In short: Bao Shop Sydney combines mouth watering baos, with excellent coffee. It’s modern, accessible, and impressive.
Let me indulge in some ‘geekery’ for a moment. If I were to put “baos Sydney” OR “great coffee Sydney”, Google would return an exhaustive list of choices. How about then, “bao Sydney” AND “great coffee Sydney”? I can hear those virtual gears grinding, searching for an elusive combination, as there are very few cafés delivering pillows of goodness alongside great brews! Bao Shop in North Sydney fills that niche, with generous buns filled with Asian savoury flavours, combined with top notch coffee. It was on a walk around North Sydney I stumbled across Bao Shop. While a good bao is already hard to resist, what piqued my interest was that they also offered Coffee by Alchemy. With that in mind, I summoned the wife and fellow Coco and Viner, Mavis, and we headed to Bao Shop the next day for lunch. The little café sits on Mount Street opposite the wildly popular Bacino Bar. There’s just seating for a few inside, and a couple of coveted tables outside. Bao Shop do a roaring a business with office workers dropping by to grab their coffee and baos, before rushing back to their desks. For us though, we took the time to enjoy the warm autumn rays and wait for our baos that were made to order.
While our baos are assembled, I take in a flat white. I enjoy the robust flavours, and it’s a coffee with smoky characteristics. There’s a nice balance to the coffee with chocolate and nutty notes coming through. There’s a roasted complexion to the flat white, and it’s good right to the bottom. The Bao Shop barista does this Coffee Alchemy blend justice, for sure!
It’s not long until our baos are presented to us. It definitely lives up to expectations. The honey braised pork belly is filled with sweet and succulent pork. It’s so easy to bite into and melts in my mouth. The flavours of pork belly are enhanced with a gooey, rich house sauce. Coriander and mustard greens add a vibrant and herbaceous punch to this sandwich of the orient. There’s texture of crunchy peanuts against the softness of the meat and bao bun.
Partnering the pork belly is a crunchy fried chicken offering. It’s pieces of juicy fried chicken that’s super crispy on the outside, yet deliciously moist and perfectly cooked through. The marinade is a secret, but beer is involved; it’s definitely full of flavour. As with the pork belly, the chicken is enhanced with sauces including a creamy tartar sauce along with a peri peri sauce injecting some heat. Overall, the baos are outstanding with depth of flavour, and those bao buns are soft and slightly sweet. If your menu for a workday comprises old school sandwiches, baos are a new age alternative that deliver on flavour and, in most cases, are lower in gluten too!
If you are feeling the need for something more substantial, Bao Shop comes through with a selection of donburis. We sampled the BS donburi black pepper stirfry. Bao Shop’s version brings together influences from Korea, Japan, and China. Black pepper stir-fry is a classic Cantonese-style dish, with a nice bite of heat from the peppery flavour. The Japanese inspiration comes from perfectly presented onsen egg. It was soft and runny, and coated the rice and added a level of comforting richness, and Japanese pickled ginger offset that richness. Finally, the Korean influence is a kimchi side dish; fresh and hot, it rounds out a lively dish packed with flavour.
To cool things down, I sample a green tea affogato. It’s a fascinating drink where green tea is combined with espresso, and it was creamy and smooth. The sweet green tea flavours dominate over the coffee, which I think works well in this instance.
We walked away from Bao Shop thoroughly impressed with the experience. The team are super friendly and will help you navigate the menu, if this is your first bao experience. I loved the coffee, and as a café it can stand on its own just based on a coffee alone. North Sydney continues its resurgence with great cafes opening, and Bao Shop is on that list.