Bunhouse x Beer52
Thursday 08 November 2018
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Beer and food
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Husband and wife team Alex Peffly and Z He are on a mission, to save “poorly represented” Cantonese cuisine in the UK and bring a more authentic dining experience to discerning palates.
“Z is from the Canton region of China, so know how these dishes should taste, and how they should be served,” says Alex. “We looked at the bao buns being served in London’s Chinatown; everyone was doing them, but they’re always frozen, most likely made in the same factory and on a menu with 300 other dishes. And sure, you can go to HKK or some Michelin-starred restaurant to get bao, but it’s meant to be street food, not something you eat for £60 per person in a swanky environment.
“That’s why we took bao as the star of the show for Bun House when we opened in 2017, and put all of our efforts into that. We put the emphasis on quality of ingredients, making the buns every single day, fresh. We don’t hold them for more than 24 hours.”
While Bun House remains focused on bao, the pair have also opened another eatery with a completely different feel in the basement of the building. Tea Room has been styled more on an old-fashioned Chinese tearoom, with beautiful lighting and décor, and, serving a broad but still limited menu of Cantonese favourites that you generally won’t find anywhere else in London.
“We have a kind of rule when we’re developing the menu in Tea Room: no steamed food. Becuase you can get that in so many places, and there’s so much more to Cantonese food,” Says Alex.
The restaurant takes the same approach to cocktails, using only Chinese ingredients; no western spirits or liqueurs.
“We’re trying to do quite elevated cocktails,” continue Alex. “When you have a clear idea how you want something to taste, you might as well start from scratch. If you’re making food in the kitchen, you want to use premium ingredients, you’re not going to use pre-packaged sauces. We look at it the same way when we’re developing cocktails. It was also important to us to use Chinese spirits. It’s so frustrating to go into Chinese restaurants in London and the cocktail menu was all vodka and lychee. A typical ingredient, mixed with a western spirit. There’s so much variety of Chinese spirits that just aren’t available in the UK.”
The same is clearly true of beer, and Alex and Z’s fridges are stocked with a panoply of fascinating Chinese bottles, from breweries we’ve never even heard of, imported directly.
“For our collaboration with Beer52, we wanted something that would be easy-drinking and pairable with a lot of the food that we do both at Tearoom and Bun House. What you’d usually drink with this food is a very fragrant or aromatic tea, that would not only add the flavour experience but also the aroma. So when we were talking about the beer, it made sense to use these very distinctive Chinese tea characteristics – kumquat and chrysanthemum. We’re really excited about how it’s turned out.”
Creating the beer – Chris J.J. Heaney
“Bun House’s whole ethos is more traditional Cantonese flavours, so we wanted to give them a beer that evokes that sense of place, and is completely different to what you typically find in UK Chinese restaurants. We sampled Chinese spirits and tea, and tried to get as much of that character in a beer as we could: kumquat and a delicate touch of chrysanthemum flower, infused into a complementary pale ale.”
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