During my stay in London, I was looking for somewhere different to eat, and so after some searching, I found the Taiwanese restaurant BAO. I had read a lot of good reviews on it, and so my boyfriend and I ventured off to the Soho branch to try it out for ourselves.
It didn’t take us long to realise that only a small number of people fit inside and that they don't take reservations, and so consequently, we were told to wait in the designated line across the street until two seats became available. Luckily for us, the weather was nice and it was the middle of the week, so we only waited for around fifteen minutes. To avoid waiting times of what is known to be up to one hour, I would advise going on a week day and in small groups of two or three if possible.
Once seated, you can choose from an exclusive selection of eighteen dishes, mainly of which include a variation of baos: milk steamed buns, which strongly resemble regular burger buns (but taste way better). They come with different fillings ranging from a Classic pork bao to a more contemporary fried chicken bao. My boyfriend ordered the Classic which contains braised pork with coriander and peanut powder. I had ordered the Fried Chicken bao, which contains chicken marinated in soy milk, Sichuan mayo and a slice of golden kimchi.
Other items on the menu include a Pig Blood Cake (exactly what it sounds like) served with an egg yolk on top. It is a traditional Taiwanese street food made with pork blood, sticky rice and a soy broth. At BAO it is steamed but can also be served fried and tastes more savory than sweet, but is definitely worth trying. Another dish is the Yellow Bean Garlic Scallop served in a beautiful scallop sea shell, and the Fried Horlicks Ice Cream which is essentially a fried ice-cream sandwich with a taste similar to that of vanilla but made using malted milk. It is super sweet and is served in a fried steamed sesame seed bun which really compliments the horlicks flavour.
The unique, daring selection of the menu definitely compensates for the minimal amount of dishes on offer. The portion sizes are small and so it’s best to order at least two baos per person. The prices here are average London prices, so expect to spend around £20-25 each. It is worth noting that the food is sometimes served one dish at a time, including the sides like fries. It adds somewhat to the authenticity of the restaurant, however I would have enjoyed the main course more if it had been served together.
It's small size makes it very cozy and more than likely you’ll be seated next to strangers, making it the last place to go if you want privacy. Having said that, it’s still a good choice for couples who want a casual date night or just anyone looking to try some exciting new food. Ultimately, the unique experience combined with the high quality of the food makes BAO, without a doubt, a must visit restaurant for anyone who loves food.
Location: 53 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AS
Days: Mon - Sat
Time: 12pm-3pm and 5:30pm-10pm
All images: © Rhiannon Montgomery and Isaiah Carter