Muddy eats: The Bao Baron
Hot-foot down to Folkestone as we've fallen in love with The Bao Baron, a Pan-Asian street-food restaurant using key seasonal Kentish produce. From the buns to the broth, we filled our faces – just for you.
We love a feel-good story that has emerged out of the past tumultuous years of the pandemic. The Bao Baron is one of those as it is a product of the first national lockdown, established by local chef Greig Hughes (who has worked at some of the top foodie places in Kent including head chef at Samphire, Rocksalt and The Swan in West Malling) along with his partner Daisy Wootton. Greig was already established as a baker at the seaside town’s ever-rising Docker Bakery, before marrying his love and knowledge for bread with his passion for Asian flavours and thus The Bao Baron was born.
From a tiny pop-up event tucked away in the Harbour Arm corridor, to a bustling lockdown takeaway hidden in a taproom on Tontine Street, The Bao Baron came full circle as a hugely popular food hut in the Harbour Arm East Yard during the Summer of 2021. Its success and feedback has been so overwhelming that the business simply continued to grow, and The Bao Baron had to seek out a stand-alone restaurant to look after their customers.
By Autumn, a year on from its first pop-up, The Bao Baron finally took root as a permanent establishment in Guildhall Street. It’s not as nestled within the key money-shot locations within Folkestone like the Harbour Arm or the Old High Street but that is part of the charm as you feel you are discovering a bona-fide neighbourhood joint that is loved by locals and sought out by foodie-lovers.
You are minutes away from some very cool bars like space bar & kitchen and The Potting Shed, Folkestone’s very own speakeasy and antique shop, so make sure you make the most of your visit to explore the many delights of Folkestone.
Pop-art and neon signs adorn the wall, and the mood is fun and fresh. You could come here for creative cocktails and their Xiao Chi (small dishes) or settle in for the night and try a little bit of everything. They have also cleverly put in lots of bar seating by the windows so you can easily come in solo, get your ramen fix, and watch the world go by.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
The Bao Baron specializes in bao buns and ramen – and yes, you’ve got to try everything from the buns to broth. All the food on offer here is prepared in house and served fresh to order. And if this type of cuisine is novel to you, the team have put together a very helpful (and non-patronizing) glossary for a few unusual items on the menu to help you choose your food.
By following the seasons and utilising local suppliers, they provide a frequently changing menu that celebrates both the variety of Asian cuisines and the versatility of Kentish produce. Inclusivity is at the heart of what they do in the kitchen here and they are proud to offer a tasty selection of vegan, dairy free and gluten free dishes throughout the menu.
We kicked off with the Korean fried chicken with just the right amount of zing, Sesame tiger prawn toast and pickled ginger, plus some white cabbage slaw with furikake. Fabulous picking plates to accompany our cocktails which are exotic as they sound. We opted for the Chuhai – Shochu, Blood Orange Purée, Blood Orange Syrup, Fresh Lemon, Soda Water alongside a Shima Sake Spritzer with Plum & Hibiscus whilst the boys enjoyed beers.
Their melt-in-your-mouth, lighter-than-air bao buns were next and since we were a group of four, we went for all options on the menu. Salt & Pepper Broccoli with chillichup and pickled ginger was a winner as was the Panko Aubergine with cauli leaf kimchi and sesame mayo, so veggies do not get left out here with incredible taste sensations. Its Pork rendang with sambal nanas (a Malay pineapple and cucumber relish) and crispy chicken skin is also a hero dish at The Bao Baron and you can easily see why!
We finished by sharing a Pork belly Tonkotsu ramen, a rich, slowly cooked pork bone broth, that will put you right forever more if you ever need a food hug. It was laden with flavour including spicy crackling, radish, pickled ginger, spring onions and half a ramen egg. We were also recommended to try the Mazemen as it is a ramen without the broth served with wide noodles, curried pork dripping, asparagus, smacked cucumber (cucumbers lightly pickled in soy, vinegar and chilli oil), free-range poached egg with Panko free-range chicken on top. The trick is here to mix all the flavours together with the noodles before eating – it will blow your mind.
And yes, there was barely any room for pudding but as the options were so unusual, it felt churlish to not order a deep fried bao-nut with Mirabelle plum sorbet and yuzu caramel. What a finale.
Consider The Bao Baron as an alternative brunch option as they have recently launched a dedicated menu from 11-3 each day. Their PBLT will sort you out – smoked pork belly, lettuce, tomato and lashings of marmite mayo all stuffed into a fluffy bao. Kids are also well-looked after with dumbed-down bao buns stuffed full of Panko-chicken with crudites and mayo on the side for dipping.
The Bao Baron has also just joined Just Eat so if you are lucky enough to be within their delivery parameters, you can hoover up your favourite The Bao Baron’s foodie in the comfort of your home. We did try to persuade them to extend it to our home, 26 miles away, but sadly our mission was not accomplished.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR? Those who pride themselves on finding the best foodie spots in Kent and those who are curious about trying new and authentic flavours. We loved it as a group outing (any excuse to just try more dishes) but would easily be a great date night. It’s inclusive too with gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free options scattered across the menu.
NOT FOR? We loved the low-key neighbourhood joint vibes of the place but if you like your restaurants to be mega fancy with a lot of pomp and ceremony, this is not the one for you.
The small dishes range from £2.50 to £7.00; rice bowls are from £12, and the Bao Buns are priced at £5.50. Noodles cost between £13 to £15 so no excuses not to try EVERYTHING. Its cost-effective weekday menu comes with our full recommendation – two courses for £20 or three for £24 and we think you’ll want to do the latter…