***Edit 10/09/2012: After a few people told me they had trouble finding Wonderbao, I decided to put a map, with directions and photos at the bottom of this post. I hope this helps in your quest for doughy goodness!***
A little while ago I saw some great pics of Wonderbao on Instagram (I'm sarahcooksblog, follow me!), and thought it would be worth skipping my usual brought-from-home lunches to try it out. It sure was worth it, and I ended up going twice in the one week. Yay!
19–37 A’Beckett Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Wonderbao is a new-ish little shop in a laneway near the big green RMIT on Swanston street, specialising in the fluffy goodness that is bao. I really like the concept: there is a short, sharp menu - all bao, all the time.
In terms of drinks, they sell the little Yeo's cartons that I grew up drinking, and soy milk (hot or cold).
|"F.O.B. Drinks" - $1.60|
|Soya milk - $2.80 a cup|
I also thought the process of preparing the soy milk was kinda strange: to serve it, a staff member uses a soup ladle to scoop the soy milk out of the big soup tureen into a little jug, and then pours it through a tea strainer into the little takeaway paper cup - it takes ages and seems a bit cumbersome and difficult in such a small space.
Ok, so let's get onto the good stuff: the baos! On my first visit, I had a classic char siew bao (don't worry, I didn't eat it with chopsticks, haha), and a roast pork belly gua bao.
|Lunch! Hot soya milk, char siu bao, roast pork belly gua bao|
|Branded bao papers!|
|Char Siew Bao - $2.00|
|Roast pork belly gua bao - cucumber, pickled carrots & daikon & hoisin sauce - $3.80|
I found that two bao were enough for me for lunch, but I decided to splash out on a sweet egg-custard bao too. (For the sake of the blog, you do understand!)
|Nai wong bao - egg custard - $1.70|
On my next visit (two days later), I decided to mix things up a bit, and tried a a chicken bao and a braised pork belly gua bao.
|Da chicken bao - egg & shiitake mushroom - $3.20|
And speaking of which... here's the dee-licious braised pork belly gua bao!
|Braised pork belly gua bao - pickled mustard, coriander & crushed peanuts - $3.80|
However, whilst the concept and food are both great, they don't seem to have quite nailed the execution yet and are still finding their feet. The staff, for example, have all been really nice and friendly, but a bit unsure, without the confidence and speed that I'm sure time will bring.
Like with that soymilk example I mentioned above, the systems they have in place aren't that efficient, which contributes to long queues and waits at peak times. For example, (and I'm sure you'll forgive my Business Operations-speak) the gua bao aren't made in a production-line, but rather with staff members making individual ones, all reaching into that central condiment trolley at once, and then having to squeeze past each other to get them to the customers.
Another example: menus are only placed near the register, and not posted up anywhere - slowing things down as customers can't decide what they want until they get up to the front. (Although you know me, I'd googled the menu beforehand and already knew what I wanted! Hehe). I'm sure in time all these little kinks will be worked out, and they weren't necessarily dealbreakers for me... but I just thought it was worth mentioning in case you need to work around a short lunch break!
But as I'm sure you can tell, I really like Wonderbao. The baos are great, and really well priced. The baos range from $1.70 to $3.20, and the made-to-order gua bao are only $3.80. The individual items are all pretty big, and I find that two make a decent-sized lunch. A delicious, handmade lunch in the CBD for less than $7? Yes please!
***How to Find Wonderbao***
Here are some little scribbles I did on a map I printed out from Google - I hope this helps those of you who have struggled to find Wonderbao! I am less than useless with directions, and it took me a lot of wandering around to find it the first time, hehehe. If I can find it, you can too. Wonderbao themselves put a map up on their Instagram feed, but it's a bit stylized, and because I'm bad with directions, I find referring to a standard Google map much easier.
Wonderbao (the "W" in the map above) is in a little arcade with one entrance on A'Beckett Street and one on Literature Lane. If you need more direction... please check out the below photos and directions!
1. Getting to Wonderbao from A'Beckett Street
The A'Beckett Street entrance to the arcade looks like this, and you have to walk through it to get to Wonderbao. (Wonderbao is at the back). It's pretty nondescript; I walked past it the first time until I saw the little yellow "Wonderbao" signs stuck in the windows.
|A'Beckett street entrance to the Wonderbao building|
The other entrance to Wonderbao is on Literature Lane, but to get to Literature Lane you first have to find Little LaTrobe street! (Heeey Melbourne laneways!)
It's easy to get to Little LaTrobe street from Swanston or Elizabeth streets (Little LaTrobe is clearly signed), or you can walk through this lane off LaTrobe Street:
|Laneway to get to Little LaTrobe Street|
3. Finding Literature Lane
Whichever way you choose, once you get to Little LaTrobe street, you'll need to find Literature Lane. Just keep walking until you find Cafe Stax. It's bright red and Little LaTrobe street isn't that big. You'll find it. Go down the cobblestone street and you will be at Wonderbao!
|Literature Lane (Wonderbao in the back)|