Restaurant Review: Bun House & Wun’s Tea Room, Soho

Wun’s Tea Room is the latest offering from the husband and wife team behind Bun House. The Resident heads to Soho to try them both and discovers two very different offerings…

Lead image: Bun House

Chinese food is having a bit of a moment. For a region so vast, Londoners have too long been pussyfooting around its peripheries, indulging in basket after basket of dim sum, craving a spicy Szechuan mapo tofu or giving in to that Friday night craving for a sweet and sour pork takeaway that you know should not be that orange…

There’s a fine art to finding China Town’s treasures that I have yet to acquire, mostly because, for the past decade, I’ve been in pursuit of London’s best burgers (Honest Burgers or Bleecker) and Japanese food (Mai Food in Earl’s Court, The Japan Centre’s sushi, or Sake No Hana for something fancy), but my interest is piqued.

Shuang Shuang, the hot pot sensation, and BaoziInn’s bao buns have been getting a lot of press, but my new foodie crushes are served at Bun House and it’s new sister restaurant and bar, Wun’s Tea Room.

Bun House, the original Cantonese steamed bun project by husband and wife team Z He and Alex Peffly, started out on Greek Street but moved around the corner to Lisle Street about a year ago, making room for their latest project, Wun’s Tea Room.

The newer, larger Bun House makes it easier for more people to get their hands on those fluffy steamed buns, filled with fish, pork, beef, lamb, chicken or vegetables at a bargainous £2.50 a bun. Grab ’em to go if you’ve got a day of touristing ahead of you, or sit and savour in the cafe-style, two-storey venue.

If you want to make a meal of it, order a couple of bao buns each – soft, fluffy and stuffed with secret ingredients to make your filling pop – along with the irresistibly good chu hou beef brisket rice pot, all tender and unctuous, oozing flavour into the rice, and a couple of sides like the spicy smashed cucumber and cheung fun (a Cantonese sticky rice-rolled noodle dish).

‘Grab fluffy steamed buns to go if you’ve got a day of touristing ahead of you, or sit and savour in the cafe-style, two-storey venue’

Those with a sweet tooth must try the custard bun – a messy little fluff ball filled with bright yellow rich eggy custard that will go everywhere if you don’t approach it with caution. The Bo Lo Yau Bun is also rather extraordinary. Known as a ‘butter pineapple bun’ (the pineapple reference is to its cracked appearance, there’s no actual pineapple in it, FYI), it’s a delightful mix of salty and savoury and oozes rich buttery wickedness.

This is definitely a place I’ll be popping into when hunger strikes and I’m scurrying through Soho with places to be, but it you want to linger over a parade of delightful dishes with Chinese cocktails, then head around the corner to Wun’s Tea House.

Capturing the spirit of 1960s late night Hong Kong, the ground level cafe has marble-topped tables and wicker chairs flecked with duck egg blue, set against a backdrop of cracked plaster and exposed brickwork lending that retro feel. Double folding windows open onto the streets of Soho, reminiscent of Hong Kong’s open air street cafes (called dai pai dong).

Downstairs things become more den-like, with deeper shades of green, velvet seating, a neon-lit bar and an eclectic soundtrack of psychedelic and go-go style music capturing the spirit of Hong Kong’s nightlife.

It’s the perfect spot to nurture a cocktail or three. The menu, which resembles an old-school Chinese newspaper, features more unusual Chinese spirits and ingredients, like the Green Bamboo & Quince with bamboo fenjiu, pue’er tea liqueur, fresh quince and mango; and the earthy, spicy Plum & ‘Coke’ with sour plum-infused baiju, liquorice, sour plum tea and five spice syrup.

‘Don’t just drink and dash. The menu sports some absolutely smashing dishes full of love, character and glorious flavours’

The Old Fashioned is certainly a hit, more botanical than most, and the Salted Lime & Rice serve is more fruit forward, with that lovely earthy saltiness with a dash of sour (plus it comes served in a gorgeous copper cup).

But don’t just drink and dash. The menu sports some absolutely smashing dishes full of love (it features nostalgic Cantonese dishes from Z’s childhood) and glorious flavours.

Start with bar snacks including the light and lovely spiced peanut and fried whitebait, and the rich, gorgeous XO bone marrow with fried mantau bread, as well as the whole prawn spring roll – head, legs and tail still in tact – with wasabi mayo and Wun’s favourite crispy tofu.

Larger dishes include Z’s Gran’s secret recipe for sour plum braised duck, the super moreish sugar skin Iberico char sui, finger-licking BBQ beef spare ribs, wok-fried marrow and scallops with cured black bean sauce, and a clay pot rice dish of house soy braised aubergine rice.

By the time we’d put this lot away, we didn’t have room for any of the coal grill skewers, so I’ll certainly be returning for the pork belly skewer, not to mention the salted duck egg ice cream on the desserts list.

You can tell that Wun’s Tea Room is a labour of love (Wun is Z He’s name in Cantonese, for a start), and I’ll certainly be beating a path towards it next time I find myself in Soho…

Wun’s Tea Room is at 24 Greek Street, Soho W1D 4DZ;
Bun House is at 26-27 Lisle Street, Soho WC2H 7BA;