24 Romilly Street, Soho, London W1D 5AH
- Leicester Square Station (0.3 km)
- Leicester Square Tube Station (0.3 km)
- Contact us:
020 7287 3266
- Opening hours:
Mon - Thu: 12:00 - 23:00
Fri - Sun: 12:00 - 23:30
134 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1F 8ZR
“Inamo is a pioneering Oriental fusion restaurant and bar where the control of the dining experience is placed firmly in your hands. Our mission is to provide delicious cuisine with charming and timely service in a warm and vibrant atmosphere. At...” more...
6 reviews of Ba Shan in English
I’m on a mission to find authentic Chinese restaurants in London. Rule number 1 – try to avoid Chinatown. Whilst there are a few gems, the majority are terrible, only serving western abominations of traditional Chinese dishes. These seem to appeal to the tourists and the pimps that make up the majority of the people in the area.
So whilst exploring around the fringes of Chinatown, I came across Ba Shan. I was with a friend who spent most of his life growing up in Malaysia, so we both know our Chinese food. We went in not expecting too much, but were both pleasantly surprised. The food was a mix of average to great, pretty authentic, and a far cry from the ‘all you can eat’ buffets and chicken chow mein stores of Gerrard St. They aren’t afraid to douse their food in spice and garlic – a plus in my book!
From memory the bill was a little overpriced – memory being hazy from one too many Qingdaos, and they did the annoying Chinese restaurant thing of giving a bill with nothing on it but a price. Always makes me feel like they have squeezed in a couple of extra £ here and there!
Overall I’d recommend Ba Shan if you’re after something a little more authentic. If you haven’t had ‘real’ Chinese food before (I’m not trying to sound like a food snob, honest!), you might not enjoy it so much as the flavours are very different. But I think it deserves to scrape through with a 4* rating. Whilst 3.5* would probably be more truthful, it deserves more than 3* in my book. Will certainly go back.
(photos and more)
How much you know about the Chinese province Hunan, or to be more specific, Hunanese cuisine? I assume very little, as it was the case also for me until I recently dined at the Hunan restaurant Ba Shan in Soho.
Ba Shan which is conveniently located in the midst of Soho, is surprisingly inviting and decorative for a Chinese restaurant. It is part of a restaurant family with its bigger sister Bar Shu just across the road and its little brother Baozi Inn some roads down both serving delightful Sichuan food.
While Cantonese cuisine from the South of China is a clearly distinct entity characterized by mild and subtle flavours, food originating in the Central Western Chinese provinces Sichuan and Hunan is much more difficult to distinguish. Sichuan cuisine, which has become increasingly popular over the past few years, is all about chili and Sichuan pepper, resulting in a ‘hot and numbing heat’. Compared to it, Hunanese dishes are possibly even spicier, but of a dry heat and of a cleaner taste.
Hunan restaurant in London are still very much a rarity. While Hunan in Pimlico is far too expensive and to be honest too pretentious to be enjoyed on a regular basis, Ba Shan is very affordable. I went to dine there with Mr. Noodles, The Grubworm and Cooking the Books, and we ordered so much! In the end we paid about 30-35 pounds each with loads of Tsing Tao, but you can keep your expenses down if you manage to pace yourself and don’t over-order. All the dishes are explained in the extensive menu and illustrated with pictures. This really helps with the decision making for the non-Hunan experts among us.
For me the weirdest dish of them all were the preserved duck eggs with chopped salted chillies. Preserved eggs, also called 100 year eggs, are made by putting them into a mixture of clay, salt, lime and ash for several weeks to several months and believe me, the result doesn’t look nice. But nothing dared is nothing gained, and they tasted much better than they looked. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the gelatinous texture of the dark gray eggs together with the hotness of the salty chili.
Very addictive were the Potato Slivers. For this dish, shreds of potatoes are just blanched and retain a crunchy texture. This dish came with dried chili and Sichuan peppers and I think this must be most delicious way to eat spuds. And there were more scrumptious vegetable variations yet to come: the stir fried Dried Radish had a curiously chewy texture and was served with Chinese bacon. Very salty, but very good!
Another highlight was Pounded Aubergine with Garlic and Sesame Sauce very much resembling the Mediterranean meze Baba Ganoush while the Hand torn cabbage with chili and vinegar made me forget that I usually really don’t like cabbage.
I was blown away not only by the presentation but also the flavour of by the Steamed fish with chopped salted chili which came poached in a big bowl of orange broth topped with generous sprinkling of bright red chilli.
Peng’s Beancurd named after a Hunanese chef and General Tso’s Chicken,which was possibly inspired by the famous Hunanese general did not blow me away but were pleasant enough. (read more about the North American origin of General Tso’s chicken here)
If you are an adventurous eater and if you don’t mind having chili on absolutely everything (I have not tried their desserts but I would not be surprised if it came with chili too) you will love Bar Shan as much as I do. I advise to go there as a big group, order everything and share. But be warned though, this is a restaurant that doesn’t recognize the concept of mains and starters and dishes are brought out all at the same time.
Should you be into cooking yourself and got inspired after reading about all these dainties, you must check out Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook which not only offers well researched recipes but also tells you about their history. She acted as a consultant for Ba Shan, and she did a good job…
we were 3 on Chinese new year's, so it was a bit busy but we were seated no problem. we had the rice for three (£1.50 each), dumplings, sweet & sour pork, general tsao's chicken, and green beans. the food all arrived quickly and was pretty good. it wasn't overly spicy. we don't know Chinatown at all but we chose it after seeing the Michelin and Timeout stickers on the front door. minimum charge per person was £10 (instead of £12 across the street). it is probably pricier than other neighborhood places (£47.10 with drinks), but it was good, we ate everything, and were satisfied.
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I enjoyed myself when I went here. I went with someone who knew what to expect and so we ordered the perfect dishes.
I have to admit I thought it was a touch expensive but when you know they are small dishes and look on it like Chinese Tapas, you get a good idea for how much of what to order.
Lovely place for lunch – I really enjoyed muself.
I was very impressed with the decor inside. It wasn't the flashiest, fanciest, or most stunning I have seen, but everything just seemed to fit together. While all the furniture and fittings were not the most expensive, its hard not to notice that everything seems to go very well together, and that great care and effort was taken to design the place very carefully.
The food was also very beautifully presented, with our dishes coming in a pestle and mortar and a wooden water bucket. Again, lots of thought and effort has gone into presentation.
Taste-wise the food was authentic sichuan-style. Unfortunately they have stopped the style of serving street food (small portions where you can order many to try), and instead have adopted a more main course dish style. I recommend that you order one dish per person on your table to share, any more would be too much food!
Those afraid of spicy should ask when ordering, as some of the dishes are extremely spicy!! The chicken and bamboo shoots with chilli was amazing, but that's because I like my food hot and spicy.
Price-wise the dishes were on the high side compared to other chinese restaurants, and rice was a shocking £2.50 per person. It might not be alot, but most other Chinese restaurants charge £1.50-£2, and it shows the markup at Ba Shan.
Ba Shan is a restaurant created by the same team as Bar Shu (which sits very closeby in the same street). Since I loved Bar Shu (it is currently closed due to a fire in the kitchen) I had high hopes for Ba Shan when I went there in early May.
The restaurant hit the reviews of 'Metro’ as well as the other London free-sheets and they were good reviews. In addition websites like Time-Out gave it 4 stars, so it has some pedigree to live up too.
Sadly, in summary I was somewhat disapointed. Read on…
Location and ambience: Soho, not the best area, but by no means awful as it’s near the bigger roads. The Restaurant is new and well decorated with a charming Northern style, almost like a 'Tea House’. The rooms are spread out across four floors and there is a party room on the 2nd floor. Each room is pretty small and the one we were in had only four small tables. This was very nice and the service in the room was good with a waiter or waitress on hand at most times.
Menu: The manu is quite short (for a Chinese restaurant) and concentrates on small dishes, which I understand comes from the name meaning “Small Eats”. I went with two colleagues and we selected a decent range of small items such as guotie, chaoshou and some of their dandan noodles.
In terms of taste, it was pretty good. There were some letdowns though as those expecting serious tastes may not find it here. Things are 'mellow’, which may be a reflection of the fact that most, (circa 80%) of the people there when we went (and it was full) were non-Asian.
But there are two serious complaints…
Price… this is by far the most expensive restaurant for the size that I have been too in Chinatown. For example a dish with 2 small dumplings can be £5 and in total our cheque came to about £80 for three with no alcohol. It doesn’t help that a can of coke is £3.90 a can… That’s just greedy and stupid.
So the prices are by portion and Chinatown standards astronomical, the food look and location special but not taste special. It’s not great. Also, don’t try and pay with a card… It’s a nightmare :)
I’m looking forward to the start up of Bar Shu again.
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