The South West’s first bingsu cafe has opened in Exeter’s Jasmine Thai restaurant. There was a soft launch of Bingsu House Cafe on Friday and it will be fully operational by Monday.
Bingsu is an Asian shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings like fruit or chocolate, and although a few bingsu cafes are starting to pop up in London, they are still, in the words of Jasmine owner Tom Norman, “a new trend major pending.”
Carl Foskett, general manager of the Fore Street restaurant, told DevonLive the restaurant wanted to try something new and contemporary to attract more afternoon customers.
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He said: “Our most senior member of staff, Pet Ruangkham, came to us with this idea. She asked if she could open her own cafe in our restaurant. I had never heard of bingsu but it is very popular in Asia. Being an Asian restaurant and having a lot of Asian students in Exeter, we thought we would be ahead of the curve. We benefit from the tasty food she could sell and she benefits from a low-cost start-up for her own business. »
Carl said he thinks coffee bingsu would appeal not only to Asian students away from home, but to everyone, because bingsu is healthier than ice cream and almost anything on the menu can be eaten by vegans. You can eat in or take away.
You choose a size: mini, with one filling, for £4.99, up to family, with four fillings, for £13.99. Then you choose a base – milk, soy, or chocolate – that shaves in a machine. There are 16 toppings to choose from, including strawberry, chocolate, banana, kiwi, cereal, peach, cherry, and coconut. Then you choose from the list of 14 sauces, which includes gingerbread, salted caramel, and passion fruit.
Pet, who is originally from Thailand but has lived in England for seven years and is Jasmine’s assistant manager, said: “I thought bingsu might work because nobody else does it and it’s popular at home. . I think the milk base with strawberry filling and strawberry sauce will be the most popular. »
Bingsu House Cafe is open from 12pm to 6pm, while Jasmine’s normal Thai offering is available from 12pm to 3pm and from 6pm. Carl said the bingsu was not available in the evening as the machine was too loud for a fine dining restaurant. “It’s a new concept for most Westerners,” he said. “But I think once people try it, they’ll realize how delicious it is, to use Pet’s word.”
Of course, we had to try it for ourselves. I chose a plain bingsu with a milk base, Oreo and strawberry toppings, and salted caramel sauce. It was beautifully presented. It was super cold, the perfect refreshment to enjoy on a hot day and a really nice change from ice cream. Although I’m trying to lose weight, I didn’t feel as guilty eating it as I did eating ice cream. The shaved ice is lighter and the fresh fruit garnish made me feel like I was eating something relatively healthy.
The 90-seat, year-round air-conditioned restaurant recently sponsored two qualified Thai chefs, who started work in January. “We were short of staff after the first confinement. We advertised locally, but no one was there,” Carl said. “So we advertised on a Facebook page used by Thai chefs around the world, and we had over 100 applicants – none from the UK. We ended up sponsoring Mickey and TJ. We also sponsor our chef who has been with us for 11 years.
Carl said Jasmine, who also employs many Asian university students, intends to capitalize on the new chefs’ knowledge and skills to offer regional Thai dishes in the near future – although they should be tailored to taste. English as Thai flavors. can be quite strong.