Taiwanese Buns at Bao in Soho

Bao Soho | Taiwanese Street Food | 53 Lexington Street, W1F 9AS London
No reservations | £20pp | www.baolondon.com

New street food restaurant in London? Give me a few minutes and I’ll be there! To London foodies, Bao is probably nothing new. Known for their Taiwanese steamed buns at Netil Market, Bao has opened a casual restaurant for quick eats with an extended menu in Soho. Though, count in some food-market-style standing, because the queue is long!

I think I went on a Monday evening to meet some people from Central Dish, a new website that recommends dishes (!) to you. So I used the time in the queue to learn more about Central Dish and what is has in store for foodies like myself. I really like the concept because when I’m looking for something to eat, I’m looking for one or two dishes and not for eating my whole way through the menu (I wish I could without bursting). Excited for how they are developing the product as its still the beta phase. By the time we finished our queue-meeting (~40min), we were seated at the counter of this living-room sized restaurant and choose the dishes from the tick-list menu (see all dishes on Central Dish).

Besides the six bao, they also offer nine xiao chi (small eats) that are probably new to most of us non-Taiwanese folks (e.g. pig blood cake or trotter nuggets). Luckily the prices are quite affordable (£6 for the priciest one) and the dishes fairly small, so order a mix to share! We kicked off our dinner with some refreshing Taiwanese Foam Tea which was the perfect base for what was to come, light in flavour with the foam creamy and slightly sweet. The Classic Bao was my favourite. It was filled with deliciously savoury-sweet braised pork which was balanced out by the refreshing taste of fermented greens and coriander. Though, it was the addition of peanut powder that won me over. We also tried the Crumbed Daikon Bao (only veggie option) and the Lamb Bao. Both were just as tasty, though, hot sauce and soy pickled chilli were a little too spicy for my chilli-weakness. Nonetheless, the chunky daikon covered in light crispy batter was delightfully fluffy and had a hint of sweetness, while the lamb shreds were perfectly tender.

Since we were all adventurous foodies, of course, we tried the Pig Blood Cake. It was a savoury delight topped with a gorgeously soy-aged egg yolk (and actually not scary when you know blood sausage or haggis). The most expensive dish on the menu is the 40 Day Rump Cap (£6). You get served six incredibly tender, yet chewy slices of steak (due to the fatty bits) packed with flavour. Definitely delicious, but maybe not unique enough for me to order again. The Aubergine with Wonton Crisps were a great mix of softness and crunchiness in combination, it’s sweet and tangy dish that’s great for those who love that kick of chilli (me excluded). We ended the dinner with some Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao. A bit of a challenge when eating, but when squeezing the two fried buns together, you are (less-messy) treat! Crispy sweetness outside and refreshing creaminess inside. Yummy!

So what do I take home from my dinner? I love peanut powder with braised pork, I can’t eat chilli, Central Dish seems to have an exciting future ahead and I have a thing for tea with foam (ordered two!). I get why everyone’s been raving about Bao and it’s definitely a place worth trying out for their well-crafted and unique menu. However, I wouldn’t call it a “must-visit” as those reasonable prices add up at the end. I would totally go there regularly to have the Classic Bao, but considering the waiting times, it’s hardly a place you can visit without having patience.

Rating: ★★★★☆