After what seems like a million years, I finally made it to the infamous Bao.
Now, it's quite well known that if you want to come to Bao, you have to be ready to queue. Don't be fooled by the first photo which features an empty doorway, they make people queue across the road. Knowing this, my companion and I decided we were going to arrive at 5:15pm (the restaurant opens at 5:30) in order to avoid the dinner rush hour. Even so, there was already a queue outside.
Bao specialises in Taiwanese street food, and although the restaurant is small, the reputation it holds is quite grand. I'm sure anyone who would qualify themselves as a "foodie" in all of London would have heard of this restaurant, and I must say the reputation is warranted.
The menu is simple, there's a range of Baos you can order, as well as other small plates for you to share. The waitress recommended 2 Baos per person, and 4 small dishes to share between two people. Although this might not seem like a lot, I can guarantee you will walk out happily stuffed.
I ordered the classic Bao, and the confit pork Bao. Call me boring for ordering both pork Baos, but I was not feeling the mayo in the Lamb one. Just didn't seem very "Asian" to me.
The confit pork Bao was good, but the dressing I thought was a bit too over-powering. To be honest, I was quite disappointed after my first bite, as my expectations were through the roof. The classic on the other hand, was mouth watering, and was exactly what I was expecting after hearing such sound reviews of this restaurant. My only complaint is that there was too much peanut powder, which made the first bite a bit unbalanced, and my mouth a little dry. But even so, I would have happily gobbled another up.
For small dishes, we ordered the guinea fowl rice, mushroom with century egg, age beef rump cap, and fried chicken with hot sauce.
Both the guinea fowl rice and the mushrooms were good, but they didn't take my breath away. The mushroom is a good palette cleanser, but was a bit muted. Which was surprising considering the century egg.
The fried chicken on the other hand, blew my socks off. The chicken was crunchy in all the best ways, and the hot sauce was probably some of the spiciest sauce I've encountered in London. Personally, I enjoyed the feeling of my tongue being on fire, but I would imagine some customers might not appreciate it as much.
The beef rump cap had a delicious marinate which carried an array of depth, but the beef itself was a bit too chewy for my liking. As I write this review, I begin to recognise how judgemental I am with my food... Sorry!
Last but definitely not least, the fried horlicks ice cream bao! My friend had to actually convince me to get the dessert, but I'm SO GLAD she did. Who cares about being fit if you can have fried Bao smothered in delicious ice cream all day?
The dish reminded me of those fried man tou you order which you dip in condense milk when having Chinese/Cantonese food. The dish was impossible to eat gracefully, but it's so so worth it. I would happily come back and queue just for the dessert. They should really consider a takeaway option esp. during this hot summer in London.
Some of the small plates needed improvement.
I rarely give a 5 for service, but honestly the service was perfect. The waitresses were all extremely polite, informative and patient, and this was shown even to the guests queuing outside.
Note: The teas offered in Bao are EXTREMELY small portioned. Keep that in mind when ordering.