BAO Packs Big Flavours From Small Kitchen!
30th November 2016 Paul Andrews
Variety of refrigeration manufacturer’s range helps designers maximise chilled storage and the family business to continue to provide truly flavoursome food.
The Taiwanese and Chinese street food-inspired restaurant chain BAO gets rave reviews. Its latest venue is in Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, just off Tottenham Court Road, seats 47 and, if its established Soho site is anything to go by, there will be queues of eager eaters stretching down the road – a result of BAO’s outstanding dishes, low prices and ‘no-booking’ policy.
BAO specialises in 'guabao' which are Taiwanese steamed buns, as well as 'xiao chi’ or small eats. A family owned business, the BAO story began with a six-seater bar and stall in Netil Market a few years back. “We opened our first restaurant in Soho in April 2015,” says Shing Tat Chung, co-founder. “Now we have this new venue in Fitzrovia. It’s an exciting time for us.”
The focus is on the freshest possible ingredients to deliver the big flavours BAO’s customers love. To keep the ingredients in top condition, BAO chose Precision refrigeration for its Fitzrovia site, which has a theatre-style kitchen in its basement. “Good refrigeration is paramount to what we do,” says Shing. “We use the highest quality ingredients we can source, and a wide and varied range of them. To keep our produce at its best quality, it’s essential to have precise and effective chilling and cooling systems. Precision has a very good reputation and we have used them in the past.”
As in many London sites, space is at an absolute premium in BAO’s Fitzrovia restaurant. In fact, the open plan kitchen measures just 25 square metres. Rod Cullen of Salix designed and managed the new kitchen install. “We knew from experience this was going to be an incredibly busy kitchen – BAO’s restaurant in Soho seats 32 and serves up to 200-300 covers a day,” he says. “To cope with that level of activity the refrigeration has to be top quality. The client specified they wanted a UK manufacturer and that the refrigeration should focus on the environment and energy efficiency.”
Shing explains, “The kitchen is actually larger here than in our Soho restaurant, and it’s open plan, so we are going to widen the menu as we have more room to work. As well as the guabaos, we will be serving a new selection of xiao chi, plus da chi (larger sharing plates) and rice bowls. We will also be serving a range of cocktails made using unusual ingredients such as galangal, peppered chestnut, sweet potato and beetroot bitters.”
So many ingredients, so little room. “We had to fit nine cabinets into this kitchen,” says Rod. “Versatility became key in selecting to work with Precision, which has a vast product range. It allowed us to get maximum storage capacity in a very limited space. We made full use of gastronorm cabinets, slimline cabinets, under counters and variable temperature drawers. We also used Precision wall-mounted refrigeration cabinets and there’s even room for a blast chiller – all in just 25 square metres!”
Shing says, “The Salix team has been very responsive and professional – to fit all this equipment into a workable kitchen design required a really creative, expert eye.”
“It’s great to be working with Shing Tat Chung, his sister Wai Ting and his wife, Er Chen, on this new site,” adds Rod. “They are right at the top of their game professionally and have a very exact and demanding eye for restaurant design, so it’s been challenging for everyone at Salix to help deliver this very different project – the look and build quality of the Precision cabinets fitted the bill perfectly.”
Shing agrees. “We never have a problem with Precision. The models look good, are easy to clean, top quality, and very reliable.”