Minute on the clock: Z He

04 October 2019 by
Minute on the clock: Z He

Z He is co-founder of Bun House and Pleasant Lady Jian Bing Trading Stall in London's Soho, together with her husband Alex Peffly. The pair relaunched the original Bun House on Greek Street in the summer as Wun's, a restaurant and bar inspired by 1960s Hong Kong. Katherine Price hears how it's going and discovers their plans for the future

Tell us about Bun House

Bun House is essentially a café with a modern colonial vibe serving Cantonese-style fluffy bao alongside some Chinese street food favourites. It is a project my husband and I talked about when we were still in school in Chicago.

Why did you decide to relaunch your original site as Wun's? Where does the name come from?

The name comes from 蘊, one of the characters in my name. ‘Wun' is how you pronounce it in Cantonese, my native language. The main reason for the relaunch was our belief in Wun's potential and we were keen to bring it to light by expanding it to the ground floor. Our customers loved the vibe of the original tea room at Bun House, but mostly as a late-night drinking venue. We hoped to balance that for those who wanted a bit of fresh air, natural light and the best people-watching at our standout Soho street corner.

How much has the site changed?

The ground floor at Wun's is now a sun-filled oasis. We tried to match the aesthetic of the basement, but just in a new light. Dark wooden booths section the space and connect to the tea station. Saloon doors open from the kitchen onto old Moroccan floor tiles that belonged to the original Bun House.

It's a different feeling upstairs in the daytime, but it's still a luscious, colonial, Hong Kong feeling. Downstairs is maybe just a bit more ‘naughty'.

And the menu?

The menu items are now the same for both floors. With the launch of Wun's we put a bit more focus on bringing a full-scale restaurant menu, as opposed to a drinks-accompaniment menu.

Can you tell us about the spirits and cocktail ingredients?

Baijiu is the national drink of China, which by default makes it one of the most-drunk spirits in the world. It is primarily made from sorghum, a kind of funky green corn, with a mix of other grains. It's definitely a new taste for Westerners – the best way to describe it is maybe a tropical white whisky.

We wanted to focus on Chinese ingredients and not just whitewash things in the name of familiarity. You can't go to a store and buy daikon liqueur or peanut cordial or osmanthus bitters, so we make them in-house. There's a lot of trialling and sometimes our bar becomes a bit of a laboratory, but we are really happy when we create something special.

How has the feedback been?

It's been great. We are inherently more visible now and more people are discovering us every day. We have found that our Asian customers are happily surprised by the Chinese authenticity and inspiration that goes into the menu and experience.

Do you plan to expand?

You will see Bun House and Pleasant Lady Trading Stall popping up at a few market locations later this year. A couple of new concepts are also in the oven at the moment and we hope to see them launched in the coming months.

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