If you’ve been watching ‘Simply Nigella’ on TV, you might have noticed that she and her team have their fingers firmly on the pulse of all that is new and ‘au courant’ in food trends. Goji berries, avocadoes, chia seeds, coconut oil – TICK TICK. A couple of episodes ago, we saw Nigella breeze into Bao London, Soho, for some Taiwanese street food. She plonked herself down at the counter and got her chops merrily around one of their steamed milk buns. Get you, Nigella! I think she is rather excellent and has dealt brilliantly with the hideousness of extricating herself from the vile abusive ex husband situation and reinventing herself all over again. Hurrah!
As luck would have it, I ended up going to Bao last week. I’ve had it on my radar for months, after having nearly died of pleasure eating one of their bao buns at a street food stall two years ago. But their restaurant has a tedious no reservations policy, alongside all the other exciting Soho eateries that I am dying to go to, so it was a no-go for us. Even the most weapons-grade babysitting was not going to justify eating into paid time on the clock because queues were around the block when Bao opened this summer. We had to let the dust settle and let some other Soho eatery whip up a frenzy to distract punters from just heading instantly here. I moan continuously about no-reservations policies, and can’t understand why places don’t at least do 50% table reservations for time-poor people like us who can’t be spontaneous, and then do 50% walk-ins. It’s all about saving money on admin fees, which is why they don’t need to. And a queue of people outside your restaurant is like free PR. Ugh!!!
Anyway – rant over – not sure if it was just sheer luck, but when we arrived at 7:15pm on a Saturday night, we only had to wait 20 minutes. I was prepared for at least an hour. Once inside, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. THE FOOD IS THAT GOOD. And the staff are lovely.
A nice little Taiwanese lager to get you going – crisp and fresh:
Heavenly smoked aubergine with crunchy wonton crisps, and really weird lovely pickles – tomato, daikon and carrot, with an oniony dipping sauce:
Happy people all delighted not to be queuing any more and stuffing their faces full of Taiwanese treats:
Now THIS – a totally perfect, melting soft steamed ‘classic’ milk bun housing the most aromatic, tender pulled pork and covered with crispy savoury dusty yumminess OH MY GOD OH MY GOD:
Thin, meltingly tender slices of beef in white aged miso – savoury and smoky:
Crispy Taiwanese chicken with a tangy chilli sauce. Yes please:
Sweet potato fries with a tangy plum relish:
Oh, hello – another steamed milk bun with something lamby inside (my husband said it was great):
My second bao (note the flavoured dough this time) filled with crispy chicken – soft bun, crisp chicken, salty chilli sauce:
Man oh man, did we eat well. The bao buns are as soft as a baby’s cheek, and they aren’t heavy – they just melt together with the filling once you bite in. Everything has little bursts of chilli heat and umami saltiness, plus all the marinades and sauces are all varied and good. There wasn’t a single duff note here. And we are fussy and greedy. You leave feeling full but refreshed.
Next time you are in Soho and you don’t have to rush for anything, head to Lexington Street and get in that queue, baby!
Here is Bao London’s most cute and excellent logo. The bao bun the cartoon man is eating looks just like a little Pacman, aww:
53 Lexington Street