that exhibits Starsky and Hutch-levels of chemistry.
What to eat
Come with an appetite and attempt, in vain, to try as much of the menu as possible. BaoziInn's signature big soup dumplings (essentially overgrown xiaolongbao) are a must order; split the skin of the pork-filled variety and prepare to have your mouth flooded with hot and fragrant broth. Smaller dumplings like the prawn wontons have a moreish bounce and subtle seafood flavour that more than holds its own in the face of a spoonful or two of chilli oil. All of the roast meats here are worth a flutter, though we limited ourselves on this occasion to the duck vermicelli noodles, a bowl of which arrived steaming hot and topped with a fan of cherry wood-smoked duck. The meat was soft and buttery, encased by a patina of skin so crisp and caramelised it crackled under the weight of a chopstick, and felt a bit like eating a poultry-flavoured butterscotch. Mapo tofu fought valiantly for our attention but lacked the numbing Szechuan slap to properly finish the job. On the meat-free front, asparagus in XO sauce was an excellent plate where firm and al dente spears were brought whirring to life thanks to the sly funk of fermented shrimp.
Pints from £6.30, dishes from £5.90. 34-36 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU; baoziinn.com