First looks' are initial sneak peeks at a new venue. Unlike reviews, which are strictly anonymous and paid for by Time Out, 'first looks' may be based on press trips or other non-anonymous visits.
What is it? 'It's not a bar, it's a lab' cackled Gulu Bazz's charismatic owner Badr towards the bar's ceiling like a mad scientist, clenching chemistry beakers brimming with cocktails in both hands.
Down in the depths of Xiguan Hutong, Gulu Bazz’s small and cosy cove of madness is currently playing host to the team of mavericks behind Baozza, whose pizza-baozi hybrids have enjoyed success at pop-up events across the city for around a year and at its Sanlitun Soho base.
What's on the menu? Pretty simple, this one: pizza baozzas and vermouth cocktails. Plenty of cocktails.
We kicked it all off with the Cheesy Sharer Bites, which are small baozzas topped with stringy mozzarella and baked in a tomato sauce. They're not as exciting as some of the buns on the menu, but they go great with a cool negroni.
We then battened down for a taste of the real players. There are six different baozzas on the menu, which deftly accomodates options for both meat-lovers and vegetarians. Individual buns range in price from 12-14RMB but you're going to want more than one, so look towards the group deals, ranging from four for 45RMB to 12 for 120RMB. Just go for 12 – after all, you'll need 'em to soak up all that vermouth.
Those of who who've often wondered despondently down the streets of Beijing just wishing your baozi packed a spicy punch would do well in going for the Ragin' Cajun. The extra-carnivorous amongst you will probably plump for the Meat-Lover, whilst the biggest shout-out must go to the sweet BBQ Chicken baozza, which packs a jaunty range of flavours into its spongy, palm-sized embrace. Each baozza is served with some rather excellent spicy vinegar Sriracha sauce, which levels their flavours with a succinct tang.
In our (rather greedy) opinion, the Spinach Cheese baozza stands head and shoulders above the rest. The spinach meets a delicate blend of mozarella and cream cheese, with the whole thing shot through with almonds. It's luxurious, it's decadent and we're not totally sure we could handle more than one – well, okay two.
If Baozza know their... well, baozzas, Gulu Bazz have got you covered on the drinks front. Cocktails start at 40RMB and all of 'em promise to knock your head off. We were particularly partial to the wonderfully named Queen of Beixinqiao, and Wrong Turn In The Hutongs fully earns its tipsy alternative epithet of 'slutty Ribena'.
Equally boozy was the Dessert Baozza, which is filled with banana, marshmallow and Nutella and wrapped in a chocolate chip dough. If that wasn't already a little ridiculous, the Bazz team fling a load of overproof rum on it and set it alight for an incendiary finish. Just promise us you'll be careful of hair, long sleeves and beards: no one wants to go straight from hutong bar to hospital.
We say Why the hell not? It works for us. Make the most of long summer evenings in the hutongs and make it down for the daily happy hour (6-8pm) where you’ll find free-flow Kirin and house mixers for 100RMB all in.