Little Bao Wow

Little Bao Wow

A trendy, hip restaurant where exciting flavour combinations dominate, with a modern spin on traditional Chinese ingredients.

On a recent trip to China, I spent a few days in Hong Kong. When researching how to spend my short time in this exciting and buzzing city, I came across Little Bao, a trendy restaurant specialising in bao – a type of steamed bun. I was surprised how tiny the restaurant was – knowing how popular and in demand it is I expected something much larger. But the tiny, crammed 20 seater restaurant added to the charm of the experience, creating a sense that although this stylish and hip place was difficult to get a seat at, it is all the more worth the struggle because by simply getting a seat you’ve achieved something before you have even ordered.


The atmosphere of the restaurant was exciting – bustling and crammed, augmented by the tiny size of the restaurant. The decor was stripped back and functional, with the stainless steel kitchen taking up half of the floor space and the counters wrapped around the edges. The pink neon sign on the outside of the restaurant, proudly emblazoning the baby head logo on the shop front, was the only external décor, while inside the restaurant a few photographs of plastic containers reclaimed as mailboxes served as the only visual enhancement to the interior. Although sparse, the clearly carefully selected décor enabled the restaurant to appeal to the stylish, trendy cosmopolitan crowd who queue for hours to get a stool at the restaurant.img_9460

The stripped back interior allowed the food to dominate the dining experience. The menu was simple, with only a few different flavor combinations of the famous ‘bao’, and a few carefully selected side dishes. The choice was difficult to make, as the menu was rife with intriguing flavor combinations, but I settled on the Pork Belly Bao and the Szechuan Fried Chicken Bao, with a Green Tea Ice Cream Bao to finish.


Pork Belly Bao: Slow-braised pork belly, leek & shisho red onion salad, sesame dressing, hoisin ketchup

The pork belly was cooked so it was falling apart, which was just what the bao called for. The hoisin ketchup was the highlight of the dish, injecting it with a tart sweetness to contrast with the smoky pork. The onion salad added a sharpness which cut the other flavours. 

Szechuan Fried Chicken Bao: Chinese black vinegar glaze, Szechuan mayo, coleslaw

This was my personal favourite. The chicken was coated in a batter which contained Szechuan seasoning, adding flavour even in the main building blocks of the dish. The Szechuan mayo added more of the slightly smoky spice to the overall dish, and the black vinegar glaze added a deep sweetness, contributing a Chinese element to the largely western flavours and adding a different dynamic to the dish – absolutely genius flavour combination. Pickled onions added sharpness to this dish as well which seemed the perfect garnish for the dish.

The fluffy steamed buns which held the fillings took a back seat in terms of flavour as they only really added a squidgy texture to the dish and a means of presenting the fillings.

Ice Cream Bao: Green tea ice cream w/ condensed milk

This was a creative and ingenious take on the savoury bao which the restaurant specialise in. The bao bun was deep fried and coated in sugar, almost like a donut. The green tea ice cream was not overly sweet, yet the condensed milk added the right amount of sugar. This dish seemed an opposite to the savoury bao I enjoed, as the sugar coated bun took centre stage with the fillings acting as a way of completing the dish and complimenting the bun, not the other way around.

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So, if you are in Hong Kong (or Bangkok for that matter – they have recently opened a second restaurant there) I would urge you to make the effort to get to this restaurant. Get there early, however, as the demand for seats results in a long wait time if you get there much past 6pm – I learnt this the second time I attempted to visit the restaurant!

 

 

 

Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club

I have been listening to Two Door Cinema Club’s music for years now and after the emotional turmoil of their tour selling out, I was gifted gig tickets for Christmas (shout out to my sister for saving the day and bossing present giving). It has definitely  earned a place in my top three concert experiences. It wasn’t only because of Alex Trimble’s, the lead singer’s, effortlessly cool aura and enviable gold metallic shoes, which didn’t even manage to pull my attention away from the performance for too long. (I have since been searching for a similarly cool pair, however, so suggestions would be welcome).

“It’s so good to be back together,” Trimble beams. “So far, the shows have been so much fun, and we’re enjoying each other’s company…. This isn’t a contractual obligation, we’re doing it for pleasure.” 

You could tell from watching the band perform, that this tour is something that they are doing for pleasure. They clearly found joy in their musical performance and all appeared more at ease with themselves and each other, after a few tumultuous years. While their popular songs from Beacon got the whole crowd singing along, their newer material from Gameshow, including ‘Are we ready? (Wreck)’ and ‘Bad Decisions’ seemed to resonate with the band after their struggles with identity and the overwhelming presence of social media and the internet in their lives. It seemed a creative risk so openly criticising the internet, something which the millennial generation that made up the bulk of their fan base clearly depends on, yet it was evident that the new musical sound was enjoyed by fans just as much as their previous material, or even more.

The staging was simple; screens positioned at the back of the set, which played varying graphics to fit with the hits the band kept reeling off, adding an unexpected exciting visual element to an auditory experience. The interludes between songs did not serve as an opportunity for the band to fill us in on ‘inside jokes’ and personal details, which I  actually found refreshing. Two Door Cinema Club instead allowed their popular music to completely dominate their show, using the visual effects as a way of enhancing the listeners’ experience rather than serving as a distraction. I believe they are one of the few bands that manage to perform their songs live to a higher standard than their recorded singles; the electronic sounds of their well known songs were augmented with a heavier bass guitar in their live performance which filled the O2 Academy, pulsating through the crowd, enveloping us in a more immediate sound. The intimate O2 Academy arena enhanced the sound and supported the acoustics of the performance, making it a gig that really celebrated the hits which propelled Two Door Cinema Club through their musical career, the sound they created for themselves and the enjoyment which they have brought to such a number and variety of fans.

The Radical Eye

The Radical Eye

Each of these photographs serves as inspiration for me in my life; they line the walls of my home and I consider them precious gems. I want people to think, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before, never knew this kind of thing existed’ – just as I did when I first saw these photographs.

– SIR ELTON JOHN –

Yesterday, whilst trying to understand the understated and simple yet deceptively complex interior of the Tate Modern, I managed to find my way to The Radical Eye, a collection of modernist photography from The Sir Elton John Collection. Maybe I’m reading too far into the exhibition title, but it seems radical that someone who knows next to nothing about photography techniques, analysis and history is attempting to write a review about a hugely popular and anticipated exhibition. But that’s what I loved about this exhibition; how it honed my currently underdeveloped interest in photography and was able to appeal to refined photographic critics and amateurs alike, through the carefully planned layout of so many photographic themes and photographers.

The brief yet impressively accessible introductions to each photographic theme, and descriptions of certain works and collections enabled a level of understanding otherwise difficult to achieve. I arrived verdant in my understanding of the technicalities of photography as an art form, and left with an insatiable desire to see more, learn more and even take more photos.

The exhibition intends to capture the photographic revolution of the 20s, 30s and 40s when experimental techniques and creative decisions were pushing boundaries and changing the way in which people saw everyday objects and situations. I think this collection of innovative modernist photography does just that in a way that is accessible to a huge breadth of people, giving an insight into the exciting developments in this artistic field as well as inspiring many people of today to look at the world in a different way through the medium of photography. And I think that makes it more than a worthwhile visit.


 

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Underwater Swimmer, 1917, Andre Kertesz

This was one of my favourite photos from the exhibition. I love the way the camera captures the light on the water, and the distortion of the body seen through the pool. This photo also exhibits the way in which the camera is able to capture movement with a clarity unattainable with the naked eye, changing our perspective of and finding a beauty in a common situation. This photo reminds me of Hockney’s paintings of swimming pools, and the difference in the presentation of light reflection becomes interesting through the comparison of mediums – photography and acrylic on canvas.

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Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972

“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel of palpitating flesh.” EDWARD WESTON

 

 

 

 

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Patricia, c.1942, Josef Breitenbach

This photo, in contrast to the last, demonstrates the more experimental and creative side of photography, transforming a mundane portrait or landscape using a variety of techniques. The physiognomy of this portrait is pensive, distant and serious, which contrasts with the more playful and irregular colour injected into the image. Alone, the portrait is interesting through the psychology of the sitter, yet Breitenbach lends the image another dimension through the light exposure, creating a complex masterpiece.

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This series by Man Ray titled Noir et Blanche feels poignantly relevant to today’s society. The contrast between the white skin of the model and the dark ebony of the traditional African mask captures two opposite shades in the vast spectrum of human skin colour. Yet when this image is positioned next to its negative, any preconceptions of the model or the mask due to their skin tone are rendered irrelevant through the reversal of colour. It seems to me a powerful message about the irrationality of racial discrimination and the intrinsic similarities between humans, a connection that goes further than skin-deep.