When it comes to Vietnamese food, we have very little choice in Bristol. As far as I’m aware, there are only two dedicated Vietnamese restaurants in the city at the time of writing (correct me if I’m wrong!) – Pho Hanoi on Gloucester Road, and the small-but-perfectly-formed Baowow on Baldwin Street.
Open for both dining in and takeaway from 11am to 8pm Monday to Friday, the latter caters for a lunchtime and early evening trade with a menu that is far larger than you’d expect when you see the size of the place. Walk through the front door and you’re faced with a small restaurant that would probably fit around 16 at a push, on stark white tables and chairs laden with chopsticks, cutlery, napkins, Sriracha and soy sauce. While on wall is decked out in artificial grass, the opposite wall is coated in blackboard paint and details Baowow’s menu. Between the two is where the magic happens, with a chiller counter bridging the space between the dining area and the kitchen.
Despite the lack of space, Baowow have also still managed to find room for a shelving unit packed full of Oriental ingredients to take home.
The menu here is undoubtedly Vietnamese and is also affordable, with no single menu item costing over £8.50. The steamed Asian buns known as Bao are what gives the venue its name, with a variety of different options priced at £3.50 each or two for £6, with two with fries costing £7.
Diners can also opt for a banh mi sandwich (between £5 and £5.50 depending on the variety chosen), a big bowl of steaming Pho for between £6 and £8.50, or one of various street food dishes, served with a choice of rice or egg noodles. In addition, they have now also launched the Bao Box, which offers a starter and main from a reasonable selection for just £8.50.
Alternatively, those looking for something other than a full meal can head in to enjoy a Vietnamese coffee (£2.50 hot or £3 cold), or one of a range of snacks which include duck or vegetable spring rolls, fries, pork shu mai and more.
I also spied their great value £5 lunch deal, which offers the choice of one bao with salad or miso soup; chicken, pork or tofu pho or a choice of either rice or egg noodles with one of six different toppings.
My lunch came from this menu, with the roast pork and moo dang sauce standing out from the board. A very generous portion for a low price, the garlic-scented rice, which still had a nice bite, was topped with large chunks of tender roasted pork, enveloped in a sweet, almost BBQ-style sauce. The dish also included smaller chunks of pure pork fat which melted in the mouth – which may not appeal to everyone, but added a great level of flavour.
Slivers of pak choi, sliced cucumber, beansprouts and spring onions and fresh coriander were also scattered across the plate, with these ingredients providing a lovely fresh flavour and a range of different textures. The dish was garnished with a handful of crispy onions , which also added more depth and texture.
No complaints whatsoever here – my lunch was beautifully cooked and exciting, the flavours well-balanced and well-defined and the price unbelievable. I’ll definitely be heading back.