By May Yin Lee of Red Velvet London
I have been anticipating this for such a long time and I can’t believe I held out this long to go. If I remember correctly, Bao opened its doors in April and since then the queue has gotten longer and longer. There has been so much hype already and the wonder of their signature Bao’s has caught London by storm. Is it just all hype?? Bao basically means ‘bun’ which is commonly found and eaten in the far east. The steamed milk buns are “pillowy soft clouds”; they are not as filling as your standard wheat bread. Off course Bao isn’t your only place to find these; Shoryu also serves up deliciously tasty pork belly buns so if you can’t wait at least 1/2 hour, head down to one of Shoryu’s chains. Their website is very simple; it has all the info you need but I get all of my research on their Instagram (search Bao London). I check out their food pics before I make my decision to order.
Finally, I made my trip down to Lexington Street straight afterwork on Monday to beat the queue-ish. It was 6.05pm and from what I can see there is no queue…or am I wrong?
Oh no; how silly of me to think that there is no queue at Bao! The Bao queue was on the opposite side of the road and there I saw, a long line already. Jeez, how many people thought that they got lucky without having to queue but only to realise the queue is right behind you! Thankfully, I only queued for half an hour whilst my friend who jumped into the queue with me for 15 minutes! It’s not like other restaurants where you have to queue for an hour and then get served after half an hour of being seated. The service is very quick; the tiny little restaurant is very serene and calm which is great considering the queue outside has gotten everyone rather anxious to get in and obviously starving! It’s 6.30pm, I am dead hungry so we decided to order 4 Baos, 5 Side dishes, Peanut milk and cold foam tea. Their menu is short and simple; there is a pot of pencils for you to mark your quantities for each dish; just how you would normally order in an authentic Chinese restaurant for Dim Sum.
The peanut milk drink is served in a small cup; it is sooo tasty it brings me back to Hong Kong where I used to drink this as a kid (something very similar). As an Asian kid; I love drinking this and if you are not Asian…you will definitely love this! A glass of peanut milk drink that’s served cold is £1.50 each.
This is what I’ve been waiting for; the recommended classic bao: braised pork belly with coriander and loads of peanut shavings! A classic Bao is £3.25 (I would pay more to be honest). I know we have ordered a lot of food; so I’ve split everything in half with my friend so we can sample as much as our belly can handle ^^
I know trotters don’t sound very appealing but the odd ends of the animal that we don’t normally find on a menu; let alone consume is considered a delicacy in Taiwan ( and generally speaking in China too). We thought we gave it ago; nothing too odd and it was fried so it was an appetising side dish to walk away and say, hey, I’ve had trotter nuggets! £4
A tasty side dish of fried sweet potato chips with plum pickle salt. £3
Darn, I had a very blurry picture of the aubergine dish to go with the wonton crisp. The aubergine mash was packed full of flavours whilst retaining that fresh aubergine kick. £3.50
I know it looks like beer but this is cold foam tea which contains egg whites. It is very refreshing and helps cleanse my palette after each dish. £3
The second bao of the evening was pork confit/braised pork belly with shaved shallots on steamed milk bun. This was juicy, especially the fat on that pork belly mmmm. £4.50
40 day aged beef rump served with white soy sauce. £6
Bao number 3; Cornish lamb shoulder, roasted in shaoxing wine, green sauce, garlic mayo and soy pickled chillies. Honestly; this is my second favourite bao (first being the classic bao). £5
Guineafowl is a type of bird; I had to Google it to find out! I liked that it’s a small side dish as I can imagine this being served as a main (the rice can be rather filling). It is served with raw egg so mix it well before eating. Thankfully, the waitresses do tell you to do it. £5.25
Finally bao number 4; the fried chicken bao – with chilli sauce with black sesame bao. It was very tasty; but I think this is something the Westerners would enjoy…don’t get me wrong; I love fried chicken…but I love my steamed buns without the batter. £5
I wished I could have stomached the fried Horlicks ice cream bun but I was too full! I know Horlicks is out of fashion but the Asians still love it surprisingly. I remember seeing a bottle at my grandma’s house in Hong Kong. The whole meal for two came down to about £55 which isn’t bad at all! There is a discretionary service charge of 12.5% but I was satisfied to pay that anyway (who doesn’t pay service charge at a restaurant anyway these days).