Meet the Foodies Behind the North East's Bao Bar
This new restaurant is dedicated to the bao bun
Bao Bar has proved a popular destination for foodies across the region. Their latest concept, Sobremesa, set to open this Spring, will focus on a style of dining from the opposite side of the globe
Tell us when your love for cooking begin?
E: Probably around 17 or 18. I left home and went down to Yorkshire and worked in kitchens down there for a while. I then came back up north and worked for Terry Layborne, and after that I went overseas. Inspiration wise, I knew I enjoyed cooking, but I don’t think I was really inspired until I began to work in a serious kitchen. It’s adrenaline-fuelled and intense and the sort of bravado of it all became addictive.
What was your first job in a kitchen?
E: I was a pot wash in a small pub in Yorkshire. Within less than a year the landlord had me running the kitchen. There was another guy working with me who said, if you want to do this seriously, you’re going to have to go and work in proper kitchens, and that prompted me to head back to Newcastle.
How did you get to know each other?
R: We go way back. We both worked in 21 between 2011 and 2013. I was junior sous chef at the time, Edward went overseas and one of his boys left, so he gave me a call and asked if I wanted to come and work alongside him. We worked together overseas for a while, then decided to come back and have a stab at it over here.
And where did you both gain your experience in the industry?
E: Overseas is a bit different, the chefs working in private hospitality are all from really strong backgrounds. I worked under a guy named Kyle, who had done some time in Australia in some very reputable kitchens, he’d also worked on super yatchs – I learnt a lot from him. We worked for a private client on an exclusive island after that, we were doing around 120 covers a night between three of us.
R: It involved long days, a lot of very hard work, and thinking on your feet. We travelled with them a lot too, they had property all over the world. On an evening we’d have down time and go for dinner in Michelin-starred restaurants. The next day we’d practice and practice to re-create something similar to what we’d eaten the night before in those top restaurants around the world.
How did the idea for Bao Bar come about?
E: The client we worked for predominantly ate a lot of Saudi, Middle Eastern and Asian food. And whenever we were in London with them we ate out at a lot of pan asian restaurants, serving food of a much higher quality than the North East had to offer. We thought we could definitely build our own place, we started small, just to test the waters.
You opened with quite a small menu, why was that?
R: When we started we had next to nothing, we hadn’t ran our own place, we’d run private hospitality operations, but its not the same as having a restaurant. We kept it small and it worked. Now we have a few more things on the menu.
Where do you get the inspiration from?
E: I’ve travelled in Asia, and a lot of the flavours there are completely different, but they all go together well. We’d take an asian dish from Thailand and mix it with a Filipino sauce, and play around until we found something that we liked. It keeps it interesting and creative, and you’re not having to follow guidelines as such.
How long have you been open?
R: Since June. We’re full near enough every Friday and Saturday so thinking about it we probably could have taken a larger premises! But it’s all good, as we have some plans for expansion.
Can you tell us anything about your plans?
E: We have Sobremesa coming, a tapas bar a few doors up from Bao Bar. It’s as small as Bao Bar, but will be more drink oriented. It should be open in early May and will be a wine bar serving cheese and charcuterie, with a little hot food now and then. The idea actually came about before Bao Bar, but we came across the gap in the market for Asian food and followed that route first.
Whats the most popular dish on the menu at the moment? And your favourite dish to make on the menu?
E: The fish bao with Yuzu Kosho mayo. I quite enjoy making our soups. We have a celeriac and miso soup on at the moment, with miso sourdough.
How have you found being on Chillingham Road in Heaton?
R: It’s definitely on the map now, and we’re looking to constantly invest in the road and keep it that way. Everyone helps everyone which is really nice. We all bounce off each other with new ideas.
Bao buns are having a bit of a moment, you guys were probably one of the first to really concentrate on them. Why was that?
E: I would say we were the first, yeah! The thing is, when you understand the food and have eaten a lot of it you sort of begin to understand why people want it. It’s quite a naughty little tasty treat that’s addictive. It’s all about the flavours and the textures, but it’s steamed so its not as daunting as a burger if you’re more health conscious. We try to keep them well balanced, they’re small so you can have one or you can have three. I wouldn’t say it’s asian tapas, although that’s what a lot of people call it. When you go to Thailand they eat in the streets, they have a small snack then they move on. We want to push that concept too.
Your favourite places to eat out?
E: I really like Zuchinni the pasta bar in town, but I don’t really eat out that much to be completely honest!
R: Saltwater in Fenwick.
If you could eat at any restaurant in the world where would it be?
E: Daniel Humm’s new place in London, Davies and Brook – it’s just opened.
R: Pujol in Mexico.
Last Supper? Would it be a bao bun?
E: No way. Fish and chips, with loads of tartar sauce.
R: Whole BBQ Turbot and basque Style Potatoes.