Bao – To queue or not to queue?

A couple weeks back Scott and I risked heading to Bao one day for lunch. If you’ve ever read anything about Bao, then you’ll know all about the crazy queue and how people are prepared to wait for about an hour to get a seat in the Taiwanese street food joint. I guessed you could say I tricked Scott into going… but we won’t go that far.

There’s no reservations and we queued for almost half an hour, which was spent by Scott flicking through his phone trying to deter me from my mission: ‘how about Nopi?’ ‘Or Palomar?’ – I had my eyes set on one thing only, and that was Bao.

About a year ago, the Taiwanese milk bun sensation moved from a street food stall to opening their first restaurant on Lexington Street. It’s tiny inside, only has around 32 cover and is decked out like a Muji showroom with minimalist wooden panelling and backless stool for seats which discourage lingering.

bao-outside

If you’ve spent a decent portion of time queuing to get into Bao, then you might as well drive right in and order the whole menu.

We started with the pickles, which I wasn’t a fan of. I’m afraid I found them really bitter, nor do they look particularly appetising – maybe they would have tasted better as an accompaniment to a dish instead of on their own.

bao-pickles

Next came the pig blood cake, which I’ve been drooling over on my Instagram feed for ages now. It’s a chunky piece of black pudding which has crispy edges and topped with a egg yolk. Make sure you mash the egg into the pudding before you eat it, it’s simply delicious.

bao-black-pudding

The trotter nuggets are basically fancy chicken nuggets – but  they’re so moist and come in a light, crisp, oil-free batter.

bao-nuggets

The chef’s at Bao avoid all the usual traps when delivering the sweet potato chips as they had the right crunch and they’re served with a plum pickle ketchup.

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Next up came the fried chicken pieces – they’re fiery and sour but delicious. For my taste buds I would have preferred the chefs to turn the heat down as I found them really hot.

bao-chicken

Now for the bao buns themselves… (wipes are available, so dig in with your hands).

 

First off, the Classic Bao. It’s a heavenly combination of a pillowy soft, steamed bun which is stuffed with braised pork, then and flavoured with peanut powder and coriander.

bao-classic

Then came the confit pork bao – these were so good I went back and ordered seconds. It’s a slice of pork belly topped with crisp shallots and a fruity hot sauce.

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We also ordered the lamb shoulder bao – which I only got a nibble off as Scott wolfed it down! It was served with a coriander sauce, garlic mayo and chilli.

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There’s only one dessert option so I couldn’t resist ordering it. It’s a fried bao which has been sweetened and a scoop of Horlicks ice cream is sandwiched between the bao. It’s incredibly hard to eat and neither of us were sold of the flavour and texture – there’s a good basis for a dessert here, but it needs more finesse to really soar.

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So, to queue or not to queue? The food is great but not as fantastic as over reviews have made it out to be. But you’ll be hard pressed to find someone else like it with well-crafted, reasonably priced dishes, just make sure you go on your day off when it’s quiet.

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Bao, 53 Lexington St, SoHo, London W1F 9AS

 

 

Eight Things I ate this October

I started the draft for this post mid-October, and boy, I realised I eat out a lot. I just love food, what can I say?

I kicked this month off by heading to Rök with my family. There’s a lot of pickling, fermentation and smoking involved but I adored every dish we ordered. Their menu changes frequently as all of the produce is locally sourced. If the mackerel with creme fraiche and pickled onions is on the menu, order it, which for me was the highlight of the dinner.

rok

Pho are a Vietnamese street-food restaurant and have chains all over London. Their bowls of pho are savoury, warmly spiced and laced with rice noodles, a modest amount of meet and served with fresh herbs and lime on the side. Their restaurant in Clerkenwell is where I headed to one rainy day this month when I wanted to escape the office.

One Tuesday night I had a massive craving for steak. I had originally wanted to go to Flat Iron, but after being told there was a two hour queue, Scott and I swiftly changed our minds and headed to Bills. Their steak is nothing to write home about, but it hit the spot.

bills-steak

Scott and I risked Bao last week, reckless fools that we are. But we managed to get seats within half an hour. The the fully white steamed buns were delicious, but the overall experience in not worth the wait. Go on your day off when it’s quiet. (I’ll be writing a full review shortly, so keep your eyes peeled).

bao

One weekend I decided to explore Clapham and Battersea so I headed straight to Venn Street Market – it’s impossible to investigate a new area on an empty stomach right? I had this amazing roti filled with spicy sausages which were freshly made to order.

For our anniversary Scott took me to Broadway Market. I loved it, it’s a street food paradise. The Dumpling Shack was the highlight of our trip. The dumplings are pan fried with a thick skin filled with pork and prawns and are freshly filled, wrapped and cooked to order.

broad-market-dumplings

Ever gone around to your boyfriend’s flat after work to discover there’s nothing in his fridge (apart from beer and cheese). That happened to me this month. Lucky for us his flat block is connected to The Common. I tried to do the good thing and opted for the salad made with kale, red cabbage, chickpeas, and avocado.Scott got a burger, so I proceeded to eat the majority of his chips (yeah, I was that girl, sue me).

Since Scott moved to West London I’ve been dying to check out The Parlour in Kensal Rise, we headed there with his mate from university and his girlfriend. It specialises in British food and is tucked away on a shady and quiet side street and it’s definitely worth a trip out west.

the-parlour-duck